Archive for April 2010

Values   3 comments

What are values and how do they influence our Road to Recovery?

Our values are the foundation of who we are; they are the basis for how we see the world around us, our beliefs on how things “should be”.  We develop our values through a variety of avenues: 

  • Faith
  • Family Upbringing
  • Experiences
  • Social Environment
  • Geography

In the best case scenario, each of these will run parallel to the others; but for many of us, this is not the case and these influences provide us instead with conflicting messages.  Because each of us encounters these influences in different ways, our values themselves are individualized, and to an even greater extent our perception/belief of what values are.  So as to provide some clarity and get us all on the same path, let me provide a definition to which we will be referring back to throughout this article.

 Beliefs and/or ideals held by an individual or group about what is right and wrong and what is important in life. The individual/group has an emotional investment in these beliefs and thus they (the beliefs) control behavior.

 I have heard some say that another word for values is “morals”. To a point, I would agree. I believe our morals are an important component of our values.  As the definition states, our morals are that internal compass that tells us what is right or wrong. It is also this compass that we use when we judge the behaviors and character of others.  It is this compass that guides us in our choices and resulting behaviors. We use this same compass to judge our own behavior and character. But as previously noted, just because I observe you demonstrating a certain behavior that I deem to be inappropriate, based on my values, you may or may not believe that you are doing anything wrong, because your values are different that mine. That being said, most of us are actually more similar in our values and morals than we are different, and typically it is our nature to interact and build relationships with people with whom we share like values. Then by being in these relationships our beliefs, ideals, morals and ultimately our values are strengthened. This true rather our values and beliefs are positive and appropriate or negative and irrational.

 Another aspect of our values is the relative importance, merit and/or worth that is placed on something.  This component as ever bit as important as our morals, and it is typically shaped by them. Think to yourself what is important to you?

  • Family
  • Work
  • Money
  • Sports
  • Leisure Activities
  • Friends
  • Faith
  • Life


What are you able/willing to give up in order to avoid loosing something else?

 Another word that fits this concept is priorities.  What comes first?

 I once heard a minister talking about values state that we demonstrate our values and priorities by where we invest Time, Energy, Money, and Talents.  So I challenge you to some self-examination; evaluate where are you investing these resources? Are your investments contributing to your recovery or are they hindering it?

 Because our values are so incredibly personal, we grow to have very strong emotional investments in them.  When they are questioned or challenged, we become defensive and take it as a personal attack against our character, and the very person that we are.  Thus an issue that may seem to be insignificant to you may be something that I feel very strongly about and as a result I become emotional charged resulting in conflict.

 So what is the point? How do our values affect our Recovery?

 Our values have everything to do with our recovery. As mentioned, our values are the glasses through which we see the world, and the compass that points us in the right direction along our journey.  As mentioned at the beginning for many of us there is no such thing as “clear” “black & white” values. Our life and experiences have led us to develop more “cloudy” values that are more like varying shades of gray. This ambiguity and uncertainness often leads us to often take the easiest road at the time. In addition, we find ourselves making impulsive decisions based on our current emotions rather than thinking them through and applying our values to the given situation. In order to be successful in our recovery, we MUST be more mindful of our values and think through our responses to situations and base decisions and behavior on them.

We must make decisions that demonstrate that we place value and importance in our Recovery!


Recovery   1 comment

Recovery similar to hope is a term that we all use on a regularly, but its meaning is very obscure and abstract. This is especially true when discussing recovery from mental illness and/or substance abuse.  To begin, lets look at the most basic definition of recovery: ”a return to health: the return to normal health of somebody who has been ill or injured”. In other words to get better after being injured or sick. We recover from a cold, flu, broken leg, etc. This concept is also true regarding our mental illness. We “get better” following a return or increase in symptoms that affects our ability to continue function normally.  As we all know, recovery from any set back, physical or psychiatric doe not happen overnight, it is a process, a journey. It will take time and effort on our part to achieve.

Another definition of recovery is “gaining back something lost or taken away.” I know many of us have made the statements or thoughts “I am loosing my mind,” or “My life is out of control.”  Relapse of her illness can and/or has taken many things from us: freedom, relationships, employment, housing, children, etc. The good news is that with time and effort, some of these things that have been lost or taken away can reclaimed. I once heard a persons describe their life during a relapse as feeling like it was a wasteland with nothing of value left. Through the journey and process of recovery, he was able to salvage his own value, purpose and usefulness and eventually also started reclaiming his freedom, relationships, employment and other things lost or taken away due to his illness.

Another view of Recovery is quite similar to our first definition, but one significant difference, “the return of something to a normal or improved state after a setback or loss.”  The most important part of this definition is the simple phrase, “or improved state”. Mental illness and Substance Abuse are the only conditions in which I feel this is possible. With most, if not all, other conditions there are residual effects of the illness that never truly heal to their previous state. Some have said, “How can I recovery to a better place than where I was before I got sick again.” This is possible because through our journey of recovery we learn new things about our illness and gain new skills for managing it and coping with the other issues of daily life. Thus we are better equipped for our journey as we continue our journey.

Personally, I fell the most important thing for all of us to remember is the journey of recovery is different for every individual that endeavors down this path. Due to the multitude of varying circumstances, strengths, weaknesses, supports and perspective, each of our journeys are as different as the snowflakes, none alike. Consequentially, we each of have a different interpretation of what recovery means to us, and we should.

On finally definition, that I think summarizes these concepts better than I feel I may have in these paragraphs.

William Anthony, Director of the Boston Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation developed the following definition of mental health recovery.

Anthony (1993) Recovery is “a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with limitations caused by the illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.”

So no matter where you find yourself on your journey along the Road to Recovery I hope that you are moving forward and actively making progress towards getting better and reclaiming those things in your life that have been lost or taken away.

Anthony, W. A. (1993). Recovery from mental illness: The guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990’s. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), 11-23.

Hope   1 comment

It is my belief that hope is the foundation of all recovery. For without it, there is nothing within us to push us to look to the future, no reason to put forth the effort to overcome our present circumstances in order to reach a better end. Hope is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”. Hope at times is all that we have left to encourage us to keep up the fight and not to give up even when the road grows rough and steep. Hope pushes us on.

Let’s look a little deeper into this simple yet very deep word.

 To start here are a few definitions:

  • noun: the feeling that some desire will be fulfilled
  • noun:   someone (or something) on which expectations are centered
  • verb:   intend with some possibility of fulfillment
  • verb:   expect and wish
  • verb:   be optimistic

 “The general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled”: Hope has many different forms. At times is experienced as a general positive feeling that what we desire will at some point be fulfilled; and the more imminent the fulfillment the more fervent our hope. This is experienced most generally as an overall optimistic attitude and perspective regarding life as a whole. At other times our hope is more of a “spot light”. We hope for specific things, relationship, promotion on the job, good health, happiness, recovery, etc. Hope is believing that a certain occurrence will come about for our benefit. It pushes us to give our best effort and energy to see that desire achieved. However, it is these hopes that are most often dashed, especially when they are affected by other people and situations that are outside of out control. 

“Intend with some possibility of fulfillment”: Hope is to determine, to purpose the fulfillment of a goal or desire. In simplest of terms… Hope is a CHOICE. Hope is that choice that you make, no matter how you feel at the moment, that says, “I will succeed”, “I will get better”, “I will …”. Hope is what sets are hearts and minds ablaze with ambition and energy to achieve an expected goal.

 This reminds me of a quote made by a gentleman that most of are very familiar with, Christopher Reeve. He played the role of Superman in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s movies. Later in life he was injured in horse riding accident and led to him becoming a quadriplegic. He stated, “Once you choose hope anything is possible.” Having made this choice, and with the help of some of the best doctors and therapist, he moved again. It was in a very controlled environment, but he did it. Repeatedly after his accident, he talked and encouraged those with disabilities that hope was the only choice. If you don’t believe it here is the video: Christopher Reeve Walks

 George Weinberg, a famous psychologist and author, stated similarly, “Hope never abandons you, you abandon it”. Hope is always present, and available. We give up, allowing our feelings and circumstances to dictate our lives to us, rather than choosing to hang on to hope and refusing to give up on our dreams and goals.

One final quote from another individual that we are all very familiar with, and from one of the most famous speeches of all time: Martin Luther King, Jr., from “I have a Dream”        

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.

 Hope is that unseen, unheard, and often even unfelt force that is within every human being that keeps “life moving”. It is that force that gives us the strength and courage to be who we are, ourselves. Despite our weaknesses and faults we can be ourselves and have strength and faith to keeping moving forward in spite of our past, our hurts, our mistakes and circumstances. In spite of it all we must “still have a dream”, something to hope for, some goal some expectation that we set our hearts, our minds, our entire being towards achieving.

  When all else has failed …  CHOOSE HOPE!!





Responsibility   Leave a comment

Here is the big picture of the day? Who is responsible for your recovery; your doctor, family, friends, or therapist? Ultimately there is only one person truly responsible for your recovery… YOU!  That means, when things are going well you accept your success. However, if things are not going well, you accept your mistakes and acknowledge your poor decision and choices and the consequences of these choices and behaviors. You and you alone are the captain of your destiny.

There is an often quoted and referenced poem that shares much insight into our Recovery. I would like to first share it with you and then discuss it further at its conclusion.

The Hole

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep whole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately,

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

Chapter One
Along our road to recovery there are lots of situations that may lead to us finding ourselves in the “Hole of relapse. Sometimes we find ourselves there because we simply do not recognize our symptoms as such when we are experiencing them, until it is too late and we are already in the hole and our illness is out of control. Using another illustration, It is like putting a frog in a pan with water in it on the stove. If you slowly turn the heat up it will never move and eventually will allow itself to boil to death. It is of utmost importance that we know our symptoms and acknowledge them as such when we are experiencing them. Thus, we can jump out of the pan when we feel the heat rising.

On the other hand, it is also possible for us to find ourselves in the midst of the bottom of the hole in relapse with very little or no warning. This is usually as the result of some traumatic news or event. The event is so severe that we just don’t have the strength to withstand.

In either case, we find ourselves feeling lost and helpless, and usually blaming anything or anyone else for where we find ourselves. As long as we are doing so, we can make no progress to dealing with the issues that led to our relapse, and thus we remain at the bottom of the hole.

Chapter Two

There is one simple yet powerful word to summarize Chapter 2, DENIAL.

  • the act of asserting that something alleged is not true
  • a defense mechanism that denies painful thoughts

It is easier to deny and refuse to accept that we are in the midst of relapse, despite its negative consequences, than to face the pain of addressing our issues head on. (We will address this idea further in a future post.) Therefore we still do not take responsibility and we again remain in the hole for longer than we have to do so.

Chapter Three / Chapter 4
There is another old quote that says that “Insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different end.”

As long as we keep walking down the same street, doing the same things, socializing with the same people, the potential will remain for us to fall into the hole again and again. Here is where the “insanity” comes in. Many will consciously or unconsciously make that choice because we had rather deal with pain, which is familiar, rather than to face the unknown emotions, consequences and responsibility of success. We had rather “suffer” in the painful consequences of relapse than face the uncertainty of success. Many of us because of our issues do not believe we are “good enough”  to succeed and finally feel happy and be normal. Eventually, we learn to “navigate” the trouble spots, most days. We still put ourselves in situations where we are reminded of the triggers and pain of the past, our holes. Many of us have lives which resemble a mine field more than a path or road. As long as we are “in the neighborhood” the potential for falling  in will always be there. However, if we do fall in again, we have the insight and wisdom to acknowledge our mistakes and take responsibility for climbing out of the hole. Thus we do so more easily and quickly.

Chapter Five
Finally, at long last we learn that we have the inner strength and value to make better choices so as to avoid the mistakes and suffering that have filled our lives. Not to say our lives will be without triggers and potential and real holes, but we will be more prepared and ready to deal with them when we feel empowered and believe that we are worth it, and we have the strength and tools to deal with what our journey lays before on any given day, if we will just take responsibility to deal with it in the here and now.

So, wherever you are today, in the bottom of your hole, in the process of climbing out, or walking down the street, I hope that you will take responsibility for where you are, how you got there, and most of all for where you are going from here.

What is Road to Recovery? An Introduction   Leave a comment

 Why the title, Road to Recovery? The title in and of it self has a message of its own, but I also am drawn to the symbolism and many analogies that can be used in comparing the process of recovery to being a journey along a road.

To begin lets look at just a few definitions.

Various dictionaries provide very similarly worded definitions for the word “Road”:

  • a route or way to an end, conclusion, or circumstance
  • A course or path
  • course of action: a course of action or behavior that leads to a particular outcome
  • a way made for traveling between places, esp. distant places, by automobile, horseback, etc.; highway
  • a way; path; course

The same is true regarding definitions for Recovery:

  • return to health: the return to normal health of somebody who has been ill or injured
  • return to normal state: the return of something to a normal or improved state after a setback or loss
  • gaining back of something lost: the regaining of something lost or taken away
  • the process of combating a disorder (as alcoholism) or a real or perceived problem

 So… the Road to Recovery is: A course of action/behavior that leads to a return to mental/physical health, to a normal or improved state following a setback or loss.

 Every physical road has curves, mountains valleys, pot holes, signs, etc. The same is true in regards to the Recovery process. What determines if we continue our recovery and maintain our wellbeing is how well we navigate these obstacles as we face them on our journey? Just as in driving, if we do not navigate these appropriately we will find ourselves in the bar ditch, or in recovery terms, relapse.

 Thankfully, or recovery journey provides us with warning signs that relapse is possible, just like road signs on the highway. They are called symptoms.

 I hope and pray that as you navigate your Road to Recovery, you will find hope, encouragement and empowerment to help you along in your journey.

Welcome to the Road to Recovery Blog   2 comments

Welcome to the Road to Recovery Blog.

I will be posting my musing, insights and inspirations regarding Recovery for those that battle mental illness and addictive disorders. Each of us are on a journey and my hope is that this blog can serve to help to enlighten, encourage and motivate you along your way.

Though the road be long with pot hole and mountains to overcome, there is hope that you can be better and can be empowered to control your illness and no longer have to be controlled by it.

Come join me on the Journey!!

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