Healing•Recovery•Tools • 5 minutes to read
It’s that time of year again when many people decide on their New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us come up with a long list of things we want to accomplish in the new year: lose 10 pounds, run a marathon, and take up a new hobby. Our list grows with the recognition that we have not completed last year’s resolutions. This is especially true for those of us working on recovery.
If you are new to your recovery journey, discovering where to start is a critical step in the process. What is most important as you start out on your journey of healing and restoration? What lessons can be learned from others on a similar journey?
Making the decision to get help for an addiction or betrayal trauma can be overwhelming. You know you have a problem, you start attending conferences or webinars, watch a few YouTube videos, and search the internet for help. You are bombarded with information and the promise that if you do this or that, you will have victory.
With all the information out there, we wonder where is the best place to start as we surrender to the process of giving up our dysfunctional, unhealthy, and, yes, sometimes sinful coping behavior?
Let’s start this year by looking at the milestones one can achieve from using some simple tools and clear goals.
For those of you further along in your recovery, if you have hit a wall and the tools don’t seem to be helping you maintain sobriety or move forward in your relationships, this is the perfect time to reboot for 2022. Let’s take a look at the important milestones that lay a foundation for lasting change.
Not acting out for 90 consecutive days is a milestone in sobriety. This 90-day benchmark may feel arbitrary, but is the clinical standard. Being of sober mind allows your brain to calm itself, giving you much needed perspective.
A helpful tool for developing sobriety through new ways of thinking and coping is the Three Circles. It can help you identify the behaviors you’re abstaining from (inner circle), the behaviors you need to be cautious of (middle circle)–those that could lead you back to your unwanted behaviors–and those behaviors that will promote health and healing (outer circle). The bottom line behaviors are those in your inner circle.
A milestone in self-care is when you are able to independently take care of your mind, body, and spirit. You can calm down yourself when you are anxious or angry, and you can lift up yourself when sad or hurt.
While we recognize only God can provide total comfort and healing, self-care will be your most helpful tool in recovery. Learning to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually is foundational in the recovery process.
A milestone in critical awareness is when you’ve identified what is a temptation to you and have a plan on how to resist it. Experiencing temptation is different from feeling triggers. Triggers are what’s underneath these automatic fight, flight, or freeze reactions. Temptations are the desires you know are present and lead you away from doing what you know is right. Here’s an example:
When my mom said, “Isn’t that expensive?” I thought to myself, “She must think I’m stupid,” and I felt ashamed. The thought here is a distorted view of what my mom said; so I’m tempted to believe that I’m stupid because of a question my mother asked. I read into her question and framed it as a criticism.
Applying critical awareness allows me to reframe this and tell myself: I am tempted to feel ashamed around my mom when she questions my judgment. My plan is to take a deep breath, tell myself the truth, and let go of the untrue statement. Taking every thought captive unto Christ is a process in renewing our mind.
We need to believe the truth about ourselves, thus raising our self-esteem. Becoming an observer of our thoughts and assessing if the message we are receiving is true, is important. Challenging our thought-distortions can be time consuming. It’s easier to blame others for not behaving right. Blame gets us nowhere. However, owning our story and making the necessary changes in our life will result in lasting joy and comfort. It will start the process of renewing our mind.
Critical awareness also helps us identify the shame we carry. Shame is a wound to our self-esteem. It is based on a self-perception: a filter by which we view ourselves based on how we think others see us. Learning to let go of what others think and embracing our authentic self is a journey of courage.
When it comes to trauma, a recovery milestone is when you can acknowledge to yourself and a trusted other the harm that was done to you. The wounded child in us needs a fair witness to the pain, abuse, and neglect we may have endured. Some of us have experienced major abuses, while others did not. To a child, anything less than nurturing care can create trauma.
As a counselor, I have discovered that addicts have a wide variety of trauma. It doesn’t matter whether it was a Big T or Little t: trauma is trauma.
Think of it this way: even a little scratch can create a festering, infected wound. So it is with trauma. If left untreated, even the smallest wound can create serious problems and have long-lasting effects.
I suggest listening to this Pure Desire podcast episode on trauma: Healing Different Types of Trauma. It is a great discussion about the different types of trauma. Talking to your counselor or other trusted friends can help heal the wounded kid in all of us.
Establishing healthy boundaries is crucial. This milestone will help in all aspects of recovery, from maintaining sobriety to resolving childhood wounds. Boundaries are self-imposed limits that help us protect our self-esteem and regulate our emotions. It’s our internal boundary system that protects our thinking, feelings, and actions.
When we have healthy boundaries in place, it also helps us recognize and respect the boundaries of others. We are far less likely to violate another’s boundaries when we implement boundaries in our own lives.
Hopefully this gives you an idea of where to start when it comes to reaching milestones in your recovery journey. If you’re still not sure where to start, begin by identifying the milestones you’ve already achieved! This will give you the courage to process through the other milestones.
The tools we use throughout the recovery process are all focused on helping us renew our mind. This is a process of unlearning the dysfunctional patterns of relating and learning new, functional patterns. But it doesn’t stop there. We need to make the decision to practice these new functional patterns so they become natural. As we undergo this rebooting process in 2022, and daily practice these new behaviors, they will impact our lives and relationships.
Here’s to a great New Year!