by Elizabeth Hill LCADC, CCS, CDP, MAC
Longevity in years does not always lead to maturity and the milestone it signifies. As we grow older, we increase our experiences in life and hopefully gain the attributes expected from maturity – compassion, empathy, sensibleness, wisdom, reliability, and respect for others. Unfortunately, this does not always happen the way we hope it will. When we are young, time seems to pass so very slowly. The time between birthdays, holidays and school vacations is interminable! But as we mature, time becomes more valuable and often seems fleeting.
Erik Erikson formulated the Stages of Psychosocial Development in the early 1960’s. These stages include: Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, Ego Integrity vs. Despair
What does maturity look like? You listen more and talk less; you do not shy away from responsibilities; you are less argumentative and more accommodating; you smile more; you appreciate what you have; you indulge in self-care. Hmm, sounds a lot like recovery!
Again, this kind of growth – recovery – is not an automatic benefit of “time”. Working a program, staying honest and forthright is the pathway we must follow to be comfortable and confident in our recovery. If it’s worth having … it’s worth working for.
The work involved in achieving personal maturity cannot be done in a vacuum. It is vital that we have a conscious contact with others for so many reasons: the ability to learn, the opportunity to compare, the need for interaction, the exposure to emotions and how to identify and express them. Whether one chooses to use the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery or Refuge Recovery – the emphasis is on community and sharing of thoughts and rational decision making.
Let’s do a quick comparison using Erikson’s stages and relate them to recovery principles and needs. Trust vs. Mistrust – early recovery brings us face-to-face with the hard task of knowing whom to trust and trying to re gain trust from those in our lives, Autonomy vs. Shame – in recovery we learn to appreciate independence and not rely on the kindness of others for our daily needs, Initiative vs. Guilt – learning to face the past, let go of shame and guilt to be able to practice self-care, Industry vs. Inferiority – making a conscious effort in thought and deed to improve our life, Identity vs. Role Confusion – active addiction forces us to take on false personalities to allow us a continued unhealthy lifestyle while recovery helps us to identify who we really are and act accordingly, Intimacy vs. Isolation – the addict cannot afford real intimacy in life which forces us into isolation while recovery enables our true selves to emerge, Generativity vs. Stagnation – addiction stifles out ability to grow while recovery enables us to see our full potential in life, Ego Integrity vs. Despair – what addict has not felt the depth of despair? Hopeless and helpless? Once in a recovery mode, our ego integrity is strengthened, and we can begin to live a fuller life.
Maturity in recovery is not automatically granted – it is a goal worth working toward!