This metaphor is for people in addiction treatment recovering from addiction. This addiction recovery metaphor is used in treatment or therapy for addiction clients who have had or might have relapses, and who think of their progress as an all or nothing thing. In addiction treatment, addicts often feel that anything less than total success is total failure. Black and white thinking is typical in substance addiction. This therapeutic story is a metaphor for addiction recovery that works by emphasizing that recovery from addition is a process, not an event.
The metaphor reframes a slip from recovery back to addictive behavior as being something that can be expected and accepted on the way to recovery, that slipping does not mean that you have failed, that you always have inner resources and can always pick up where you left off. The message for the addict is that even if you fail on the way to your goal, you get to keep what you have achieved so far, that you are not alone, and that you can ask others to help you. This addiction recovery metaphor is useful in addiction therapy.
When I was a student, I went out one winter's afternoon and I found that my old car wouldn't start. I had been up all night getting my thesis finished...the final part of my degree... I had spent so long on it.... In fact I had been working on it without sleep for days....I was exhausted. I had finished 365 pages and it was all tied up. I had to get it into the mail before my deadline. It was very important to me. If I didn't get it right this time....well I didn't know what would happen..... and so I reluctantly set out to walk to the Post Office ten blocks away. The weather was terrible, it was grey and miserable....there was slush on the roads and icy patches on the pavement. After all my hard work it was just so unfair to be held back like this.
I started to walk very very carefully at first... being very careful where I put my feet.... and then as I got going I got more confident.... I was in a hurry to get there...I began to pay less attention... and suddenly I found myself flat on my back... sore and bruised... I lay there winded.... and imagined everyone laughing at me.
I felt like giving up there and then, you know? Maybe my effort wasn't all that good anyway....I could have spent more time on it....I had no idea if it would be good enough....maybe I was kidding myself....maybe I wasn't going to pass anyway.... at that moment I don't know if I even wanted the degree.....I didn't know if it had been worth all that effort....Maybe I wasn't meant to pass.... the car, the sleep.... the snow....
But as I sat there feeling stupid and sore and disappointed and wondering what the point was, I saw myself reflected in a shop window. I saw myself sitting there in the snow and slush looking ridiculous. I looked so silly, I began to laugh. And the people passing by began to laugh with me... and two of them, total strangers, helped me up.
And they didn't know it, but inside I was still laughing. Because I had seen something else reflected in that shop window. I had caught a glimpse of how far I had come. I realised that compared to how far I had come, I had really only a tiny way to go. Just get to the Post Office and it was all over.
I had slipped and fallen quite badly... I had hurt myself....I had been laughed at....but I could laugh at myself. You can always laugh at yourself, can't you? Looking back at it,.... I had actually made a lot of progress along the road. Maybe I was unrealistic, maybe I was trying too hard....but I realised that when you slip, you never slip all the way back to the beginning. My fall was only an interruption.... I was still on my way to the Post Office. It was a slip, it wasn't the end of the journey, but it wasn't the beginning either. You get to keep what you have achieved so far, don't you?. The distance I had covered was still there, and all the progress I had made still counted. I could see where I was going.
So I rubbed my sore back, decided to pay more attention to bad patches in future and I went on.... bruised and embarrassed, but proud of what I had achieved... and knowing that I had learned something.... about myself... and about what I can do.