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Recovery Management or How to Trick Your Own Brain…

Recovery Management or How to Trick Your Own Brain…

Recovery Management or How to Trick Your Own Brain…

I just read an article by William White about the difference between Relapse Prevention (RP) and Recovery Management (RM). In a nut shell, he opines that one focuses on “deficits and vulnerabilities” and the other on “assets”. RP implies we are running from monsters (waking up the ghost?). RM suggests we are “being positively drawn toward something of great value of one’s own choosing.”


The four-year experiment…

It came at a perfect time. Because, I was reflecting on the Thanksgiving weekend and my own, four-year psychosocial experiment in sobriety. And I was feeling pretty full of myself this morning. In fact, for the first time in four years, I actually broke my typical cycle. I think I have begun to trick my own brain!


Let me explain.


My son Jonathan and his girlfriend Kallie were visiting. And it was a fantastic weekend of family, hikes, great food and conversation. Even the Up North winter cooperated with unseasonable warmth (other than the 25 mph winds off Lake Michigan).



Jonathan asked me if it was still difficult for me to be with people who were drinking. He wanted to know if I still craved wine – if it was still an “issue for me”. (This asked while he sipped a Coppola Cabernet…) I answered truthfully, that I never thought about drinking anymore. It took a long while, but I have not had that out-of-nowhere, punch in the gut desire to DRINK! in about a year…


What I have done, is replace my addiction to wine with candy, coffee and food. And exercise. Hiking in the Michigan wilds has been a staple of my recovery, and I talk about it all the time. But, so has anesthetizing myself with the fast food equivalent of white wine shooters in the glove-box. That, I don’t talk about much…


Cultivating wellness…

Yesterday, Jonathan and Kallie left at 4 AM. I experienced the usual feelings one feels – tired, a bit lonely, a touch of anticlimax. And I also experienced the feelings that plague the person with a substance use disorder. That empty, bleak, icky feeling that used to send me to bed with a jumbo bottle of chardonnay and a party bag of M&Ms.


I have to admit, when I got home I felt the momentary desire to eat up the frayed remains on the charcuterie plate. And I wanted to scrounge for anything containing Karo syrup. Stuffing my mouth with processed, sugary foods has been my go-to panacea to fill the void since I quit drinking.


But after a nap and a cup or two of coffee, I had the out-of-nowhere, punch in the gut desire to go for a walk. It was a beautiful, sunny day. And I had no desire to hole-up and eat. The feeling was so shocking, I didn’t quite know how to handle it. I even opened the refrigerator and looked inside to test myself. Rattled the Skinny Pop bag because I am a glutton for punishment. Nothing. 


Talk about being drawn to something of great value of one’s own choosing…



Learning positive reinforcement…

The only explanation I have is that after four years of sobriety and two years of actively trying to rewire my brain – it is working! When I had the moment to fill an empty day, I chose the positive reinforcement of a walk.


Recovery is so much more than just not drinking. So much more than looking over one’s shoulder for the next relapse. It requires an overhaul of an entire life. And positive, healthy choices after the cravings for alcohol or other drugs dissipate.


Bill White says, “If recovery is more than the removal of alcohol and other drugs from an otherwise unchanged life, then the focus of recovery support interventions should shift from a strict RP focus (a process of problem subtraction) to an RM focus on achieving global health (a process of addition) and increasing one’s potential for a both personal fulfillment and social contribution (a process of multiplication). There is a difference between the prevention of illness and the promotion, achievement, and transcendence of wellness.” Relapse Prevention, Recovery Management, Recovery Transcendence – William White


I might not be at transcendence yet…

Full disclosure. I came home from the walk and ate a bag of Boom Chick a Boom caramel and sea salt popcorn. I also watched some smutty TV. But the difference is that I was not compelled to do so. And although I am a work in progress, my brain is rewiring in the right direction. The fact is, I like popcorn. Almost as much as the choice to walk along the lake on a cold, bright new day.


Today I’m not drinking, because I’m striving for the transcendence of wellness…


How come you’re not drinking?

E2E – We always think of your well-being…

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Comments (5)

  1. Paul Trainor
    Nov 27, 2017


  2. Bob White
    Nov 27, 2017

    This post is a real gift. I’ve got a lot to think about, to do, to change…your wise post helps me set a course. I’m really grateful for you, Marilyn. Love

  3. Laurie
    Nov 27, 2017

    Thank you for explaining the terms Relapse Prevention and Recovery Management. When I first started going to AA I thought it was to learn how to not drink. Of course I’ve learned that it is so much more. It does require an overhaul of an entire life. And it’s damn hard! At this exact moment I’m struggling with what to do with myself. My dog is laying on the sofa next to me and I know he’d love a walk. As would I. Hopefully I’ll get bundled up soon and do just that. Thank you Marilyn for another great blog.

  4. Suzan Bylsma
    Jan 3, 2018

    How come you're not drinking?
    I’m finally enjoying and loving myself! I also wake up in the morning and remember conversations from the day before!
    Hi Marilyn, great articles, like a shot of B12👍

    • Marilyn
      Jan 17, 2018

      Hi and thanks so much. Memory and truth are two of my favorites. And mornings.


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