“Recognize that true power resides within you – never outside of you. Keep your eye on the prize and do not allow yourself to be thrown off course. There is power in the pursuit of your dream.” — Les Brown
“Relapse,” said Mike Tyson at a Drug Court Graduation in Illinois, “is part of Recovery.” I almost fell out of my chair. I’ve heard it before, but maybe it was the context. Maybe it was the scenario at which it was said – a commencement of addicts who had amassed years of drug-free recovery. But I started to really analyze what people were saying about relapse throughout the Addiction and Recovery movement. The more I heard about “relapse”, the more uncomfortable I got.
Since that day, I have sat in dozens of group sessions across the country doing research for a movie. I’ve listened to many different Recovery speeches and read countless editorials and articles. It’s incredible how prevalent the mindset is about relapse being “a part” of Recovery. Within this opiate and opioid epidemic, the data shows us that most people do in fact relapse. But does that mean it’s inevitable? Is it an acceptable part of the process of recovery? Do we make relapse part of the acceptable language, normalizing it? Do we look at addiction, recovery and relapse as something that is so different than other difficulties of life, that all inner power is stripped of us in favor of victim stance to a life-long disease we can’t control? I choose to look at our role in our recovery as the most important factor – and with recovery, comes responsibility. With recovery, comes commitment.
I believe the relapse figures speak more to the inadequate time that insurance will cover for addiction treatment than anything else. The powerful nature of opiates is certainly a factor. The absence of a continuum of care or the total void of recovery support services within that continuum is a huge factor with relapsing. But our attitude and approach toward relapse seems to have completely embraced the idea that relapse is inevitable. In my opinion, it’s not – or at least it doesn’t have to be. We must believe that we play more of an active role in our success. What we focus on is what becomes true. Whatever we perceive as our reality, becomes our reality.
In looking at the top motivational speakers, trainers and life- coaches in the world, people that are literally paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to inspire business leaders, employees, couples and those seeking life coaching, would never have that message – that failing is part of getting clean. In many contexts, failing is part of succeeding, but it’s more of a hindsight concept… that you learn more from failing than you do from succeeding.
But within the learning process of looking forward, at rising from addiction- should we be encouraging the mindset that continued failure at recovery should be embraced? That might be considered in business, sports, or maybe even in investing, but the difference here is that failing can mean death.
It is only within the last few years that addiction has been medically accepted as a chronic brain disease. Many people state that it is a disease without a cure. Some go on to state that one must attend meetings on a regular basis and introduce themselves verbally and openly with a self-imposed label- one that they will carry for the rest of their lives. I completely believe that this process works for many, many people and it has delivered tens of thousands from addiction and alcoholism worldwide for over 80 years. This is not a path I embrace for me – not without using the principles that come from Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Eric “ET” Thomas and many, many other motivational Life Coaches.
I recognize the disease of addiction and the overwhelming difficulties of overcoming it. I put millions of dollars into my arms, spent over 12 years incarcerated, lost a multi-million dollar business and destroyed my family. I hurt many people and am beyond grateful to have found Recovery. It was the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous that led me to the path of Recovery and Celebrate Recovery that carried me on the journey where I find myself today. I share my experiences in recovery with many people, whom all found their way following different paths. Some found their journey along the same path I did. Some found it through medication-assisted treatment. Some found it cold turkey. Some found it through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. As is often said, there are many paths to recovery. But in all paths, we’re the guide – and to believe we don’t control our journey weakens us. We become the chokehold in our very own recovery.
I fear the mindset that relapse is inevitable, that it’s part of the recovery process. For me, taking self out of the equation, or minimizing the power that I have in achieving, and more importantly, maintaining recovery, is wrong. True power, as Les Brown indicated, resides within you. The minute you start to believe that the power is not there, that you don’t have a say in your recovery, is the minute you start down a path toward relapse. Maybe it’s not relapse that most people are afraid of. Maybe it’s Recovery.
I have a motivational poster in my office that I look at every time I sit at my desk. It says, I am the Master of my Fate, and the Captain of My Soul”. I refuse to believe in the invisible asterisk that says, ‘ except addiction’. It doesn’t say that, thus I am the Master of My Recovery!
Failing might be part of the process of success, but it’s not a perennial part of it that is out of your control. Don’t get sucked into the expectations of people who believe that recovery is not within you. As Les Brown states often, “You Have Greatness Within You!” I have recovery within me as well.