DanceThe third aspect of our True Self is our intuitive mind. While our reasoning mind takes a more active, conscious role, our intuitive mind is deeper and more subtle. Our intuitive mind works with both our unconscious and with the divine. It supports our spirituality and enables us to see beyond appearances to our deeper connections with each other and all of life.

The intuitive mind can enhance intimacy by helping us:

  • Participate in the wonder and awe of life
  • Develop a deeper intimate relationship with ourselves and with God
  • Go beyond the confines of human intellect, revealing insight and wisdom
  • Overcome old patterns of impaired intimacy
  • Learn to experience deeper levels of bonding and trusting

Just as with our feelings and reasoning mind, a dysfunctional intuitive mind has the capacity to impair intimacy. A dysfunctional intuitive mind is:

  • Prone to fantasy, taking you away from the reality of the situation and putting you at risk for disappointment due to unrealistic expectations
  • Captured by illusions of appearance, believing in what it sees rather than what it feels
  • Likely to cultivate selfishness or narcissism when it gets lost in a dream world

When we would rather experience phenomena than connect with people, or when choose to dream about perfect relationships rather than whole-heartedly engaging with the people in our lives, we are  taking away our intuitive mind’s ability to achieve insight and wisdom.

Fantasies arise when we re-imagine the past or create visions of the future. We typically engage in fantasy as a way to escape the bad feelings or thoughts of the present moment. We create a world in which we are always right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong. We create a world in which our actions don’t have consequences. When we use our intuitive mind to escape the world rather than join with it, we are missing a chance for intimacy—and for a reality that is ultimately richer and more rewarding than any fantasy.

To cultivate a healthy intuitive mind, we can do the following:

  • Practice mindfulness. Meditation—taking time to rest in the present moment and observe the thoughts and feelings that arise—is the most obvious way to practice mindfulness. But any time we attend fully to what we are doing, taking in the sensations of the moment, we are cultivating mindfulness and discouraging fantasy.
  • Practice spirituality. However you experience the divine, allow yourself time to practice that connection as often as you can. Be open to experiencing the divine in ways you haven’t before, recognizing that we are all here together to learn, to grow, and to experience.

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contractsFamilies with an addicted loved one need to create and enforce healthy boundaries. As part of St. Joseph Institute’s Family Program, we encourage families to develop a written contract with their loved one to establish ground rules and facilitate a strong recovery.

A contract is useful for several reasons:

  • It makes both parties aware of how their behavior affects the other
  • It creates the common ground for change
  • It sets the rules for loving confrontation, should it become necessary
  • It helps both parties feel respected, heard, and supported

If you and your addicted loved one agree to write a contract to support recovery, consider including the following clauses (or modifying them to fit your situation):

For Family/Support People:

  1. We agree to practice healthy detachment. We agree to allow you the gift of your mistakes because we know they will help you learn, grow, and develop a healthy self-respect.
  2. We agree to practice healthy validation. We commit to noticing your positive changes and reinforcing them.
  3. We agree to practice healthy confrontation. If we notice you returning to destructive patterns, we will lovingly make you aware of them. We will provide honest feedback if you ask for guidance.
  4. We will not nag, criticize, judge, or condemn, since these behaviors are destructive to you and to your recovery.
  5. We agree to exercise healthy boundaries. We will allow you to think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. We will give you the freedom to be who you are, even as we bring your attention to destructive behavior.
  6. We will advocate your recovery by removing temptations (making sure our home is free of addictive substances; securing prescription medications) and by accepting the same limitations you have (not drinking or using in front of you or asking you to attend functions where alcohol or drugs are available).
  7. We agree to seek outside help—from a therapist, spiritual advisor, or other source—if we cannot set or manage boundaries on our own.

For the Recovering Addict:

  1. I agree to respect your healthy detachment and to accept the consequences of my behavior.
  2. I agree to acknowledge and express gratitude for your healthy validation. I will also offer validation to you when you respect my needs.
  3. I permit you to give your honest feedback if I begin to fall into destructive patterns.
  4. I agree to listen to and be grateful for your feedback, and I will try to learn from it.
  5. I agree to exercise healthy boundaries. I will allow you to think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. I will give you the freedom to be who you are, even as I bring your attention to destructive behavior (like nagging, criticizing, condemning).
  6. I agree to commit to my recovery by avoiding circumstances and people who expose me to alcohol or addictive substances.
  7. I agree to commit to my recovery by asking for outside help when necessary—whether from a therapist, a sponsor, a spiritual advisor, or some other source.

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perseveranceIt’s important that we understand recovery from drug and alcohol addiction as a complex and challenging journey, one that takes dedication and time.  For many people who struggle with addiction or who love someone who struggles with addiction, the promise of a month spent in concentrated, residential rehabilitation seems like adequate treatment.  And yet, when we consider those who have successfully recovered from addiction, it’s clear that the process of recovery must continue long after such rehabilitation is over.

Unfortunately, a recent study found that 56% of the people who received treatment at a residential facility did not engage in recovery practices after their discharge.  A majority of those individuals relapsed within a few months.  And so we have to acknowledge that without an ongoing set of practices and tools, most people are simply unable to break free from addiction—hardly a surprise, considering how profoundly substance abuse alters the body and mind.

Such mind/body alterations aren’t easily erased, and their vestiges can last a lifetime.  But recovery is possible, and those who do meet their recovery goals do so consciously, with an awareness of their journey as one that requires attention, planning, and care.  In working within the recovery community, I’ve witnessed many processes and tools that can make that journey a successful one; in particular, lasting sobriety usually involves adherence to what I call The Five P’s of Successful Recovery:

  1. Purpose. True change requires not only that we acknowledge where we’ve been, but that we see and understand where we want to go. When we have a sense of purpose—the desire to achieve a deeply-held goal, to pursue a dream, or to accomplish something which holds meaning for us—we find new sources of energy and strength.  With new strength, we’re more able to persevere when challenges arise.  One of the most devastating aspects of addiction is that it fosters a sense of purposelessness. Conversely when someone who struggles with addiction identifies a meaningful direction or a dream, it can be much easier to leave drugs and alcohol behind.  The search for a sense of purpose can be challenging, exciting, and rewarding; it’s also an integral part of the process of recovery.
  2. Practice. The kinds of change that recovery requires—changing the mind’s patterns, shifting the way one acts under stress, and transforming responses to everyday events—do not happen quickly. Such deep-reaching changes call for practice; much like learning to play an instrument or developing skill at a new craft. Recovery asks us to repeat the behaviors we want to develop over and over again. And, in fact, those behaviors could include playing an instrument, singing, or learning to paint—recovery usually involves an ongoing commitment to stress-relieving activities and support systems.  Whether it’s meeting with a support group such as AA or talking with a counselor, meditating or exercising, some kind of continued practice—one that becomes part of daily life—helps to manage addiction-related urges and thoughts and brings clarity, focus, and sense of grounding to the recovery journey.
  3. Perseverance. While I’ve said this before, it’s worth repeating: successful recovery doesn’t happen in 30, 60, or even 90 days. Rather than a sprint, recovery is a marathon—a process that happens slowly, over the course of a lifetime. For many people who live with addiction or who want to help those who do, this can be the most difficult lesson—accepting that recovery, like any worthwhile process, is never fully complete.  Just as an artist never reaches “the end” of their creative journey, a person in recovery never totally sets aside their work.  Each day requires a recommitment to recovery, each day requires the management of stressors and emotions.  No life is absent this kind of humbling cycle: walking on a spiral, we move up, but we pass by the places we’ve been again and again.  Recovery requires one to acknowledge that inevitable cycle, to seek the support of those who can help in difficult times, and to develop the perseverance that, even as we move in circles, keeps us moving up.
  4. Pray. For many people, overcoming addiction requires a sense of something greater than one’s own strength and vision. Whereas feelings of loneliness and isolation can contribute to the damaging effects of addiction, the experiences of connection, care, and love that many find in reaching out to a “higher power” can be a fundamental part of leaving addiction behind. It’s normal for someone who struggles with addiction to feel weak and powerless. As millions of people in recovery have found, acknowledging such feelings of weakness and welcoming the presence of an able, loving God can be one of the most important steps in this sometimes difficult process of change and growth.
  5. Praise. Those who live with addiction often experience great difficulties, and it’s easy to see why addiction can foster negativity. Focused on problems and wrongs, those struggling with addiction are sometimes unable to see that which is good and beautiful in their lives.  As we work to undo those negative patterns, it’s important to make gratitude, positivity, and praise the foundations of recovery.  Simple daily mantras of gratitude—I am fully alive; I am loved and loving; God cares for me and my journey; I have deep value as a person—can keep us alight. If we remember to see our lives, our communities, and the world around us through eyes of praise, addiction loses much of its power.

Purpose, Practice, Perseverance, Pray, and Praise—these Five P’s, along with other tools you may develop and discover throughout your own journey, can provide a powerful framework for recovery.  As you implement them, observe how you change and grow.  Let others know about your commitment to these principles, and ask trusted friends to support your path.  Be kind, careful, and honest with yourself—addiction isn’t a death sentence, but rather a difficult illness that requires attention and ongoing treatment.  Seeking your purpose, developing a regular practice, cultivating perseverance, making time to pray, and remembering to praise—no small tasks, but, applied one day at a time, each of these endeavors can become an integral part of recovery, health, and a bright and balanced future.


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