When you complete a recovery program or the 12 steps, does this mean you have arrived? Are you cured? Do you not have to attend another meeting, read another recovery book or see another therapist… or is this just the beginning?
For my clients who have completed a recovery program or the 12 steps, I tell them it is much like finishing elementary school. I do not say this to discourage them rather to encourage and motivate them to understand there is so much more still to learn. There is so much more growth ahead. Never stop learning. Stay hungry and motivated to continue the lifestyle of growth.
When I graduated from school with my master’s degree, I quickly realized all my hard work was just the minimum of what I needed to know to get started as a professional counselor. As daunting as it is, completing the 12 steps are also just the introduction one needs to know and understand to grow from an emotional child to an emotional adult.
Much like a diet, recovery is not just a short-term change. It is a lifestyle change. As they say, you make your healthcare choices in the grocery store. How true is that? Generally, I eat what is in my fridge. The food in my fridge or cabinets was put there by me when I bought it at the store. It takes intentionality, as I proactively make good choices at the store first. Every time I go to the store, I must make decisions that are lifestyle choices.
During my career, I have met many physical adults who still behave like children, emotionally and developmentally, even after being in recovery. Much like making good food choices every day, I need to make good recovery choices. To do that, I need to change the way I think as well as understand my feelings, core beliefs, childhood wounds, trauma and how they affect my behaviors. This is a lifetime process – a lifestyle change.
In recovery, how does one measure or quantify this change? It can be difficult, as it is more subjective than objective. It is easy to quantitatively measure cholesterol levels through a blood test. But how do we measure emotional, spiritual, or relational improvement and health changes in recovery? Now, I know life gets better as well as finances, legal issues, and relationships; however, these are still the subjective opinion by yourself and others which can all be tainted by codependency. This is not a trustworthy measurement.
Some of you may be saying, “Cory, this is why I practice an evidence-based model.” I understand that; however, evidence-based models have their strengths and weaknesses as well. Should “healthy” be defined by a person or group (usually insurance companies and lobbyists) who are motivated by money? Yeah, not buying it. This model is interested in external behavior change, and I’m looking for internal transformational heart change.
About a year ago, I read Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward. For the first time, I found someone who understood and had an objective means of measuring this growth from childhood to adulthood in recovery.
The following is a portion of my notes from this amazing book, as he compares what he calls “first half of life” and “second half of life.” It is my experience that few grown adults ever reach this second half of life living – even in recovery. Why? Because it is hard work killing selfishness! This type of growth and maturity is not a respecter of age, as age is not relevant to this process. I have worked with young adults in 2nd half of life living in this type of maturity.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.