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Letting Go in Recovery

by James Heller 4. September 2009 13:51
Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles is participating in Recovery Month 2009, in part, with articles about recovery during the month of September.  Most individuals suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction begin their recovery with alcohol and drug treatment.  So it is our pleasure to help bring awareness to the general public about the benefits of recovery to individuals, their families, and everyone with whom they interact.

Individuals who suffer from alcohol dependence and drug addiction have the common burden to dwell on resentments.  It is one of the living problems that drive them to continue using their substance of choice.  Unfortunately, this process continues into recovery, resentments grow, and individuals are often driven to relapse because of it.  So it is important in recovery to learn the art of “letting go”.

This is a good example of why 12 Step programs restate “Let It Go” over and over, sometimes to an annoying extent.  But this has a very positive affect.  Repetition of a phrase plants it in the mind and keeps it at the forefront of thought.  Since the natural response of the addicted mind is to dwell on negatives, planting a reminder to “let it go” in the psyche is quite helpful.  

It is also interesting to note that most people in recovery need to be made aware that this process occurs.  It is difficult for them to comprehend, and denial is the normal, initial response.  Those not suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction may have a hard time understanding this as well, so it could be helpful to use an analogy.

Here is a cute story that was heard in a group session:

Mitch’s border collie, Sparky, had a bad habit of digging in the rose garden.  Following a suggestion, he installed an electric fence around the garden.  Mitch expected Sparky to get a quick shock, and learn to avoid the perimeter of the garden on future roams around the back yard.

Shortly after the fence installation, as predicted, Mitch heard a loud yelp from the garden area.  This was followed by a white and black, blurred streak that led from the dog door to under the dinner table.  Mitch smiled with the belief that that would be that.  

But Sparky’s desire to get into the garden was stronger than her memory of the recent shocking experience.  It wasn’t too long before the scene was repeated, like rewinding a favorite moment in a movie.  Mitch decided that the negative reinforcement was probably working and didn’t give it another thought.

Some time passed, and Mitch was relaxing with a cool iced tea, not thinking about the earlier lessons that Sparky had endured.  Soon he heard feverish cries from the back yard, followed by a scream from his wife.  He ran to the back door to see Sparky locked onto the electric wire with her teeth.

“Let go Sparky!” Mitch yelled as he pulled on the determined pooch.  Since the fence was not charged to immobilize, it was pure will that kept Sparky attached to the wire.  With a snap, the wire broke and Mitch’s friend was freed from her pain, never to approach the garden again.

Sparky suffered no permanent damage from that day.  In fact, Mitch reports that she is spunkier than ever and avoids the flowers without the need of a fence.  

Recovering individuals can learn from this story, and their loved ones may benefit as well.  Sometimes there is an insurmountable barrier to getting what we want in life, and there is a reason for it.  Instead of continuously trying to run through the barrier, it is often best to just “let go”.  This allows the obsession to calm, and nobody gets hurt.

It is also nice to know that when you get into trouble, there is a loving friend nearby that can help.  Friends in recovery are vital to the daily spiritual maintenance that is needed for long term recovery.  The journey of life can’t be taken alone.

Letting go may take time on any given issue.  But only then can a lesson be learned.  Recovering people are willing to go through some pain for their desires and resentments, much like Sparky was.  So when “Let it go” leads thoughts to contrary actions, life can be less painful and growth can be achieved in recovery.

Tarzana Treatment Centers in Los Angeles sponsors alumni events and community events for those in recovery so friendships can be formed.  If you or a loved one need alcohol or drug treatment, please call us now at 888-777-8565 or contact us here.

Southern California Locations for Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Tarzana Treatment Centers has locations all over Southern California in Los Angeles County. Other than our central location in Tarzana, we have facilities in Lancaster in the Antelope Valley, Long Beach, and in Northridge and Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.