Skip to content

New perspectives on recovery: Part 2

How far have I come?

“How far have I come?” … Those who have decided to challenge the problem of addiction and have ventured on the daunting road to recovery may ask this.

Bob Dylan ventures an answer: The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind. … meaning the answer is to be thought about and discussed, but not decided upon or resolved. For the distance, time and effort are not measurable.

Michael White, the founder of Narrative Therapy (the approach adopted by Simcha), however, reassures that there are tools to consult during the departure from the known. For one, consider taking a map he recommends.

This is an expedition into the unknown. One does not step into another known place. Persons can only be certain of the general direction. They remain uncertain of how far they have come and still have to travel, and what will become of them on the way (White, 1997).

There is clarity on one aspect of this journey: It requires a major shift in one’s being. “It boils down to a migration of identity – an act of intentionally leaving one’s life behind in order to make a new life for oneself,” White says.

Perhaps one could also regard this journey as an in-migration, that is, to move into or come to live in a different region of one’s personhood. In Narrative Therapy-speak we would refer to uprooting the problem story and cultivating, nurturing and claiming the alternative story within us – thereby becoming what we want to and should be.

There are three stages to this rite of passage or transition, White (1997) says:

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 betwixt and between phase or liminal phase, where one is on the precipice of something new but not quite there yet. It can be incredibly uncomfortable. One’s familiar sense of being in the world is absent, and 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 persons find that they have arrived at another place in life; where they experience a ‘fit’ that provides them with a sense of once again being at home with themselves and with a way of life. At this time, a person regains a sense of being knowledgeable and skilled in matters of living.

It is these three stages of transition that provide persons with White’s map of the experiences that are to be expected in embarking on a journey to break from addiction. This map that emphasises the phases of separation, liminality, and reincorporation is often an invaluable aid. It could serve as a general guide through the territories that lie ahead. It gives a basis for predicting possible experiences ahead. It informs about the required preparations before departure.

So pack in the map, gather up your courage, and go …

Bring it on, Bob:

And how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see



White, M. 1997. Challenging the culture of consumption: Rites of passage and communities of acknowledgement. [Available at:] Dulwich Centre: Adelaide, Australia.