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Transformation and Recovery from Addiction

Some people who suffer from addiction can feel that the personal transformation involved in achieving and sustaining recovery is a little too daunting, despite the evident misery of their current circumstances. Faced with this, their motivation to change may weaken and they may put off taking the life-saving action that is so urgently needed.  They may see the distance between the depths of their situation and the uplands of recovery too great to bridge. It can feel easier to carry on with what is at least familiar.

It is true that to achieve recovery, a radical, transformative approach is required. In the end, half measures do not generally secure freedom from addiction and its effects.  But, if handled correctly by those in a position to help, this reality need not be any deterrent to change. 

Addiction is all encompassing – Recovery must be also

To understand the comprehensive degree of change that recovery necessitates, we need look no further than the all-encompassing, transformative nature of addiction. While at addiction’s core may be the compulsive and repetitive consumption of a particular substance (e.g. alcohol, heroin, crystal meth, etc.) or the indulgence in a certain behaviour (gambling, pornography, shopping, etc.), the perpetuation of those activities involves so much more. That’s why the descriptor “an all-consuming relationship” is used. 

It requires the support of a mind-set that takes over the person’s value system. People come to operate in ways that almost certainly would have seemed alien to them previously. They develop an identity that is largely determined by addiction. New addiction-consistent social norms are created and become ingrained as such in daily life, often infecting the family in the form of co-dependence. As the imperative of addiction is its own self-preservation, the person’s entire lifestyle becomes co-opted, including participation in unhealthy social networks. Of course at the time it is not recognised or accepted that that is what they are.

Stay in the moment

Essential to the psychology of addiction is the “quick fix”. The addicted individual inevitably brings this orientation to their approach to treatment and recovery. As they begin to realise that this is the antithesis of the recovery process, which requires patient commitment to personal work, they may turn tail. It therefore becomes essential for addiction treatment providers to help the person stay in the moment and avoid looking too far ahead, as both Mindfulness and a 12-Step approach encourage. 

Emphasise and celebrate any progress – recovery is an incremental process

In order not to become demotivated when they discover that holistic recovery cannot be secured all in one simple go, a treatment centre must support the person to recognise and celebrate each indication of progress for what it is. They need to be helped to appreciate the incremental growth of recovery achieved through the practice of healthy behaviours and new ways of being that steadily become integrated into everyday life. In time they will come to realise that they have indeed transformed their lives.

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