This thing they call “recovery” is an interesting concept. My personal take on recovery is simply taking stock, seeing whats not working, finding out why it’s not working, looking around for tools to repair the damage and moving forward with new skills and knowledge for the journey ahead.
It’s not necessarily a journey with a straight path or a clear destination either. I also believe we are all unique individuals and no one size fits all. As Jungian philosophy tells us, we spend our lives in a process of individuation or becoming whole. From birth onwards, we are recovering from our situation, our parents even our personalities. When we remove unhelpful behaviour and don’t do “the work” all we do is take away the behaviour without doing the repair. It’s a bit like becoming a vegetarian, and simply taking away the meat from the diet without making sure all the nutritional bases are covered.
Since removing alcohol from my life I had noticed that the addictive part of my brain, whose first love was the sweet and forbidden rush of sugar, has been looking around to latch on to other things. There are the obvious ones like coffee and chocolate but I have realised that there are also more insidious things to recover from, like co dependent behaviour and anxiety.
I married a dashing and charming alcoholic when I was younger, he was a father to my youngest daughter and step father to my older daughters. I knew nothing of the disease of alcoholism at the time but after years of experiencing the destructive nature of alcohol addiction and realising that I couldn’t actually cure him or save him I discovered a group called Al Anon and from them learned about co dependency. This was a life saver at the time and taught me about boundaries, which actually gave me the strength to leave the relationship, of course I went back but that is another story. I moved back into the relationship trusting the promises he made were forever while still not fully understanding the power and cavalier guise of addiction. The whole scenario was covering up my own increasing dependency on alcohol to soothe my growing anxiety. Old patterns re surfaced as I focussed on his issues, not mine, covered my pain with his drug and swept it all aside. While we focus on one thing and clear it up another can easily slip in and take its place. Like Oprah Winfrey said “the same lessons keep coming back just wearing different trousers!”
Recovery is all about doing “the work” and learning to find healthier and safer ways to live. It’s a slow and on going process but as we learn new and positive habits to replace the old we gain back the strength that we once gave away. We are all recovering from something.
Illustration by Lucy McCarthny