My Recovery: A Personal Plan for Healing


To get somewhere it is useful to know where you are going. This can be especially difficult for people struggling with issues of addiction, compulsion, physical or mental illness. In this simple yet effective three-part program, best-selling author Charles Whitfield helps readers chart their own treatment plan and find a way out of the often confusing vortex of recovery work. Through illustrative charts and graphics he shows readers how to write their own recovery plan, including how to identify core issues and ...

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To get somewhere it is useful to know where you are going. This can be especially difficult for people struggling with issues of addiction, compulsion, physical or mental illness. In this simple yet effective three-part program, best-selling author Charles Whitfield helps readers chart their own treatment plan and find a way out of the often confusing vortex of recovery work. Through illustrative charts and graphics he shows readers how to write their own recovery plan, including how to identify core issues and how to integrate those issues into a personalized plan.

Stage one helps readers identify the illness or condition that plagues them and explains how recovery truly is within reach of those who participate in a full recovery program.

Stage two explains how healing requires the reader to consider their adult child of trauma issues, such as co-dependence. It describes the way out of the pain and confusion-learning self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-responsibility and self-reflection.

Stage three addresses more keys to success including having a healthy and nourishing spirituality and learning to live in the present moment, no longer burdened by the past or fearing the future.

My Recovery Plan is an empowering book; it will give readers hope and instill the knowledge that they can, indeed, recover.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780757301209
  • Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/31/2003
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., is a physician and psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta. He is a nationally known speaker and author of The Truth About Depression, Memory and Abuse, Boundaries and Relationships, and the national best-sellers Healing the Child Within and A Gift to Myself.
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Read an Excerpt


This is a simple book.

It demystifies the process of healing.

It makes recovery easier by adding clarity, structure, and most important, it supports using your own personal power as a major recovery aid.

Do conventional treatments for illness work? For most acute diseases or conditions—from sore throats to broken bones—the answer is "yes."

But for most chronic diseases, the answer is that most conventional treatments don't work well. They are not always effective. A reason for this is that these standard treatments usually relieve only the symptoms. They don't address the actual or deeper causes. And they don't tend to use all of the various options or aids for recovery.

Most chronic illnesses are multidimensional in their origin and how they affect our lives. They have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual layers or aspects. To heal most successfully we need to address each of these dimensions, one by one, which I describe in some detail in this book.

I originally wrote these three recovery plan guides to help my own patients recover from addictions, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses. I have added the other explanatory chapters, most of which are previously unpublished, to supplement the original recovery guides. These are in the form of reader-friendly interviews.

Using the material in this book will likely help people with chronic illness heal faster. If they apply their personal goals and methods, and work their recovery plan with patience and persistence, it will make their healing flow with more clarity and success.

Charles L. Whitfield, M.D.
Atlanta, Georgia
August, 2003

Chapter 1

Introduction to the Stages of Recovery
An Interview with Charles L. Whitfield, M.D.
by Barbara Whitfield, R.T., C.M.T

In this chapter, Barbara Whitfield interviews Charles Whitfield about the origins of his ideas and work using these recovery plans. Dr. Whitfield shows how doing so can be personally empowering, and then discusses the role of using spirituality in the process of healing.


Barbara Whitfield: Even today, books on conventional medicine, psychiatry and psychology don't mention stages of recovery from any illness or problem. How did you discover these stages? And how useful are they?

Charles Whitfield: I came upon them when I watched, over time, how my patients recovered. I discovered them slowly, over a twelve-year span from about 1973 through 1985. At first I observed people with alcoholism and other drug dependence as they were recovering. I noticed a number of things about them, including how effective early intervention and treatment could be, but at the same time, how commonly they relapsed. Many could stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol for a long time, only to relapse months or years later. I asked myself, "Why?"

Most of their relapses usually turned out to be due to a low participation in a recovery program, or to their unhealed painful effects of trauma—or both. I began to see how this early struggle for a successful abstinence from alcohol and other drugs was only the beginning of healing for many of them.

In the mid 1980s, I saw that identifying and expressing their pain that was left over from childhood and later trauma helped a lot of these people. It freed them from most of their stored toxic energy enough so that their relapses lessened or stopped, and they started to feel and function better. So here were the first two of the stages of recovery, Stages One and Two, unfolding in my patients. These included getting an early recovery started and stabilized (Stage One), and then if they chose, working at a deeper level of healing on the almost universal finding of having bothersome effects of childhood and other trauma (Stage Two).

Q: Did these observations change the way you practiced as a physician?

A: Yes, they did. Because I saw that this stage-oriented approach worked well for many of my patients, I told others about using this kind of approach as an option among their healing choices, too. And among those who used it, most of them got better. So this approach in stages was and continues to be empowering. It gives the individual more personal power. It also names and breaks down the various parts of the recovery process, so that it is not so imposing or overwhelming.

The first stage was to stabilize their illness, in these earlier cases, alcoholism or other chemical dependence. Then, if they had a history of childhood trauma—which it turns out most of them did—and if they wanted to heal from the effects of that trauma, they could do some deeper healing work around that.

This sequence was not new. Some clinicians had used it already, even though it was not clearly described in the clinical textbooks or journals. But what I did that was new was to refine and describe the structure of the core issues and the recovery tasks within each of these two stages. I then wrote it all out in a reader-friendly format so that my patients would have a clearer way to see and understand their recovery tasks and process.

Personal Power

Q: Did you do anything else that was different?

A: I did. One thing that I've always found most helpful with patients is to involve them as much as possible in the process of planning their treatment. I knew that using a formal treatment plan and process was a state requirement for any licensed addiction treatment facility. But it was the clinician who had to write the treatment plan, not the patient. I thought that took away some of the patient's personal power and made it less likely for the patient to own it and follow its actions.

So I simply added a clear explanation of how to write one's own recovery plan. This used the same format as formal treatment planning, which I had simplified for them in these guides. I added that to the reader-friendly educational material that I had already outlined in writing for them. I've refined it over the years, and that time-tested and proven version for each of the recovery stages is what the reader now has in this book. Using such an individualized recovery plan is empowering for people. It gives them more personal power and motivation for their recovery.

Q: How about core recovery issues? Does addressing them help?

A: It does. Core recovery issues help in all three of these stages. I list and discuss them in each of the guidelines. Naming and then working through each of them as they come up for us gives us a great healing advantage. Doing that gives us still more personal power.


Q: We know that spirituality is an important component in recovery from addiction It helps the whole process work better. How did you incorporate it into all this as a third stage, i.e., as Stage Three?

A: By the late 1980s, I had written the first draft of My Recovery Plan for Stages One and Two. I had also already been talking about spirituality regularly with my patients. We knew that there was really not a separate stage that separated spirituality from the first two stages. Spirituality was important and useful all the way—throughout the entire recovery process.

But I noticed that many of my patients had a hard time with the spiritual stuff. For various reasons, a lot of them had been hurt by some of their experiences with organized religion. That, combined with their having been abused by their parents and sometimes their teachers, had often left them with a big issue of not being able to trust authority figures. It is no wonder that they then had a hard time knowing and trusting perhaps our ultimate authority—God.

I also saw that a lot of my patients did eventually find a nourishing spirituality with and from their Higher Power or God, after they were well progressed in their Stage Two work. I believe that the main reason for this is because by that time in their recovery they knew their real self, which I also call the "Child Within." By knowing their Child Within they were free to experientially connect to God more easily. Our false self can't know God authentically.

After finishing this Stage Two work, more of them had a kind of hunger for the spiritual. They wanted more spiritual nourishment. Because of this, I wrote out a third and final component of My Recovery and called it "Stage Three." I did that even though I knew that the whole journey was and is spiritual. Even in Stage Zero, when we have not yet started recovery, we are still spiritual seekers, although we may not know that yet, as Carl Jung implied when he wrote to AA co-founder Bill Wilson in the 1930s.

On our life's journey, we are in one way or another asking ourselves those perennial questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? and Where am I going? A related question is How can I get any peace?

Q: With the importance and usefulness of AA in Stage One work, how do AA's Twelve Steps fit into this whole process?

A: They are clearly useful from the start. And they continue to be psychologically and spiritually nourishing throughout recovery Stages One and Two. So they fit in appropriately and practically. That is why I have included and emphasized them in the structure of these first two Stage plans in this book. Because of their importance, I have also included the entire transcript of the interview that we did on the Twelve Steps in this book, as well (see chapters 5 through 9, starting on page 65).

Q: What about Stage Two recovery? How does it fit in here? Can you say more about that?

A: Yes. Stage Two fits in as a crucial part of the whole process of recovery. I also include an interview that I did with Dr. Lorna Hecker, in which I describe some of the important features of Stage Two recovery work, in chapter 3 (starting on page 29).

Q: Which chapter is the most important for readers to look at first? Should they start with a particular one of these three interviews? Or should they read the material in each recovery plan first?

A: I don't think it matters where a person starts. Reading any one of these first prepares us for reading another. I do recommend that people focus on the section that addresses their particular sequence in their own recovery, right now. For example, if you are just beginning recovery from any illness now, then I suggest that you focus your reading on the Stage One material. If you have finished most of your Stage One work—i.e., your original illness or problem is well stabilized for at least a few months, or preferably a year or more (unless you've been relapsing)—then you might consider looking at the Stage Two material. The questions and answers on the Twelve Steps (chapters 5 through 9) can be read almost anytime during any of the recovery stages.

Q: What about using this stage-oriented approach to healing from other illnesses? Are addictions the only ones for which they are useful?

A: After using them with patients—who had various problems and illnesses—for more than fifteen years now, I believe that these stages are mostly generic in their application. They are useful in healing from depression, anxiety problems and most of the other psychological disorders. They can also be useful in helping to heal from some physical illness, if childhood trauma is in the history and/or if the person is a spiritual seeker.

Q: So if someone has migraine headaches and is being treated by a physician in a Stage One fashion, Stage Two work could address the pain on a deeper level if there is a history of trauma. Is that right?

A: Yes. I also describe some of the documented links between physical illness and childhood trauma in The Truth about Mental Illness.

¬2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from My Recovery by Charles Whitfield. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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Table of Contents

Statement of Intent ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii
1. Introduction to the Stages of Recovery 1
Origins 1
Personal Power 3
Spirituality 4
2. My Recovery Plan for Stage One Recovery: Basic Healing from Addictions, Compulsions and Other Disorders 9
Getting Started 9
Naming Any Conditions 10
Recovery 12
The Recovery Plan for Stage One 14
Core Recovery Issues for Stage One 18
Integrating Core Issues into Your Recovery Plan 19
Developing a Stable and Solid Recovery 24
Relapse 24
Stage Two Recovery 25
Stage Three Recovery 26
3. Introduction to Stage Two Recovery 29
4. My Plan for Stage Two Recovery 43
Getting Started 43
Review of Recovery 44
Stage 044
Stage 145
Stage 245
Stage 346
Creating My Recovery Plan 47
Core Issues 48
What Do I Want to Happen? 52
Some Overall Recovery Goals 53
Long-Term Recovery Goals for Adult Children of Trauma 54
Reaching These Goals 55
Possible Recovery Aids 56
Progressing in Recovery 58
Revising and Updating My Recovery Plan 59
Completion of an Active Full Recovery Program 60
Stage Three Recovery 60
5. An Introduction to Recovery and Spirituality 65
Defining Addiction 65
The Role of Trauma 66
Spirituality 68
The Search for Self and God 69
6. The Twelve Steps 73
The First Step 73
The Second Step 76
The Third Step 77
The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Other Self-Help Fellowships 80
7. The Fourth and Fifth Steps 81
Relationship to Core Issues 82
The Spiritual Bypass 85
8. The Sixth and Seventh Steps 89
9. The Eighth and Ninth Steps 93
10. The Tenth and Eleventh Steps 97
The Meaning of God's Will 100
11. The Twelfth Step 103
Preventing Relapse 105
A Course in Miracles 105
More Than Our Body 107
12. Stage Three Recovery: Spirituality 111
Review of Recovery 111
Stage 0112
Stage 1112
Stage 2113
Stage 3114
Blocks to Realizing Spirituality and Serenity 114
The Spiritual Bypass 119
Who Am I? 120
Spiritual Practice 122
Meditating 123
I Am 124
Praying 125
Reading and Contemplating Spiritual Literature 126
Our Observer Self 127
Realizing Serenity 130
Some Possible Paths to Serenity 130
The Core of Our Being Is Love 135
Beginning My Recovery Plan 138
The Recovery Plan for Stage Three 140
Core Issues in Spirituality 142
Co-Creating Our Life 142
The Process of Co-Creation 144
Name the Feeling, Dynamic or Issue 144
Experience My Inner Life 145
Work Through the Pain 146
Reconcile Opposites and Conflicts 146
Any Remaining Pain 147
Turn It Over and Let It Go 147
Choose Love 148
I Need Do Nothing 148
The Fear of Transcendence and Love 149
Ego Inflation 149
To Enjoy Feeling Good 151
Spirituality Self-Assessment Survey 152
References 157
About the Author 162
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