It was the first few months of my new job, and I was trying to learn about recovery in my favourite way: talking and listening. A recovery worker was bemoaning about service users who don’t seem to want to work for their recovery. Another worker walked in, and so I pulled him into the conversation, ‘How can we help someone who doesn’t want to recover?” His answer, was short and sharp: “You can’t!”. He said it bluntly and as if it was obvious; as if I’d asked, “how do we teach a dog to fly?” You can’t!”.
Maybe that’s because recovery can’t be ‘done’ to someone. It has to be owned by the individual. It’s hard enough for a person to succeed when they are ready, committed and engaged. But before then, we tend to travel around and around addiction like we’re on a mental health roundabout.
People can start recovery as fast as they are able to take responsibility and start working. But, on the other hand, a very experienced recovery worker pointed out that many spend decades stuck in one stage of this process:
I probably spent several decades in Precontemplation and Contemplation, with ill-informed attempts at Action. All the while I was trying to get better and trying to learn, but not having much success. I went ’round and ’round contemplating ideas, but my decisions didn’t translate to much in regard to actions. Until I got fed up enough because my addiction, getting worse and worse, was causing too much harm in my life and my relationships. That’s when I moved swiftly into Preparation and Action. One trait that is said to be found commonly in addiction is impulsivity. We can use that trait to our benefit if we capitalise on a moment of clarity, deciding to do something bold and brave to find recovery.
This circle above is helpful, but of course we don’t travel around it exactly the same as each other or in a uniformed way. Sometimes we go backwards as well. When it comes to relapse, I like the gentle and kind approach where we practice seeing it as a learning experience. Many of us with addiction issues have a long history of being far too hard on ourselves and finding something good to salvage from a relapse is helpful in more than one way.
The idea that taking responsibility is key for success in recovery shows up in the terms and conditions of SilverCloud, our free online CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) service that we can access in our county via CPFT. It says:
“I will take responsibility for working and choosing the suitable activities in the programme. I will use my own initiative and assume independence at all times in making decisions to do with my wellbeing and recovery. ..the emphasis for my wellbeing and recovery will fall to me.”
Do you want to talk about relapse with someone who won’t judge you, someone who understands addiction and accepts you the way you are now? You can ring CGL (our county-wide drug and alcohol services) If you are near Cambridge, come along to the Edge Cafe. From anywhere in Cambridgeshire you can contact us at the SUN Network. We’re passionate about recovery, and we are here to hear your experiences of mental health and substance misuse services anywhere in Cambridgeshire.