Friday, July 25, 2014

The Mountain and the Meadow of Addiction: The Rewards of Persisting in Your Recovery Work

The author of this guest post is Trevor Earl, a very perceptive and talented therapist working in our South Jordan office. You can contact him at our office (801-255-1155) or email him at

Growing up on the foothills of Mount Timpanogos provided me with immediate access to a forest playground for hiking, camping, four wheeling, and experiencing adventures. I have done multiple activities on this mountain, and it has been the source of some of my most cherished memories. I have hiked the face. I have explored Battle Creek and Dry Canyon as well as summited the mountain directly in front of Mount Timpanogos, known to locals as Mount Baldy. During the course of these adventures I was challenged, but eventually I achieved my goals.

However, there was one hike that always got the best of me. This was my journey that I always failed to complete. It was my hike to THE meadow. This meadow symbolized more than a hike to me. It was something elusive that I was not quite able to figure out. I knew that I could get there, but every time I started to hike to it I was derailed, frustrated, and eventually gave up.

This is similar to the situations that people have faced in their battles with addictions. Whether these addictions are to drugs, porn, gambling, cutting, or something else, there is a common bond that most addicts share. This is the bond of having this one thing that they cannot quite conquer, despite being able to succeed in other aspects of their lives. It does not make sense why they cannot kick this “bad habit,” and the more times they fail, the more they suffer the consequences, and the more they doubt their abilities to succeed.

One day I decided enough was enough and that I was going to get to that meadow. I got a hold of one of my friends, we packed up some essential items to take with us on the hike, and we started the journey to the elusive meadow.
Now there is one thing you need to know about me—I am terrified of bears! And it just so happens that at the beginning of this hike there is a giant sign that says, “BE BEAR AWARE.” This caused me to have feelings of anxiety, helplessness, and fear. Not only did I have this hike to go on, but in the process I might become lunch meat for an animal that could overpower me at will.

After struggling with an addiction for an extended period of time it seems like there is always some kind of “bear” that gets in the way of recovery. It feels like it is something bigger than one could possibly fight off if they had to encounter it. The worst part is that it is often early in the recovery process that one starts to detect signs of something they are afraid of. Like the BE BEAR AWARE sign, it causes feelings of helplessness, self-doubt, anxiety, or self-defeating thoughts.

The good news is that despite encountering this BE BEAR AWARE sign I could still see my meadow, my objective, my goal, and I continued to trudge along. Shortly after the sign, it came time to veer off of my normal, designated path, and start to trail blaze. You see, there was no path to this meadow. I also had never been able to get there. I was going to have to get there by trailblazing and by keeping the meadow in sight. I quickly found out that this was easier said than done.

Much like veering off of a beaten path to get to a meadow, when individuals attempt to conquer an addiction they need to step into an unknown. Whether the addiction serves as a way to avoid or deal with tough emotions, to excite, to help relax, or to connect, breaking this routine will require an individual to try something new, or step into the unknown. One of the keys to recovery is having a “meadow” (values) to be fighting to get to. Values that can help them work through the unknown to keep working towards a goal that they have in mind.

As I continued my hike I ran into different obstacles. Shortly after I started trail blazing I came upon a wasp nests that I had to navigate through. Then there was a rock slide that I had to cross over. And then I had to crawl on my hands and knees for approximately a mile, under scrub oak. At times I lost sight of the meadow that I was hiking too. It seemed so distant and so unattainable. There were times that I could barely even see the sun because the scrub oak was so thick. It was at these times that the temptation to quit and turn around was the most influential. I wondered if this was really worth the effort, and if not getting to the meadow was really such a bad thing.

Often when facing an addiction, people face these same thoughts and similar obstacles. As they are constantly being bombarded with cravings, triggers, doubts, and at times broken relationships, they may question if is it really worth it, or if their addiction is really that bad At times these obstacles become so thick that it is difficult for them to see what is really worth working for, or what they value.

Eventually I made it to the meadow. Remember my friend that I set out on the journey with? He made it too. At times he was there to encourage me, or remind me of my goal. At other times it was just nice to have someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. Mostly it was having someone’s support so I did not need to make my journey alone.

This is where therapy comes in play. Therapy is to help someone navigate through an addiction. A therapist can help someone that is struggling to find a “meadow” (value) to go after and discover what makes them truly want to get better. They can then help facilitate the creation of a plan to help the client remember what the desired outcome is, despite having obstacles appear that will cloud their view. A Therapist can also help the client come up with ideas to help work through feelings and thoughts of anxiety, helplessness, and despair.

Perhaps most crucial is that a therapist is there as someone who has seen others get to their meadows, and while each journey is unique, they can help a client prepare for and navigate through unanticipated obstacles that most people suffering from an addiction will unavoidably go through on their trail to recovery. They can help provide you with the essential items needed to make it over the rock slides, under the scrub oak, and past the bear on your way to your meadow.

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