The CHOICE Recovery Model is more than a treatment plan, it’s a philosophy; it’s more than a strategy for grudgingly stopping compulsive behaviours, but a roadmap to establish confident recovery and a new way of life. The CHOICE stages of recovery are:-
C - Challenge core beliefs
There are only two reasons why human beings ever change. Either the pain of staying the same is so great that they have to change, or they have a vision of something better. Change is a ‘choice’, but before you can make that choice you have to root out any faulty core beliefs and thinking patterns that might block change. There are many different core beliefs that block recovery, but broadly speaking, they all fall under three headings; ‘I don’t need to change’, ‘I don’t want to change’ and ‘I can’t change’. It’s unlikely that you fall under the first heading, but you may not be fully aware of the extent of change that is required when we give up an addiction.
Undoubtedly the biggest block to change comes from the faulty core beliefs that leave us feeling shame, such as believing that you’re fundamentally a bad person or defective in some way. Shame thrives in secrecy and it often not until shame is brought into the light that it can be truly dealt with. Many people with addiction are not initially aware of their damaging core beliefs because the addiction has successfully anaesthetised it, but as the anaesthetic wears off in recovery, it will become more and more apparent and the need for fundamental change will be recognised.
H – Have a vision
There are two ways of looking at addiction recovery, either you can see it as giving something up, or you can see it as starting something new. Both are of course true and it’s choice whether to focus on the losses or the gains; to look at the past or the future. Committing to recovery requires changing negative core beliefs and developing a vision of a new, happier future; a future that is free of shame and offers fulfilment. Inevitably there will be a mourning period for what has been lost, but as long as there is true hope for the future, the loss process can be made bearable. To secure recovery, you need to have a vision for life that will replace the addiction and provide motivation for change, even when recovery feels tough. And for those in relationships, that vision has to be viable whether the relationship survives or not.
Another key element of building a vision of the future is that it is based on a secure personal value system. Addiction robs people of their values as they see themselves behaving in ways that are against what they hold dear. Re-establishing values gives a sense of meaning and purpose in life that can cement a commitment to recovery and a life without addition.
O – Overcome compulsive behaviours
It may seem strange that this is not the first step in recovery, but in my experience many people with addiction struggle to stop acting out until they’ve confronted any self-limiting core beliefs and have found a motivation for change. For those in couple relationships, saving the relationship is a core driver for recovery, but partners need to know that the addicted partner wants to recover for themselves, not just to save the relationship. What’s more, partners need to be confident that recovery is now recognised as a positive choice, not something that has been reluctantly undertaken because they’ve been caught.
In order to overcome compulsive behaviours it's essential that each person understands their individual cycle of addiction and the unique factors that keep them trapped in their behaviour. Once the cycle is recognized it can be personalised and strategies can be developed for ending it.
I – Identify positive sexuality
Being in recovery means giving up addiction, not giving up sex, so identifying what positive, non-compulsive sexuality means is essential for long term success. Everyone in recovery needs to determine for themselves what positive sexuality means to them and what boundaries they need to put in place to ensure they can begin to enjoy their sexuality in a fulfilling and healthy way. It will take time for old habits to change, psychologically and physically, but I’m pleased to say that there are many hundreds of men and women in recovery who enjoy sex more now than they ever did during their addiction.
C – Connect with others
The irony of addictive behaviours is that they are so often used to ease the pain of loneliness and isolation, but they actually create more. The secrecy and shame of being dependent on porn, betraying a loved one, or only being able to have sex when drunk or high on drugs, results in avoiding intimacy rather than creating it and nurturing it. When we can connect with others and build relationships where our relational needs are met, not only can we feel supported in recovery, but we begin to heal the wounds that cause and maintain the addiction.
Connecting with others is equally important for those in couple relationships as it is for those who are single and includes building relationships with friends and extended family, not just with a partner. It’s not possible for any human being to meet all the needs of another, whether that’s recreational needs or emotional support. Furthermore it’s understandable that a partner may not be able to provide the understanding, empathy and encouragement required for recovery and hence being part of a recovery community is also a key element of overcoming the addiction.
E – Establish confident recovery
Recovery is not about what you ‘give up’, but what you ‘take up’ and establishing confident long-term recovery means developing strategies to avoid slips and relapses and creating a life where being in recovery is something to be enjoyed, rather than endured. Those strategies will include daily disciplines to strengthen recovery and avoid relapse and also healthy pursuits and pastimes. Some of those pastimes can be enjoyed as a couple, but it’s also important to find ways to enjoy quality alone time as well as building relationships with others.