The most powerful model we know for understanding addiction, except for the Twelve Steps, is looking at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of the disease — PEMS, for short. These are explained briefly under the module Addiction model.

The model can be expanded to relate not only to the individual but to the family, relationships, and occupation as well. While we do that, we will also describe how this expanded PEMS model could be used in a Step Four inventory.

Physical Aspects

The physical aspect includes all the facts and realities of the physical world, and of your addiction.

Family level Family here refers primarily to family of origin, and all your early education. It includes things that make up your legacy from your parents and family of origin.

Individual level This includes your physical appearance as well as your addiction and addictive behaviors.

Relationship level Friends, in and out of the program, and any family members that serve as friends are physical realities of the relationship level.

Occupation level The word occupation describes not only your job or career but your hobbies, avocations, and your “life work,” whatever that is.

Emotional Aspects

The emotions are biochemical messengers that try to motivate us to speed up, to slow down, to sleep, to have sex, to eat, etc. They speak no verbal language, but we try to label them and to “understand” them.

Family level We develop patterns of responding to feelings while we are very young.

Individual level Feelings do not cause addiction, but they contribute to it. Also, addiction does not generate all your emotions, but it has a progressively adverse effect on your feeling life.

Relationship level Healthy relationships have a positive effect on our emotions, While unhealthy relationships develop addictive dynamics.

Occupation level Addiction tends to destroy careers and spoil your feeling that life is worthwhile. Recovery, on the other hand, can enhance your career and hobbies, and strengthen the feeling of meaning in your life.

Mental Aspects

The mental aspects include your attitudes, beliefs, and ability to solve problems.

Family level Some of your ideas came from your family of origin; they may be anywhere from very useful to extremely destructive.

Individual level These ideas and others have become assets or liabilities in your ability to think clearly or have good judgment about your addiction, your self-concept, and your daily living.

Relationship level Your friends and family may be very helpful with solutions to your problems. Friends in Twelve-Step groups, especially, can help your recovery if you let them.

Occupation level Much of your success in your career, your hobbies, your interests, or your “life work” will depend on your ability to make contact with other people and share information with them.

Spiritual Aspects

The spiritual aspects include your relationship with a Higher Power or guidance sources inside or outside yourself, with your religious or philosophical orientation, with other people on a deeper level, and with yourself as a spiritual being.

Family level Your first contact with spirituality, or lack of it, was in your family of origin.

Individual level All those things that make up the core of your being — your integrity, your love of others, your level of belief in some sort of Higher Power — determine who you are.

Relationship level Many people believe that God (of their understanding) speaks through other people. Certainly the tradition of all major world religions has religious and spiritual communication going on primarily from one person to another, rather than directly from some sort of god.

Occupation level Not everyone chooses a career that reflects their purpose of being of maximum service to God and their fellow humans. But for good recovery, your job, your hobbies, and your other activities must all be reasonably well attuned to your idea of what your Higher Power wants you to do with your life.

PEMS model, see also: Addiction model (PEMS), Delusion, Disease concept, Emotional aspects, Family, Mental aspects, Physical aspects, Spiritual aspects.

Updated 7 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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