Recovery, Revolution and Evolution

By Ken Wells - 09/13/2022


Series Three: Blog Sixty-One

Life force is ever changing. Every addict enters recovery lost. They hope to find lost integrity, trust and a healthy lifestyle. They want to regain the sanity that has been lost. A cup of coffee, a warm smile and authentic stories of brokenness in a 12-step meeting helps them to feel that they have come home. The Steps and the fellowship become a community of support for an addict to find self, healing and a place to rebuild their life. The community is a safe space to say whatever needs to be said and feel loved. Untold secrets shared remain inside the walls with those who have shared their own skeletons from the closet.

The recovery community is a safe place to cultivate emotional intimacy with others who know what you feel because they have experienced the same dynamics in life. Learning to work the steps by going over them many times with a sponsor solidifies recovery. The 12-step community becomes a safe place to backslide.  Should you relapse, the community is non-judgmental, caring and accepting even though you have failed. It is a good place to learn to separate your behavior from your sense of self. This experience is healing to an addict who mostly comes to the fellowship with shame, disdain and self-condemnation.

Eventually, as addicts recover what was lost, there is the need to launch personal growth. This is where a potpourri of experience begins to unfold. Growth is a dynamic that doesn’t leave you at the same place. Where you were when you entered recovery is not where you will be tomorrow. Many times recovering addicts want to hold on to the security of what was once experienced when they first entered a recovery community. It is difficult to accept that what used to be no longer is. “Yesterday ended last night” is a truthful mantra that is often avoided by recovering addicts. M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled described life as a metaphor of traveling through the desert. Many get to the first oasis, unpack their gear, soothe their weary bones and enjoy the cool waters of the oasis. However, they refuse to leave the oasis to continue their journey through the desert. They choose to live the rest of their lives hovering around the oasis, hoping to hang on to their oasis experience.

This can happen in recovery.  Rehabilitation requires continued growth. It is scary and unsettling to move forward and confront the many faces of change in life. What was once true for you in recovery looks different as you grow and address new challenges.

Some people leave the nest of their recovery community, never to return. Some who leave relapse and tragically return to their old addictive lifestyle. Others learn to do life and remain anchored in their 12-step community as a safe place to sift and sort the many challenges of everyday living that push for positive change.

Recovery embraces a revolution of change. Addicts radically revolt from destructive mistaken beliefs, behaviors and life styles. They change the community from those who act out to those who don’t. This radical revolution never ends throughout the span of life for those who are sincerely committed to recovery growth. This is where Peck’s metaphor of the oasis come into play. The challenge for addicts in 12-step recovery groups is to not hover around the oasis of sobriety but to move beyond into deeper intimacy with self and loved ones at home. This is the journey through the desert that creates serenity.

From one perspective, it is comforting to know that you no longer imbibe your drug of choice, and that you have gained the love and support of others who have also made the same choices. There is mutual admiration and respect for hard won sobriety. However, many 12-step old timers are sages in the recovery room and surly and troublesome in relationships at home. They don’t drink but quietly their family members wish they did because they remain cantankerous and difficult. To Peck’s point of view, they simply have chosen to stop the journey through the desert.

Life force creates evolution. We are always evolving to a different place. If you don’t think so, you should reference your high school year book and note the physical evolution that has transpired from what you looked like then to what you look like now! Recovery is the same. It would be distorted if you were the same today as you were when you entered recovery. Just as much as if you looked the same today as when you were younger. We are all evolving. Even, when you resolve not to grow, everything and others around you are changing. Even the oasis doesn’t remain the same! It’s the nature of life force.

Here are a few considerations about the revolution of recovery and its ultimate evolution.

Recovery requires that you accept change. Bob Dylan crooned “The times they are a changin”. It’s a reality of life. Things were so unstable before you got into recovery and 12-step work. It is so hard to let go and accept the inevitable changes that will occur as your life moves forward. Acceptance creates harmony and helps you let go of people, environment and what used to be. Resistance to change spoils growth. Like a good egg that either hatches or becomes rotten, growth becomes stymied and spoiled without acceptance to inevitable change.

Recovery requires that you leave unhealthy systems. Many of us grew up in dysfunctional families. It took us leaving the system and embracing recovery in order for us to see the toxicity in our family system. Sometimes, nostalgia tempts us to go back, thinking it wasn’t so bad. However, once revisited, only a few experiences remind us that the family system no longer fits. This progression continues throughout life. Many systems that once fueled passion, fulfillment and vision no longer do. Rather than complain or lament about how things have changed, there is a time to move on. Your revolution in recovery has changed you. Undoubtedly, the system has changed too. It is no longer compatible with who you are. It’s time for you to move on and make a change.

Connecting with places and people change while the principles remain the same. Personally, I likely will remain connected to a 12-step community the rest of my days. However, I know a number of people who have moved on to other life experience. Some for the good and some with disappointment. I have learned that building a shrine out of life experience is counterproductive to growth and acceptance of the passage of time in the span of life. That said, the principles for growth remain the same. Hunger for personal growth and humility with the capacity to bring yourself back to center are concepts of truth that ground your recovery revolution and track with you throughout your evolution of life experience. Exercise the courage to leave environments that no longer foster recovery growth. Practice radical revolution in recovery growth that promise to bring you to the fulfillment of your destiny. Leave the oasis and finish the journey through the desert by maintaining the principles that you built your foundation for recovery.

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