Saturday, September 06, 2008

On Building Up A Recovery Support Team:
By Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta

Update: Sabbath, September 06, 2008


Table of Contents

~ Introduction ~

~ The Newcomer ~

~ Components of a Recovery Support Team ~

~ Recovery Is A Dynamic Process ~

~ Building Up Our Self-Esteem ~

~ The Basics and Beyond ~
~ Conclusion ~


~ Introduction ~

It took a long time for me to get hip to the concept of getting involved in sober recovery from hard-core drug addiction. I knew about the dope deal, the bait-and-switch deal and other kinds of crooked dope deals, but at the time the ‘real deal’ of wholistic progressive recovery was unique and brand new to me. I begin to seriously question the whole way I had been living my life up to that point, despite all my hustle and bustle. It got me wondering why I did not even have a good happy life worth living. I existed day and night with a bottomless beer can super-glued to my hand and chasing the dope bag in the vicious circle of drug addiction.

I was stuck in a hand-to-mouth animal existence, all endured in pain, poverty and paranoia. My so-called friends were potential enemies. I could not even trust my own self to act in my own best interest. I was all caught up in the evil insanity of the whole obsessive-compulsive disorder typical of the ‘dope fiend’ subculture. I knew I had ‘a big problem’ that had caused a lot of other major problems in my life: lost good jobs, ruined relationships and missed golden opportunities. I had a 500-pound gorilla on my back dragging me down!

I eventually ended up crashed out by a ditch in the Del Paso Heights ghetto in the middle of a dark scary night, wearing filthy rags with my dirty old backpack as my only Earthly possession. I had hit a rock hard bottom, again. Beneath it I felt a trapped door to a bottomless pit going further down into a kind of hell on Earth. As bad as it is, it can always get worse. I was a domestic refugee in the land of my birth all lost, lonely and abandoned outside in the cold. I was left to fend for myself without outside help. I only had a vague belief in God and thought he had abandoned me, though I was the one who had gone astray.

Isaiah 53: 6 ~ Ancient Eastern Text

“6 All we like sheep have strayed; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the sins of us all.”

My ‘problem’ was a common problem for many stranded homeless street people: full-blown drug addiction. For me, the eventual ‘solution’ was getting down on my knees in heartfelt prayer, establishing a conscious contact with the Creator, going into the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter, staying sober in recovery, and joining a Christian recovery group there based upon the original A.A. 12-Steps Program called CASA.

There are many pathways to the truth. Each of us must find our own way to our own truth in the hope of finding a general truth to help guide us all forward in life. No matter how many times I fell down, I kept getting back up and kept coming back! I made a daily decision to admit my powerlessness over chemical addiction, get into living sober in recovery and transforming my life one day at a time!

~ The Newcomer ~

By its very nature, recovery is positive, productive and progressive. In this war against drug addiction, if you are a newcomer to the recovery movement and determined to get off ‘dope’ you will need as much help as you can get in order to progress and move forward, despite the disabilities of drug addiction. We can work together as a movement of recovering addicts, no matter what fellowship we identify with, for our collective sober recovery and inner spiritual growth. Always keep uppermost in mind that our lives are at stake and our future is on the line. Unity is power!

As warriors, we are waging real spiritual warfare between the forces of good and evil in a long-term protracted war for our survival, our progressive recovery and success in life. In war, we need to unite with our true friends and allies to help us fight and win against the many enemies and dark demons of drug addiction, some of which are invisible yet powerful!

Ephesians 6:12 ~ Ancient Eastern Text

“12 For your conflict is not only with flesh and blood, but also with the angels, and with powers, with the rulers of this world of darkness, and with the evil spirits under the heaven.”

The newcomer is the lifeline and most important member of any recovery group. He or she renews our hope, refreshes our energy and serves as a daily reminder for all of us who have made a firm decision to do something positive about getting out of drug addiction and its character defects. At least, the newcomer is curious about the whole cultural lifestyle of people in recovery with our ways, terminology and philosophy. It is a new lifestyle of being alive and well with a free spirit.

With group support, we should help newcomers feel safe and secure as we give them time to grow, learn and advance in their continued recovery. We help guide them with tender loving care, patience and understanding; not by cornering, smothering and overwhelming them. We can give them vital information, but we should be careful not to give them information overload. Easy does it!

In early recovery, our minds are still suffering from tangled nerve wiring and it takes time for us to rewire our brains and, if possible, rebuild neurons in the brain. A neuron is a cell specialized to conduct electrochemical impulses called nerve impulses or action potentials. There may have been some real cognition damage done to our mental processes during our addiction. Cognition is a brain science term referring to the mental processes involved in receiving perception, learning new knowledge and our general comprehension, including thinking, knowing, remembering, analyzing, problem solving and decision-making. These higher-level functions of the brain encompass language, imagination and advanced planning.

“Brain-imaging studies in humans and neuropsychological studies in nonhuman animals have shown that repeated drug use causes disruptions in the brain's highly evolved frontal cortex, which regulates cognitive activities such as decision-making, response inhibition, planning and memory.”

Source: Cognition is central to drug addiction: By Siri Carpenter, Monitor on Psychology ~

So there is much for us to learn in recovery about different relevant subjects that are far beyond the state of mere physical sobriety. No matter how much sobriety time old-timers have on the clock they were all once fragile, nervous, confused newcomers themselves, wondering if all this recovery stuff was for real and if it could make a real difference in their lives.

Some sober fools get arrogant because of the ‘quantity’ of sobriety time, wear sobriety birthday chips dangling down on their sides and do not have real ‘quality’ time in their recovery. Chips easily crumble. They do not humbly understand that physical sobriety is only the starting point for us to establish a solid recovery foundation as we continue to progress in the recovery process. These sober ones leave themselves wide open, exposed and vulnerable to a relapse or slip back into the hells of drug addiction. For us, sobriety is never enough. Stay out of slippery places and watch out for banana peels on the sidewalk!

The tell-tale signs of relapse and the return to old behavior are when we stop going to any recovery meetings, stop carrying the Message of hope, start isolating off on our own, return to old familiar hang-outs and other negative people, places and thing. We can even start having foolish fantasies about abusing alcohol and/or drugs again without even considering the critical consequences. As if we think we are now all well and wonderful, we got it handled and cannot be re-addicted. We must remember the terrible price we paid for our precious sobriety, not throw our clean time away in a mad moment of temptation. We should never forget the devious deadly nature of the disease of drug addiction. Booze and dope kills!

It takes real time, daily dedication and a lot of hard work for us to really get into the lifestyle of recovery. We need to claim the truth and become truly enlightened spiritual humane beings with a clear cosmic consciousness of our divine right to be here now in the universe enjoying our spiritual liberty.

We should cherish the newcomer, make them feel at home, guide them along the way and give them space and time to grow at their own pace with our consistent gentle guidance. Helping someone truly heal with a comprehensive wholistic approach to progressive recovery takes patient perseverance. It is not a rush quickie job. We should have had enough of rushing around in circles going nowhere in our former dope fiend days. Using our liberated willpower and spiritual principles, we seek to live healthy wholesome lives free from all forms of chemical dependency, all harmful addictions and the basic character defects of a destructive lifestyle.

~ Components of a Recovery Support Team ~

It is essential for recovering addicts to build up a solid community support system whose centerpiece is a strong Recovery Support Team to help us stay sane and sober.

The recovering addict should get a good home group and find a good stable sponsor or guide. A sponsor is usually another recovering addict with good clean time and a working knowledge of the 12-Steps who can help guide the newcomer, help him work through the 12-Steps and be a trusted advisor during times of temptation or crisis. Nonetheless, we should not rely on a sponsor alone for help nor look up to a sponsor as a guru-teacher or parent-authority figure. A sponsor alone will not keep you straight and is usually not a certified counselor or a trained professional psychotherapist. Sometimes even professional drug counselors may have good book learning yet still lack the street smarts essential for staying straight in a toxic dangerous environment.

Ultimately one’s continued recovery is a personal inside job, an internal struggle to heal our inner self in harmony with Creator God. Our progressive recovery can be greatly enhanced by having a diverse strong Recovery Support Team that can be composed of:


Guard your doorways and watch your thresholds; get rid of any drug paraphernalia laying around; clean house from top to bottom; start and keep a handy daily journal; study the basic recovery literature and do not allow any intoxicants or illegal drugs in your home, except when emergency first-aid is needed. Use common sense.

Keep your own private home as a sacred sanctuary, a place where you can relax and work on your inner self. We need to do a lot of homework, self-discovery and deep soul searching. On occasion, invite your comrades in recovery over to break bread together, for general discussions, informal book studies and private house meetings. If you have Internet access, join an online recovery group.

It’s all about establishing safe, sane and sober relationships in our lives. Many times in the past we made the wrong choices in our relationships. Do not waste precious time being caught up in fruitless destructive relations that could be better spent on self-improvement or mutual growth with others in recovery. Always be extremely careful whom you invite into your home. Sometimes it is best to meet a new friend or stranger at a nearby coffee shop. Take the time to really get to know the personal interests and agenda of a new friend. Use common sense and be cynical in examining people’s true motives, not naïve and gullible. Many mistake sincere kindness for weakness. Take care of your own self-interest without being selfish. If you cannot save yourself you cannot save anybody else. Think, think, think!


Attend and participate in open group meetings on a regular basis, be of service by leading a meeting, making coffee or cleaning up. Do not sit in a back corner isolating. Pay close attention to whoever is speaking, get to know who is who, observe others and watch their interactions, take mental notes and stay for the whole meeting. When you have a burning desire to share, speak up and speak out. Express yourself! A good meeting is marked by how many people actively participate, not how many bodies are present to get their cards signed. Not all the people at a recovery meeting are there for the same reasons. Some people are there mainly to socialize, are bored and lonely and go to see whom they can pick up and hold hostage later. However, most of those present are sincerely there to learn, grow and help each other. Stick with the winners and shake loose the losers.

As part of your recovery, plan on attending other fellowships different from your own home group. If you are into AA, go to an NA Meeting or vice-versa. Any 12-Steps based group can be helpful as many recovery topics, ideas and lessons can apply to different settings with universal themes common to life. A lot of genuine wisdom comes out of recovery meetings. Lifetimes of other people’s common experiences can come together, crystallize and help in your own pathways on this sacred special spiritual journey through life.

Remember to do your own daily personal inventory. Do not be easily sidetracked and distracted from doing your own recovery work. Do not judge and do other people’s inventory around you. Look in the mirror. You are not here to try to fix anyone else but yourself in conscious contact with God. Let go and let God!


Practice what you preach and be a true believer in your faith, not a phony make believer! Make new Christian friends who are living a good wholesome Christian life. Study the Holy Bible for spiritual inspiration, take time out for heartfelt earnest prayer and set aside time for deep personal meditation.

Beware of the passing winds of evil doctrine preached by religious cults and do not get stuck into any dogmatic denomination. Check out different Bible-based churches. Better church hopping than bar hopping. Despite what the Pope pronounces from the Vatican or what any Pastor preaches from the bully pulpit, there is no one single organized religion that is superior to all the others. The ministry of a true religion should help others survive by meeting human needs and allow us to worship the God of our understanding. All of the world’s great religions worship the same Creator God.

James 1:27 ~ King James Version

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

James 1:27 ~ Ancient Eastern Text

“For a pure and holy ministry before God the Father is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Do not look up to a false Christ, great Pope or fanatic figurehead for deliverance. Many religious leaders still have their own character defects they transfer on to their own sheepish congregation as they pass the money basket. Accept the fact that no one is coming to just save you, but with the help of others you can save yourself in harmony with the Creator’s will for us. Look up to the Creator of the Cosmos! The word addiction also means devotion. Be addicted or devoted to the Creator of love!

Some religious fanatics in recovery switch their old addictive behavior over to organized religion. They think that being a Bible thumper, quoting Scriptures and going to Church once a week is what being a Christian in recovery is all about. A true Christian should be out in the field feeding the flock, raising consciousness and sincerely helping others. It is only by God’s amazing grace that we have been saved.

Ephesians 2:8-10 ~ Ancient Eastern Text

“8 For it is by grace that you are saved through faith; not of your doing; it is the gift of God:

9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10 For we are his creation, created through Jesus Christ ultimately for good works, and God has ordained before that we should live in them.”

Over the centuries, many millions of people have been killed under the banner of organized religion in religious wars. Keep in mind that the old wily serpent Satan is often sitting and smiling in the front pew at church. The Devil is a Deceiver and a Divider. Don’t switch addictions and replace one harmful addiction with another and continue to do the Devil’s work!


If there are no fundamental changes in our personal lives, daily habits and spiritual practices there is no substantial recovery. In our old dope fiend days we were selfish, self-centered and always obsessed about dope without any real care, concern or compassion for others. Thus, in our recovery we should get rid of our old selfish ways by getting involved in positive community action and helping others without expecting anything in return. Gifts should be freely given expecting nothing in return.

1 Corinthians 2:12 ~ King James Version (KJV)

“12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

Learn from mature old-timers with long-term recovery, make the time to talk to them and find out what’s working in their lives. What activities are they into? What do they do in their free time for fun and entertainment? What books are on their bookshelves? Are they grumpy dry drunks or are they really enjoying the promises of recovery? You may find that many good old-timers are busy living their lives and continue in their spiritual growth, but will often take the time to give good advice, counsel and suggestions to newcomers willing to humbly learn about life in sober recovery and spiritual liberty. Sharing is caring!

Search out for people in the community who are into meaningful ministries in their church, positive fields of work and living exemplary lives, such as, teachers, counselors or other professionals. Learn from their positive examples and about the healthy choices they have made in their lives.

In your free time, join up and volunteer with community organizations and constructive civic groups that help enrich the lives of people. Share skills and talents with others. Many of our old skills are actually transferable skills we can apply to new ways of living sober in progressive recovery. Keep the treasures, throw out the trash.

~ Recovery Is A Dynamic Process ~

On-going progressive recovery is a fluid dynamic process of progressive stages of humane development, not a frozen final conclusion or a sudden spiritual awakening. We did not just trip out and become hard-core addicts overnight. In the process of working on our recovery we cannot absorb what we need to learn all in one day and suddenly become all ‘well and wonderful’. Recovery is a ‘one day at a time’ healing process, a brand new cultural lifestyle and a whole new way of living life on life’s terms on a daily basis. Old habits die-hard and we need to develop new healthy habits that have the cumulative effect of creating a new revolutionary culture with its own unique practices, patterns and philosophy. Easy does it!

Long-term drug addiction exhibits the locked-up craving brain gone wild without any restraints. The hard-core dope fiend is an egomaniac who has fallen over the edge into the darkness of insanity, exhibits selfish self-will on drug rampages and is a real menace to all of society. He shows the world an ugly display of mindless self-destruction, inner self-hatred and a sick fatalistic form of suicidal behavior.

The progressive recovery process demands new changes in all our old evil ways into new good ways of living life, getting out of the past and being present in the here and now. We are learning new ideas, developing new ways of living and becoming new spiritual beings. Ideally, we seek to live our lives in sanity, sobriety and serenity as much as we can in this still sick insane world. In essence it means the creation of a new humane being with a high level of creativity, self-esteem and personal integrity.

Learning to live sober in recovery could be the hardest struggle you have ever fought. In this war, sometimes people die a senseless death, get mortally wounded, become faceless nameless casualties, suffer collateral damage or end up missing in action by being in the wrong place at the wrong time under the influence of mind-damaging chemical substances. Whatever happens, we need to live consciously and stay alert to stay alive!

For those of us who fight the good fight, progressive recovery can have the greatest richest rewards in our lives, especially for our own self-respect and the respect we earn from others we care about and who care about us. The main one who stands between you and winning this war of life is you ~ the hidden enemy within! In recovery we must deal with the craving brain, negative social conditions and a dangerous toxic environment in the real outside world.

~ Building Up Our Self-Esteem ~

Our real progress can be measured by how well we are doing in terms of raising our self-esteem and helping others. Sober recovery is a dynamic creative process that progresses in stages: early recovery with little or no self-esteem; continued recovery with a basic solid foundation and greater self-esteem; and advanced long-term recovery with a high level of self-esteem motivated by pure love.

On a cosmic-quantum level, we are accountable for all our thoughts, words and actions, responsible for our recovery and obligated as humane beings to helping others.

In early recovery many of us first came into recovery with a lot of major damage we had already done to ourselves, to others close to us in our lives and to society in general. As a result we are suffering from low or no self-esteem. True self-esteem involves three key elements:

1. Self-love,
2. Self-respect, and
3. Self-confidence.

Nathaniel Branden in his classic book lists The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem as:

1. The practice of living consciously
2. The practice of self-acceptance
3. T
he practice of self-responsibility
4. T
he practice of self-assertiveness
5. The practice of living purposefully
6. The practice of personal integrity

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There is still a lot of good work to be done in order to raise our self-esteem and have reverence for our soul. Many of us have to hit dirt rock bottom and have lost our regular reference points: lost homes, families and jobs. All we once held near and dear to us can be gone. It is no great wonder why we suffer from little or no self-esteem. However, we do get better, stronger and more confident of ourselves as we continue to stay straight, work on our recovery and nurture our spiritual growth.

~ The Basics and Beyond ~

If we have gotten strung out in the whole spectrum of chemical addiction we usually went through the whole process of:

~ Casual recreational use
~ Daily drug abuse, and then
~ Hard-core drug addiction

Many of us inherited a natural tendency for drug addiction from our family of origin. In early childhood, we may have seen drug abuse; it may have been around during our adolescent teenage years and continued into adulthood. We gradually grew up into the whole party atmosphere of the sex, music and drugs scene. We didn’t stand a chance for sober living if we were brought up in certain ways that condoned and applauded drug use, especially if our first negative role models were older people who influenced us in our youth to copy them. It was the cool thing to do and made us part of the in-crowd in our gang of friends. What started out as us just having innocent fun ended up foul and wrecked our lives and reputations. We became lost drug addicts, despised by society and in need of sober recovery from drug addiction.

The basics of recovery are always the basics: stay straight one day at a time, do a daily inventory, find a good home group, get a good support team and keep going to recovery meetings. In harmony with general recovery guidelines, a comprehensive wholistic recovery treatment program should be developed with the personal history and present situation of the recovering addict in mind for any recovery program to be helpful and relevant. We aim to cure addiction and heal our spirits.

We recommend a general wholistic approach so that all the recovery tools, medical arsenal and professional knowledge and expertise available to us can be properly utilized in order to achieve a lasting long-term cure. We have the capacity for new learning, building self-esteem and strengthening our faith in the Creator in order to be healthy mature functional adults.

“Everyone is measured on several continuums having to do with withdrawal symptoms: how much of a support system does the person have, if they also have medical problems, psychological problems that need additional support, etc. Depending on how ‘healthy’ a person is, will determine where they ought to go for treatment.

The person who has no withdrawal symptoms, who has the support of clean and sober family and friends, has a job, no psychiatric or medical problems and maybe a couple of drunk driving charges, may be appropriate for an outpatient setting.

However, the person with no support system, who has experienced withdrawal symptoms in the past, has medical and maybe psychiatric problems, will need more intensive and long-term care.”
Source: Addictions and Dual Diagnosis, An Online Conference with Dr. Thomas Schear, a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor with about 20 years experience in the field.

We should see ourselves as worthy lovable human beings who have complicated our lives with drug addiction and its negative effects. Now we are in the life-giving process of developing our humane character so that we have care, concern and compassion for all suffering beings, especially ourselves. We should strive to simplify the complex, not complicate the simple.

We should see the whole healing process of our humane development in the trinity of daily sobriety, continued recovery and spiritual liberty. The mind commands, the body functions and the soul guides. We must tame our minds, control our bodies and allow the Creator to guide our souls. Any malfunction in any one part of the mind-body-soul trinity will impact on our entire being. Thus, we need to keep a wholistic balance for our mental health, physical fitness and spiritual communion with the Creator.

Once we have learned and applied the basics of progressive recovery in our own personal lives we need to go out into the larger community and change the things we can in our social environment: carry the Message of recovery, help others, combat poverty, expose the evils of the day and get personally involved in our local community. We need to become community activists and get involved in progressive causes and creative community projects that will help others in practical positive ways. Thus, we can become creative citizens of the world, not apathetic ‘normal’ people only seeking fun, escape and entertainment.

~ Conclusion ~

As we work on building up a Recovery Support Team we will learn the value of self-esteem, nurture our inner spiritual growth and come to know the power of teamwork. In the healing process of progressive recovery we will make new sane and sober friends for a lifetime!

Proverbs 27:17 ~ Ancient Eastern Text
“Iron sharpens iron; so a man enlightens the face of his friend.”

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