Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Conscious addiction recovery: More than just stopping

The concept

What is meant by “conscious recovery”? Simply defined, conscious recovery is a healthy diet and effective exercise at all levels of human function. It is far more than just stopping an isolated dysfunctional habit pattern. It acknowledges the connection and inter-relatedness of all forms of human dysfunction, and, seeks to undo that dysfunctional system. What we take in from our environment (diet) and how we put it to use (exercise) plays an integral role. Conscious recovery is a holistic approach which advocates physical, mental, spiritual, and social fitness.

In conscious recovery we work to eliminate unnecessary and/or toxic elements from our physical, mental, spiritual, and social dietary intake. We only want to take in healthy “calories” (so to speak) in all these areas. We also work to develop a vigorous physical, mental, spiritual, and social exercise program. Conscious recovery proposes an old but tested formula – a healthy mind in a healthy body – put to use for the betterment of the whole of humanity.

Mental reflection and spiritual practice

The power of the human mind to reflect is essential in the process of consciously recovering from any addiction. This amounts to the ability to mentally rise above our lower (or ‘ego’) nature and to observe that lower self from a higher perspective. We can call this higher perspective our ‘Higher Self’. From it we can observe things which need to be changed to achieve a fully effective human functionality.

This mental power, also known as ‘introspection’ and ‘self-examination’ is a prerequisite in any kind of personal change including addiction recovery. Usually, if we are honest with ourselves, the first thing we observe is the addictive behavior pattern itself in isolation. This is the first step in any recovery process. First we observe it and then we stop it. But there is more – much more. The stopping is easy. The difficult part is staying stopped. Stopping is shallow and superficial but staying stopped requires deep and ongoing personal work and practice.

The core of conscious recovery is spiritual practice. There are three general forms of spiritual practice. These three are:

1) Introspection,

2) Contemplation,

3) Altruistic Service.

A little history

A thorough study of the psychology and philosophy of spirituality will reveal that, historically, these three take many forms. Perhaps the most efficient and effective description of the application of these three spiritual practices to recovery from addiction (specifically alcohol addiction) is contained in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. The two seminal works of Alcoholics Anonymous are the titles Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Originally published around the middle of the last century these two works have been enormously influential in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. Their influence is derived from their effectiveness, and, their effectiveness is directly attributable to their utilization of the three spiritual practices identified above.

Future blogposts will delve more deeply into the process of conscious recovery from addiction using the spiritual practices of introspection, contemplation, and altruistic service.

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