Growth vs. Stagnation

– Mary Christine Parks, LCSW, LCAS, CSI,

We often speak of complacency as a major risk factor for relapse behavior. We get some distance from our consequences, our chaos stabilizes, PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) symptoms are fading and we think “I’ve got this”. But just like using an antibiotic, you have to take the full course of treatment in order to have a lasting recovery. Our program of recovery is essential in maintaining and sustaining our recovery from substance use disorder.

Let’s take this idea of complacency one step further and acknowledge that our program of recovery has to grow along with us. If we have a rigid or stagnant program of recovery, inevitably the changes that take place in our life will cause major conflicts with what is supposed to be working for us. In an effort to illustrate this point let me give you an example.

You successfully completed inpatient treatment, followed through with discharge recommendations and completed 90 meetings in 90 days. You’ve become comfortable in your home group and are actively working with a sponsor. You’ve improved your diet, and sought regular medical and dental treatment (and have informed them of your recovery). Your hobbies include running 3 times weekly, reading fiction, and playing in a local pick-up league.

Congratulations, you just got a promotion at work!

Just think about how this growth would impact your program of recovery. Maybe it impacts your schedule and the meeting that you usually go to is no longer possible. Maybe the responsibilities of the new position take up more space in your brain and reading isn’t as enjoyable to you. Maybe you are getting home later and have trouble finding time to cook for yourself.

As we evolve, so must our program. We cannot afford to believe that our program of recovery will work for us if our life is moving forward and our program stays the same. Therefore, take time as your life progresses to inventory what is working in your program and what is becoming stale or unworkable. Keep a list of activities you enjoy or would like to try. Be honest with yourself and open to suggestions from your sponsor, your network, your therapist, your friends and family, etc. Most importantly, remember to enjoy your recovery!