There is a Recovery Revolution. Come, be a part.
Remember the Wizard Of Oz?
Remember the Yellow Brick Road?
Remember the message?
Bet you did not remember how powerfully that message connected to the recovery community and those working to conquer a Substance Use Disorder.
How could you? That connection has not really been a message that has been shared much at all in the world at large. But, that is starting to change and this iconic and classic film is a surprisingly powerful metaphor for it.
In the film, the Yellow Brick Road is a pathway for Dorothy and the others to follow to a place where their strongest desires will be fulfilled. For Dorothy it’s the desire to be home. To be in a safe place of comfort, security and wellness. It’s to be in a place that is familiar and filled with safety. It’s a place nearly all of us can relate to, in some form or another: Home.
To get there she and her friends must follow a long road of yellow bricks, a pathway which will have challenges – yes – but ultimately the answers needed to fulfill their desires. Follow the pathway, one step at a time, and the answers will be revealed to allow you to have what you desire. Follow the pathway, carefully and purposefully, and challenges can be overcome and goals realized. Simply follow the pathway and a better state of wellness can be discovered, uncovered and explored.
That – in a simple form – is the essence of the Pathways Concept. Follow the pathway and you’ll discover that the answers and the empowerment have always been within YOU. We only needed to start to believe this truth.
So, what does this mean? What’s the core?
Well, to best express this I’ll need to share a little of my own story.
Like millions of Americans I began using alcohol on a regular basis in the late teens and early 20s. For me it was always connected to a sense of celebration: The week is over and now I get to celebrate and reward myself for working hard. Off to the bar. Off to the club. Off to a party or quietly sitting with friends or alone. For me the reasons to use were: 1. It clicked with me physiologically and 2. It was part of the culture which I lived and embraced.
Those first 10 years there was not an issue.
The next 11-15 the issue became apparent.
The next 16 – 20 the issue became dependency.
For me I began to become aware of “an” issue in my early 30s, about 10 years into my drinking. I strived to cut down, to moderate and often did just that. Still, dependency crept up little by little, year by year. By 40 alcohol was a completely destructive force in my life and dependency upon it a perplexing and confusing and ravaging reality. The Wicked Witch was there, in full force.
Even with acute awareness that a problem was forming I was unable to prevent the full effects of the problem from exploding into my reality. Why?
For me the answer was simple. Over and over and wherever I turned I encountered the same message: 1. You’ll never be able to drink again. 2. The only way to wellness is through AA, 12 Steps and a belief in a higher power. 3. Alcohol is different from and not the same as “harder” drugs.
I could not swallow this (pun intended) as I did not want to never drink again. Even if that were to be a reality I am an agnostic/atheist so belief in a higher power to yield wellness was simply not an option. It was a double whammy. And, it was a powerful one. Looking back it added years to my struggle. I think it does for many. I believe it does for millions.
12 Step programs work well for many of those whom engage with them but not all. So, what about the rest? What about the percentage of those where the legacy and power of 12 Steps simply does not work and even alienates? It’s a larger number of people than some think. What about them and what do they do once they realize the most famous and accepted pathway to wellness simply is not the pathway for them.
In short, in simplistic terms, they just: Follow Another Pathway. Follow however they choose to define their Yellow Brick Road.
That’s the core of the Pathways Concept and here that concept is: You define you Recovery and you and you alone are in complete control of it. There are a million reasons why people become dependent upon a substance and there are just as many ways to, step by step, leave that dependency in the past.
If 12 Step programs work for you then dive into them as deeply as you can. Spirituality and faith are powerful allies when we confront life’s most difficult struggles. But, if not, then simply choose a different pathway and different way to connect with and draw support from the recovery community. LifeRing and SMART are two of the primary mutual aid group alternatives to 12 Steps. Others include Women For Sobriety, Seeking Safety, Wellbriety and Refuge Recovery and All Recovery. These mutual aid groups offer both secular and spiritual solutions. And, if something does not work then simply seek out something that does. These options may not be as famous as 12 Steps, nor with the same longevity and legacy, but they are options most may not be aware are there. There are forks and many directions in your Yellow Brick Road which will still lead to the same Emerald City of wellness and home.
Mutual aid groups are extremely powerful in helping those to get well from Substance Use Disorder. Very few, including myself, will argue with this. In groups you can realize that dealing with a substance use issue is TYPICAL and something that millions encounter. You are not alone. No question about that no matter how much our society may impact you to feel otherwise. No question about that despite whatever stigmas exist. And there are many.
But, for some mutual aid support groups just simply are not the way. And – guess what – that’s ok too. Strive to identify those things in life which ignite your interests and passions. As clarity comes from physiological wellness, those things in life which make you smile, which make you content, can become powerful pathways to wellness, too.
For me I made the decision to gain as much from any group as possible. So, I’ll go to anything and simply pull whatever I can from it. I take it in. I make it mine. I interpret it however it works for me. I also practice yoga. I’m working on a novel. I read about stuff which interests me until I cannot read any more. I enjoy my morning coffee like I used to enjoy Friday night Martinis. No, not exactly the same way. I don’t get the same dopamine high as I did from those strong alcoholic beverages on the weekend. But, I do get a smaller high each and every single morning of the week. It’s amazing. It’s one of my pathways.
I’m still walking on my Yellow Brick Road. Across the way I see Dorothy and her friends walking in the same direction but on a different pathway. Turning the other direction I see many faces I’ve met on my journey, each walking on her or his own pathway. Turns out there is not just one or two like I believed for most of my life. There are hundreds. There are thousands. There are hundreds of thousands. There are millions. There are as many pathways in recovery as there are humans alive on this beautiful planet.
Never saw that one coming.
Perhaps the reason why is that the Emerald City of wellness gleams brightly in both the sun and moonlight. The glare and reflections coming from a place of wellness can be powerful. Yep, it’s that good. That glare and reflection are so powerful it took a while for me to notice the countless ways people were all moving towards the same destination.
The tide is turning. A Recovery Revolution has just begun. That silly witch is still chasing after but my feet are moving forward just a couple steps each, one day at a time.
Come… join along for the journey. How will you define your Yellow Brick Road?
In the end… it may not even be yellow.
Director of Community Relationships