Let’s be real, healing is harder when abuse and trauma are involved

Recovery is different for everyone and that is why it can be so confusing for so many people to understand. Recovery from addiction is absurdly complicated when no issues come up. THAT NEVER HAPPENS. Usually addiction is co-occuring with other issues like mental health diagnoses, behavioral issues, eating disroders, trauma, etc. When you’re dealing with sobriety and a behavioral issue, or have trauma in your story, or a “generalized anxiety” diagnosis, or have ANY family dysfunction whatsoever, making a clear recovery plan becomes harder.

In my experience of recovery, I pulled back one layer of the onion only to discover there were more underneath. I had a cellar in my basement where a vault lived, and locked in there hidden away were most of my feelings. This phenomenon made my recovery a long process where sometimes I took a step forward only to take two steps back. The path to success is no straight line, especially when it comes to mental health and health and wellness.

Recovery took time but it was worth the effort

Life is bright and shiny today. It looks and feels better than I ever imagined. I wish I could have told myself not to worry so much. Since we’re all still learning about what modern recovery looks like, and I’ve been writing about mine since I started, I compiled a list of what I’ve learned:

1. There will be good years and bad ones on your recovery journey

Keep your expectations low and it will save you a lot of grief because life can messed up. Like seriously twisted. I had this sense that if I made it five years, my life would be merry. It doesn’t work that way. Business is up and down, relationships come and go, and then as you get older, you start to lose people. However, if you’re prepared and armed with a toolbox to help, you can survive disappointments and heartbreak. Even as parent issues arise and children drama erupts, you somehow know what to do or have someone close who does. Oh, the beauty of community!

2. Getting sober is just the first step

Prepare yourself that you may need to unearth those traumas to get better. I needed enlightenment in many areas of life. Learning healthy boundaries was an unexpected adventure, as was sober dating. Both caused me as much discomfort as getting sober did. Seriously, detaching from enmeshed relationships felt physically painful to me at times. Learning to use food as fuel, not comfort, and becoming financially responsible was also difficult and stressful. There were years it felt like I was training for a recovery Olympics that I wanted no part in. But, somewhere along the way, I built a well-rounded recovery lifestyle. I would have hated myseld when I was younger.

3. Relationships are hard when you have to think of others

I took a lot of time between relationships. I was also told to learn to date myself. Don’t put any pressure on yourself here. Getting a relationship that is healthy and stable takes time. I thought I’d master and get relationships sorted out in year two. Insert laughter here. While I find they are far less dramatic than they once were, I’m certainly no professional in this matter to this day. I do believe I’ve become aware and considerate of other people’s feelings. It’s no longer all about me. I don’t believe I can change anyone and I would no longer dare to try. I also now know no one can change me. There is no magic pill, and there is no magic person. It’s all hard work. However, with age, I’ve come to enjoy the work and derive great satisfaction from my improvement in relationships and learning how to communicate in them. That wasn’t something I could do and that’s a problem for healthy adults.

4. Self care is more than bubble baths and manicures

I recently read an article about self-care being really hard. It said self-care is not all baths and mani-pedis. The article is correct. Real self-care is financial responsibility, emotional accountability, impulse control. Basically, adulting really hard. It took a lot of practice for me to intuitively practice self-care and do things like grocery shop and plan out my whole week of meals, pay ALL my bills EVERY month, and stay gainfully employed. If you need help, join groups, read books, attend seminars. Learn about the things that are important to your future!

Making sure all areas of your life are organized and well cared for is almost impossible for anyone coming out of addiction so all of these are seeds to plant. I didn’t open my mail for years. I didn’t understand financial “stuff,” and I still have the emotional capacity of a 12-year-old. Caring about those things did not come naturally to me. I had to learn how to do them years into my recovery; then I had to be disciplined in practicing them until they became habit. Trust me, it’s easier to get addicted to drugs than paying your taxes.

5. Patience and gratitude are everything

What I was writing about above – The learning self-care? Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I stopped trying years ago because it all seemed too hard and progress was slow. Trudging from program to program, painfully learning how to manage my emotions and relationships wasn’t fun. But, it was rewarding, and it worked. I can find gratitude daily because I’m living the life I wanted for myself. Don’t misunderstand, faith without works are dead. But, I did work and now I bathe in the gratitude of the results. I’m also patient with myself, and other people. Man, do things go better when you can just calm down and wait. 

The moral of the story is, while this may sound like it’s too much work, like it’ll take too long, and the pain along the way will make it impossible to get through—it wasn’t.  The markers along the way become too important, the progress becomes too gratifying, and then when you realize you’re no longer in pain or anxious anymore, it’s all worth it, and you never look back.

Check out my book: 100 Tips For Growing Up

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Lindsey Glass

Lindsey Glass is the co-founder of Reach Out Recovery. Her 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World Of Recovery, has helped to lift the stigma from addiction and recovery and is used in recovery programs nationwide to show what life is like on the other side of addiction. Lindsey's teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, was distributed to PBS stations nationwide by American Public Television in 2014-15. Lindsey has written dozens of popular articles on recovery. She is a recovery advocate and frequent keynote speaker. Lindsey is the author of 100 Tips for Growing Up, My 20 Years of Recovery, 2019. Before focusing on recovery, Lindsey was a TV and screenwriter. She has worked in publishing, web development, and marketing.

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