Addiction and recovery can be a difficult topic to approach. In Part One of this series, we discussed the addiction cycle, and how it fits into an overall trauma-to-addiction system. If you missed it and would like to read it now, click here. In this blog post, we will discuss the recovery cycle and how it fits into the recovery system. The recovery cycle is the opposite of the addiction cycle, with each stage being an antidote for the correlated stage in the addiction cycle. This post will also outline some of the practical tools for getting from the addictive cycle to the recovery cycle and ways to prevent relapse. 

Just like the addictive system, the recovery system begins with identifying the beliefs a person in recovery has about him/herself. Unless otherwise stated, the information shared in this blog is from Facing the Shadow by Dr. Patrick Carnes (2015). Attached below is a visual of the Recovery System by Dr. Patrick Carnes. Below you will see a visual representation of IITAP’s eight-step Addictive System model. With healthy positive beliefs about oneself, he/she can move into empowered thinking (recovery) instead of moving into impaired thinking (addiction). Next, instead of beginning the addiction cycle, the recovering addict will have learned how to live in the renewal cycle (recovery). While the addiction cycle tends to cause a spiraling into feelings of shame, guilt, and hopeless despair, the renewal cycle oppositely engages a person in the experiences of focus, rituals, zone behavior, and reward which includes affirmation and integrity. At the end of the recovery system, the recovering addict will enter into a phase of resiliency. The best part about recovery is that he/she can learn at each phase practical options to make choices to get from the addiction to sobriety, recovery, and transformation. 

Relapse prevention involves the awareness of an addict’s common choices/behaviors within the addictive system, at which point he/she can come up with a plan to shift each choice/behavior next time toward the recovery system recommendations. The shifts, according to IITAP’s tools, are called barriers to relapse. Below is a visual representation of the barriers. An example is, with a balanced lifestyle, the recovering addict has the potential to stay in the recovery zone (the ball at the top of the hill). A recovering addict with the use of Dr. Carnes tools may utilize a recovery commitment or a personal craziness index if they notice they are in the obsession/preoccupation phase. 

If the recovering addict is noticing that he/she is heading into ritualization, using tools like reality check and reaching out to their support network may be helpful. The recovering addict is working on shifting from the preoccupation to the focus phase of the recovery system. The next relapse prevention tools include boundary checks, coping skills and recovery rituals. These help the recovering addict shift from the ritualization phase to the rituals of his/her recovery. Finally, shifting from sexual compulsion to the reward from the recovery system includes the sobriety statement, first aid kit, and relapse control. 

The most encouraging part of these models is that they are set up so that the recovering addict can shift in and out of the phases and has the tools to shift from the addictive system to the recovery system without having to relapse. With connection and true joy with others, our brains can learn new neural pathways that don’t need to rely on pseudo-joys to get through life


Carnes, P. (2015). Facing the shadow: Starting sexual and relationship recovery. Gentle Path Press. 

Resources for Addiction and Recovery:

Facing the Shadows 3rd Ed – by Patrick Carnes, PhD

Out of the Shadows – by Patrick Carnes, PhD

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation – by Dan Siegel, MD

The Magic – by Rhonda Byrne

Facing Heartbreak – by Patrick Carnes, PhD

Courageous Love – by Stefanie Carnes, PhD



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