Today I wanted to discuss some things that I wish I had known about recovery before I began trying to get better. Though none of these things are secrets, and most are obvious, I think that they are important to know and understand before making an attempt at recovery.
Currently, I’m 9 months into recovery and I’m doing pretty well, but previous attempts have been far less successful. I think one of the biggest issues for me trying to recover before now has been not understanding what I’m getting myself into, combined with not trying hard enough and giving up too easily. So, here is a list of things you should know if you are going to make an attempt at getting better (which I really hope you do!)
It’s full of up and downs.
One of my biggest misconceptions when I began recovery was that I’d paved a straight road ahead, and that I was going to go on a completely upwards slope. That was very far from the truth, and sticking with the road metaphor, recovery has been rocky. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, you are always going to have bad days and rough patches, but it’s key to remember that if you have the strength to choose recovery in the first place, you absolutely have the strength to get through episodes of your illness. In these times, it’s important to remember what you’ve fought through before and remember that although you may not always feels like you can be strong, you can always be brave. Resilience is key in recovery.
You won’t always want it.
I don’t doubt at all that within your rough patches, there will be times where you want to completely give up on recovery and return to destructive ways. If you do ever feel like this, it is so so important to keep going; you owe it to yourself. Getting better may not always be what you want, but it’s what you deserve, and most importantly what you need. Trust me, you will start to feel like you want recovery again, and when you do, you will be so grateful to yourself for keeping yourself safe and on the right track. Even if every night you feel you hit a low and want to give up, you will have mornings where you are so glad you didn’t. Again, resilience is key.
It takes constant commitment.
Though it sounds obvious, it’s so important to know that you don’t get a break when trying to overcome mental illness. The way I see it, every day I have to wake up and choose recovery, and I choose recovery over and over every day in the face of issues I may face. For example, if I slip into a self destructive mindset, the fact that I’m recovering unfortunately won’t give me a get-out-of-jail-free card, and I must choose to carry on recovering over the option of relapse. It’s a huge commitment, but the difficulty of being faced with potential relapse is worth the good that comes out of not giving in, and the feeling of knowing you are dedicated to yourself is always good motivation for hanging on to the hope that will build up gradually as you find that your hard work and determination is paying off.
There is so much support available for you.
One of my biggest regrets in previous attempts of recovering is that I tried it alone. Of course, this may be very much possible for some people, and some may even prefer to recover alone, but I have since found that I’m finding recovery far less difficult when I allow others to support me. Though it is important to have your own back, and remember that you need to care for yourself and avoid completely depending on other people for support, it can be extremely helpful to know others are there to give you help when you need it, whether those people be professionals or just friends who can be there for you. One of my biggest worries with reaching out to people around me for help has always been that I may be a burden to them, but my counsellor changed my perspective on that quite significantly; people are there for you because they want to be, and because they care. If friends tell you they’re there for you, don’t feel you’re wrong for accepting their help. They want you to recover, as do any therapists or counsellors you may see, and they want to help.
It’s a very long process.
I’m sure you’ve probably been given the “if I had a magic wand, I could wave it and make it all better” speech before, but as annoying as it is, it raises a valid point. Happiness will never be something you can get instantly, and the reality is that recovery takes time. A mindset that is easy to slip into is thinking that because there’s such a long way to go, trying any longer is pointless, but that is so far from the truth.
This is about to get really cheesy but I want you to picture that you’re stood in a long tunnel, it’s dark, and you have no idea how much path is stretched ahead of you, or how long getting out make take, but you can see a light at the end (this is an awful metaphor I know but please hear me out). If you take steps towards this light, it will get brighter, and your surroundings may become clearer. Perhaps parts of the tunnel are grimy and a horrible place to be in, but there will be pleasant parts that make you want to go further, because the further along you go, the better your surroundings become. Though it may be defeating to possibly have to take an immeasurable amount of steps, every step you do take will get you further away from the darkness and closer to the light. Enough of the cringey metaphors now, I think you get my point. Just remember that a little bit of progress each day adds up to big results, and every day you get closer to a full recovery.
Slip-ups don’t make you hopeless.
Despite being unsuccessful with my previous attempts of recovery, I will never give up again. In my last major attempt at getting better, I was thrown off by a relapse after over 2 years. Of course, it was horrible at the time, but I dealt with it very poorly. Instead of looking back on the years I stayed clean and using that experience to emphasise to myself that I could pick myself back up, I saw nothing but failure, and this lead to me spiralling downwards and giving up on helping myself. There is nothing I regret more than that. Even now, I have some slip ups from time to time, but I’ve put in too much work for too long to just give up, regardless of how tempting self destruction may be. One post that always helps me deal with coming close to relapse is “healing is not linear” (I have no idea where it originally came from so I can’t credit who came up with it, I just found it on Pintrest while looking for things for my recovery board). It always reminds me that experiencing negative things is a normal part of getting better, and it’s a way of viewing relapse that I wish was more common.
Most importantly, know that recovery is possible, and absolutely worth all of its difficulty. 9 months ago I felt completely hopeless and I was so close to giving up as soon as I started trying to recover, but if someone had shown me how I am now, so much happier and hopeful, I would have chosen to continue recovering in an instant in spite of how hard the times ahead of me would be. And now, I continue to recover because I know that another 9 months down the line, I will be so much more content with my life and glad I never gave up. Something I would greatly advise is to find other people’s recovery stories, and see how they got better to look for inspiration or motivation. Now, I surround myself with other people’s recovery as much as possible, and it helps me feel confident in my own recovery and like I’m not alone in struggling. Remember that you have all of the strength and determination needed to get better, whether you see and believe it or not.
Thank you for reading! I hope you have found this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. Keep growinggg!