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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

14 Tips for Knowing What Recovery Is Not

Much has been written about recovery from trauma and abuse through the last ten years. Many clinicians and researchers have expounded on recovery and all its elements. I believe that knowledge and understanding of recovery are crucial to forming a successful recovery mindset. An understanding of what recovery might look like going forward is essential to reduce fear and anxiety, but sometimes it's just as important to know what recovery is not.

In this article, I'd like to look at the other side of recovery, the side that is not. At the time a survivor is deciding to enter into recovery, he/she is faced with staying with the familiar or dealing with unpredictability. There are situations where there are no answers, just feelings; no familiar automatic barriers, just new boundaries; no black or white, just a lot of gray; no familiar guarantees, just healthy fear.

Decision-making strategists agree that it is important to understand both sides of any subject as this will lead to greater understanding and eventual success. So my objective with this article is to help people seeking recovery to understand what it's not and to help them find some predictability through faith in self.

14 Tips 

Recovery is earned, not a given.

Recovery is not just given to a victim as a rite of passage. It's not an entitlement. A survivor has to earn the right to be in the process. Recovery is a very fragile state and needs to be nurtured or it could slip away. Recovery is hard work that involves firm decisions, commitment, investments and giant leaps of faith.

Recovery is not about waiting for something to happen automatically.

Recovery does not come to the survivor. It doesn't knock at the door. All those years in old behaviors has taught that ignoring, denying, fighting, withdrawing or isolating doesn't work and won't make the pain and hurt disappear. Continuing to perform old behaviors, like waiting for the symptoms to just go away or people to get used to them, only produce the same old results: pain, numbness, hopelessness. Acting out the symptoms or switching to avoid are anti-recovery. Even though the PTSD symptoms seemed to happen automatically, that doesn't mean that recovery will start the same way. Recovery is about doing something different. Recovery has to be grabbed, created, worked, rehearsed and held on to through all the ups and downs. So don't wait. Be proactive. Actively reach for recovery. Face the fears and stand tall.

Recovery is never owned.

No person can buy their way into recovery. There is no ownership of recovery. There is not enough money to sway recovery into becoming a possession. An individual, a therapist or a treatment facility cannot own recovery. It can only be experienced. Allow yourself to experience it.

Recovery is not the same for everyone.

Recovery is a different journey for everyone. What works for one survivor does not work for another. Listen internally and create your own path.

Recovery cannot be threatened.

A survivor cannot threaten their way into recovery either. Recovery is intimidated by nothing. Recovery is always consistent and stands strong.

Recovery is not quick.

The hardest lesson to learn about recovery is that it's a process. A process is inherently time consuming and exhausting. Recovery is accountability, intense focus, and personal responsibility.

Recovery is not a literal process.

Survival did not happen through a literal process. Victims do not actually break into little pieces. Survival was achieved by a creative, symbolic process produced through human imagination. Survival is symbolic and operates on five levels: mental, emotional, physical, behavioral and spiritual. It makes sense that if survival is a creative and symbolic process, then recovery will be a creative and symbolic process.

Recovery is not found outside of self.

Trauma and abuse drive a victim outside themselves and leaves a vacant area in the soul. From that point on, the survivor looks toward external validation for answers and to fill that vacancy, but the answers never come from the outside. Recovery is empowerment. The answers are found within.

Recovery is not separation.

Recovery is the establishment of a relationship with self, rather than the continued separation. Whereas survival is the act of separation, recovery is the act of unification.

Recovery is not an indecisive event.

Recovery cannot be accomplished without a decision. To accomplish recovery one has to be decisive, accountable, consistent and responsible.

Recovery is not losing memory.

Health is not a way to achieve amnesia and forget all that has happened. In recovery, the fact is that the more you grow the more you will know. Health is rewarded by getting back the unknown memory.

Recovery is not a reason to display pain.

Recovery is not about acting out one's pain by directing it at self or other people, places or things. It is an opportunity to finally recognize the pain, allow it to pass by, grieve the losses, and then accept the trauma information into your normal memory bank.

Recovery is not easy.

But neither is it easy to live in the darkness, fear, terror, trauma and/or abuse. Strength and growth are never gained from something that is given or automatic. Any process that is easy carries little worth.

Recovery is not without sacrifices.

Recovery is a sacrifice. Everything a survivor has could be lost by entering into recovery. Those who were thought to be close friends, a supportive partner or loving family members may not like the changes that have been made. Be willing to move forward even with the possibility of losses.

Recovery is not an act of continued loyalty.

Health is the ultimate revenge against the abuser and old behavior patterns. Perpetrators want the victim to always be blind, deaf, sick and silent. Make the decision to never keep another secret from yourself. Be loyal and devoted to self first.

Recovery is not another method of Self-Sabotage.

Recovery is not another self- punishing tool to add to the sabotage arsenal.
Recovery is not an arena to display recanted loyalties. Recovery is not a method to use favorite abusive patterns or tools toward the ones who have cared and helped. It is not a platform to display self-sabotaging betrayal against the original dream, newly formed values or decision to recover. Some survivors quickly forget their promise to health and recovery at any price, no matter what. Much more hurt is produced in recovery from those who abandon recovery than is ever done through honest work for recovery.


It is time to discard what is not and embrace what is a recovery of self.
         Coach Bill

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