“What is Recovery?” according to Stephanie Brown (Part 3)

P1010154_2In A Place Called Self, Stephanie Brown emphasises that in recovery a woman transforms the way she thinks about herself, as well as the way she thinks about life itself. She points out two common myths about recovery, the first of which I’ll discuss here: ‘Recovery is moving from bad to good.’

Many women think that being addicted is evidence of ‘shameful neediness, of deep and lasting failures.’ Many addicted women are trying to do their best, to be a good mother, wife and friend, yet they feel bad. They believe themselves to be a bad person.

Stephanie says, ‘If she thinks she was bad because she was an active addict, then somehow she believes that recovery should make her good. And yet she may continue to feel bad after she becomes abstinent because the shame, guilt, and sense of failure over what she did whilst actively addicted are so great.

She may also feel a deep guilt because she has stopped using and now she is a survivor, one who has started down a new road. She worries about what she has done to others by stopping her addiction. Who has she left behind? Who will be upset by her new knowledge, her new path, and, indeed, her new self? She believes that recovery will make her a good person, but she still doesn’t feel like she is a good person.’

And, of course, she cannot use drugs or alcohol to deal with these negative feelings.

Stephanie emphasises that recovery is not a shift from bad to good, but from false to real. Recovery is about:

‘… a letting go of the old self – a false self dominated by a façade of denial, hiding, and desperate attempts to be good and “hold it together.”

By accepting her loss of control, the woman in recovery opens the door to finding her real, authentic self, the woman she is underneath the layers of defense that have protected her – the false self – perhaps for her entire life.

That doesn’t mean that her real self is “bad” or “good”. These categories no longer apply. It is reality, being real, that guides her rather than her efforts to be good or bad.’