When does recovery start?


By David Joel Miller.

When Recovery starts

When Recovery starts Photo courtesy of Flickr (Portland Prevention)

When will your recovery start?

If we believe in recovery – and I do – we need to ask, when does recovery start? How does someone know that they have begun the process of recovery?

Recognizing what is wrong.

The starting point for recovery is to admit that there is something wrong.

As long as someone continues to pretend that there is nothing wrong nothing changes. I know the old conventional wisdom was to just suck things up and keep going to work doing your tasks, keep trying to control your drinking and so on.

The result of this effort to deny the problems resulted in a whole lot of unhappy people who kept up pretenses but never felt happy, never were able to do all they should do, until that final breakdown occurred.

The nervous breakdown, the DUI or the arrest was not the problem. The problem was that there has been an underlying emotional or substance use problem that has gone untreated because people believe that denying you have a disease keeps you from having it.

This happens a lot in the medical field. Lots of people avoid tests for cancer or HIV because they do not want to have the disease. As if not knowing would prevent you getting it. The result of failing to acknowledge an illness is not avoiding that disease.

Not admitting your problem allows it to get worse.

You need to recognize that something is wrong before you reach a point of not being able to avoid it. Untreated problems may even reach the point of being fatal.

Yes, depression untreated can be fatal. So can alcoholism, and addiction.

Many recovered people report that they began their journey to recovery the day they admitted they had a problem.

If you have been chronically depressed or anxious, you know you have had to make a lot of excuses to get out of things that you were unable to do and still not have to tell people about your emotional problem. You know that relapse is a risk.

Making excuses gets in the way of real recovery.

The alcoholic who tries to stop drinking will often, in the beginning, make excuses for why they are not drinking. They have a headache, they need to get up early tomorrow or they just are not in the mood to drink tonight. Others around them will continue to offer to buy them a drink; they want them to join in the “fun.” Many times those friends are alcoholic also so they do not want someone else admitting a drinking problem as that might imply they have one too.

The depressed person misses a lot of activates because they have no energy to participate. The need to make excuses also. But eventually, those excuses wear thin. People begin to think you are avoiding them rather than understanding that there are days when your emotional condition makes it impossible for you to engage in activities that you used to do.

You can suffer for years trying to pretend you do not have a problem. What you may find is that once you recognize what the problem is, the treatment can be remarkably simple, simple but not easy.

You may be trying to avoid other issues.

Many times these things we call emotional illness are really the symptoms of something else we have been unable to cope with. If you hate your job or have relationship problems and drink to cope, you may think the problem is the alcohol. If you keep drinking to avoid other emotional problems, eventually that alcohol will become a problem also.

Sooner or later you need to face not only the depression or the addiction but also the bad relationships you have with your job or your close family and friends. Avoiding these problems of living causes emotional illnesses.

Once you admit to yourself and others the nature of your problem and become ready to take a good look at how you got this way, you may find that recovery is a whole lot easier than continuing to have the disease.

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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 counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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2 thoughts on “When does recovery start?

  1. My two favorite sayings about when recovery begins:

    “You hit bottom when you stop digging.”
    “It begins when you start to be allergic to your own b**lsh*t.”

    Both come from longtime sober AA members.

    Like

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