Recovery takes time. That’s a good thing. Why?

Ester leads us through a conversation about slow recovery, guided by these notes.

Recovery, like everything in life, has its ebbs and flows. 

An “ebb” in its noun form is defined in the Meriam Webster dictionary as “the reflux of the tide toward the sea” and as “a point or condition of decline” as in “our spirits were at a low ebb.” 

In its verb form, “to ebb” is “to recede from the flood” or “to fall from a higher to a lower level or from a better to a worse state.

The questions are:

  1. How do I manage the inevitable ebbs in my recovery, as they come? 
  2. What can I do when the ebb manifests, particularly when I am challenged by external circumstances, to a reversion to pre-program habits or thoughts? 
  3. Recovery is slow, and it is also non-linear. I can accept this. But when is slow recovery the right pace for me and when can it become stagnation?


  • Challenges at work have been compounded by the specific and unusual circumstances of this year. 
  • I can compare this with how the same challenges at the same time last year were compounded by another struggle: the aftermath of the rock bottom of my alcoholic partner.
  • It is possible to see the struggles I had as me being steered by my higher power toward some clarity about how my old ways of doing things aren’t working for me anymore. 

Reflections/evaluations of the experiences

  • While I was going through these struggles, I was seeing myself as a failure at recovery. I was regressing, reverting to old behaviours, relapsing, in effect. 
  • But what I realised, later, was that while all of this was happening, I was going through some profound transformations and realisations… 
  • And that these were not “sudden,” or “out of nowhere.” They were the cumulative result of time/effort/commitment to the program of recovery, which is to say, working the steps with a sponsor, reading literature, and doing what I’m told… 
  • And that if I keep doing the program and doing what I’m told, those transformations will continue happening.  
  • But they will be slow. And sometimes I will not see them. And sometimes I will slide out of them: three steps forward, two steps back, and on it goes. Recovery is not a straight line in one direction.
  • I admit: sometimes I have (shamefully) observed in myself, some little triggers for jealousy around observing other members who work the program ostensibly faster than me.
  • I am admitting that because I recognise my sick thinking in that. Obviously I understand that Al-Anon is not a competition. If there is such a thing as the opposite of a competition, Al-Anon is surely it. 
  • Moreover, the pace of recovery I am doing is the pace that is right for me. And if that is slow, and sometimes, during harder times, it is really slow, then that is how it is meant to be. 

Key points of transformation

  • I have learned how to ask for help. Or, more accurately, I was thrust into a situation where I had no choice. And now I can see how freeing it is.
  • I have accepted that sometimes people can see me emotionally struggle—even in professional contexts where I prefer that people think I’m some kind of well-oiled machine that talks.
  • I have learned how to pray every day, sometimes several times a day, and to mean it. 
  • I have learned—and I mean really learned, in an embodied way—how futile it is to chastize myself for things I am having trouble with. That is not to say I should not hold myself responsible for things I commit to. Rather, it is that if something I am trying is not working, I try something else, instead of continuing to try the same thing and hope for different results each time. Alternatively I will take a break and come back when I am not hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. or  I will accept that, whatever the consequences, this is where I am. That does not have to be a catastrophe. In all likelihood, it really is not a catastrophe. The only place it is a catastrophe is in my head. What a waste of my energy.
  • I learned to think of things I am grateful for in the moments where I needed to be reminded of them most. Even if they were two to three items long, I would think of them to take my mind off the thing that I am obsessing over. A bite-sized, gratitude list to-go. I use this as another route to the al-anon pause.
  • I learned to write down resentments “live” as they were bothering me, instead of saving them up like coins in a piggy bank.

When is a slow recovery actually stagnation? What are the signs that this is happening?

Here are some guesses:

  • If I don’t prioritize my Step work.
  • Or on the flip side, when the Step work feels like a chore and is forced.
  • If I am not in touch with my sponsor much.
  • If I attend meetings but allow my mind to wander and think about other things I could be doing.
  • If I make excuses not to attend meetings.
  • If I do not read literature for long stretches.
  • If I do not learn from my slips and instead settle back into old patterns even if I see that they do me harm.
  • If I get complacent about recovery in general.

Readings and Links

We read from One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, October 6, and May 21.

A listener spoke of the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, which she says helped her to understand the effects of generational trauma.

She also recommended the podcast Parent to Parent, from the Caron Institute.

Upcoming topics

We will be recording an episode on the saying “If I'm not the problem, there is no solution.” Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.

Music from the Show

Simon & Garfunkel – The 59th Street Bridge Song
Kacey Musgraves – Slow Burn
Brian Eno – Unfamiliar Wind

1 comment on “Slow Recovery – 345

  1. Dinelia says:

    Thank you so much for this episode. I’m an ACoA but I like to listen to this podcast that my sponsor recommended. I’m currently working on my step 4 and I needed to hear this. It has taken me 6 months to really get in the flow of working it consistently and getting clear about what I’m doing in this step. It will probably take me a year or more to finish working it. Thanks for mentioning how long you’ve been working your step. Now, I don’t feel alone and can see that others have had the patience to keep working at it even when it feels so slow.

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