Transition (n.): When life throws something at us that significantly changes our direction, altering how we view ourselves.
Sometimes it’s a good thing--graduation, marriage, parenthood, promotion, retirement.
Sometimes it’s not--a spouse dying, “empty-nest” syndrome, losing a job, being a victim of crime.
Transitions can be triggered by either something good or something bad, and they can change you.
Entering Recovery is a Huge Transition
Generally, we remember that one thing that made us seek recovery. We see how things end up and we do not remember where it started. We have entered a transition period; a period in which we know something must change
Stage 1 of Transition: It Starts with an Ending
According to William Bridges, author of the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, a transition starts, whether by choice or not, when something forces us to distance ourselves from who we currently are:
- Graduation means you’re no longer a student.
- A wedding means you’re no longer single.
- Divorce means you’re no longer married.
- When you’re fired, you no longer have that career.
Something may have occurred in your life that made you decide to consider recovery. Whatever it was, it made you realize the price for your addiction was too high. Before you have a new beginning, you must have an ending.
We have to let go of the old in order to embrace the new
As you go through the Ending Stage, you start to separate yourself from that part of your identity. It’s not uncommon in this stage to feel sad, angry, depressed, overwhelmed, and confused. It’s because you’re grieving.
Even as you separate from this part of your life--there’s so much to mourn:
- You may have to walk away from friendships that keep you in your addiction.
- Coping mechanisms that no longer work.
- The new quiet may give you time to truly mourn relationships that were destroyed along the way.
- The sense of control that you thought you had--over life, over pain, over so many things--is gone.
- You might have experienced losses--your job, your marriage, your health.
The Five Stages of Grief in Recovery
Grief is a normal, healthy reaction to loss, and you need time to go through it. It helps to understand the natural stages of grief.
According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, an expert in the study of grief, there are five key emotions that a person goes through during any grief process:
- Denial - We’re not ready to face reality.
- Anger - The loss makes us angry. We feel like it “shouldn’t be happening.”
- Bargaining - We still try to negotiate away the loss--either with God, ourselves, or others.
- Depression - Empty feelings, awareness of great loss, pain.
- Acceptance - Doesn’t mean sadness is gone (or any of the other emotions) but we are adjusting to the idea of moving forward.
The grief cycle is a good and normal process. It’s also hard, but we can’t avoid the work just because it’s hard. Many who’ve relapsed tried to jump over the Stages of Grief. They think they can go from being an addict to embracing prosperity without giving themselves due time to heal.
It’s also not a linear process--you don’t just go from stage to stage. You can feel acceptance one day, but then an anniversary or an unexpected reminder can throw you back into depression or anger. Over time, the grieving process does get easier and less dramatic.
So during this stage, while you are grieving and unsure of who you are going to be at the end of this transition process--be gentle with yourself. Let yourself feel what you are feeling. Make sure you have a solid support system as you navigate this new beginning.
Stage 2 of Transition: The Neutral Zone
William Bridges calls the 2nd phase “The Neutral Zone” because it’s the time between.
In our fast-paced culture, we don’t always appreciate this stage that resides nebulously between The Ending and The New Beginning. We stand on one side of the street gazing at the other side, but we don’t give much thought to how we get across. We forget that how we cross the road determines if we safely make it.
This stage can be especially hard in recovery. In the stillness, we hear the message that we’ve tried so hard to keep quiet. We take time to face them--sometimes to challenge them, sometimes to affirm them. Other times, we let them roll over us like water over a duck’s back--because sometimes those voices lie.
“We need this time,” William Bridges emphasizes, “...the way that an apple tree needs the cold of winter.”
This stage is necessary to help you gain perspective, becoming comfortable in your own skin. That’s why at Spring Gardens Recovery, we incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices in our clients’ treatment plans. It’s also why we make sure you have solid relationships with our counselors and staff so that you’re supported through this time. Your support group also plays a huge role in helping you navigate your Neutral Zone.
Stage 3: A New Beginning
The Neutral Zone doesn’t last forever. As you approach the end of it, you start to see a future. There is life on the other side of rehab.
Men and women have gone through this journey before. Like them, you'll find ways to redefine yourself and thrive.
Stage 3 is the stage that is most visible because it’s the end of the transition process. It’s full of promise. It's the one we can't even imagine at the beginning.
In Stage 3, together with your family and your support team:
- You'll develop strategies for encountering and avoiding triggers.
- You'll determine what new skills you'll ne
- You'll evaluate your key relationships and decide if and how they can move forward.
Transition is Necessary for Recovery
An effective recovery program doesn’t just give you some skills to stay away from alcohol or drugs. The counselors and staff of a high-quality recovery program recognize the journey that you need to take. They accompany you through it, respecting the fact that it is your unique journey.
At Spring Gardens Recovery, we shape our entire program to support you through this transition.
We’re with you the whole way.