Ever think about poetry? Whether it is a simple rhyme, or perhaps a more obscure verse, or a lyric to a song - it is always a creative process.

The poet creates a story of sorts if you will which springs forth from his or her mind and places it on paper for other people to read or listen to when set to music. Indeed, it is a gift from one individual to be shared by many. In essence, one might say the poet has to "give it away to keep it" - to have the thought behind the poem perpetuated.

Recovery is a poem. It is a gift that is given, whether by a professional teaching a class at a rehabilitation facility or a member of a 12-step group sharing his or her experiences, to allow someone else to benefit - one might even say it is a gift from a person to her or himself!

Life is such a diverse mystery of conceptualizations - our reality is what we the living perceive it to be ultimately. You see, psychologists know how important perception is - hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, experiencing our positional orientation in the world, etc. It is important because we need to know if the individual is experiencing reality or has gone beyond reality - yet, the ultimate reality is always unique in some way to the individual - psychologists establish parameters to measure that reality - but again, ultimately it is very individualized.

Thus, when "the poem" of recovery is received as an offering - be it as a gift to oneself or in the form of one individual helping another, it is based on a parameter of perceptions as well as unique circumstances.

Nobody can truly know what an individual is feeling or thinking when it comes to her or his own recovery except the individual. Yet, "the poem" of recovery is offered in the context of a parameter of those experiences that one does indeed share with others - those threads of common experience when someone in the "rooms" (e.g., AA) has that "ah hah" moment and is able to say, "I share a common bond" - even though my recovery is ultimately unique to me, it is within the context of others' perceptions.

Think of it this way - a patch-quilt can be made up of different squares that are designed by different individuals, but when they are sewn together to form the whole quilt - a new meaning is derived.
There really is nothing new here - the concept of the "gestalt" is defined as, "the whole being different then the sum of its parts" - and yet, without the individual "parts" being blended together, there would indeed be no whole.

Recovery, much in the same way, is a blending of unique, individualized, experiences being blended together to form a common experience that leads to sobriety - the poetry of this process is almost like alchemy and we see that the individual is transformed into a "new being" - like coal into diamonds. In essence, all those with the disease of addiction have the capacity to be sober - they simply (and it is not always so simple - but you will allow me poetic license here) must listen to their unique poetry within as well as the poetry of others and find that common thread.

About the Author

Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., CASAC

Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., CASAC, is a Clinical Associate Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine; he is also with Caron Treatment Centers.

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