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SCARS™ Guide: What Does Recovery Mean For A Scam Victim?

What Does It Mean to Be “In Recovery”?

In this article, we are going to talk about recovery, as in recovery after a scam.

What Does It Mean To Recover?

In Our Use, We Mean That Recovery Is A Process

However, because scams are complex in that they involve psychological traumatization (as a victim), involve addiction (as in the mental addiction to the scam); and the financial difficulty of both financial recovery and reconciliation with the impact this caused on your life – we will explore parts of each of these.

In this article, we will be using two words: Victim and Survivor to help delineate each stage of recovery. We view a victim as someone who has had the scam happen to them and is working to regain some measure of healthy control. A Survivor is someone who has regained a sense of balance and real control in their life. Being a Survivor does not mean (in our view) that you have recovered, but that you have taken control of your recovery and are actively working on it towards a positive goal. Of course, being a Survivor also means that you have come out the other end and the scam is no longer a part of your daily life.

According to: Dr. Lance Dodes, M.D., a former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

This Phrase “Recovery” Is More Confusing Than Helpful

Many words in the addiction field have been tossed around for years without being clearly defined or even being meaningful. “Recovered,” “recovery” and “being in recovery” are examples. In most of life, “being in recovery” means a person is making progress even though s/he isn’t “cured.” Sometimes it is used as a synonym for “being in remission” — indicating relapse is a clear possibility (as with being “in recovery” from cancer), while other times it means “on the path to a definite cure” — as in being in recovery after surgery. Neither of these usages is problematic, so long as we all understand what is meant. But in the addiction field, the term has been used in a third way in 12-step programs. There, it is traditional for people to refer to themselves as “in recovery,” no matter how long they have been abstinent from their addictive behavior and no matter how well they are doing in life. Partly, this is the same as saying they are “in remission,” based on the idea they can always suffer a relapse. But too often, being “in recovery” has come to mean something different: that they are on what they declare is the right path. When used this way, folks are condemned as not “in recovery” if they drop out of 12-step programs or are thought to not be “working the program” adequately. When “recovery” is used this way, it is more a political statement than a factual or medical one.

People suffering with addictions should ignore the agendas of anyone attempting to define whether they are “recovering” or “recovered.” They would be better off thinking of their addiction as a repetitive behavior that arises with great force at key moments when they feel overwhelmingly helpless. These moments can be predicted and avoided once they know just what their emotional vulnerabilities are. However, there will always be some risk of becoming overwhelmed, and responding with the old behavior. To this extent, it is true that anyone with addictive behavior is never “cured.” But we are all at risk of repeating old behaviors (in my field it’s called “regressing”), whether these old behaviors are addictions or anything else that used to be part of our solution to life. That’s not a specific feature of addictions, it’s just the way humans are. It makes no more sense to label oneself as “recovering” forever from an addiction, than it does for a person who used to be depressed to forever be “recovering” from depression, or a person who has been cancer-free for 15 years to still define herself as a cancer patient. It certainly makes no sense to define “recovering” in terms of whether you are in one treatment approach or another. Addiction is a terrible symptom, but it is not who you are, and once you understand how it works emotionally in you so it doesn’t sneak up on you, there is no reason to dwell on what words you use.

Source: PsychologyToday »

Dr. Dodes makes a superb point in the meaninglessness of using the term as a solution in and of itself. We view recovery as a process of learning that can be accomplished on your own, in a support group, in therapy or counseling, or with the help of family and friends.

We view it as a statement that something seems broken and that there are changes needed in order to live a happy life. There are some generalized changes that all victims should go through – just to be safe – and the rest will be unique per person.

SCARS has several approaches to recovery to work for different kinds of victims, and some even after they become survivors.

The SCARS Approaches:

  • Self Recovery – following the RSN Steps approach
  • Support Group peer-based recovery – allowing yourself to become part of a compassionate community of fellow victims and survivors
  • Discussion Group peer-based recovery – allowing yourself to be part of a shared goal community to help identify your needs for recovery
  • Educational Commentary recovery – participating as an independent victim in multiple ways while learning what happened and allowing you time to explore recovery options

SCARS’ RSN Division provides all four of these recovery solutions through their website, social media, and more. In each approach, we endeavor to offer victims’ assistance and support in any way the victim can accept.  We do not offer therapy or counseling, but we offer knowledge, communications, and peer to peer support structures.

Of course, this is complicated because there are phases of recovery too.

Phases Of Scam Victim Recovery

Each person copes with trauma in a different way, depending on their circumstances. We cannot tell you exactly how you will or should feel if you have been scammed (or other acts of violence either physical or psychological), but we can tell you what we have learned from other scam survivors. By describing their feelings and coping mechanisms, we hope to offer you strength and help you understand what you might be going through.

How long your journey to recovery takes will depend on your situation and how supportive the people around you are, if you have joined a real support group, have sought counseling or some form of formal therapy, or if you have gone the other approach of listening to amateurs that will lead you down the wrong path.

Remember That Not All Psychological Issues Can Be Helped Using Our Approaches, Some Require Professional Mental Health Assistance. If You Are Worried About Negative Feelings Or Thoughts, We Recommend That You Seek Help.

It’s important to remember that there are people who can and will help you. People such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, clinic staff. or even a family member or a friend that you can trust are there to help you. We are also here to help you in whatever we offer. We (SCARS/RSN) are trained and registered Crime Victims Advocates to provide Crime Victims Assistance and Support. We have gone through professional training for this.

The following phases of recovery are guidelines and they do not necessarily follow on from one another chronologically; different people may move backward, forward or between phases as they work through their trauma.

Acute Phase

Immediately after the scam is discovered, most victims feel shocked, in dismay, fear, panic and/or anger. Some victims show this by appearing numb or dazed, others will be openly upset. As a scam victim, you are likely to react this way in the first few hours, days and/or weeks after the scam. This phase, known as the Acute Phase, will usually not last longer than two to three months after the scam ends. Another element of the Acute Phase is being unable to talk about the scam. You may have nightmares and feel shocked, guilty, afraid, ashamed, powerless, angry, depressed and/or afraid of strangers or connections with anyone new. In fact, the fear of strangers can actually help prevent you from obtaining support in that you are afraid to trust anyone.

The Acute Phase may also lead you into other unsafe behaviors without proper consideration of who you are listening to. During this phase, you may also express panic and seek out anyone that claims they can save you – usually with poor results. This is the phases where your judgment is typically at its worst.

Outward Adjustment Phase

During this phase, most victims will try to carry on with their lives as normal to try and assure themselves that they can cope;  they’re testing their ability to survive the experience. Means of coping may include pretending the incident didn’t happen or ignoring thoughts and feelings related to the scam. Obviously, that is not going to work.

During this phase, you may not feel open to counseling. You may feel less troubled than during the Acute Phase, but you may find that you don’t want to speak about the scam very much. Be aware that this might be difficult for those close to you who wish to be helpful. They may feel frustrated by your unwillingness to discuss the scam (if they know about it) or they may put pressure on you to behave differently (because they do not know what happened and how you are feeling). You might find that during this phase what you really want is for people to ‘let you be’. Sadly, that is not what you need, because this can extend recovery significantly

Integration Phase

During the Integration Phase,