by Kyle Beard on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
Every person on the road to regaining their life from addiction has learned there are different perspectives on recovery. There are two main recovery concepts I teach our addicts that operate on a continuum: at first, you need a place of protection from addiction, and later, you learn how to pursue a happy, fulfilling life. Neither are the end all answer, but both are necessary for long-term recovery. The difficulty lies in transitioning from one to the other.
The start of recovery needs to focus on the protection side of the continuum. The “Addict” in the individual is strong and alive, attempting to thwart any attempt to starve the addiction. In my recovery, I often referred to my Addict the caged beast who was trying to escape to reek havoc on my life. At the start of recovery, a strong level of protection was required to keep my Addict at bay. For years, the Addict has ruled each person’s life, therefore it constantly tries to take back control. Protection to keep it at bay is crucial. Types of protection can include boundaries, accountability, recovery programs, 12 Step meetings, ending harmful relationships, and more. These acts serve as road blocks or hurdles to keep the Addict from remaining in control. Often times, addicts see these as frivolous acts like attempting to stop the inevitable if they desire to act out. However, when you require yourself to jump over these hurdles, you will become tired from the effort, therefore giving up before acting out. The moment of temptation is thwarted. Victory!
The more time anyone spends without addiction at the driver’s wheel, a haze begins to lift allow you to see life in a new way outside of the Addict’s rule. Daily tasks begin to be enjoyable again, healthy desires regrow, and a new zeal for life is discovered. But this cannot happen without time away from the addiction. Many people, particularly in the 12 Step circles, believe a person isn’t sober until they have 90 days of sobriety. At this point the healthy joys of life can be rekindled. And honestly, there is some truth to this idea.
The other end of this continuum is what I call pursuit. When a person begins to pursue the joyful aspects of life, connection, community, spirituality, stability, and more begin to be a part of their life. Research has shown the pursuit of a something positive is significantly more powerful than the fear of something negative. The pursuit of health and wholeness gives a person purpose and meaning in their life. Every person needs purpose, and an addict is no different. Through pursuing healthy relationships one can begin to see the emptiness of addiction. The true happiness of satisfying work trumps the frantic attempts of obtaining your addiction. Pursuit of life at it’s fullest is the greatest embodiment of true recovery for it gives you something to live for, a worthy pursuit!
The struggle rests in the transition from a place of protection to pursuit. When discussing this in one of my groups, members used their own recovery journeys as examples of moving too fast or too slow along this continuum between protection and pursuit. One person in group removed the boundaries of protection too early, longing to have a healthy life before internal changes occurred, which resulted in a quick loss of sobriety followed by disappointment. Another person was sober for two and half years, still strongly living in a place of protection. He acknowledged missing out on the happiness of life from a fear of his addiction returning. Neither place is worse than the other, but both are potentially harmful. The true test of recovery is being honest with yourself, looking at your own journey rather than others, to determine what is healthy for you. The constant pitfall of humanity, comparing oneself to others, can easily occur on the addiction journey. And when comparison occurs, everyone always loses.
So what’s the purpose of this blog? I want to encourage you to look at your own recovery journey and take a look at yourself to determine what is truly needed in your life. The addiction may be sex, drugs, or alcohol, just as much it could be codependency, control, workaholism, or negative thoughts. All of us in recovery need a level of healthy protection in our lives. But if that protection limits us from a fulfilling life, we may be living from a place of paralyzing fear rather than health. My question for readers today is simple: where are you on the Protection verses Pursuit continuum? Does your recovery need to move closer towards one or the other to grow? As one of my clients recently stated, sometimes in order to advance in recovery, a few steps backwards are needed first before marching forward.