The Matrix of Connectedness
The Matrix of Connectedness was born out of a Positive Psychology perspective, which examined the factors that enable people to live lives that are happy and fulfilling. The answer is that we humans are at our best when we have numerous connections or close meaningful relationships with the world around us. This idea is consistent with the Buddhist view of reality as being held together by many threads intertwining all beings and the Feminist Relational analysis that stresses the importance of relationships in our lives.
This matrix encompasses six basic levels of our being. These include the physical, psychological/emotional, relational, community, eco-spiritual and spiritual. The more extensive our connections are at each level, the more likely is it that our lives are meaningful, and as a result of that meaning, we experience happiness. On the other hand, events like trauma and active addiction can disrupt and even destroy our connections. If the person's matrix was in tatters when their substance use began, by the time addiction is full-blown, the remainder of that matrix has been destroyed.
The physical level of the matrix is based on our relationship to our bodies, our physical health and our sense of physical well-being. In active addiction, there is no connection to the body, as the substance-induced sensations overwhelm all other sensory experiences. Health-related activities such as proper nutrition, regular medical checkups and exercise are abandoned. In active addiction, the thought of maintaining physical health is irrelevant. Instead, the person frequently engages in behaviors that put their health at risk. This does not just include drug use itself, but such things as sharing needles and engaging in unsafe sex.
The Matrix is based on our relationship to our bodies, our physical health and our sense of physical well-being.
The same pattern occurs with relationship to our psychological/emotional being. More often that not, the excessive use of substances began with a desire to find relief from unpleasant mental experiences, including anxiety, depression and the intrusive consequences of trauma such as nightmares and flashbacks. In a person's drive to eliminate all unpleasant sensations, especially the guilt, shame, self-hatred and fear that living with an addiction creates, all emotions end up being suppressed. The rich array of emotions that define our humanity are lost and must be restored if strong and stable recovery is to be achieved.
Our close relationships with family, partners and close friends are usually the places where we experience and manifest the richest positive human emotions of love, caring and compassion. They are the primary opportunity for us to move out of our self-absorbed addicted way of being and engaging us in actively helping others. When these relationships are reciprocal, we are also able to receive the benefit of these same qualities from those we are close to. Active addictions and trauma frequently tear these relationships apart, leaving the newly recovering person far from those who would ordinarily provide their strongest support.
As our matrix expands out into the community, the opportunities to abandon a self-centered perspective and to become more active in service to others multiply. There are infinite ways in which a newly recovering person can accomplish this, starting with the simplest tasks, such as making coffee at a 12-step meeting. As the 12-step recovery programs have long recognized, our healing process is greatly aided when we give of ourselves to others. Recently, anthropologists have theorized that the great advantage our human ancestors had when competing for survival wasn't our tool-making ability, but instead it was the ability to form communities and live cooperatively. We are hardwired to live in community.
Connection with nature improves our mood and reduces our stress and anxiety.
Eco-spirituality recognizes the importance of having an intimate, meaningful relationship with the natural world. Numerous studies are showing that regular connection with nature improves our mood and reduces our stress and anxiety. This is resulting in the growing popularity of "forest bathing", a practice that began in Japan. If we are able to truly connect deeply with nature, there is a profound consequence. Rather than being alienated, frightened and alone, we begin to feel truly at home in this world. In a relationship with nature, we are welcomed, held and comforted. This is a tremendous resource as we face life's trials and tribulations in a clean and sober manner.
The value of spirituality in recovery cannot be overestimated. Spirituality continues the process of welcoming us into a compassionate universe. Through spiritual practice, we are no longer lost or alienated, rather we come to find ourselves having come home. Spirituality takes many forms; some are theistic, others are non-theistic and embrace the natural world. Some speak of God, others of a Goddess and some speak of many gods. Regardless of the specific form, all spiritual pathways bring us closer to the universe and answer or resolve our great existential questions. They reveal to us the essential nature and meaning of our humanity. They give us a path to follow amidst life's challenges and trials.
When a newly recovering person stops using substances, the true work of recovery - the work of building and restoring the Matrix of Connectedness - has just begun. Stable recovery occurs when this restoration process becomes an integral part of one’s life.