As challenging as it can be to learn and develop new skills in any area, in comparison to recovery all the examples I’ve described are simple and concrete. Skills such as accepting things you really, really want to change, but can’t, and tolerating distressing emotions and physical sensations without acting on them in ways that make situations worse are incredibly difficult to master. It takes a long while, in recovery, to become unconsciously competent. Moreover, skillful recovery requires a high degree of moment-to-moment conscious attention and awareness. To acquire this level of conscious awareness to the point where it becomes second nature suggests a level of spiritual development that may well be beyond the reach of all but the most enlightened among us. While achieving anything but occasional unconscious competence in recovery may not be realistic for most of us, becoming increasingly consciously competent and skillful in recovery from both addiction and chronic pain surely is. When it comes to developing recovery-supporting skills and effectively bringing them to bear, especially in the heat of the moment, conscious competence is challenging enough to achieve and maintain. It is only through the ongoing practice of applying conscious awareness and the consistent repetition of recovery-supporting actions that I give myself the opportunity to continue my progress. Riding a bike, reading, playing catch, keyboarding/typing, and playing video games are examples of everyday activities that progress through Erickson’s four stages of learning—improving with practice and repetition to become unconscious and automatic. Once a skill has been learned well enough to be successfully applied in action, it becomes an available resource that can not only be applied in a range of circumstances, but also expanded. In other words, once somebody has learned how to read it doesn’t matter whether the length of a book is ten pages or three-hundred pages; once you know how to swim, you can swim in water that’s four feet deep or four hundred feet deep. The same dynamic applies to recovery-oriented skills. And yet, mastery is a fluid rather than a static entity. Like recovery itself, it is an ongoing journey rather than a particular destination. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).