The Process of Recovery
Abstinence and sobriety are necessary conditions for recovery, but not everyone who is abstinent is in recovery. Recovery invites you to make lifestyle changes and create new patterns of living and relationships.
ABSTINENCE or SOBRIETY: No use of any substance of abuse
RECOVERY: A lifelong process of changes from a lifestyle imposed on you by drugs and/or alcohol to a lifestyle of your own choosing, without the interference of drugs and/or alchohol.
There are some phases to recovery:
A Rite of Passage
by Michael White – Challenging the Culture of Consumption
I often invoke the rite of passage metaphor when I’m consulted by persons who want to break from an addiction and/or from the excessive consumption of substances. Following van Gennep (1960) and Turner (1969), three stages to rites of passage can be discerned. First is the separation phase, at which a person breaks from their life as they know it. This marks the beginning of the journey. Second, there is the liminal phase. This is a ‘betwixt and between’ phase, in which one’s familiar sense of being in the world is absent, and where nothing means quite what it did before. This phase is invariably characterised by periods of disorientation and confusion, and times of significant despair. Third, there is the reincorporation phase. Reincorporation is achieved when a person finds that they’ve arrived at another place in life, where they experience a ‘fit’ that provides for them a sense of once again being at home with themselves and with a way of life. At this time, persons regain a sense of being knowledged and skilled in matters of living.
Work that is informed by the rite of passage metaphor provides persons with a general map of the experiences that are to be expected in breaking from addiction and/or excessive consumption of substances. This map that emphasises the phases of separation, liminality, and reincorporation is often an invaluable aid to journeys that can be fraught. This map provides persons with a general guide through the territories that lie ahead. It provides persons with a basis for predicting the experiences that are to be had. It informs persons in the preparations that must be made ahead of departure. Without a map to assist persons in this way, there is a significantly greater risk that they will turn back before completing the journey.
Before taking a first step in this migration of identity, in the lead up to the separation phase, work can be done to identify all of the forces that the person will be challenging in this step, and the full significance of this as a migration of identity can be explored. A fuller appreciation of these forces and of the significance of this migration contributes to establishing a greater readiness for the journey. However, despite the close attention to this, whether or not all of these forces have been sufficiently identified, and whether or not an adequate grasp of the significance of this migration has been achieved, cannot be determined ahead of departure – there is always a strong possibility that the person will turn back.
Immediately prior to stepping into these journeys, and as they are taking their first steps, persons frequently feel their spirits rising with the new hopes for a life differently lived. However, following this, persons invariably find themselves crashing into a trough of confusion and despair. This is usually interpreted as a physiological phenomenon, one that is associated with withdrawal of the substance. However, although this physiological phenomenon is usually significant, this does not entirely account for this crash. In stepping into this journey, persons are breaking from the known, detaching from a familiar sense of the self, and they suddenly find themselves at a loss to know how to deal with the world. If persons do not understand this experience in the context of the liminal phase of the journey, it will be read as regress. Under these circumstances, with hopes not initially realised, life under the thrall of addiction and/or the excessive consumption of substances will often become a more attractive proposition than perseverance in efforts to revise one’s relationship with these substances.
Although considerable attention is given to the mapping of this journey, and to preparations for the separation, liminal and reincorporation phases, it is important that persons understand that turning back remains a distinct possibility. There are ways of understanding this turning back, and preparing for this eventuality, that don’t construct this as failure, that don’t contribute to that ‘back to square one’ experience that is shaming of persons and that is so undermining of hope and of future efforts. Turning back can be understood as the outcome of an insufficient appreciation of the forces that are inciting of the consumption of substances, of gaps in the preparations made for sustaining one though the rigours of the liminal phase, and so on. It can also be understood that all attempts at migrations of this sort contribute to the development of knowledges and the skills of the sort that are necessary for the successful completion of the journey, and that these will contribute to persons being better prepared on future attempts.