What does “Recovery “mean?
There are many times I introduce myself as a “recovering person”. The follow up question is usually, “from what?” What does it mean to say I am a recovering person and why do I use that term? I used to say I was a recovering alcoholic, but as my recovery has gone on through the years, I see my recovery in a much broader context then just recovering from alcoholism. I believe the biggest part of recovery is gaining insight into myself, my thinking, my reactions, and my perceptions. Insight into why I respond to life the way I do?
The concept of recovery is also what guides my concept of what treatment means. When someone is in “treatment”, what are we treating? Treatment in the general term is treating a substance abuse issue, or an addiction. And while the behavior of addiction is the primary concern, treatment is about gaining insight into the why.
What is insight? According to the dictionary, insight is the power or act of seeing into a situation. I know when I drink alcohol, I get intoxicated. I knew that 25 years ago, and I know it today. I know it as well as I know 1 + 1 = 2. I also know the consequences of my drinking. I would say things I shouldn’t say, and I usually (ok, almost always) would behave badly. Having this knowledge however did not stop me from drinking. I even knew for a long time I was an alcoholic, I readily admitted it as a defense to shut people down! However, knowledge is not insight. Insight is understanding why I did it anyway! Why I felt I needed to do it and why I vigorously defended it! This insight started in treatment and continues today.
Treatment is about gaining insight into ourselves, our choices, our perceptions, and our reactions. When I gained insight into the why’s, I learned to change my perceptions, I can react differently, and make different choices. I make a conscious decision to react differently to life. That is why I can say I am a recovering person. I am in a constant state of recovery; always working on making healthy choices for myself, keeping healthy boundaries, and gaining insight into myself. It is an ongoing process.
Treatment starts with identifying what a person wants to change. To make those changes, you need to gain insight into the behavior you want to change. I think about the joke where a man keeps hitting himself in the head and saying to the doctor “it hurts when I do this”, and the doctor says, “then stop doing that!” If every time I got into trouble I had been drinking, then why didn’t I just stop drinking? Why?
Treatment is not about punishment, shame or even labels, it’s about helping you be the best you. The consequences of treatment can be improved relationships, restored physical health, enhanced job performance, and overall happiness.