I often describe recovery as a ‘transformational experience’. Lives don’t simply improve in recovery, they are often changed beyond recognition. Of course, that change normally takes place over time and in stages. But there is a different sort of recovery experience – the sudden journey from the crucible via the epiphany to personal redemption and transformation. It is profound, positive and permanent. This is quantum change recovery.
Bill White tackles this in his blog:
TC [transformational change] is often characterized by two overlapping experiences: a breakdown and a breakthrough. What many of the individuals transformed by such experiences retrospectively understand is that their addictions were imbedded within a damaged self that had to die before a new self could be born. Recovery is both destructive (the collapse of an indelibly stained self) and constructive (the emergence of a new self). This metamorphosis can occur over decades or a span of moments.
White points out that such sudden changes can be confused with mental illness but warns against interference:
The TC experience has a momentum and trajectory that should not be altered or aborted by professional intervention. William James advises, “When the new centre of personal energy has been subconsciously incubated so long as to be just ready to open into flower, ‘hands off’ is the only word for us, it must burst forth unaided!”
It brought to mind the story of a man now in long term recovery who described such an experience:
“I was feeling terrible, wracked by guilt and shame. I was broken and couldn’t stop crying. I was sitting in a treatment centre, I’d lost my job, the police were on my heels, I had no money, my relationship was in tatters. How could this have happened to me and how would it ever get better?
I’d been resisting the suggestions of the treatment staff and my peers in treatment. I was too proud. But I suddenly got to thinking, what have I got to be proud of at this moment? I was still looking for a way out of addiction without doing the work of recovery. That night was the lowest I’d ever felt. I felt I was out of options. I was going to have to run back to the madness or give in and give treatment a shot. I chose the second option. I had about as much faith as a mustard seed, but it was enough. I went to bed that night and slept well for the first time in months.
The next day I woke up something was different. Not just a little different, but profoundly different. I couldn’t put a name to it at first, but eventually I gave it three names: peace, hope and certainty that everything was going to be okay. Now I’m not religious, but I guess this must be what a religious experience feels like. At first I thought I was becoming psychotic. People in as much trouble as me ought not to feel okay. But I did and after a couple of days of keeping it to myself I told a counsellor, who said: ‘that sounds like a good thing – hang on to it.’ I did and that lasted and saw me through the difficult first year of recovery. I couldn’t explain it then and I can’t explain it now, but I’m glad it happened. I’m very glad it happened.”
And there may be lessons for all of us in this says White:
That lesson is that there are brief developmental windows–defining moments–in all of our lives that provide opportunities to change who we are at a most fundamental level. The TC experience serves as a catalyst for addiction recovery, not by removing alcohol and drugs from an otherwise unchanged person, but by birthing a new self in which alcohol and other drugs have no role. We who have been called to work in this ministry of recovery would be well advised to respect the potential for such mysterious and positive processes of change–in those we seek to help and in ourselves.
Read the whole thing here.