Recovery must develop through conscious processes. It’s not a matter of using or not using a substance. I’ll repeat: Recovery must develop through conscious processes. Most people vilify substances without realizing that someone who is addicted and doesn’t approach recovery through his or her OWN choice will not ever even begin the processes needed to develop recovery.

To illustrate, I’ll use a fictional dude named, “Joe.” Joe is forty-something and has been physically addicted to alcohol for 25 years. He’s been in and out of jail for petty crimes and been divorced twice. He has a son from whom he’s estranged. Because his health has deteriorated from years of alcohol addiction, he can’t really work so he’s on SSI and doesn’t work. Basically, he lives around his drinking and has become a slave to alcohol. Believe it or not, there are people around Joe who think that if he stopped drinking, he’d be OK. Guess what, those people would be wrong.

Even if Joe miraculously stopped drinking alcohol, he would probably need to modify his diet; his relationships would probably still be jacked up; and he’d probably still have a financial mess to deal with. All of these factors would combine, cause Joe stress, and lead to a relapse. The simple truth is that Joe would need to awaken to the adverse effects his drinking has on his life and then CHOOSE to develop recovery.

If he is forced to stop drinking, he probably would just try to hide his drinking, but wouldn’t succeed. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Joe still has a couple of relatives who care about him and his well-being. And let’s also say that they had some leverage over Joe they could yield in order to force him to both stop drinking and attend AA meetings. As much as Joe would want to please them, there’s a high likelihood that he’d continue drinking, not attend meetings of any kind, and stay away from the people who tried to force him to do something he didn’t want to do.

Recovery is scary – people who have been addicted are loaded with shame. The person whom they fear the most looks back at them every time they pass a mirror. Substances have kept them from seeing that fearful reflection for so long that they simply don’t know who that reflection even is anymore. So, they do whatever they have to do to maintain the addiction; it’s simply much easier, even with all the problems, than it is to do all the daily things necessary to develop recovery and health.

Joe, and millions of others like him, has to go through a “conversion of heart” before he can start the processes needed to develop recovery. That is, he has to change the motive force of his life to something of health rather than alcohol. See, an addict’s motive force is to acquire his or her substance. That motive force is strong; it’s often been reinforced so much that it’s as automatic as breathing. Others may see motivational forces in an addict’s life that may appear strong, but I ASSURE YOU, that for an addict, NOTHING is stronger than the motive force to use the substance of his or her choice. NOTHING ELSE can or will drive an addict’s behavior. Even if he or she says the “right” words like, “I want to change” and/or “I can’t live like this anymore,” if he or she hasn’t consciously chosen to convert his or her motive force, the words are just manipulations meant to distract people so that he or she can continue to use.

It’s that basic: Recovery must develop through conscious processes. The first step is a conversion of heart – that is, a change in a person’s motive force towards health rather than substances. I can’t do that for anyone nor can I own it for anyone. If a person wants recovery, he or she must choose that path on his or her own. There’s simply no other way. However, people like me who are trained to help find other motive forces are useful and should be accessed for training and understanding. There is hope, but anything that reinforces shame, fear, anger, and/or anxiety will do far more to strengthen Addiction’s force than doing nothing.