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Being on Time: The Beginning to Recovery

I believe that knowledge is helpful and empowering. Because of this, I talk to patients about how tardiness, lack of punctuality, is an early form of addictive behavior.

In other words, it is mood altering by following one’s own rules instead of life’s rules. In the addicted brain, this self-directed processing of life’s events is learned early around age five, and by the time one has aged to adulthood, it has the “stamp of time” approval. So, if one is serious about curbing mood altering behavior and lifestyle, one must change all of one’s inappropriate behaviors, not just substance abuse-related ones. This would include learning punctuality as well as accountability.

The foundation of community cooperation is mutually agreed upon values and rules of conduct. Here at Talbott (Talbott Recovery Campus) we agree to meet together at appointed times to do various activities. Those of us on staff meet each morning to plan the day and discuss our priorities for directing our energy. Those who are patients gather together each morning to strengthen a spiritual connection to a Higher Power.

We then meet together to practice tools of recovery and communication in our Process Groups, and then we address the protocol of learning the Twelve Steps step by step in Step Study. We join together midday to break bread together. This is for nourishment, enrichment, and fun. We move on in the schedule to join in our Community Groups to look at the day-to-day issues of living together. We then go to additional groups or outside activities, which include shopping, recreation, and relaxation. Dinnertime provides communal time for more sharing, eating, and healthy laughter. Evenings offer space for attending the important Twelve Step recovery meetings, and then the day concludes with a “Ten at Ten” ritual to review the events of the day both high and low, good and bad, and to make decisions to improve ourselves and our efforts in life. Ending with a prayer increases inner comfort and serenity allowing for a better chance for a good night’s  sleep.

Given this full day of activity, learning, and spiritual growth, it becomes clear to see that the frequent gatherings of individuals throughout the day require mutual presence and participation. Distractions of sight and sound interfere with the success potential of these proceedings. Bodies coming in and out of the doors, late arrivals and lengthy explanations, embarrassed smiles and/or less than honest excuses do not enhance the purpose but can most realistically impede it. An ultimate chaos resembling that of a rain soaked ant farm ensues with tolerance for individual agendas of limited punctuality and accountability.

To learn to live life on life’s terms, the addicted brain needs help in the form of training much like a self taught golfer needs his swing assessed and adjusted in order to perfect his game. Then he has to practice (and practice) the new swing until it begins to feel like his own. This is how addiction treatment accomplishes its task and goal-to allow the afflicted individual to process life’s experiences on a mutual footing with others in a manner which then permits him or her to fulfill a potential to maximize health, accomplishment, and personal satisfaction.

It all starts with showing up on time and being accountable to others. Try it and you will see for yourself. If you need help, just ask.

– by Alan Yorker

Alan Yorker, MA, LMFT, is a case manager at Talbott Recovery Campus in Atlanta. Georgia. This article first appeared in the Holiday 2007 edition of the Talbott Times and is reprinted with permission from the author.

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