The 3 Necessary Phases to Find Lasting Recovery

Sign up for our newsletter

Receive new CIR blog articles in your inbox


In his book Change or Die, Alan Deutschman details the three phases required to undergo lasting change in our lives: relate, repeat, and reframe. This is also what we do to find healing and freedom in recovery. We relate to others by joining a recovery community that offers encouragement and hope. We repeat by working and re-working the Twelve Steps with our sponsor and others and regularly partaking in the sacraments. And we reframe by uncovering a new perspective on reality, shifting our thinking in ways that allow us to take responsibility for our lives and see things through the lens of grace.

Deutschman makes it clear that these three steps are much better than relying on facts, fear, and force to propel lasting and meaningful change. Many of us have tried to change our lives and find freedom from our addictions and/or unhealthy attachments through those things but we know only too well how insufficient they are. It isn’t until we are willing to admit that we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable that we can begin the process of relating, repeating, and reframing to find recovery and healing in Christ.

Relate: Form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.

This is what we do when we enter the walls of recovery in humility to find strength and hope in others’ witness of recovery and healing. This is also what we do when we come together for Catholic in Recovery meetings to read Scripture and share about our struggles and joys in light of Christ’s love. 

Of course, we cannot relate to only ourselves. This is why the white-knuckle approach of not partaking in our addictive substance or behavior of choice is not enough for real lasting change—we need to relate to others who are on the same path as us toward healing and freedom. As we often say in recovery, we need to “stay within the herd” to find lasting sobriety and healing.  

Repeat: Utilize this new relationship to learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that we’ll need.

Recovery requires repetition. We attend meetings day after day, connect with our sponsor and others regularly, conduct personal moral inventories again and again, and seek daily to deepen our relationship with God. Recovery, just like our sacramental life in the Church, requires a continued and repeated commitment to living the way Christ wants us to live—free from addictions, unhealthy attachments, and sin.

But this is a different type of repetition. Before, we repeated our addictive behaviors, living out a pattern of insanity that only led to destruction and suffering. Now, we repeat a pattern of grace, healing, and love. We repeatedly share our hope and strength with others in recovery, admit our faults, pray, attend Mass, adore the Eucharist, encounter mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and more. The more we practice the habits of humility, prayer, and service, the more we’re able to let grace flow through us and toward others. 

Reframe: Learn new ways of thinking about our situations and lives by means of this new relationship.

The ultimate “new relationship” we strive for in recovery is the one with God, which allows us to see life through a grace-centered lens as opposed to self-focused ones. We “reframe” our view of the world through God’s grace. By being with others who are also journeying with Christ, frequenting the sacraments like Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and maintaining regular conscious contact with God, we come to see the world and our place in it in a new way. We no longer see that it’s the world and other people who are “the problem,” which often led to our tendency to try and control situations and people or to avoid them through our addiction and/or unhealthy attachment.

Instead, we come to embrace the truth of The Serenity Prayer: the ability to change what we can in our lives, accept what we cannot with peace, and the grace to know the difference. When we live from this reframed outlook, we experience the risen Lord in the midst of our days’ joys and sufferings. And as we share Him with others as part of Step 12 we come to know true freedom from our addictions and/or unhealthy attachments.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can work the Twelve Steps from a Catholic perspective to find healing in your life?

Catholic in Recovery is excited to announce the launch of The Catholic in Recovery Workbook: A Guide to the Twelve Steps in the fall of 2022. The workbook offers a guide for working the Twelve Steps of recovery from a Catholic and sacramental perspective and is designed for those impacted by a variety of addictions, compulsions, and unhealthy attachments (alcoholism, drug addiction, lust addiction, etc.), loved ones of an addict, and anyone else desiring to surrender their life to God’s love and care. To stay informed about the workbook’s launch, discounts, and related content, sign up for our CIR Newsletter today.