By: Marilyn L. Davis
Recovery Phases and the Moon
“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
Just like the moon, #recovery has phases. Each phase moves you away from relapse and self-defeating behaviors towards long-term recovery. Click To Tweet
When you’re moving away from relapsing feelings, thoughts, and actions, you move toward a greater understanding of recovery. However, unlike the moon, 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: The Most Contradictory
Newly recovering people are fragile and most prone to relapse. While the consequences of their recent use may have gotten their immediate attention, the incidents of defiance, ambivalence, and resistance are most widespread at this time.
Many people in early recovery are still dishonest, arrogant, or refuse to acknowledge there is a problem. Some are so consumed with guilt, shame and aren’t sure they will ever forgive themselves for what they’ve done in their addiction.
Some people posture as:
- Overly dramatic
- A Know-it-all
Then others are no longer on the fence; they want to change. They are relieved and ready to stop their use, self-defeating behaviors, and any criminal activities.
Regardless of their negative and positive attitudes, people will be afraid to change, distrustful of other people, and the process of recovery.
Some are only willing to give up the illegal drug use and not make other significant changes. Others engage in criminal thinking and behaviors whether they relapse or not.
However, even with the differences, there are more similarities than dissimilarities among people within this phase.
Relapsing and Phase One
Phase One is about education. Shame, guilt, and unresolved issues are often the likely underlying causes of relapse. However, premature delving into these issues will usually increase the relapse rate.
People must get the right kind of help if they have PTSD, anxiety, or sexual abuse issues from their past.
Some of you 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, everyone needs to understand that these symptoms are predictable, familiar, and widespread without negating 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 people learn the language of recovery and listen for the similarities in experiences, they 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. During this phase, people realize that recovery is not pain-free but directed pain to promote change. However, the pain can and does have a purpose; it can motivate people to change.
Self-discovery is the beginning of accountability for your actions. We can find a resolution for our painful past, as well as understanding the ingrained, habituated patterns of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
An in-depth personal evaluation of our lives can prompt radically altered thoughts and feelings and find forgiveness for ourselves and others.
We can choose the acute pain of self-awareness and not the protracted pain of addiction, self-defeating behaviors, and adverse outcomes. Click To Tweet
Phase Three: Healing
Discovery also helps us find strengths and talents, skills not used in years. When we find them, we can choose to use them.
Changing from poor choices and reduced options is a significant change for most of us. Many people were isolated in their use, and healing at this point involves the cathartic benefits of shared experiences, multiple solutions, and collective healing.
For many people, 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 them how to deal with their painful pasts.
Recovery Isn’t a Linear Path
Healing from our addictions take time. It is not always a smooth linear progression. There will be times that negative thinking, fears, and impatience recur. During these times, 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 people are taking, where they are in the amends process, and how their family is reacting, life can seem to be one session, one group, one job, one meal, and bed.
It is often necessary for people to take a step back and check how far they have come. But also realize what they will be facing if they create drama with a relapse or act out to get excitement in their life.
Phase Four: Renewal, Restoration, and Repair
Much of the painful past has come to light. With this awareness, people are trying to correct behaviors and repair relationships with others.
- By reviewing their life, they can make genuine and authentic amends by their actions.
- Renewal for many at this phase is seeking out a spiritual part of their daily life or renewing contact with a higher power.
- It is time to begin a new life structure. Incorporating Spiritual Principles helps people create this new structure with or without a higher power.
- The wreckage of the past is reviewed. People are starting to make amends, and many are experiencing stability and contentment.
When people find answers that work for them, they can pass this information along to someone else to help improve their lives. Click To Tweet
Writing and recovery heals the heart
*Reprinted from Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System (TIERS) Page 13 © Authored by Marilyn L. Davis for express use at North House, 1990-2011, copyright transferred to TIERS, 2012