Measuring Progress In Recovery

This past week, I read a very interesting thought that someone had regarding the subject of progress. Here’s what they said:

“I wish progress was a straight line. It seems so simple: work hard and see tangible progress as a result. But, as we have all learned at some point in our lives, progress is a line that is so far from straight, it even doubles back on itself sometimes.” (Faith Simmons @thesunalsoreads on Instagram)

I have to admit, each time I read that statement this week, I had to laugh because of the sheer truth behind it. That’s just how progress is. It’s rarely something that’s easy to see, something black and white, something we can even put our hands on. Especially as it relates to progress in recovery. I would even suggest that the greatest “progress” we could ever make in our recovery journeys is completely unseen.

In one of my weekly group meetings I lead, I asked the guys in the group what they would consider to be progress in their own lives. There were many different responses and they were all great. Because you see progress looks different for every person. For one person it may be the goal of getting rid of pornography from their lives, killing the habit of masturbation, & fantasizing sexually about other people. For another it could include all of that, but maybe go a bit deeper: The transformation of deep-rooted pain in their hearts. Or what about the way they view other women or men in their lives?

The reality is that progress can only truly be defined by you. So is there really a way to quantify progress? How do you measure progress? I think you would have to ask each and every person for their own definition. As for me, when I look back at the last 13 years of my life, I can truthfully say I’ve made a TON of progress in terms of becoming free of pornography and the way it controlled by life. I no longer look at porn or struggle with masturbation and lust anymore. But there is still an immense about of progress taking place inside of me. Here’s what I’m still learning:

  • How to deal with stress in a healthy way
  • Combatting fear & anxiety with joy & peace
  • Loving others unconditionally

To name JUST a few. There are many, many more things that are very much still in process. I’ve often shared with men I work with how quitting pornography really isn’t that hard. Any man can do it really. But what is hard is digging below the surface. Excavating the deep places within the heart where pain, trauma, and the really hard stuff lives. If we can just get to that stuff, then we’ll really begin to make progress.

Specific to recovery, what are some reasons we are perhaps not seeing as much progress as we would like in our life? I think there could be many reasons for this, but here are just a couple:

First, the fundamentals aren’t in place. What does that mean? There are specific things every man or woman in recovery needs in order to see long-lasting freedom and healing for their life. Take community for example. How can someone grow in isolation? For me (and every man I know), isolation is a prison. We need to be meeting with and around people who will care for our hearts and ask us the tough questions. Community is a fundamental for success in recovery. As is honesty, accountability, transparency, and vulnerability.

Secondly is the failure to celebrate victories of all sizes. So many men I’ve worked with love to keep a track of their sobriety. And for all the right reasons. But when there is a slip or some kind of setback, there is disappointment. The reality is that slips are going to happen. We can’t escape that. But what about all the ways your mind and heart are changing and transforming? You’re literally building new neural pathways in your brain as you seek what is healthy. Even our slips can be opportunities for growth if we allow them to be.

One last note: I think there is a misperception that progress means perfection. That in order to advance means that there’s no room to be left for mistakes along the way. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Some of the greatest progress in my life came through the bumps and bruises in recovery. The moments where I should have gone left and I went right. The times I didn’t tell the whole truth when I should have. Or tried to hide something when I should have just come clean. These are all seemingly negative things and nothing to be proud of and yet there are huge opportunities for growth in these moments.

One day progress may feel like you’re taking five steps forward. Then, the next day you’re taking six steps backward. Take heart! It’s all apart of the learning process. Don’t give up!

One of the greatest ways you can build some great momentum in your recovery is by joining Small Groups Online! SGO makes it incredibly easy to become apart of a healthy community of men or women who share similar struggles as you. Through a weekly Zoom meeting at a time that is convenient for you, you will receive encouragement and support for the journey that you’re on.

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