Successful, sustained recovery requires two levels of change: awareness and action. Without awareness, the ability to take necessary action is limited. And yet, as essential as awareness is, by itself it is of limited value. During the early to mid-twentieth century, it was not uncommon to treat addiction exclusively with psychoanalysis or other forms of psychotherapy. This approach was based on the view that addiction was the result of unresolved and unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood experiences. These efforts helped to create a group of addicts who demonstrated excellent insight as to why they used alcohol and other drugs to excess, but their active addiction and all of its serious concomitant problems continued unabated. We might like to believe that if we know our behavior is problematic and unhealthy, and if we can identify the underlying motivations for this “bad” behavior, we’ll stop doing it. In reality, not so much. It is entirely possible to understand the reasons why we engage in self-defeating behaviors that generate all sorts of adverse consequences and still continue to do the exact same things. The real test of one’s learning and ability to apply that learning in any area is what happens when we perform under stress—when we are being challenged in some way—when the things hit the fan. It’s easy to be successful when there is no competition, or the competition is weak and the opposing team is lousy. When the opposition is tough and the full-court press is on, it’s a sea change; uncertainty arises, and fear creeps into awareness. Self-doubt and confusion created by a swirling undercurrent of uncomfortable emotion take an adverse toll on performance in any area, and with surprising suddenness, momentum can shift and success that seemed secure becomes questionable. This is especially true for recovery. It can seem impressively easy when life is going smoothly and all seems well. It’s not unusual for people, particularly in the earlier phases of recovery (once the storm of post-acute withdrawal has passed), to be lulled into the false belief that it will always be so. However, as it’s said in the rooms of twelve-step recovery, “life has a way of showing up.” The real test of a person’s recovery is how they respond when presented with serious challenges—in relationships, health, finances, job/career, etc. When things hit the fan (and sooner or later it always does, for everyone), my ability to be successful depends on how well I have developed the skills of recovery through dedicated learning and consistent practice. This is the essence of translating awareness into action. 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). Add your thoughts and comments below and follow us on Facebook!