What Does It Mean To Grow by Mack Garland, LCSW

14801522_sWhat does it mean to grow? How many of us have heard from partners, parents, friends and coworker “grow up”? Can engaging in psychotherapy and/or recovery give us tools to help us “grow up”? Google defines grow as

“(of a living thing) undergo natural development by increasing in size and changing physically; progress to maturity.”

What does this mean for us, most of us are physically mature and chronologically grown, but is some way we may be immature in our personality, decision-making and how we engage in relationships. If you attend enough 12-step meetings one hears “we stopped maturing when we took our first drink (or engaged in any addictive behavior). In some fundamental way the addiction robbed us of the ability to mature emotionally, make mature decisions; it “trapped us” emotional as if we were a child or adolescent.

What does it mean then to “grow up”? What is expected of people making mature decisions and interacting with our environment in positive, rational ways?
Being mature means learning from our mistakes and having the ability to modify our behavior appropriately. We learn and move on, we do not live in the past or project into the future. Being mature means learning to forgive our self and others for past mistakes without resentment. Being mature does not mean we cease making mistakes, but that we react to our mistakes without engaging in our addiction.

Maturity also means we have a realistic view of our strengths and weaknesses. We know where we excel and where we have challenges. No one is “all good” or “all bad”, but a blending of positive and negative traits. The mature person bends into her/his strengths and works to develop areas that are a problem.

As you can imagine, there are many more examples of maturity. No one person is mature in all aspects of his/her life. The point of recovery and psychotherapy is to help an addict learn in a safe environment new, more mature, ways to cope with stress, disappointment, anger, fear and a whole host of other emotions without relying on a substance or negative behavior to cope. In recovery, as in psychotherapy, one uses the safe environment of the “rooms” to practice new coping skills, learn different way to respond to life’s challenges and accelerate the maturing process that was hijacked as an adolescent by the substance.

Elana Clark-Faler
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