Introducing the Recovery Zones
Imagine you’ve got three friends in recovery.
FRIEND #1. Your first friend is a mature monk of a soul, serene and all-knowing, and she’s been in recovery for 8 years. She issues amazing advice, and people come from across the world to hear her forecasts. She’s also town mayor, athlete, and plastic surgeon. She’s the picture of perfection. Okay, far from perfect, and sometimes her advice is off, but she’s a cool friend to have.
FRIEND #2. The second is a bright-eyed fellow with 3 years of sobriety; he isn’t all-knowing, but he’s alive and fresh and fascinated, and he’s learning how to live. Coping skills, relationships, career, living independently, raising children… it’s all in the works. He’s studying political something-or-the-other at college and plays on the sports team. He’s not a doctor, but he’d like to act one on TV. He’s also developing his sense of humor. He’s the picture of potential.
FRIEND #3. The third friend has been clean for 3 days, 4 weeks, or 6 months. Like anyone in early recovery, daily life means choosing not to relapse… and that’s about it. Brain is foggy, emotions are raw, coping skills are nil, isolation and boredom are rampant, the past dangerous, the future unknown and scary, and hell… it’s tough. On some days they’re the picture of suffering and endurance. Okay, sometime life seems easy, too easy, and that’s when this friend tends to relapse.
Each Recovery Zone is Different
All three friends want to tweak their recovery, and they’re looking to you for advice. “What do we need to grow? What kinds of questions should we be asking ourselves?” Apart from being baffled (how dare they bother me and my recovery!), what do you say?
Would you give them all the same advice? “Stay clean and prosper?” Probably not. Each person is in a different zone in their recovery, and prospering means different things to different people. People change. Needs change. But what are the different needs?
Not sure? No worries. The best way to understand the zones of recovery is to understand your own zone. To identify your personal needs (and zone-related questions), take this handy-dandy quiz and we’ll talk you through it.
Hmmm… a Recovery Quiz
Choose one answer for every statement or question.
1. You had a fight with your best friend. It’s your fault, but your friend over-reacted. You feel hurt and angry. What is the first thing you do?
a. Oh wow. You so want to use.
b. Oh wow. You so want to learn how to deal with people better. But you don’t apologize since you aren’t sure how to bring it up.
c. Oh wow. You apologize to your best friend and try to make it up to them again. You’ve learned over the years that friendship is precious.
d. Oh wow. You never feel “hurt and angry,” never experience negative emotions, never have arguments, and you never apologize. Ever.
2. Your cousin just gave up heroin. What do you do?
a. You guide your cousin to the right resources and remind them it gets better, but you know better than get too involved.
b. Frankly, you yourself are overwhelmed with quitting. It’s been a rough ride. But maybe you help them anyway – and you both relapse.
c. You help your cousin by taking responsibility for their actions. After all, you control everything. You can fix anybody. You’re that good.
d. You feel strongly about recovery, have sponsored many people over the years, and offer to help your cousin, if you feel you can be objective enough.
3. There’s a family reunion coming up where liquor will be served. You want to go. You’re also an alcoholic in recovery. What do you do?
a. You know you can’t go. You can’t be around alcohol. The mere sight of the stuff is dangerous, and you can’t rely on will power.
b. The sight of alcohol isn’t a trigger for you anymore. After all, you been sober for years. You make it clear to your family ahead of time that you don’t want booze then have fun at the reunion.
c. You probably could go. You’ve been exposed to alcohol half a dozen times and maintained sobriety. But you decide to pass, since it might still be too tempting. Recovery is precious.
d. What’s the big deal? You don’t have to think about it. Regardless of how long you’ve been in recovery, the rule is simple: Don’t want alcohol, don’t drink. Period.
4. You lost your bag, which means you’ve lost everything: your laptop, wallet, latest paycheck, diamond rings, pet hamster, even those pictures you don’t want anyone to see. What would you do?
a. You’d be really upset and maybe have a nervous breakdown, maybe not. But you wouldn’t use drugs or alcohol. You would probably call your sponsor.
b. You’d be upset, sure, but you’d put the emotion aside as best possible and trace your steps, looking for your bag methodically. It didn’t grow legs and walk away, right?
c. You’re super amazing and would never lose anything. This question doesn’t apply to you.
d. Holy moly, you’d be tempted to take something to calm yourself down.
5. In general, how is life?
a. Healthy and content. Sure, you’ve got problems, but you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Your relationships are healed and growing. You’re at peace with the past. You’re using your own experiences to make life better for others.
b. Crazy. Shambles. Drugs and alcohol messed things up, and you’re dealing with the aftermath. Work is either non-existent or extremely difficult. Your family aren’t talking to you. Your health isn’t good. Even your dog is mad at you.
c. Okay. You’re repairing relationships with your partner, family, and friends. You’re exploring new ways to enjoy life sober. You’re oh-so-slowly building a life.
d. Astoundingly pleasing. You’re one with the gods.
6. You have an appointment with your family doctor. What do they see?
a. You’re a picture of perfection, a shining example of humanity. The doctor simply adores you. Everyone adores you.
b. Something about you is off: history, physical exam, labwork. There are signs you’ve used in the past few months. Even though you’re clean, the doctor is concerned and talks about consequences of chronic drug use.
c. Apart from things that are out of your control, your health is generally stable. You’re working hard at staying healthy, except for the occasional chocolate. No signs of drugs for years.
d. You aren’t looking after your body 100%, but you’ve been clean and sober for a year or two now. The doctor tells you to focus on making good health decisions. You need to learn about nutrition, find ways to exercise, and de-stress in healthy ways.
7. Just to confirm, which one sounds most like you?
a. Oh, you’ve not used for years. Life might throw the occasional punch, but you’re able to duck most of the time. You’ve built your world around a stable recovery and enjoy each new day. And yes, you like to help others.
b. You’ve not used for one year, four months, and 23 days. You’re still sensitive to some triggers, but you’re picking up the broken pieces and putting your life back together again.
c. You’ve quit a thousand times before, and you’re good at it. In fact, you just quit again 3 months (or weeks, days, hours, seconds) ago. Now… to stay clean another 3 months.
d. Who cares how long you’ve been clean? This is a ridiculous quiz, and you don’t have to answer. In fact, you’re going to write your own quiz, something far better than this one. Become famous. Make millions. So there!
Score for Recovery Quiz
You’ve earned 0, 1, 2, or 3 points per question, depending on your answer. Use the chart below to tally your points, then move onto the interpretation below.
|1.||A 1||B 2||C 3||D 0|
|2.||A 2||B 1||C 0||D 3|
|3.||A 1||B 3||C 2||D 0|
|4.||A 2||B 3||C 0||D 1|
|5.||A 3||B 1||C 2||D 0|
|6.||A 0||B 1||C 3||D 2|
|7.||A 3||B 2||C 1||D 0|
Interpretation of Recovery Quiz
While this quiz isn’t foolproof, your total points correlate with your recovery and needs. The higher your number, the further you’ve progressed.
0-6 POINTS. NO ZONE.
You triggered the “fake news” category. This means you cheated, took the easy way out, or claimed perfection in an unhealthy way. Please retake the quiz and choose different answers.
7-11 POINTS. THE QUIT ZONE.
Bravo, you’ve quit! You’re at the very beginning of recovery. Recommendations at “THE QUIT ZONE” are about survival.
- Get treatment, attend 12-step meetings, avoid triggers, and manage cravings wisely – whatever it takes to stay clean.
- You’ll do best with a structured environment, so keep yourself busy.
- Remember it’s almost impossible to stay quit without help. Surround yourself with people who understand you.
- Give yourself at least a year, maybe more, before taking on big decisions and plans.
- Focus on the now. Find peace in the moment.
Questions to ask yourself: “Why quit drugs?” “How far am I willing to go to stick with recovery?” “What kind of treatment and support do I need?” “What can I do to keep myself going?” “Who can I call during rough moments?”
12-16 POINTS. I GOT TIME UNDER MY BELT ZONE.
Bravo, you’ve got some clean time, maybe a year or two or three. The fog has lifted. You’re still figuring out how to deal with intense emotion and stress and the future is uncertain, but you’re making friends, making plans, and rebuilding your life. You have a sober new identity, a clean slate, so take advantage of it! Recommendations at this stage:
- Pursue your goals. Apply to school, look for that dream job, write that book, learn how to play that instrument, lose that weight…
- Continue to be watchful of triggers and cravings. Check in with yourself often.
- Continue to attend 12-step meetings.
- Work on self-esteem. Focus on growth.
Questions to ask yourself: “Am I ready to rebuild my life?” “What are my goals? What would make me feel complete? How do I do that?” “How can I enjoy life without drugs and alcohol?”
17-21 POINTS. I’M IN THE ZONE ZONE.
Bravo, you’ve been clean for years! The infamous green zone! Recommendations at this zone:
- Keep doing what you’re doing! You’ve rebuilt your life: relationships, career, finances, recreation, it’s all happening around you. You have problems, sure, but you handle them wisely and reach out for help when you need it. You know yourself well. You are a leader, helping others when they want help. You also understand humility and don’t force your beliefs onto others. You’re able to move on without forgetting your old life.
- Explore spirituality, meaning, and growth.
- Seek to understand yourself.
- Be present and available to family and friends.
Questions to ask yourself: “What am I doing right?” “How can I better take care of myself?” “What do others have to teach me?” “How can I make the world a better place?”
Life isn’t black and white. You might find that you belong to more than one zone, or none, or you may see things completely different. How do you see the different milestones in recovery? How do needs and questions change? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks, and until next time!