When we first arrive in recovery, many of us have just come out of the deadly and toxic waters of addiction. We were drowning, and were fortunate enough to have received a life vest and a rope (from a friend, family member, or professional) and have now boarded the lifeboat of recovery. We first present on the new lifeboat gasping for air, and terrified for our lives, looking back at the wake of destruction and chaos we have just emerged from.
The Continuum of Addiction Care
Now we must learn how to swim. But we can’t just jump into the deep ocean of recovery and expect to be able to flawlessly swim on our own. Most of us require swim coaches, or the knowledge and guidance of more experienced swimmers (12 step sponsors, mentors, professional therapists, peers in recovery, family and friends) to learn the proper techniques of navigating the waters of recovery. We often start in the shallow end of a training pool before trusting ourselves in deeper water. This may look like residential treatment or extended aftercare and IOP services, which allow for greater safety nets, boundaries, and structured support and guidance while we learn to swim. Many of us also continue to wear life vests (this could be continuing to take necessary medications, adhering to special diets, consistent exercise, daily prayer and meditation) which will help keep us afloat in the water.
We call this the continuum of care.
After receiving some specialized instruction in swim techniques from more experienced swimmers and learning proper boundaries and knowledge of swimming, we make our way into the ocean of recovery (This could be finally transitioning to independent living for the first time in our lives, going back to school to further our education, or maintaining consistent employment). Recovery is a beautiful and mystical ocean where we will discover so many amazing things and see sights beyond our wildest imaginations (we may travel to new countries, develop new hobbies, gain our family and friends back, meet a new significant other, receive a sense of inner peace and joy, and finally develop true passion and zeal for life).
Teaching Others to Swim
As we become more experienced swimmers we may even wish to teach others new to the ocean of recovery proper techniques (through becoming a sponsor or mentor ourselves ). This level of service to others is what keeps us fascinated and in love with the ocean of recovery, never wanting to look back to the old toxic waters of addiction we were once drowning in. We must always be mindful of deadly sharks and creatures (unhealthy people) as well as strong currents or tides (unhealthy behavior patterns, and negative thought processes) which could carry us back to waters of addiction.
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