What “Recovery” Is and Isn’t

Ardis White taught me that Recovery is a process in which one becomes progressively aware of the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that block change. There is no right or wrong way to Recover. There are many paths. There are a few absolutes. The most important one is that you can’t do it alone. Ask anyone who has tried.

People Recover from addictions, trauma, past abuse, and from being generally effed up individuals like me. Recovery is about Reclaiming your life and consciously choosing who and how we shall be. It’s living your life on purpose. It’s about learning, healing, and growing. It’s about becoming something greater than what you’ve been.

“It takes great courage to grow up and become who you really are.” –  e.e. cummings

Recovery takes what it takes. It will often feel like it takes too much for too long and it’s too hard. It’s also always worth it. Recovery is a lifelong process that is accomplished 24 hours at a time.

“We found the only thing we needed to change was everything.”

Abstinence is not Recovery. Abstinence is Sobriety and/or the absence of unhealthy behavior. It’s good to stop doing unhealthy things, but just quitting will prove insufficient. The fear of going back to the drink, the drug, the self harm…that fear won’t go away on its own.

Recovery is not about “getting back to where I was.” People tend to view life as this linear thing and we see ourselves as either going forward or backwards. In truth, life is a dance and we don’t know the steps until somebody teaches us. We can’t go back to where we were. Where we were was scary. Whether it was good or bad it’s the place from which we made the decision to self destruct.

Relapse is part of Recovery. It’s not something all of us do but it’s something we do when we don’t know what to do or when we know what to do and we’re scared shitless to do it. It’s like hitting a reset button. It’s starting over. It’s…

Déjà vu. We’ve been here before. Haven’t learned these lessons yet. Everything is Pain. Everything is Shame. Most of all, everything is Fear.

In our heads it plays out like this: Can’t go back. Gotta move forward. Can’t move forward with all this damned baggage. Gotta learn how to let go of baggage. Can’t learn unless I admit I don’t know. Can’t admit I don’t know because that shows I’m weak. Can’t be weak – gotta be strong. Strong means don’t cry, don’t show fear. Ashamed – don’t let anyone see who I really am. Can’t let them see – gotta keep it hidden. If they see they won’t like me. If they don’t like me they’ll make me go away. Can’t go away…got no place to go. So tired of being alone. So sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now what?

Now we take what we know and we accept certain inevitabilities. In the short term we’re going to be afraid whether we do healthy things or unhealthy things. We’re going to hurt. We’re going to choose a path either consciously or subconsciously. We have the option of learning from those who are further along the paths of Recovery. We have the option of accepting that we’re not unique – millions have struggled as we have and in truth they see right through us. They know we’re scared and hurting and ashamed so we might as well stop trying to hide it. They know because they are/were too.

Recovery is a process of letting go of illusions and seeing things for what they really are. It is a process of gradual acceptance and growth. It is a process of healing – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is “coming out of the fog” and into the full light of day one step at a time, one day at a time.

Recovery is lifelong. There is no finish line. It took me a long time to accept that. I don’t want a finish line I want to continue to grow – to be more aware – to have more happiness, more joy, and more freedom.

Henry Miller said it well, “The point of Life is to Live and to Live means to be Aware.”

Recovery is Awareness of the Beliefs, Behaviors and Attitudes that block Change.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.