In my opinion, one of the hardest things about “re-learning” how to live life and take care of yourself through recovery is finding balance. For much of the time one is in treatment, the day is simply JUST treatment. But leaving the world of formalized and center-based treatment back into the world of outpatient appointments and mostly free weeks results in a lot to be determined and time to be filled.
It is something I talked about so much with my therapist and my treatment team. It is a vocabulary word that has been a staple in my language for the past 5 months.
What the hell is balance.
I can’t say I have done a perfect job moving from IOP to outpatient and balancing recovery and life from the get-go. But I also didn’t expect that I would.
If I learned ONLY one thing in treatment (which is far from the truth…I learned more than I can communicate), then it would be that I cannot expect perfection because it is realistic, possible, human. I would disappoint myself literally every time if I expected to be perfect. Never in my life have I or will I be perfect. This transition is no different. In fact, the lack of perfection is what makes it so successful.
I have had to sit down and talk to myself. I have had to tell myself that “yes, I can eat that. I will be okay.” I have had to make a conscious decision to order the hard thing that would have been so easy to avoid. I have tried new things. I have internally fought and won. I have internally fought and lost. But I have kept going and corrected and worked my ass off for the recovery that I so want and love.
That is what balance is to me. It is realizing that I am going to have a few bad days…maybe more than a few. But that I can persist anyway. It is relearning what life in the “real world” is like… with the constant daily challenges that I was somewhat sheltered from in treatment. It is picking the hard things because I know I can… and more than that… that I have to. It is realizing the mental difficulties are all worth it because they get smaller and smaller with exposure.
And it is giving myself grace for the days when I have more trouble. For the days when I need some help. And for the moments when I question it all and keep going anyway.
It’s a process.
That is balance.
In Kindergarten, I always thought I would be a vet. Then, in third grade, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. My eighth grade self decided maybe a journalist was the correct choice. And my high school mind decided it was time to give the fuck up on picking out matching clothes, let alone deciding what I wanted to do for a living. And, to be very honest, right now recovery me just wants to like the person in the mirror.
But life doesn’t come with a compass. Life doesn’t have a map that says you need to turn right here. Life simply shoves you into the action to learn from experience. Life is completely ambiguous as to what you do with yourself—it is those around you who question and prod until you determine an adequate answer. However, a problem arises when what is desired by you clashes with what is deemed adequate to them. Suddenly, your direction no longer seems so much like your own as it does like the ever pushing will of those surrounding you.
What happened to making our own decisions and sticking with them? If we wave the decision to pick our own course, we will never discover the irreplaceable skill of navigating life’s unmarked trails. If we simply succumb to the desires of others, we release the opportunity to create ourselves. Granted, we will make mistakes. We will go left when we should have gone right and run a few red lights along the way. However, our misdirections will show us that the circuitous route enriches us more than the straight and unchanging freeway ever could.
We focus far too much on getting to our destination as quickly as possible. Subsequently, we neglect to experience along the way. But experience is what will bring us wisdom and happiness and fulfillment. Experience is what will show us who we are and allow us to develop ourselves. Journeys are not meant to be boring. Journeys are meant to seek adventure and novelties and emotions. Life is a journey; we need to treat it like one.
My direction is not fixed. My direction is fluid. And, for this reason, I will happily be ever pursuing my direction.
I want to magically be at my pot of gold and the happy-go-lucky fancy leprechaun. I want to be on the other side of the fucking rainbow.
But I know that this isn’t going to happen overnight. I know that rainbows come after rain. I know that rainbows really never end. And I know that James Taylor got it right way before I figured it out…
Long Ago and Far Away:
Long ago a young man sits and plays his waiting game
But things are not the same it seems as in such tender dreams
Slowly passing sailing ships and Sunday afternoon
Like people on the moon I see are things not meant to be
Where do those golden rainbows end?
Why is this song so sad?
Dreaming the dreams I’ve dreamed my friend
Loving the love I love
To love is just a word I’ve heard when things are being said
Stories my poor head has told me cannot stand the cold
And in between what might have been and what has come to pass
A misbegotten guess alas and bits of broken glass
Where do your golden rainbows end?
Why is this song I sing so sad?
Dreaming the dreams I dream my friend
Loving the love I love to love to love to love
I wish someone would tell me how to climb the rainbow. I wish someone would give me the answers and tell me what I need to do to get to the gold. But I can’t ask others to solve this for me. I can’t learn without doing and I can’t get through without actually GOING through.
The only way out is through.
The only way out is through.
It’s written on the screen at my treatment center. It’s ingrained in my thoughts.
The ONLY way out is through.
The only way to the other side of the rainbow and to the pot of gold is trekking along the WHOLE FUCKING rainbow. To the other side.