By Diane Cameron
It’s September, and for kids its back to school and for many kids it’s a time to think about, “How do I want to be this year?” Study more, hang out with the good kids, do my homework first, maybe get those grades up now?
As adults we also have a kind of New Year’s thinking in September. Even if our recovery anniversary is later in the year, that habit of getting ready for back-to-school is ingrained in us. We too, can use this fall feeling to take stock, ask a few questions and consider changes we want to make.
In long-term recovery we are often looking at the next layer of our recovery. The good news and the bad news is that recovery never ends. One of the ways we keep growing is by paying attention to what might be impeding our growth, and for many of us it might be another addiction.
You have heard the jokes. Shopping addiction, chocolate addiction, TV, and shoes too. They are jokes, until they are not.
In Out of the Woods, I write about transferring addictions and about the “soft addictions” and “process addictions”: TV, Internet, shopping and even work and worry. We come to understand that addiction really is inside the person and not in the substance. We also learn that while it’s true that shopping may not kill us, and we joke about being addicted to the games on our phone, we also know that avoiding our feelings is an early sign that we are sliding.
This is why I need ongoing discernment with other people in recovery: the process addictions are often things that have very good qualities. Think about exercise. We get in shape, we get a good habit of running or going to the gym, but what happens when we miss a day or can’t work out? Are we in a bad mood? Are we afraid? I’ve been there with exercise.
Similarly with shopping: Who doesn’t want to look nice? But do we obsess? Spend money we don’t have? Wander the mall or online stores in a trance? I’ve done that.
That old joke is early recovery turns out to be true: “The only thing you have to change is everything.”
Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst and teacher said, “The natural gradient in us is toward growth. Whatever we use repeatedly and compulsively to stop that growth is our particular addiction.”
The blessing of a long recovery is that we do have time, and we have a community of peers who cheer for us, as we cheer for them, as we take on that next step in our growth.
In Out of the Woods, I included a chapter on “Other Addictions” that many of us in long-term recovery will encounter. We have a choice to keep on growing.