I have a different understanding of recovery than is blindly applied to addiction. Recovery, as a word, means a restoration of something that was present but was lost. The health system approach sees recovery in the specific light of the organic body. It is the recovery of health that was damaged by the activity. Health is natural; we can enhance it but we do not need to cause or create it. Recovery is thus an appropriate goal. It can be achieved simply by removing the substance because the body is designed to restore itself. Abstinence allows that opportunity to return to its natural state, or close to it.
Management by Understanding
Abstinence programs work well in this restoration of body function, but the human being is more than a body. There is a spiritual element to our existence. By that I mean a human element that sets us apart from any other organic life form. We think. We understand. We create ideas. That requires a maturity of mind. This is not amenable to recovery because its development is not automatic. It must be purposefully determined and instigated. Addicts are, therefore, hooked on more than the substance. They are hooked on the freedom, albeit artificial and short-lived, that the substance affords. It is a freedom from the responsibility of mental stimulation that is the process of human realization. The experience is that of staying in a state of immaturity where pleasure is experienced without the need for responsibility.
Since we are born immature and only become mature when we develop it, the person who is attracted to activities and substances that create a false state of permissive immaturity cannot recover a maturity that was not there. There is nothing to recover. That maturity still has to be built. That is not recovery; it is growing up to real maturity. Look at the many people who have stated that they have recovered after a period of supervised abstinence. They have recovered health through abstinence but they usually remain in a reality that is simplistic or requires perpetual supervision for them to cope within it. Thus, many simply live to be abstinent. That is their objective and ambition. Some simply remain within the protected confines of recovery by becoming support workers focused only on encouraging others to be abstinent. They cannot stray into other areas of real responsibility as this will “push their buttons” and leave them vulnerable to having to use again in order to experience the freedom that the activity gives.
You see? This understanding of recovery from an analytic process allows us to appreciate what really is happening in the experience of the addict. It does not confine our thinking to the effects on physical health leaving the mental maturation to remain rudimentary. It also does not confine the logic to substances that interfere with body function. It also includes activities like shopping, gambling, eating, or other activities that do not require the ingestion of a neuro-active chemical. People, instead, can be taught how to do what they haven’t yet done – grow up.