By: Marilyn L. Davis
Moon, Life, and Recovery Phases
“When I look over my past, I see that the stages in my life are like the phases of the moon. I’ve had periods where I was the waxing gibbous: fat with wealth and success. There have been other seasons when my happiness was like the waning crescent and I watched my joy fade away slowly, merging with the atmosphere around me as if it never existed. Then I felt as if I was left with nothing more than an illusion, but happiness returns in time and glows once more in corpulent fullness. It’s time that makes the difference.” ― Amy Neftzger, Conversations with the Moon
When you’re moving away from relapsing feelings, thoughts, and actions, you are moving toward a greater understanding of recovery.
Unlike the moon though, there is no time-frame for this forward growth. Evolving in your recovery is personal to you. Progress depends on how much time, energy, and effort you put into making changes and growing in your recovery.
Phase One: Most Contradictory
Newly recovering people are fragile and most prone to relapse. While the consequences of your recent use may have gotten your immediate attention, the incidents of defiance, ambivalence, and resistance are most widespread at this time. You may show arrogance, shame, guilt, non-compliance, and dishonesty. Some of you will posture as:
- Overly dramatic
However, even with the differences in posturing, attitudes, and beliefs about the severity of, or the damage done by your addictions, there are more similarities than dissimilarities among people within this phase.
A certain percentage of you will be ready to embrace change. You will be noticeably relieved and ready to stop your use, self-defeating behaviors, and any criminal activities.
However, the larger percentage of people will be afraid, distrustful, and ambivalent about changes. Some are only willing to give up the illegal drug use, and not make other significant changes. There are others who still engage in criminal thinking and behaviors whether you relapse or not.
Relapsing and Phase One
Phase One is about education. Shame, guilt, and unresolved issues are often the predictable underlying causes of relapse. However, premature delving into these issues will often increase the relapse rate. It is important that you have qualified counselors, or educated people helping you resolve these issues from your past.
There are some of you who do not believe you have a problem and will test that theory with another use.
- Some of you will show a sense of uniqueness, entitlement or arrogance
- Others feel depressed, sad and discouraged
- Many feel ashamed or embarrassed
- A few will be drastically impaired from their use
However, all of you need to understand that your symptoms are predictable, common and widespread, without negating your feelings about each situation. Identifying commonality, coping mechanisms, and exploring change is frightening for all people. Replacing with a common language, communication skills, and shoring up defenses with healthy alternatives help defend against relapse.
When you learn the language of recovery and listen for the similarities in experiences, you will find that even the opposites of arrogance/defiance and shame/guilt have a common framework for change.
Phase Two: Self-discovery
Early recovery is an upsetting and stressful time for people as they expose shortcomings and self-defeating behaviors. It is painful to recognize how many people we harmed in our use. It is during this phase that people realize that recovery is not pain-free but directed pain to promote change.
The pain can and does have a purpose; it can motivate you to change.
Self-discovery is the beginning of accountability for your actions, a resolution on your painful past, and understanding of the ingrained, habituated patterns in your life. An in-depth personal evaluation of your life can and often does prompt an individual to radically alter their thoughts, feelings, and find forgiveness for themselves and others.
It is important to encourage you to choose the acute pain of self-awareness and not the chronic protracted pain of addiction, self-defeating behaviors, and adverse outcomes.
Discovery also helps you find strengths and talents, skills not used in years.
Phase Three: Healing
Changing from poor choices, and reduced options is a major change for most of us. Many of you remained isolated in your use and healing at this point involves the cathartic benefits of shared experiences, multiple solutions, and collective healing.
For many of you, it is often the first time that caring, genuine, and authentic help is available in the form of treatment and other peer resources to show you how to deal with your painful pasts.
Healing from addiction takes time and understanding. It is not a smooth linear progression.
There will be times that negative thinking, fears, and impatience recur. It is during these times that complacency can become problematic, and most people have to renew their commitment to recovery.
There is a typical plateau at this juncture. Depending on the time-frame for treatment, what Step you are taking, if you take part in 12 Step meetings, where you are in the amends process, and how your family is reacting, life can just seem to be one session, one group, one job, one meal, and bed.
It is often necessary to take a step back and check how far you have come.
But to also realize what you will be facing if you create drama with a relapse or acting out to get excitement in your life.
Phase Four: Renewal, Restoration, and Repair
Much of the harmful past has come to light, and you are making efforts to correct behaviors and repair relationships with others. By reviewing your life, you can make genuine and authentic amends by your actions. Renewal for many of you at this phase is seeking out a spiritual part of your daily life or renewing contact with a higher power.
It is the time to begin a new life structure. Incorporating Spiritual Principles in your life helps you create this new structure with or without a higher power.
You now have the wreckage of the past reviewed; you’ve made amends, and many of you are experiencing stability and contentment.
You are grateful for the opportunities that recovery has given you, appreciative of all who have stood by you, and for the relationships that have come to you in your recovery.
You are now can help guide others, even when it seems like the darkest time in their lives, you know that the phases change, attitudes improve, and recovery is possible. Share that.
Reprinted from Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System (TIERS) Page 13 © Authored by Marilyn L. Davis for express use at North House, 1990-2011, copyright transfer to TIERS, 2012
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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