Anything can become normal. “The Scorch Trials,” by James Dashner
What is “normal?” Normal means that which is ordinary, expected or typical. The trouble with normal is that it is not very exciting and it can dull your senses. Normal can put you to sleep and it can become a way to numb out.
The trouble with normal…
Addiction can become normal. It can feel very normal when you use, drink, get high, suffer from depression, anxiety, or panic. At first you may search for a way through but after a while, you just hang on and settle in to what feels like a new normal. Sometimes normal can take a toll on you. And normal always gets worse…
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse. Bruce Cockburn
But then you begin your recovery and your mindset. Things feel new and exciting. You begin your healing and you regain parts of your life that were once lost. You work at your recovery and life feels exciting again. Then after a while, even recovery can become normal.
The need for a healthy normal
You and I need normal. Life is not always exciting and chaos should not be normal. Normal can be boring, but boring can give you numerous gifts. Maria Popova wrote about boredom and how it can effect us.
Boredom, after all, is the crucible of contemplation and creativity — legendary psychoanalyst Adam Phillips called the capacity for boredom “a developmental achievement for the child” and argued that it is essential for the creative life; philosopher Bertrand Russell saw it as central to the conquest of happiness… And yet today, we have lost all capacity for boredom. More than that, we have grown bored with thinking itself — we want to instantly know. We want ready-made information to fill the void of contemplative wisdom.
Recovery will become the new normal, a more healthy and life-affirming normal. But normal can begin to feel, well, a little too normal. For me, normal can sometimes feel unexciting. Boredom can lull you into apathy. And apathy can bring temptations to engage in old patterns of eating and un-exercise, old expectations and unhealthy sleeping habits, too much TV, and avoidance.
Patterns of apathy can lead to relapse back into addiction or into dark phases of your mental illness. But it’s not that we need to fear boredom or run away from normal. We need to find ways embrace normal (and boring) and make it part of our recovery.
The many gifts of normal
- It will give you time with yourself. Getting to know yourself is probably one of greatest benefits of “normal.”
- It will give you time to think as opposed to know. Sometimes our questions can change us.
- You will be tempted to eradicate the boredom. You will learn to sit with boring moods and still be okay.
- It gives you opportunity to revisit your values and your goals. You will begin to slowly regain ground that was taken by your mental illness or addiction. Hobbies, relationships, and dreams will slowly begin to come back into focus.
- It allows you to consider again whether the decisions you are making. You will ask yourself questions. And the questions that you ask can change you.
You don’t have to love your recovery, but you have to love yourself in your recovery.
Recovery can be hard work and it can take you places that you never imagined. Sometimes you will feel bored and unsettled. You won’t love every moment and no, you won’t even like yourself all of the time. But you need to love yourself through it all. Loving yourself takes courage and it is one of the greatest gifts of recovery.
Normal and boring can be healthy. But when you feel a sense of apathy, that should be a wake-up call. Taking an afternoon off is not apathy, but giving up on healthy habits probably is. For me, this is a reminder. My recovery has been normal, a little boring and yes, a little apathetic lately. It’s time for me to recover a little more of my recovery.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Marcus Nelson