Sept. 12: Recovery is a journey, not a destination

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Recovery is a journey and not a destination. The path each of us chooses to experience that journey can involve a lot of pieces from a bunch of different sources. Until a few years ago, Farnum Center, the local treatment center, incorporated Three Principles Recovery, drawn from the work and thoughts of Sydney Banks.

I’m going to try to give a brief overview of this pathway, but bear in mind I’m no expert. Because of my ignorance, I’ve asked my friend and Hope staff member, Rob Dalrymple, to review this before publication. Any mistakes should be attributed to me, while any wisdom has likely been inserted by Rob.

First, since this is called Three Principles, a reasonable place to start is to name them:

  1. Mind—Our thoughts shape and define our experiences, emotions and behaviors. Knowing our perceptions are filtered through thoughts allows us to understand better our mental processes.
  2. Consciousness—We know we exist, that we are self-aware. Likewise, we know time passes and our thoughts and emotions are in a constant state of flux. Recognizing this can help us gain emotional equilibrium and peace.
  3. Thought—Our thoughts are a river that flow through our minds. They are not fixed or static. We can observe our thoughts without any judgment, possessiveness or fear.

A quick way to remember this: 

  • Mind: We are alive, 
  • Consciousness: We are aware, 
  • Thought: We think. They are universal constants.

Three Principles Recovery teaches that addiction comes with a misunderstanding of the principles. Folks with addictions have become confused and dependent on external substances, while true well-being resides in each of us. Once we understand that thoughts are the true source of experiences, we see how our perceptions and beliefs contribute to our addiction.  We are not broken, and therefore don’t need to be fixed.

Insight comes as a moment of clarity or understanding when we recognize the ever-changing nature of our thoughts and the source of all emotional experiences. This allows us to see beyond our negative and self-destructive patterns and learn to draw upon our innate well-being.  

With insight comes the virtue of non-judgment and self-compassion, the need to take it easier on oneself. The past is the past. Shame and remorse serve no useful function and should be avoided. We are all doing the best we can by the light we have been given; we can increase that light and do even better going forward.

Insight also teaches us to let go of our need for control. Nothing needs to be fixed or put together because what is IS! We can relax and ease into recovery, having released the ongoing battle against our addictive tendencies. We have innate wisdom into which we can tap.

Three Principles eschews labels like “addict” or “alcoholic,” because they are limiting and lead to hopelessness and stigma. People are encouraged to view themselves as human beings learning the Three Principles rather than people with addictions.

Recovery, in this pathway, is an ongoing journey, without rigid rules or lifelong abstinence. We continue gaining insight and understanding of the Three Principles. Reoccurrences or relapses don’t define our recovery, they are opportunities for further insight and growth.

Keith Notes:  I wish I were smart enough or spiritually adept enough for me to understand what one does in Three Principles Recovery. I can describe but I cannot grok much of this, nor likely will I ever be. Still, Three Principles have changed people’s lives, including my friend Rob, one of the coolest people I know.

You matter. I matter. We matter.


About this Author

Keith Howard

Keith Howard is former Executive Director of Hope for NH Recovery and author of Tiny White Box