The Science Of Addiction, The Art Of Recovery: RecoveryMind Training

Welcome to the fifth in a series of articles about the RiverMend Treatment system. Although each of these articles stands on its own, they are best read as an interlinked series. In the first article, we established addiction as a complex illness that defied medical understanding for centuries. Fear and prejudice was the result of this misunderstanding; addiction was viewed as a moral failure. In the second installment, we discussed the science that emerged in the late 20th century and how it redefined addiction as a chronic brain disease. In the third installment, we discussed the pillars of RiverMend’s care model: chronic treatment is needed for a chronic illness, addiction erodes every aspect of what it means to be human, and that the addict or alcoholic must stop using before any meaningful change occurs. We emphasized that stopping is just the first step in a longer journey. In this fourth installment of the series, we begin our discussion of the RiverMend addiction treatment model. The model is called RecoveryMind™ Training.

The RecoveryMind Training system addresses every aspect of the damage produced by the addiction illness. It rearranges how an individual understands their illness and provides a series of clear steps that, when methodically executed, propel the individual into recovery. RecoveryMind uses no formulaic quick fix, instead it teaches individuals how to correct the damage produced by months, years, or decades of addictive thinking and acting.

RecoveryMind Training divides its care into seven Domains. Each of these domains encompasses a broad collection of addiction phenomenon. The act of placing the effects of the disease into these seven “buckets,” in and of itself, provides clarity to this confusing disorder. In treatment, a patient drills down into each of the seven areas, learning and applying skills that slowly extricate them from the hell produced by addiction.

The seven domains of RecoveryMind Training are:

  • Domain A—Addiction Containment
  • Domain B—Recovery Basics
  • Domain C—Emotional Awareness and Resilience
  • Domain D—Personality and Addiction
  • Domain E—Internal Narrative
  • Domain F—Connectedness and Spirituality
  • Domain G—Relapse Prevention Skills

One way of thinking about these domains is to consider what happens without them. Let’s walk through this together, observing how addiction subverts healthy functioning and replaces it with addiction thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

When an individual is addicted to alcohol, drugs, or has any other behavioral addiction, the illness tramples through many areas of their life like a wild animal on the loose. The first step in controlling this destructive beast is to put it in a cage. This is Domain A, Addiction Containment. Much like a wild beast in a cage, it is good to have it there, but you have to figure out what to do with it next. If nothing else occurs, the beast will soon get loose. More action is needed.

In RecoveryMind Training, the next thing to do is to apply the Recovery Basics, Domain B. This means learning to be honest about your illness and asking for help. It involves learning how to use the support of others in creating change. We believe the simplest, least expensive and most effective tool for recovery basics comes from the mutual support groups and program taught by Alcoholics Anonymous (and its sister programs).

Addiction stops its victim from a healthy awareness of their emotional states. When emotions occur, its feelings-blinded victim is tossed about on a sea of rising and falling emotions, acting out emotional distress with no understanding of how this erratic sea damages them or others. To recover, the addicted individual needs skills attained in Domain C, those of Emotional Awareness and Resilience.

Each of us has our own personality. Each personality has its beneficial and detrimental aspects. Our personalities make us unique but also constrict how we live our lives. In Domain D, the recovering individual explores how his or her Personality and Addiction, how personality drives their addiction in a misguided attempt to feel whole. As the recovering addict or alcoholic explores their personality structure, it opens up the possibility of acting and experiencing life in a different manner, building more choices into the future, and decreasing the probability that the illness will return.

Everyone talks to themselves. Homo sapiens is a species that is language bound and language defined. We not only talk to each other, in our early years we learn how to have conversations with ourselves. Some of this is helpful, providing an Inner Narrative or “conscience,” Domain E, that guides us through our lives. Our addictions, however, hijack this voice subtly and overtly using it that the addiction remains alive. Changing this inner voice is essential to a healthy recovery.

Another quality of humankind is that we are social animals with a hunger to look beyond each other for our connection and meaning in the universe. Addiction short-circuits this connectedness and pulls our spiritual hunger unto itself. To correct this distortion, the recovering individual needs to learn how to develop healthy connectedness with others and to reestablish their spiritual pursuits, whatever they may be. This Connectedness and Spirituality is the work in Domain F.

And finally, an addict in the middle of their disease has no skills to prevent relapse. Their illness is constantly hammering them to repeat self-destructive actions for its own ends. Each individual has different triggers and high risk situations that promote relapse. To keep one’s addiction in remission, therefore, every recovering individual needs to develop their own set of relapse prevention skills. Training in Relapse Prevention Skills occurs in Domain G.

It may seem as though this list is thorough to the point of exhaustion. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to a sustained recovery. The disease is the most complex illness of mankind and its treatment will of necessity be complex as well. In subsequent discussions in this series, we will discuss each of the Domains of RecoveryMind™ Training and how the RiverMend treatment system uses this model to build a sophisticated and effective treatment program.