This is the third post I have written for this month. After this post, I have one more for you. All four of these posts are connected and they all relate to my new book Faith & Sex: Toward a Better Understanding of Recovery, Being, Relationship, and God.  A couple of weeks ago I said the most important thing anyone needs to know as they start their recovery from compulsive or addictive behaviors is that recovery takes time.

Why does it take time? That was the topic of last week’s post.

Recovery takes time because, unlike mechanical processes, recovery is a biological process. Just as with the healing of wounds, recovery from compulsive and addictive behaviors requires not only a consistent, prolonged practice of protecting the injured area(s), but also the engagement in healthy recovery practices to build strength and resiliency. And while this may not seem like a significant reality to digest, it is exactly when faced with this reality that most people who want to recover from compulsive behaviors and substance abuse usually bow out of the process.  


Because they struggle to let go of their addictive thinking, which is that problems can be resolved through fantasy, short cuts, and quick fixes.

To recover requires a new way of thinking, one that accepts life on life’s terms, is open to adopting new skills, and, most importantly, recognizes that recovery takes work. In my book, I discuss the five stages of recovery. The first two stages of recovery are called the “Withdrawal” and “Honeymoon” stages. In the Withdrawal stage there is the experiencing of the initial rebalancing of neurochemicals and hormones once the compulsive behavior or substance use ends. And then comes the Honeymoon stage where there is some clarity, and excitement, at the possibility of being sober.

But then comes the third stage, called “The Wall.”

The Wall stage is when the recovering person comes face to face with what I have been talking about in these blog posts—that recovery is not a mechanical, immediate process of flipping a switch; recovery is organic, and in being organic it requires mindfulness of what you are working on addressing, learning new skills to address it, and then addressing it over a period of time. The Wall is a consistent theme and thread throughout my book. This is because, per its name, The Wall is not a stage that we easily get past in our recoveries.

Since The Wall is essentially how we have internalized the people and surroundings throughout our lives—how we have determined what is safe and approachable, and what is dangerous and to be avoided—The Wall is always with us. And if the people and surroundings, from conception on, have been abusive, threatening, or uncertain, we will be wired for fear, anxiety, anger, or depression—all emotions we have managed through compulsive behavior, drugs, and alcohol. The irony is, of course, that most of us are no longer around those people or in those environments anymore. We have physically grown older, moved on from them, and are even thousands of miles away. But we still “carry” those environments and people with us. Perhaps we are in safer, more loving, more hopeful environments, yet we still feel fearful and anxious, waiting for something bad to happen. Or even unconsciously recreating those old environments to justify how we feel inside.

To “manage,” “relax,” “dissolve,” or journey through The Wall requires that the recovering person recognizes what The Wall is, and then through time—and sobriety—bring in adaptive recourses to manage uncomfortable emotions. Bit by bit, the emotional circuits within the brain, which are biological, begin to rewire such that 1) you don’t need to rely on maladaptive resources anymore, like porn, drugs, or alcohol, and 2) the world around you feels much safer, and you have greater resiliency when challenges inevitably arise. In other words—“If you can feel it, you can heal it!”

Next week, I will focus more on what adaptive resources are and what options we have to choose from. In short, if we know these adaptive resources, and maybe even write them down, when life—and recovery—becomes challenging, you’ll be able to reach inside your adaptive resources “bin” and pull out any one of them—or all!—and continue to gain more strength, resiliency, and recovery time by using them.