The “Recovery is…” series will be continued with experiences and thoughts by both women who have struggled with addiction and women who have been impacted by a loved ones addiction. If you have a story to share or would like to contribute to this series, we have an open call for submissions under “contact”.
I’ve been thinking about the word and process of “recovery” lately. The Internet is full of good definitions, and I use other sources as well. This morning I discovered the following, while studying the word recovery.
A quick Google search will tell you that recovery is:
- a return to normal state of health, mind or strength
- an action or process of regaining possession or control of something lost or stolen (I add given away for pleasure or self-gratification, even non-sexual gratification in some cases).
Sometimes individuals get hooked into addictive or self-destructive behaviors trying to please significant others, or to gain peace because refusing to give in has just resulted in fights in the past. I think this can happen with any behavior or thought pattern. It doesn’t have to qualify as “addiction” for me to be stuck in a rut, unable to think clearly enough to stop it.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.
I liked www.freedictionary.com’s expansive definition best. I’ve added my comments in parentheses:
- to search for, find and bring back (recovery must be wanted)
- to regain control or possession of by conquest (get on your battle armor!) or action (work hard!)
- to regain normal use or condition (back to before being hooked)
- to procure from waste (reclaim form the environment, like water)
- to receive favorable judgement (the ability to see the moment of decision coming and regain the power to choose)
- to receive favorable judgement or succeed in legal proceedings (Christian or religious judgment of sin, even only in thoughts)
- to get back after real or potential loss
Brain activity changes have been found in numerous addiction studies, whether heroin, cocaine, or pornography were inve
stigated. I think this is why my depression and anxiety were so out of control when I was actively engaged in my destructive behaviors. That’s why depression treatments didn’t work, and the only time my anxiety calmed down was when I had medication in my system. I was trading one drug for another. Those who knew me early in recovery can attest to the insanity it was to deal with me.
As a woman with 21 years sobriety from alcohol, 16 sober from anorexia-nervosa, and now in recovery from lust and sexual fantasy for nearly 6 years, the concept of recovery is a part of my daily life. My belief does not demand once an addict always an addict, though I do protect myself. Once in a while I’ll think about the comfort a drink could bring, and now and then become so upset, angry, or overwhelmed that I cannot eat. Recovery in these areas has become a habit though, even if I need to push through tough patterns, unconducive to continued sobriety. I’ve never actually been drunk, never even had my own alcoholic beverage. However, I desperately wanted to get wasted: often. To this day I wonder how I was not harmed by dangerous situations that could have proven deadly. It is crazy what an addict will do to get a hit. And the pull is still there at times. Just the smell of alcohol on someone else triggers those feelings of longing if I am already in a place of loss or fear. For this reason, I protect myself. My beliefs about recovery do demand I never walk into a bar, literal or otherwise. Some may say this is the definition of “always an addict.” My need to step outside that is very real. So yes, at times I struggle. The times of struggle have become much more manageable in recent years, though. My strength in choosing for myself, regardless of the amygdala spasm someone once called “that little lizard flip in the back of my head.” Choosing is still an option, though at times the decision is harder than at others. If anyone says this will be fun or easy, they are keeping something from you. The truth is, I’ve been angry at and resentful of the whole concept of recovery and addiction many times. For weeks at a time, I had no idea who I was or how to exist without numbing. But I push through, and with the grace of God, here I am. I take it one day or one minute at a time, making it to another year. I’ve seen dozens of improved family relationships, careers, living arrangements, and life styles when individuals choose sobriety, then recovery. This is true, even when the drug is fantasy, lust, comparison or sex.
This reminds me of an analogy often used in another 12 step program:
Let’s say you’re driving across country from California to New York, and get a flat tire in Colorado. Do you drive back to California to fix the flat, and then start over? Do you fix the flat, then drive back to California, because you didn’t want a flat tire on your journey? Of course not! You get out, fix the problem where you are, do all in your own power to prevent another flat, and you keep heading towards New York. Sometimes you call in a tow truck because you can’t make the repairs yourself. Either way, it doesn’t make sense to start over. A slip or relapse does not mean I have not made any progress; it means something I’m doing or believing isn’t keeping me on track, so I need to make adjustments. Relapse is part of recovery. Now, that is not permission or an excuse, but a fact. We all slip up, and sometimes we really blow it. All four tires are flat because after one blew out, we self-sabotaged and slit the other three. Getting this angry doesn’t help any more than taking a switch blade to the remaining tires does on a road trip. Get out of the car, assess damages, fix what is broken, and move on. If you don’t have the right tools, get them. There is no point in sitting down and giving up either! You have already started this journey. Now keep going.
So recovery to me means I face the direction of bringing back or regaining my ability to walk away from what will hurt me or someone I love (or should love). It means moving in the direction of redemption from what keeps me stuck. It means realizing life is unmanageable, I cannot do this alone. There is a power greater than I am, and I must trust that power through my actions, thoughts and words. Recovery means walking away when others are hinting at sexual attraction outside marriage. It means carefully guarding my heart, mind, body, and soul against what I only know to call temptation. It means if I react to the friendly touch or smile of a man outside my marriage, I do the work that needs to be done to stay faithful to myself, my higher power (whom I do call God,) and to my husband. It means when I get a flat tire, I take responsibility, fixing what I can, calling on help, then I getting back in the car and moving forward. Recovery for me means I am not only sober in action, but in heart and mind. I choose to see every individual as equal to me, not above or below me. I do not use others in any way. In doing this, I gain deeper levels of recovery. Recovery, I believe, is heart healing and relationship healing, not just abstinence.