We live in a results-oriented society. And since we have learned to adapt to our surroundings, we often develop a mask that seems to be results-oriented. Just like society, we tend to become focused on living a life full of nice things and without noticeable pain.
We learn when we veer from these goals, we are rejected. We hide the pain of our trauma deep within where nobody can see it. And we strive for the next best external thing that will make everything okay.
It is not surprising that the recovery world has followed suit. There are quick fixes everywhere. There are 6-week programs. And if 6 weeks isn’t enough to fix all your problems, there are 12 week programs that will surely do it. There is a pill for every possible symptom you could have. And if you have more than one symptom, that’s easy. Just take more than one pill. It doesn’t matter if they have been tested. As long as they work, that is what matters. And if medication isn’t your thing, that’s okay. You can find foods, supplements and special energy drinks that will fix you right up.
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. I have looked and looked for the panacea to end the pain, the thing that will finally make me feel good or normal. But they don’t work because they can’t. That isn’t how recovery works. Trauma isn’t healed with a quick fix so we can move on with our beautiful life waiting on the other side. Life is meant to be messy. We are meant to feel our emotions. We are meant to feel unsure and a bit lost (or a lot lost). We are mean to struggle. Life can be beautiful, but it is never easy.
When we believe in the quick fix, we get stuck in some beliefs that keep us in an extremely unhappy place. We might interpret this in three ways.
- We see it as a punishment. We can’t recover because we are being punished for some reason. We clearly did something wrong.
- We think something is wrong with us because we can’t find the quick fix. If we were a better person, a better researcher, a better “recoverer”, we would find the answer. And we hate ourselves for it.
- We feel like we are running out of time. It is too late for the magical answer. We are too old. We just have to wait out this life now because we have clearly missed the answer.
Let’s be honest. It’s probably all three. Society has us believing that something exists and it doesn’t. And so we miss the real solution. This was never meant to be a quick fix. It was meant to be a lifestyle. There is no immediate gratification in pain reduction. There is no project plan to follow. There is no end date. There is no end of the rainbow that we need to find. It really is a journey.
And all of that makes me mad as hell. I’m sure there are many of you who are cursing my name and wanting to prove me wrong right now. And I sure hope you do. But I don’t think you will. We need to recognize that the cliché is right. There is no way out but through. We have to teach ourselves to feel again (we knew how when we were born). We have to learn to live in the body again. We have to dig through the pain from our past and feel crappy. And we have to recover memories if they are there to recover. And none of that happens overnight.
It happens as a lifestyle. Recovery happens when we choose to build our awareness in our daily life to how we are reacting and where it might be coming from. Recovery happens when we grieve the childhood we wanted, not all at one time, but little bits at a time over time. Recovery happens when we take actions that scare the hell out of us, but we do it anyway, instead of waiting to “feel better before we do them”. Recovery happens when we commit to writing for five minutes every day (or almost every day). Recovery happens when we practice managing our thoughts for three minutes here and five minutes there.
There is no end date to recovery. I know you are not happy to hear it. But here is the good news. You don’t have to wait until the end to feel better. You don’t have to wait to make changes and decisions that change your life. You will start to see positive results from this lifestyle very early. You will stop accepting the bad behavior from others. You will let go of people and things that aren’t healthy for you. You will start embracing the things you love in life without so much worry about what others think. These changes will be small, but over time, they will add up, until you wake up one day and wonder how so much changed.
So I ask you to take a different approach, to look at recovery in a different way. Drop the idea of the panacea and embrace small changes in your daily life that bring awareness and grounding. Take the opportunity to start your journey now knowing there probably won’t be an end to recovery work, but the sights along the way will be more than you thought possible. Make a different decision now. You won’t regret it.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW