Detox by Subtraction; Recovery by Addition
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | August 14, 2020 (edited June 22, 2022)
Recovery is more than detox, we must add skills, experiences and others to restore the richness of a full life.
Simple mathematics, not complex algorithms, are what is needed for recovery. 2020 has complicated the journey, providing a built in excuse for stalled progression. Yet, the civil movement and virus don’t care about you. You need recovery now more than ever, despite the added difficulties. Recovery is a process of adding and subtraction, taking some things out of our lives and adding other things into our lives. Slowly the simple mathematics create positive change, our live molds into something new, something different, something better.
So, what should we subtract? First the obvious—the dope, the alcohol, the behavioral addiction. Basically, detox. Okay, this is over simplified. Detox sucks and is difficult. Often, we need help during the critical first couple months. Caring friends, medication, and support groups are essential additions to this process.
"Detox sucks and is difficult. Often, we need help during the critical first couple months."
First order subtractions during recovery includes old environments, accessibility to the addictive substance or behavior, and stresses. Detoxing is difficult enough; but add the same people, the same environments, and easy access to your addiction and the smallest stress will send us tumbling back down the same old hill.
Prolonged recovery is a series of additions. Life surrounding addiction is sparce, barren of wholeness. In the devastation of addiction, our drive to quell the cravings smothers all that is good in our lives. We live on emptiness, only feud by the addiction. Prolonged addiction strangles joy, purpose, and hope. Only through prolonged recovery do these staples of healthy living return.
The first and most important addition is self-compassion. We must forgive ourselves for the nastiness of our past. Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, our addiction hurt others. However, addictions are often a symptom rather than a cause. Our childhoods, biology, and perhaps naivety led to the downhill slide. We landed on our butts. This is where we are now. We can’t use these pasts to continue to define our future.
Many others under the same circumstances would have behaved the same—forgive and move forward. Making it through detox is a sign of strength. Congratulate your strength to succeed and this essential step towards resurrecting your life. With glimpses of self-compassion, we gain self-esteem, engage in self-care, and allow ourselves to enjoy simply being.
Supportive Relationships and Recovery
The next essential additions are supportive relationships. We can’t go at this alone. We need to expand our inner circle to include others that provide emotional stability. This often proves difficult. Addiction is often accompanied by protective isolation. We lie. We deceive. We habitually protect against the judgmental glares from others. Surrounding ourselves with destructive others that “understand” our addiction also enabled the addiction. They understood; but, perhaps, just didn’t care. Often our recovery is threatening to their continued use, and they gladly sabotage our sobriety to soothe their guilt.
In recovery, protective isolation limits resources necessary for strength. We must begin to let some people out and invite new people in. And then we learn a fantastic truth, some people care—we are loveable.
The next round of additions is open. There are no set requirements. Each life is different. Yet, we must add and must add a lot. Hobbies, employment, cleanliness, self-care, exercise, structure, therapy, religion, education, and the list goes on. During this multitude of additions, we find meaning and purpose. We become engaged in life. We discover passions. We find avenues of retreat when life’s pressures intrude. We must add and add and keep on adding until our lives are full.
Unfortunately, many fail during this life and death math exam. They errantly believe the only problem is one of subtraction, taking the addiction out of their lives while everything else remains the same. The addiction stands ominously in front of the lengthy and treacherous path ahead. Once we make it through detox, we begin to see a little further. Don’t be discouraged. Adjust your vision, look at the road in front of you—one step at a time. Add something, subtract something, and continue these mathematics each day as we progress into a beautiful future.
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