Last week I wrote about my personal definition of recovery. Today I was poking around and found two semi-official defintions over on Buddy T’s site at About.com in a post called Working Definition of Recovery Developed.
SAMHSA & Betty Ford
According to the post the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) spent over a year developing a working definition of recovery.
It’s not a simple definition and the title of the page is SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and/or Substance Use Disorders sort of prepared me. That’s a mouthful!
Buddy T. managed to find the paragraph that provides an overview. It’s:
A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
If you want to read the whole definition you’ll find it here.
Buddy then compares it to the Betty Ford definition of recovery which includes:
A voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.
All these words make my head swim.
Frankly this makes me uneasy
Neither definition makes abstaining a bottom line, although Ford does include sobriety which might be taken as one. But both definitions make me uneasy.
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We talk about 12 Step Recovery, but rarely discuss what that actually might mean. Here’s my take on it at the moment:
Letting go of the addiction
First of all it means stopping the addictive substance or behavior.
That’s most obvious when it comes to alcohol and other drugs. Every day I don’t drink or use drugs (and nicotine for me) I know my basic recovery is intact.
With programs that address behaviors it’s sometimes not so clear. True, gamblers know if they’ve gambled or not, but it gets a bit trickier with programs that address things we have to do like eating and using money. There it’s not a matter of completely giving something up, but of using something in a truly healthy way. For example in Debtors Anonymous, my goal is to not take on any unsecured debt; in Underearners Anonymous it’s not to underearn – talk about a personal decision!
But wait! There’s more!
Most of us who have had successful recovery for any length of time report that there’s more to it. It starts with the letting go of the addicition, but the Book promises and the Steps deliver much more.
As I mentioned in Returning Fully To Life, there are the promises
on pages 83 and 84 of the Big Book. There’s also the serenity we talk about in the Serenity Prayer
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Several years ago someone I thought was a potential client told me they had checked and one of my references was totally bogus. It isn’t and I asked where they had gotten the misinformation. They never replied.
I told my best friend about it when happened and just today she asked if I’d ever been able to fix that misunderstanding. I said ‘no,’ and she commented that I seemed to have let it go entirely. I realized I have and the reason I’ve been able to let it go is there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The email address from the person claiming to have checked the reference didn’t lead anywhere and they didn’t respond when I asked for more information. Besides, other people have looked at the same references since and several have hired me.
Echos of the serenity prayer! You know it:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
The trick, of course, is knowing the difference.
If, in this example, I’d been able to determine where they got the mis-information I could have tried to correct it at that level. But since I couldn’t get them to tell me, I was stuck. There literally was nothing I could do or at least nothing reasonable.
A big piece of the letting go puzzle is acceptance – acceptance of the condition or situation just as it is.
We do this with our addiction – we accept we’re powerless over it. It’s in that bottom line acceptance that change can and will happen – although we can’t accept whatever it is just so it will change, the acceptance has to be deeper.
Acceptance at that level apparently works on anything. In fact I’ve come to believe that if whatever problem is still around and bothering me, I haven’t accepted it completely. [click to continue…]
Recently I heard someone with well over a decade of recovery say something like “I don’t know if I dare admit I’m successful.” As I listened to the rest of her share I realized she really was, at least in that moment, afraid if she said out loud that her life was working well she might slip, or at least that something bad might happen.
We all fall into the trap of negative thinking from time-to-time, at least I haven’t been able to break it completely. But our Program promises something quite different.
Consider, Step 2
tells us that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. A fear of accepting the good in our lives hardly seems like sanity to me.
But it’s in what’s become known as The Promises that our real freedom, provided we work the Program, is described. Here, in the last paragraph on page 83, which continues on page 84 we are told, in part:
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
It doesn’t stop there! It adds: [click to continue…]