The Pipe Exercise. Harbor Hall.

Home |

The Pipe Exercise

The Pipe Exercise

By: Patrick McGinn, CEO

Today I asked a group of clients to participate in an exercise that I call it the pipe exercise.  The groups are given a kit of PCV pipes cut to a variety of different lengths along with a variety of connectors, elbows, and types with an end cap.  The task is to construct a design using all of the pieces.  Sounds simple enough… but this is not a simple task at all.

Varied Paths and Varied Results

20160209_133054-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseAs I watched the groups struggle, I observed some interesting things.  First were the roles that individuals in the group took on.  There were at least 2 people in each group that jumped right in and took the lead.  Others stayed back and would observe and then eventually start to give input, there were also people that I would describe as “cheer leaders”. They would encourage their team members, cheering for their success.  And in each group, there was one person that did not participate at all.

Each group floundered at the beginning: starting, stopping, taking apart, and starting over.  At approximately 20 minutes into the project I whispered a hint to success into the ear of one member in each group.  This is the point when all the groups basically stopped and start over.  Within about 30 minutes the first group completed the task.  They were quite proud of themselves.  I instructed the other groups to continue until they were finished.  5 minutes later the next group completed then shortly after that the third group finished.

20160209_133441-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseThe forth group continued to struggle.  They were beginning to give up.  I heard statements like, “what’s the use, we are in last”, “this is stupid”, and “we should just give up”.  All the while the others were jeering and poking fun at their lack of success.  Then the leader of the last group asked the group who finished first if they would help them figure it out.  The response was very interesting as one or two from each group got up and went over to that group to help and within 5 minutes they were done.  The whole room erupted with cheers at the success.

The four designs were very different from one another.  They were not even close to looking alike, but each accomplished the task.

This Process Looks a lot Like Recovery…

The varied paths and mixed results is very much how recovery looks in real life.  The task of getting clean and sober is usually very difficult for most people, especially at the beginning.  We are given minimal instruction and expected to complete the sober task successfully.  If it was as simple as “one size fits all”, there would be no need for treatment centers.  For many people there are starts and stops. Sometimes you just have to take apart and rebuild all over and look for a different way.  Some people may get ridiculed or made fun of or looked at differently if they “do not get it” the first time around.  This is also true in the recovery community, where some people may be ostracized because they relapsed.  This attitude may send some people further into the spiral of addiction as they may not seek help a second or third time.

Sober Success is the Goal – No Matter the Path

Many people come into treatment in despair and are ready for change, but they do not know how the recovery pieces fit together. Attending lectures, groups, going to doctor appointments,  one-on-one sessions, skill building activities etc. all are pieces that may be put together differently for each individual.  Success for me may not be the same as success for you.  Each person needs to decide how to put the pieces together that work the best for them.  We know for sure that sober success does not happen in a vacuum. We need the input of other people. “I can get this, with a little help from my friends”