Recovery from an addiction requires planning and preparation. Contrary to many people’s mythological hopes, there isn’t a “recovery switch” that someone can flip. Really, conditions for recovery have to be developed and implemented in order for long-term and lasting recovery can take place. While I do understand that the “rock bottom” crisis creates an apparent desire to quit using, if there isn’t a plan in place and if the conditions for recovery haven’t been developed, then real recovery will probably not happen.
“Ok, Mr. Blea,” someone might say. “You’re probably right, but HOW do we both create the conditions and prepare for lasting recovery?”
Well, the truth is that there isn’t any one surefire way to create the necessary conditions for lasting recovery nor is there one fool-proof method for preparing for recovery. However, there are a two (2) things that common to any undertaking that can be leveraged applied to prepare for and create the conditions for lasting recovery: 1) Define the strategy for a recovery; and, 2) Define and implement the means for the recovery strategy. The first item speaks to the “what” of a recovery plan, while the second speaks to the “how.”
Define the strategy for Recovery
As with any meaningful undertaking, it’s important to start with the strategy for recovery. This strategy should clearly define someone’s recovery by answering the question: What is it that you want recovery to look like? I can safely say that if the answers to these questions look like: 1) I want to stop using because I’m sick and tired of using; there probably isn’t enough meaningful information upon which a recovery plan can be built.
Ideally, in order to answer this question, real self-reflection needs to occur from which measurable goals can emerge. For example, a better answer may be, “I want to be able to hold a job and take care of myself physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Really, that’s what I want my recovery to look like.” From this response, further information can be gleaned. For example, eating right and exercising at least three times a week may help someone to take care of herself physically. From a clear rationale for recovery, real and pragmatic goals can be developed, implemented and measured. The clear and measurable goals will then be the strategic blueprint for a recovery program.
Define and implement the means of attaining the Recovery strategy
Once the strategy is formulated, then the specific means of achieving each measureable goal can be defined. To continue with the goal of better physical health through diet and exercise, the means of this goals could be to specifically say: “I will go to Fred’s Gym on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and eat meals prepared at home at least on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, which means I will go to Albertson’s grocery store on Sundays.” While this may seem like a bit more detail and planning than what someone in recovery can handle, if a goal isn’t defined through specific means, then it probably can’t be fully measured. In this illustrative case, having a clear plan around a specific goal for recovery actually reduces any anxiety, as being able to clearly speak to the means of goal attainment makes the goal possible.
While there are many different aspects to recovery, defining the strategy and its means will go a long way towards creating lasting recovery. While defining means, resources emerge that can be employed when the strategy calls for their implementation. Not having a strategy, however, creates a tug-of-war between using and not-using that actually persists an addiction. But in defining a clear vision of what a recovery should like for a specific person, the substance and its use or non-use becomes another goal, rather than the focus of recovery.
Planning a recovery may not be for everyone, but as a treatment provider, it makes a lot more sense than winging after a “rock-bottom” event. Don’t you think?