The Bridge to Recovery in 12 Steps
The road to recovery is paved first with good intentions then morphs into hard work, determination, resolve, and commitment. Good intentions can start the process but it is not enough to complete it. Imagine a stretch of highway on a flat road which is far easier to pave then it is to engineer a bridge which spans across a large body of water.
The process of recovery is more like constructing a bridge over troubled waters. The waters could be anything: an addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex), situational experience (death, abuse, divorce), emotional disorder (panic attacks, depression, anxiety), mental disorder (eating disorders, PTSD, OCD) or personality disorder (narcissism, borderline, obsessive-compulsive). Just like a bridge, there are some parts that are consistent, yet still characteristically unique.
Having a rough outline of the consistent parts is similar to starting with a blueprint prior to construction. While the blueprint is designed to be accurate, sometimes life happens and things need to be changed along the way. Here is a rough first draft of recovery:
- Acknowledge there is a problem. Unless there is an admittance of an issue, there can be no recovery. There could actually be several problems at once. For instance, a person who is addicted to alcohol might also have PTSD from a sexual assault, anxiety from work related stress, and a pending divorce. The idea here is to pick the problem that is causing the greatest amount of damage and work on it first.
- Seek wise counsel. This is where wise counsel from a person who is qualified to work with these issues is so important. Frequently the person described above is not capable of discerning which issue needs to be addressed first. Nor do they know how to begin and subsequently work through recovery. Wise counsel is like hiring an architect to design the bridge. The better the architect, the more a person has to pay, yet the better the results.
- Make a decision to change. A person who wants to change will openly admit they are willing to do what is required, almost without question. Those who constantly argue as to how to proceed might not want desire the change as much. Discovering the reason for the resistance early on is like working with a difficult planning board. If their hindrance is not immediately addressed, the project could be delayed for years.
- Take first steps. There is an old saying that the first steps are the hardest. But not in the case of recovery. Strangely enough, the early phase of process is the easiest because the pilings are driven into shallow waters. The difficult part happens when they have to be driven into the deepest part of the water. In the case of the addict, there are obvious initial reasons for the addiction and then there are the hidden ones that silently solidify the addiction.
- Solicit accountability partners. Putting together a team of accountability partners is like having project and construction managers who has built bridges before. These people must have previous experience with the issue in order to be effective. It is not best to utilize family or spouses as they have their own personal motives at stake.
- Set timelines. Every journey needs to have a start and finish date in mind that is reasonable. A bridge is not built in a day. Recovery is at least a 6 month process and can be longer depending on the issue. At the end of 6 months, there are three possible decisions: proceed as planned with a new deadline, stop completely and start again, or stop because the work is complete.
- Focus on the journey. When building a bridge, it is not a good idea to also be constructing a building. Recovery requires myopic focus. This is not the time to begin a new relationships, change jobs, move, or work on marital issues. Rather, all energy, time, and resources should be directed towards the recovery process. This ensures the greatest possibility of success.
- Modify process as needed. As hard as a person might try, not everything is predictable. Even blueprints need to be revised during the construction process as new information is gathered. So does the recovery process. This is where having an experienced person guiding the process is helpful as they can best redirect the new path. Google cannot help with this.
- Reset expectations. As the bridge is being constructed, it may look a bit different from what was envisioned at first. So new expectations and adjustments need to be made. From a recovery standpoint, this might mean the alcoholic needs to leave their bartending job and find a new vocation. Or a person might find it necessary to move after a divorce. These expectations should be discussed with the accountability partners.
- Develop new boundaries. Think of boundaries as railings on a bridge designed to keep everyone safe and in their own lane. This is not about boxing someone in so they lose their freedom. Rather, it is a safety issue designed to protect a person from falling into the same problem in the future. A good recovery process establishes new boundaries.
- Reorganize life. Once the bridge is built, traffic is rerouted to utilize the new structure. So it is true with recovery. Life is reorganized with new expectations, priorities, boundaries, purpose, relationships, and goals. This is the time to enjoy and celebrate the accomplishments of completing recovery.
- Cultivate new growth. As the years progress after recovery, new growth in areas that was not foreseen often develops. Just like a bridge can generate economic growth in areas that previously struggled, so can recovery. Many who have successfully completed the process find that giving back to others who are struggling is an immensely satisfying experience.
Again, these steps are just a rough draft. A good recovery process needs to be intentional, supported, and followed. Once it is complete, it is time to savor the new view.
Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Counselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.
Hammond, C. (2017). The Bridge to Recovery in 12 Steps. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2017/05/the-bridge-to-recovery-in-12-steps/