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.
Have you ever been star tripping?
You look up and spin around in circles and get dizzy and fall down and get your composure and do it all over again.
But you do it because it is fun. You do it because it is beautiful. You do it because it is captivating and unique and changing.
Sometimes you fall down and it takes a bit longer to get up. Maybe you spun around a bit too much and the dizziness overwhelms you. You might scrape your knee or bump into something. So you take a bit longer to pick yourself up and start spinning again–head held high, looking up.
There is nothing wrong with falling. It’s part of the experience.
That is kind of the most wonderful part of it. You never know what is going to happen. You laugh and smile and openly accept that you cannot control where you fall or when. But you know that you do get to pick when you stand back up and how you hold yourself and move on.
You know what’s neat about star tripping? It’s a lot like life.
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.
As much as we may hope, there is no big turning event when it comes to healing. We do not wake up one moment and decide that whatever has be plaguing us is not an issue anymore. The worries and the thoughts and the obsessions don’t just disappear after a night’s sleep.
Healing comes from the small things.
Healing comes from the simple. Healing is taking out earphones and walking around on a crisp, quiet night listening to the sounds of nature. Healing is looking up at the sky and noticing a cloud shaped like a flower. Healing is in the smile that a stranger throws your way as you pass in the street. It is the morning sun trickling in through the blinds on the window.
Healing comes from the delicate things. It is the shimmering dew resting quietly on the grass in the early hours of the day. It is the fog that glides gracefully off the water. Healing is the sound of an owl communicating across an open field. Healing is the twinkle of glass as it catches the sun just so. It is warm bathes and bubbles that tickle the skin. Music that dances through the wind from a party miles away.
Healing comes from the unique. It is the wind rustling leaves on a cool autumn day. It is the sound of a train whistle carried by the night. Healing is noticing the flowers when they first bloom. Healing is the smell of the hot pavement after rain. It is the whisper of crickets as they serenade the night. It is the lovingly worn pages of an old, well-read book.
But most of all… healing is personal. Healing is not loud and boisterous. Healing does not broadcast its progress. Healing is modest and reserved. It is internal and placid. It is slow and variable, but there all the same.
Healing is learning that YOU are enough. Healing results in simply and purely being an unadulterated you.