Recovery is hard but being a stubborn jackass is optional.
Warning: This post is hard stuff.
Relationships are not part of your recovery, they are your recovery. Recently I wrote in my journal these powerful and inspiring words:
Relationships are my recovery. The quality and depth of my relationships says a great deal about the quality and depth of my emotional, physical and mental health recovery.
It’s only been a few days and already I am eating my words. Anytime you try to improve your relationships, be prepared to work harder than anything else in your life.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
The older I get, the more stable I feel and the more I know, relationships are still confusing as hell to me. Earlier in my mental health recovery I thought that relationships should get easier… but they don’t. One of my life themes is to take my relationships seriously, so I brainstormed why relationships seem to be about as easy as a Rubics’ Cube. I came up with a few reasons, which are below.
11 Reasons why being a stubborn jackass in recovery can seem like a good idea
a.Forgiveness becomes more difficult as you get older (both self-forgiveness and forgiving others). For more, see #2.
b.Trust also gets harder, because you know how hard life is and how other people can let you down.
c.You have to set aside more and more of your goals and dreams. Because of addiction or mental illness, some of your biggest dreams will be crushed into little pieces. Then, just for fun, life will kick you in the teeth.
d.Closely related to #4, you may become more and more jaded and cynical. You may begin to see other people as agents of pain rather than as supports. This is why trust and openness can be so damned difficult in recovery.
e.You have more wrinkles, rolls, ringing in your ears and unwelcome hairs in uncomfortable places. Loving yourself gets a little more challenging each year.
f.Your bad habits: Not exercising, eating bad shit, having a negative mindset, or ignoring your other triggers can mount a multi-pronged attack on you. Life doesn’t even have to get out of bed in order to kick you in the teeth, because you do it to yourself.
g.You have less freedom, not more freedom. You quit drinking, you stop your drug use, you decide to stand against your depression or anxiety or your PTSD. Life should feel more and more free, right? Not always. Kids, bills, household responsibilities can make you feel less free because you need to be the stable income earner, the together parent and the supportive partner.
h.Change gets harder. As you age, you care less and less about New Years resolutions. You may be tempted to set the bar lower and lower each year because you have tried 79 times to change your fitness, your relationships and your career and it doesn’t pan out the way that you want. Life can be tough and it can be very tempting to give up trying to improve.
i.You give less and less of a crap: About what people think, about the state of your hair, about offending people, or about being nice. This can have obvious benefits, because you become more authentic. But in the process, you may become less likeable. The less you care about what people think, the more tempting it is to isolate yourself. That is a deadly combination that will move you into the Jackass zone.
j.You become impressed with yourself and with how much you think you know: About recovery, about relationships, and pretty much anything else that puts you above other people. And then you put one more nail in your own coffin – you refuse to be honest about how your arrogance irritates other people.
k.And because of all of the above, living in the moment is something that you keep putting off until next week, Thursday. You stop trying to just be and you do all of the time.
5 Things that will help you to avoid being a stubborn jackass in your recovery.
There you have it, 11 reasons why it can be tempting to be a stubborn jackass in your recovery. This probably makes you feel depressed. Just add that to the list and that will bring it up to 12. If you want to avoid being a stubborn jackass, then read on. If you don’t care, just stop reading here because I don’t have much more to say to you.
1.Be a continual learner – Ideas keep your mind fresh. This is probably more important now than ever for you in recovery. Investing in new ideas in the form of books, podcasts, conversations will pay off. You have too much to offer to let yourself go or to throw yourself away.
A flexible mind will make change a little easier. Don’t get me wrong, change won’t become easy. But you will be better able to leverage your experience and your wisdom to make the changes that you want to make. You may not be able to change any faster, but who cares? Fast changes usually won’t last. So what, change slowly. As long as you are moving forward, you are resisting the downward slump.
Ask yourself: you may not have reached all of your goals when you began your recovery, but HOW is your life better because of your efforts to improve yourself? Your life may not pan out the way that you envisioned it, but if you continually strive to improve, it will be better than if you didn’t make any changes.
2.Be humble – I admit it. I hate Ikea. Much sweating and swearing occurs in my household whenever I buy a new piece of Swedish furniture. It is humbling to buy a new product, like furniture or technology. As humbling as it is, the process of trying new things will open you up to life. Trying new things is daunting, but you can do it because you have the persistence that it takes to learn.
Recovery is a process of unlearning and re-learning. Your willingness to be humble and improve yourself is one of the best things you can do for your recovery.
3.Believe – Belief can feel like a risk. I don’t just mean religious belief when I talk about the importance of belief. Belief is much bigger than what church you go to. It is important to hold onto your spiritual beliefs and hold onto hope. No matter how challenging it may be, you can improve. You may face serious health challenges that you cannot change. Your only choice might very well be to accept your circumstances, but you can still determine to make the most of your circumstances. No matter your age or your health, hold on. Because belief, wonder, art and humor have the power to awaken your heart.
So try again. Believe in your ability to heal. Make a mess of things, laugh at yourself and try again. Smile, because it makes life a little more fun. Just get outside and look at the sunset, just because. Don’t take a picture, let your eyes be the camera.
4.Forgive – Forgiveness is a compound word, ForGive. Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself and to others. Gift giving will keep you flexible and less selfish. Practice giving forgiveness because guilt and shame can make you feel old. Forgiveness may not come naturally. So what? Keep at it. As you grow up, get older and know more stuff, the more important it is to clean out your mental and your emotional “trash bin.”
Forgiveness keeps your relationship muscles flexible. Giving forgiveness will help you to seem less like a jerk even if you don’t really care what other people think. Forgiving yourself is important because if you are honest, you will receive some uncomfortable and sometimes unwelcome feedback in your recovery. Becoming healthy means taking feedback and using it to grow even if you are not happy with what you hear.
5.Breathe and be – Life gets busy and then the busy gets at you. Busy can erode your joy and eat away at your resolve. Taking time for yourself does not have to mean hours at a time, just like working on your goals does not have to take a huge investment. If you look at it that way, recharging can feel like another task that takes time that you don’t have.
Breathing is one of the most fundamental things that you can do to take in life. Taking time to be outside, to breathe, to walk, to close your eyes is renewing. Slowing down will allow you to use the wisdom that you have accumulated to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, recovery doesn’t come with warning labels. It’s up to you and me to figure that stuff out. The great thing is that life may be difficult, but you get to make your own way through it. You may mess up, but remember that perfectionism will make you unhealthy and yes, unhappy.
Can you identify with the feeling that relationships get harder as you get older? I’d love to hear in the comments how you keep yourself fresh, involved and engaged in life.
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Keep it Real
Photo by Reinis Traidas