Yesterday during a session with one of my clients who is a sex addict, I explained the difference between recovery and abstinence. While explaining this difference, I came up with a simple play on words to drive the concept home: “recovery is to mending as abstinence as to ending.”
My intention was to illustrate that just by stopping a drug or choice, the addict is still at risk for relapse. In the recovery field, we consider those who just stop as “dry drunks.” These individuals are prone to all the same psychological, emotional, and behavioral maladaptive patterns that preceded the development of their addiction. In fact, many clients use the drug that they eventually become addicted to to “medicate” a history of trauma, loss, grief, low self esteem, etc. Therefore, stopping, or ending, is just not safe. However, starting a recovery program, while remaining sober, creates opportunities to mend those “hurts” that made the addict seek the drug in the first place.
The question then is: to end or mend? I am in the mending business.