“The craziest thing is that I didn’t believe I could take a year out of my life… and now I’m so thankful I did.” — Ryan, eight years recovered from an addiction to heroin and painkillers
Slowing Down Can Be Hard in a Fast-Moving World
Taking time to slow down, stop, and heal is crucial for recovery. We live in a culture that is fast-moving, and where identity and value sadly often seems to be based on what we’ve done, not who we are. Whether a sense of self-worth has come from a career, social network, family role, relationship, religion, or something else, we’ve all at some point experienced the feeling that we haven’t done enough, or that we aren’t enough. Sometimes it can be someone close to us — a boss, a friend, a significant other, a family member — asking, “what have you done for me recently?” Sometimes we may perceive that to be the case, even if it’s not actually spoken. This relentless press can make it hard to stop. We may feel that continuing to limp or struggle forward without addressing our challenge is the best or only option.
But that’s not true. No matter the length, investing time to slow down, seek help, and experience greater health and hope in life is worth it. Other thoughts may try to convince us that we’re not worthy of help, or that we’re too far gone, or that we can’t seek any help because we have to take care of others. None of these are true, either. he best thing we can do for our families, coworkers, significant others, children, whomever is to take the time to find greater mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Even if we’re not able to do more than take a small step with our limited time or resources, that step matters.
Giving Yourself Time to Heal
Several aspects of the nature of addiction make taking time to heal important. First, it’s important to give our brains time to create new neural pathways, by learning how to cope and manage challenges in healthy ways. Recovery is less about completing a program or discovering a magic bullet to deal with an unhealthy behavior or substance use, and more about re-learning how to think and feel, and how to handle challenges or different contexts. This involves both our conscious and subconscious thoughts, which can take time to retrain.
Second, in the recovery process, there are opportunities to discover a deeper understanding of our value, and how to engage with life. Recovery is an opportunity, with support and community, to better understand ourselves, so that we can be fully integrated as human-beings. In the process, we can discover more of our value, and the dreams and passions that we want to pursue. Experiencing acceptance after being truly, fully known brings an authenticity and peace to existence that is difficult to achieve when trying to live up to someone’s dream or perception of us
Third, since addiction is often the symptom, and not the root, it can take time to process through the roots underneath the addiction, whether it’s stress, trauma, pain, or experiences related to that challenge or another mental health condition. In addiction, or other forms of numbing, we develop coping mechanisms around certain behaviors that keep aspects of ourselves from having to deal with aspects of our past or present. It may be areas of our thinking, or our emotions, where we’ve chosen not to go. Acceptance of our current selves doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to grow. Recovery is an opportunity to discover the freedom and hope of growth.
Trust the Process
Taking time in our recovery processes to heal may look different depending on our circumstances. Whether our process involves treatment programs, support groups, counselors, other resources that we integrate into our lives, or a mixture of all-of-the-above, there’s an opportunity to rethink how we approach and process feelings, thoughts, and life. It can be easy to want to speed up the process, in order to please a family member or return to a job. But, remember that quicker is not always better, and the work of recovery often takes time. Remember that you are more than just the sum of your output or recent actions. In you lies great potential for connection and love. Your value is innate, and even past or current struggles can’t downplay or deny the value you carry. Taking time away for self-care can result in discovery of tools, experiences, or new worldview that propel and accelerate you towards your dreams. Hundreds of thousands of people recover each year, and many rediscover life in the process. Look for stories that encourage you in your own process.