Finding the recovery door

By David Joel Miller.

Why this time recovery just might take.

Recovery Door

Recovery Door

“This program has really helped me, ” the client said. I had to wonder why. They had been in several programs before and none of them had worked. I thought of all the usual reasons.

We like to think that every client needs to be ready. The old way of thinking about that was to say that people need to “hit bottom.” The assumption here was that until things get really, really, bad you might not be willing to give up that familiar problem.

This hitting bottom idea is most often applied to people in substance abuse recovery but experience has taught me that the same process of looking for and finding recovery happens to those people who have a mental or emotional issue. Sometimes people have both.

One person’s bottom may be getting arrested for a DUI or being so anxious they miss work again and lose their job. For another person, their bottom may be a total loss of family, friends, and job. Some people find recovery when they are homeless, some not even then.

So when I see someone who has been through various programs I always wonder what will be different this time.

“I knew there was recovery out there” the client replied, “but every time I got to the recovery door I just didn’t go in.” I knew they weren’t talking about programs or even about the number of therapists they had seen. That list was in the file and there were plenty.

“What door?” I asked.

“The recovery door.” The client said again. I knew there was recovery behind that door but I was just afraid to open the door and go through it. That would mean changing my life and when I got there I was just afraid of what else might change so I never walked through and entered recovery.” They explained.

In recovery, it takes whatever it takes for someone to be ready to walk through that door. It doesn’t do any good to try to pull them through the door kicking and screaming. The best I can ever do is hold the door open and let them catch a glimpse of recovery. Maybe they will build up some desire for this thing called recovery, especially when they see others who look like them who have found recovery.

I have heard other ways of saying this. The metaphors may be different but the sentiment is the same.

People go to programs and they get a set of “tools” then they don’t take those tools out of the package and get them dirty. They don’t use the recovery tools to solve their problems.

We get close to that door to a new life and then out of fear of the unknown, we are afraid to make that last step and walk through the door into a new happy life.

Is there some life change you need to make to find your recovery? Do you need to reach out for help? Should you be attending a program or a self-help group?

What do you need to be walking away from and what should you be moving towards?

No matter how long it takes to get there are you finally ready to walk through the recovery door?

Here is wishing you a happy, recovered life.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


6 thoughts on “Finding the recovery door

  1. Pingback: Learning to say NO | counselorssoapbox

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  5. Hi, I liked your essay. As someone who has worked as a counselor, I know it can be frustating when someone is not ready to go through that door…as a dual diagnosis person in recovery, I am also familiar with the other side of the equation.


  6. Pingback: Driving the recovery bus – the role of self-motivation in recovery | counselorssoapbox

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