Recovery from addiction, recovery from grief, recovery from trauma…. these all take time. It’s a process.
I recently sent someone whom I am working with an email encouraging them to slow down on their journey toward recovery. Here is an excerpt from the email. “This is a process. A journey. Not to be rushed. You should not be working on anything other than the step you are on. If you rush through steps, or are hasty in any way you will be very likely to not have a firm foundation of recovery. Each step builds on the other. You cannot begin framing a house while the cement of the foundation is still wet.”
Put another way, the AA Big Book says in reference to the first five steps of recovery states “If you have already made a decision, and an inventory of your grosser handicaps, you have made a good beginning. That being so you have swallowed and digested some big chunks of truth about yourself.”
I really focus on the word “digest” in this quote. Digestion takes time and cannot really be rushed. I have found the same to be true for me in my process, and I find it to be true with the people I work with on a daily basis. Those who are working through the 12-steps of recovery or those working through the steps of the grieving process have this in common. “Swallowing and digesting” big chunks of emotional truths just takes time. Rushing the process will only lead to over-exhaustion, emotional numbness, frustration and feelings of hopelessness.
The path of recovery is not just a function of time though. “Time heals all wounds” is an overly simplistic myth. Time is simply a function of healing. It is not the healer. Waiting for time to heal is often like sitting at a trailhead without actually setting out to travel on the path. Healing and recovery often take intentionality and a willingness to rely on a process.
I frequently tell my clients “I have walked this path of recovery many times with many people, but I cannot take any steps for you.” I tell them that sometimes when hiking a path, it seems like the path is leading them in the opposite direction of their intended destination. Similarly the recovery process has moments that seem like one is moving away from healing and restoration. And I always suggest that the path and the process is to be trusted.
The process also requires a lot of grace particularly for oneself. There are times during recovery when it seems like it is 3 steps forward and 2 or 3 steps back. Even this feeling is part of the process of healing, and the key is meet these trials with grace for yourself. Allow yourself a couple steps back at times. AA says that recovery is about progress, not perfection. And it is true.