Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Conscious recovery: The role of community in activating the Higher Self

Reflection and the purpose of pain

In a previous article, introspection (or the power of the human mind to reflect) was identified as essential in the process of recovering from any addiction. Of course, being completely stuck in the illusion and denial of an addiction greatly hinders the ability of the mind to introspect. As Shakespeare pointed out in his great soliloquy on being or not being – there is ‘the rub’. If we are to ‘take arms’ against ‘this sea of troubles’ we call addiction, we must free the power of reflection in our minds. Sometimes denial is so strong that only a great deal of loss and suffering can break the power of its bonds. We must ‘suffer the slings and arrows’ of our addictive denial before our old way of being can die permitting a new way to be born. We must, as A.A. is famous for saying, hit ‘rock bottom’.

However, as the force of recovery in the greater community develops, ‘rock bottom’ is being re-defined. Bottoms are being raised via knowledge and community-based interventions. As a culture, we are learning to more skillfully apply the ‘pain’ which A.A. literature has identified as the ‘touchstone of all spiritual progress’ (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pp. 93-94). This is especially true in the chemical dependency field of addiction intervention. Other more hidden or subtle forms in the system of human dysfunction can be harder to address than those which produce a greater dose of drama or legal system involvement. For example, it may be much easier to help an alcoholic get sober who was just arrested for driving under the influence than to help, say, an undiagnosed type 2 diabetic with obvious symptoms kick the couch-potato habit.

The importance of community

Once the denial is broken, the conscious recovery process can come into play and the awakened addict can commence a daily program of healthy physical, mental, spiritual, and social exercise. Initially, the focus is on exercising the mental power of reflection in order to stay out of the denial syndrome. This tends to alter the unhealthy aspects of ego-function and activate the Higher Self. As the addict is undergoing this ego-deflation and Higher Self activation, a knowledgeable and caring community is critically important and helpful. The community, which is often a recovery organization meeting or gathering of some kind, models a healthy mental diet and exercise program for the newcomer to emulate. The more experienced members of the community help keep the newcomer on task and in touch with the reality of recovery. Regular participation in such a community is strongly encouraged!

The activated Higher Self is a key component in the process of conscious recovery. If the Higher Self goes back to sleep, the conscious recovery process stalls and addictive relapse could, and often does, occur.


Shakespeare, W. (1603). Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, retrieved Dec 12, 2010 from:

Wilson, Bill. (1986). Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (Original work published 1952)

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