3 Aspects of Recovery: Reason, Motivation, Emotion
Ancient Greek philosophers spoke of three parts of the human person: the head, the heart, and the gut. The head represented our ability to think and reason. The heart represented our emotions. The gut represented our desires or hungers. These three parts of the human person are essential to addiction recovery.
Thinking about your addiction is vital to recovery success. Our ability to reason is both a strength and a possible weakness. As a strength, reason helps us to make good decisions about our actions. We are able to analyze possibilities and potentials. We are able to make choices about the course of our life. The weakness that attends the power of reason is the simple fact that we are very good at fooling ourselves.
When we think about addiction and recovery, this is especially true. At some point the victim of addiction decided that the use of alcohol or other drugs was a good decision. It may have seemed like a good way to manage the challenges of life. The individual may state that they have had a hard day and deserve a drink to help them relax. The use of alcohol or drugs may have seemed like a good way to fit in. After all, who wants to be the sober teenager when all their friends are drinking? For individuals suffering from mental, emotional or physical abuse, the use of alcohol or other drugs may have seemed like a good way to escape their sufferings. Whatever the case, the addict decided that the use and abuse of alcohol or other drugs seemed like a good and rational decision at the time.
On the other hand, the victim of addiction may find their ability to reason to be an important asset. Alone or with the help of others, they may come to realize that their behavior is hurting themselves and their family & friends. They may determine that they have denied themselves success and growth in many areas due to their abuse of alcohol or other drugs. Their ability to reason will help them to analyze their lives and decide that they want something better. It is common to hear about an addict ‘hitting bottom’. What is happening, in a sense, is that the addict has come to a point where they can no longer rationally accept their situation as a good thing.
For the addict in recovery, it is important that they use their ability to reason to make good decisions about their life. It’s also vital that they learn to realize when they are deluding themselves into poor decisions.
The gut represents our desires or hungers, what we want. You have to want recovery to succeed in getting clean. Motivation is a huge factor in successful recovery.
Too often, people allow their desires to control them. There are a vast array of desires that are known to people. Hunger, thirst, sexual arousal, sleepiness, and the desire for friendship, for entertainment and for cleanliness are only a few of the desires that motivate people. It is these wants, these desires that often move people to start abusing drugs.
It has been suggested that one of the reasons that teenagers are often tempted to use drugs is because they are at a developmental stage when they have a strong desire for excitement. This desire doesn’t stop with the end of adolescence, of course. People of all ages are drawn to such things as sky diving, bungee jumping, climbing, driving fast cars and other exciting activities. It is no wonder, therefore, that the use of alcohol or other drugs can be so enticing. For teenagers, due to legal age limits, alcohol is a kind of ‘forbidden fruit’ that is exciting just because they’re not supposed to have it. Other drugs promise a high that is exciting on its own. The hunger for the new and the exciting can become very powerful.
It can also happen that desires and wants help the victim of addiction to move towards recovery. As the addict becomes aware of the loneliness that often accompanies addiction, as they endure the agony of withdrawal, they may be aware of a desire for a happier and better life.
Optimally, of course, our reason would exert some control over our desires. In the same way that we learn that a handful of cookies is not a good meal and decide to have a healthier snack, so we can determine that the continued abuse of alcohol or other drugs does not contribute to our happiness. The addict in recovery, by use of the power of reason, must learn how and when to satisfy the desires that we all have. In recovery, the addict learns more and more to make good decisions about how they will live, about how they will manage their wants and desires.
The heart represents our emotions. Positive relationships and a positive attitude are an important part of recovery. Our emotions can be powerful motivating factors in our lives. Fear, anxiety, and sorrow may deny us sleep. Joy, happiness and love may make an ordinary day seem extraordinary. Fear may immobilize us and prevent us from moving forward, while love can empower us to go beyond our limits and accomplish great things. There are people so overwhelmed by anxiety that they can’t even leave their homes, and then they do – and it’s fine. There are also numerous stories of ordinary people lifting enormous weights in order to free a loved one who is trapped. Don’t let fear stand in your way.
When it comes to recovery, our emotions certainly play a role. How many people began to abuse alcohol or other drugs in order to escape emotional pain? It could be sorrow, guilt, worry or a number of other emotions, but the result is that escape was sought in a bottle or a pill. Nobody wants to live in misery, so it is not surprising that some people choose addiction over emotional pain.
While emotional pain can drive a person to the abuse of alcohol or other drugs, our emotions may also help us to escape from addiction. An intervention is a good example. When an intervention is planned, it’s normal to gather persons who have an emotional tie to the addict, whether it be friendship or love. These individuals gather around the victim of addiction and share their love for the addict and how much the addict’s behavior is hurting them. In short, they appeal to the emotional ties between themselves and the victim of addiction. The hope, of course, is that the love of family and friends may break through to the heart of the addict and awaken in them an awareness of how their behavior impacts the people they love.
Perhaps what is most important is the joy that comes from continued recovery. As the victim of addiction makes progress in their recovery, as days of sobriety become weeks and months of sobriety, the recovering addict truly begins to know the joy that comes from success, from a job well done you might say. In addition, the recovering addict is more and more able to respond openly to others and know the joy that comes from true and loving relationships.