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Five Phrases

Whenever I used to meet someone who was further down the road of recovery than myself, my obvious question was, “What are you doing that I’m not?” I felt like I was doing everything! I felt so frustrated that I was not progressing faster. A better question I could have asked was, “What do you know that I don’t know?”   

To be very transparent on the recovery road, here are 5 things that I have found really helpful.

  1. You are imperfect but worthy of love. I used to feel like these two concepts were at odds with each other. I knew the idea in theory, but my reality was I really wanted to be perfect. When I didn’t do things perfectly, I felt worthless. That was something that I didn’t say outwardly, but I strove for inwardly. I wanted to be everything that society said a woman should be: a shiny, bright worker with a great attitude who makes her kids healthy lunches, helps them with their homework, and teaches them about values, sex, empathy, kindness, manners, etc., while also being an amazing cook who stays thin (read lose weight) and be desirable for her spouse. I also wanted to assist an aging parent, help a sibling with addiction issues, develop outside friendships, nurture hobbies, and have date nights with my husband to “keep the marriage fresh.” When I look back at all I tried to be “perfect” at, I am not shocked I had a nervous breakdown. My life is so much simpler now that I know perfect is never going to happen, and it’s okay. I am actually accomplishing more now that I am realistic about what I can do and the fact that I can do nothing perfectly.

  2. Recovery is selfish. This seems so obvious, but it wasn’t to me. I spent a lot of time saying, “I can’t do that.” I felt it was self-indulgent, or I would feel guilty even going to therapy and discussing myself. My life revolved around everyone around me. I constantly felt guilt and shame. I had zero boundaries. Then, one night in class, a man was talking about his wife working her way through therapy, and he said that she was very self-centered, but he understood that recovery is a selfish time. It was like the clouds parted, and I suddenly saw the sun. If I was to get better, then I needed to focus on myself. Everyone who loved me needed me healthy, which made it acceptable to set boundaries, drop the guilt, and lose the shame. It didn’t happen overnight, but it put me on the path.

  3. Take it one day at a time. I got this one from Alcoholics Anonymous, and they have it for a reason-it works. Most goals in life feel overwhelming if I think about them as a whole. The concept of mental well-being is pretty large, and I know life is going to give me situations that will naturally cause hurt, pain, depression, and anxiety. I will experience these feelings again no matter how well I insulate myself. The only thing I can do is learn to manage this day. Sometimes, I am just managing this hour. I know the more popular saying in mental health is to live in the present, but this one resonates with me more. I think I like how specific it feels as if I got some directions.

  4. There is no one path. I picked this one up at a NAMI support group. This is one of their guidelines to remind everyone to be open-minded because there is no one set way to achieve recovery. I think this applies to many things in life, and it helps with life in general. It helps keep my mind open to new possibilities, whether it is listening to other people speak or examining my own issues. I recently started seeing a new therapist, and we do not see eye to eye on all things. The old me would have immediately started searching for a new therapist or, worse, go back to my old therapist, whom I have outgrown but still miss. This phrase helps remind me that people don’t have to be on my path or see everything my way. It’s not always about intention, but sometimes it is. My therapist has my best intentions at heart, and I do like her advice; we just reach the end conclusion very differently. One thing I learned is that trying to recover from a major mental illness is incredibly difficult, so anyone taking on the responsibility of their illness and seeking help is brave and deserves respect.

  5. Give it 24 hours. This is my version of “sleep on it.” I am terrible at making impulse decisions. I will write letters, make purchases, and send hate texts; essentially, I just burst at the seams with things I must do now. I have almost perfected “give it 24 hours.” Now I can write a letter and wait before mailing it, fill a cart up online but wait before hitting “check-out” and write my hate text but pause before hitting send. That 24 hours later usually means that I pitch the letter in the trash, never buy what’s in the cart, and delete the text. If I go through with any of the previously mentioned items, then I really wanted the item, or I deeply meant the words I had written. It has been a saving grace for me to use the 24-hour rule.

Sometimes, when I am really aching to shop, I will look at some items in the saved column of my cart, and it helps me realize all the impulse items I almost bought. It helps remind me of how much I wanted those items then and how little I want those items now. I also keep a check registry app on my phone for my credit card. It may sound like overkill. I mean, can’t you see what you purchased on your credit card statement that is on your phone? Yes, but that isn’t tailored to read what item you bought. Also, it is a great way to really track my purchases and remind me that this is adding up. It makes me aware of how much I’m paying in interest and if I have any charges that shouldn’t be there. Binge shopping is a real thing! 

These 5 pieces of knowledge have helped me out. They are the little fortune cookie nuggets of wisdom that have gotten me through difficult times. They continue to help me as I navigate this beautiful new world of recovery. By:

Meghan Albright

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