With the “New Reality” we’ve been forced to accept comes many new expectations. It’s easy to feel discouraged or downright depressed abandoning those expectations we had just weeks ago. Expectations aren’t always bad, but they are a little bit on the delusional spectrum. We hold them because we believe in their magic, and we believe that stating them is some kind of a guarantee that we’ll fulfill them. But we are human and humans make mistakes, and humans are imperfect and, well… life happens.
I find it dangerous to hold onto things that are no longer working in my life. A premeditated expectation is one of those things, and beating myself up about it is simply a waste of my time and energy. It’s good to plan and have goals, and it’s good to hope, but it’s not good to have a defeatist attitude if those plans don’t work out – and it’s especially damaging to lose hope.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts,” said Winston Churchill, and that is the adage that we should live by, especially when it comes to today’s world and to recovery. Few people have a straightforward recovery where they just get over whatever was destroying them and jump straight into healing. In fact, solid recovery is almost always preceded by starts and stops and bumpy beginnings. Recovery—from trauma, from substances, from lost expectations and ideals—takes time and it’s imperative that we give ourselves a little (big) break if we don’t feel better for a while.
What’s important is how we look at failure. Seeing it as an opportunity or a lesson will ensure that we’ll be able to get up back again. If you are struggling right now, know that key to success is to always begin again—again and again—from wherever you find yourself. Relapse can be part of recovery—not always, but often. I’ve never experienced a relapse on alcohol, but I’ve had my share of mental relapses related to the trauma of my relinquishment. It was certainly discouraging to feel like my past was controlling my present again, but every time I would do something about it—I didn’t let myself dwell in my sorrows for too long. I was compassionate with myself and I acknowledged the difficulties, but I would try to move on from that moment as soon as I’ve felt I could. Reverting into a paralyzed, fear-driven outlook on life driven by COVID-19 and the media requires us to move on to survive and thrive.
In recovery from substances, a relapse can weaken your spirits, but please don’t subscribe to the popular 12-step misnomer that says that you need to begin all over again. You don’t. You can just pick up where you left off—especially if your relapse was short-lived. If you go to meetings, you may be encouraged to do the steps all over again and share with everyone that you’ve relapsed in the name of “rigorous honesty,” but remember that all that knowledge you’ve accumulated up until your “weak” moment is still there and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Same goes for waking up and taking on the challenges of a shelter-at-home world.
It takes many years for some people to get to the point where they can declare themselves recovered. It took me 14 years to consider myself recovered from my addiction, and I’m still in the process from recovering from my traumas. What I’ve learned in those 14 years of sobriety, though, is that if I keep trying and keep evolving in my processes, I will get better, stronger and I will no longer have to fear failure. But if failure happens, I know too that I will have the courage to keep going, and that failure was only an opportunity to show me how resilient I am. I wish the same for you in all your struggles. That’s a very good recovery lesson that can be applied in 2020: Our resilience can and will sustain us in these troubled times.
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