The Recovery Process
Addictions still remain a mysterious disorder. While understanding of addiction and addiction treatment has made much progress over the last decade, there is still much to learn about the disorder and -more importantly- how to effectively recover from it. By the way, I am not just talking about substance addictions such as drugs or alcohol. I am also talking about behavioral addictions such as codependency, adult children of alcoholic patterns that are often similar if not identical to codependency, and emotional addictions such as rage, jealousy, victimhood, or martyrdom.
According to the book Learn to Value Your Childhood by Vince DiPasquale, there are six stages to the recovery process: 1. self-knowledge, 2. developing a support system/recovery family, 3.self-parenting or family reconstruction, 4.developing a positive attitude, 5.family of origin work, and 6. inner child work. The first stage of self-knowledge is intellectual recovery. I have also heard Vince DiPasquale himself call it "education" in his lectures. This stage is just scratching the surface, where you may read self-help books, listen to lectures, research different programs, and attend different meetings. However, the mistake that many people make, including myself, is to stay in that stage. The problem with staying in that stage is you never get down to do the real work where you see results.
My Personal Story
I started learning about addiction and recovery from the time I was 11 years-old when I saw the show Addicted with Kristina Wandzilak. For years, I read numerous books articles on addiction and codependency and watched every TV show about addiction and codependency. I realized I was a codependent when I was about 13, but I thought my education was enough to cure myself. Heck, I wrote books on the subject while my life was at the peak of unmanageability. I entered Al-Ateen when I was 16 and quickly picked up on the tools and principles. When I turned 18, I transitioned to Al-Anon, where I picked up on more tools and principles at even a faster rate. I spoke at anniversary meetings as a representative for both Al-Ateen and Al-Anon. I even spoke at a convention in front of 200 people and got a standing ovation. BUT, it was all from the head, not the heart. I could easily talk a good talk, but I was not able to apply the principles in my life to yield results. I hit rock bottom the summer after I graduated high school when my problem cousin was released from prison and showed signs that he was not getting better or willing to reach out to me. I fell into a depression and went through emotional withdrawal. One night in Al-Anon, I heard a share that completely shifted my thinking and I got proof that my cousin still possessed the behaviors of the diseases of addiction. I decided it was time to take care of me, so I went to therapy the following week and opened up all of my childhood wounds, ready to work on them. From there, I started talking about my most painful wounds. I started putting into practice what I was learning such as mirror affirmations, asking for help everyday, and reading my meditation books 3X a day. A year and a half later, my thinking is a lot more positive, I do not feel the need to control nearly as much, I love myself without conditions for the first time, and I know that the only place peace can come from is inside myself. I still have a long way to go, but I have made great progress. I have learned that our hearts have to break for the light to shine through. Once we are willing to let our hearts temporarily break apart completely) because they are already hanging by a thread by the pain we are stuffing down), we can begin to put the pieces back together.
The Consequences of Intellectual Recovery Instead of Real Recovery
From my own experience and others' experiences, intellectual recovery only leads staying the same in your pain and angry about not making progress and making your life even more unmanageable. Intellectual recovery makes our lives even more unmanageable by us using our knowledge to fix everyone but ourselves. We become bitter because others are not making process when we are the ones we should be worrying about making progress and controlling and rigid about the rules of the book. I have seen people in self-help meetings be so controlling and rigid about how to run the meeting because they have all the book knowledge from religiously attending for 20 or 30 years but not making any progressing in letting go of control in their families, work, or the meeting itself. The term "two-stepper" describes a person who jumps from Step 1/12 to 12/12. They jump from acknowledging they have a problem to wanting to carry the message by saving the world, even if it does not want to be saved lol (codependency).
How to Achieve Real Recovery
If you are a good codependent like I am, you want the cure and you want the cure now. The key is you have to be willing to pull the band-aids off your wounds and put iodine on them. It will hurt temporarily, but you will be genuinely healed and free forever. The subsequent stages, especially when you et to family of origin and inner child work, are all about that. There is no one-way to do recovery. You have to find the combination of paths to recovery that works for you such as rehabs, psychotherapy, 12-Step Programs, 12-Step-Alternative Programs, an established religion, a spiritual movement, a personal belief system, alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, reiki, hypnosis, etc. Remember, the broken pieces in your heart let the light shine of self-awareness and healing shine through.
Bria Riley is a published author, recovering codependent and adult child of an alcoholic, who is active in several recovery programs. She knows the turmoil and heartbreak of growing up in an addiction-stricken family and wants to help others who have also been affected by addiction through her writing.