Recovery and the Human Experience

Jim Roberts
September, 29, 2014 -

As we come to the end of September I want to draw attention to the fact that 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of September as National Recovery Month. People’s natural tendency is think about substance abuse, being that we all know somebody “in recovery” or that we wish were. But, this title actually encompasses a much bigger picture– it’s an acknowledgment that humans can heal…it is a testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit!

Remember those Giant Sequoias?

Whenever I think of the idea of “resiliency,” my mind ineluctably migrates to Giant Sequoias. I have had the great fortune to frequent the groves of these mighty Cupressaceae often, and needless to say, they have captivated me. Sequoias are quintessential resilient!

  • Their three-foot thick bark is fire resistant and yet they need fire to propagate;
  • They require an infestation of a specific bug in order to break open their cones to release their seeds;
  • Their root systems are so massive and strong they are rarely blown over or washed away; and
  • They live for hundreds of years!

It is not uncommon to see a Sequoia blackened by fire and broken by wind and storm and man, and yet quite alive and well underneath all that “damage.” What a great metaphor for so many in “recovery”—outwardly looking so broken yet inwardly striving to thrive.

What Recovery Really Is…

For 40+ years, I have worked passionately in the Human Services arena focusing on serving the most traumatized, damaged and challenging children, youth and families. The hope that individuals can and do recover is part of the fuel that keeps my engines revved up. Sure, recovery isn’t immediate and can be a long arduous process, but I think that’s the way it was designed to be. In our “instant gratification”, “I want it now” culture, this certainly creates real cognitive dissonance, but, there are some important lessons to be learned here.

Remember, Recovery…

…is a process-of-time continuum ranging from simple to the very complex. A cut finger recovers rapidly compared to long-term substance abuse complicated by mental illness. Add to this the complexity that everyone has their own unique, individual recovery system; some are rapid responders, others not so much. The lesson, we can’t let our impatience become a stumbling block to others; patience and empathy are indispensable.

…does not take place in a vacuum, but rather it is an interactive, engaging, person-to-person process which can push us way out of our comfort zones, even to the point of avoidance. But, effective recovery requires human interaction. For over four decades I have been involved with children and youth manifesting the wounds of Adverse Childhood Experiences, (i.e., trauma), and have seen every imaginable behavior. I have observed successful foster parents, social workers, probation officers, therapists, counselors, school personnel, et cetera, plus, my own personal experiences has left me with a powerful take away – consistent and persistent tolerance, acceptance and compassion will “turn the battleship”; it will create a human connection which energizes and enhances the recovery process!

…and those in recovery find it helpful to engage and support another’s Recovery! “But, but, but…” Be honest, we all have issues we deal with. Maybe an element of our aversion to involvement in someone’s recovery process is that it hits too close to home, it makes us realize our own mortality, weaknesses, addictions or whatever, functioning like a giant mirror in our face. Yet, it is so needed for our own personal growth, self-contentment and wellbeing; it is a vital part of a healthy human experience.

To Heal and Be Healers!

You probably didn’t even know it was National Recovery Month, now you do. Hopefully though, you will have a different, healthier perspective on it. People get hurt, get damaged, get injured, get traumatized, and it can even be self-inflicted! But we are designed to heal and be healers – it is called Recovery. Let’s celebrate this amazing capacity!