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Life in Recovery

Embracing the Messiness of Growth

Every step that we take forward toward hope and health has a positive impact, whether it feels like success in the moment or not. Life, and the journey of recovery, is not perfect. But taking a step forward is evidence of our bravery and strength, and helps support another valuable pattern: trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zone. If you feel let down or hurt by a person through a step you’ve taken, it’s okay to not be okay. Some of the resources we try may not be the right fit. People find breakthrough through a range of processes. Look for sources of hope and encouragement, and dust yourself up and try again. You’re worth it.

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Finding Silver Linings in Challenges

Have you tried to take a step forward and had it not go as planned? Did the trusted family member or friend not respond well to the information you shared? Was the support group you tried to attend not present, or not what you were looking for? Did you start or complete a treatment program, only for it to not have the result that you were hoping for? Did you have a difficult time talking with your employer or finding work-related support?

Embracing a Growth Perspective

Even if the result was not anticipated, there are still reasons to celebrate. The steps we take in recovery reveal initiative and courage. Often, there are opportunities to learn. Even if the short-term result is uncomfortable or painful, that can be valuable information. The short-term outcome of the step does not lessen the value of having taken one. We can’t control how others will respond, or  many unfair circumstances. But we’re allowed to be proud of the action we took, and regardless of the outcome. We can find value in the intent behind the action, if the result is different than expected.

Life is about growth. Growth is impossible without motion and stretching. The process of physical growth in people illustrates that pain and awkwardness can be involved in the process. Growth can be uncomfortable; just ask a teenager in the midst of a spurt, or the toddler that has stumbled in the midst of learning to walk. Sometimes we may collide with something as a result of unexpected growth. It can hurt.

Processing through Challenges or Failure

So if we feel down because the outcome was not what we intended, here are a couple of practical things we can do:

Celebrate and redefine the step we took. Trying something new, and taking risk, no matter how big or small, is an indicator of growth, progress and change. At the deepest level, our step was not a failure, because we actually took it! Would we have taken an action like this a month ago? A year ago? We can celebrate that aspect of growth.

Process the disappointment. It’s okay to validate the fact that our hearts might be disappointed or feel let down, whether by a program, a person, or even ourself. Extending grace to the necessary party — including yourself as needed — can release us from the heaviness of disappointment or resentment.

Increase our hope quotient. We need to recharge, and find things that stir hope in us. Read an encouraging story, spend time with a loved one who may be motivating, engage in self care (rest, take a bath, a jog, or something that makes you smile).

Identify and take a next step. Every experience provides value. As we engage on this journey, we’re going to continue to hit home runs, doubles, and singles — and at times we may strike out. The game only ends when we stop entering the batter’s box. We have the opportunity to step up to the plate again. If we were swinging for a home run and missed, it might be time to adjust the swing and attempt something more manageable. We don’t have to let the fear of failure or any shame from imperfection keep us from picking up the bat again.

Adopting a growth mentality that values process over perfection is healthy. This perspective enables us to engage with more hope and peace throughout our recovery process, and with a range of life situations. Life is not about perfection; it’s about connection and growth. All of us have aspects or areas where connection is inhibited. Even in events that could be described as short-term failures hold great opportunities to grow in connection.

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