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Recovering From Addiction I - Beginning the Journey
by Judy Shepps Battle, MA

Your private world has fallen apart. The boss has fired you, your significant other is no longer significant, and you realize that all of these unmanageable circumstances are somehow related to your use and abuse of addictive substances. You become sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and you want help.

Welcome to the world of recovery.

The path of recovery is a circle. The starting point really doesn't matter because as you continue to walk the path, you will touch every base. You will look at your own addiction, its roots in your family of origin, and how it is affecting your family and work life. You will learn healthy self-care. The important thing is to take the first step, but how do you begin and what can you expect?

Path of Recovery

Let's look closer at the "bases" everyone touches in their recovery journeys and at the support groups that can ease the process.

  • Active Addiction
    You will need to find a way that works for you to stop using your drug of choice. It doesn't matter if that drug is alcohol, marijuana, opiates, food, gambling, relationships or sex, you will need both professional and lay support.

    Many people begin by consulting their family physician or an addictions counselor. This is a good first step because it is important to address physical and emotional conditions related to substance abuse.

    You may also choose to join a recovery group and get help from others who are fighting addiction. They will provide free support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Nearly every addiction has a 12-Step program. Examples include:

    1. AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) for alcoholism
    2. NA (Narcotics Anonymous) for drug addiction
    3. OA/FAA (Overeaters Anonymous/Food Addicts Anonymous) for eating disorders
    4. GA (Gamblers Anonymous) for gambling addiction
    5. Al-Anon/CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) for addictive relationship issues
    6. Debtors Anon (Debtors Anonymous) for debt problems
    7. SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) for sex and love addictions

    Many non-12-Step programs, such as SMART, Rational Recovery, and Women for Sobriety, also provide support for a clean and sober life style.

  • Relationship to Family of Origin
    It is important to deal with the roles you were taught to play in your family of origin, and their effect on you. It doesn't matter whether you were a scapegoat, hero, mascot, or lost child. The odds are good that you have carried these relationship patterns into your adult life and they may not be working in your best interest.

    You will also look at patterns of addiction in your family of origin. Although it may feel as if you are the first person in your family with a substance abuse problem, careful examination of previous generations may show otherwise. ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) is a 12-Step program that focuses primarily on this issue. CODA (Co Dependents Anonymous) and Al-Anon also are helpful.

  • Relationship to Your Current Family
    As you continue in recovery, you will look at your life today. What are the relationships and expectations you have of others (and vice versa)? How different are these expectations from the patterns in your family of origin? Often we repeat aspects of our childhood that we swore we would not. Now is your chance to identify and change these paradigms. ACOA, CODA, Al-Anon, and SLAA are helpful supplements to professional therapy, as are more focused programs such as DA and GA.

    Most of the 12-Step programs that deal with abstinence also have a program counterpart for "friends and family" of the addicted person. Thus, Al-Anon is for friends and family of alcoholics, Nar-Anon for friends and family of drug users, O-Anon for friends and family of overeaters, Gam-Anon for friends and family of gamblers, and so forth.

  • Feelings
    As you explore the world of recovery, feelings that may have become frozen through use of addictive substances will begin to thaw. CODA and Al-Anon are wonderful 12-Step programs in this area. Slowly, you will learn about feelings and how to identify them. You will begin to own your emotions and choose which feelings you wish to turn into actions.

Your journey has begun.

Go to Recovering From Addiction Part II: The Elevator.

Go to Recovering From Addiction Part III: 25 Selected Resources.

Copyright 2000 Judy Shepps Battle

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