What Nobody Ever Told Me About Recovery

closeup of a Canada thistle plant
Image by Andrey Zharkikh / CC BY

They told me recovery would be hard. Harder than anything I’d ever been through. Than anything I could imagine.

But that it’d be doable, provided I took it one tiny piece at a time. That was the biggest key — not trying to contend with everything before me at the same time.

It was so easy to get overwhelmed otherwise. It can seem counterintuitive sometimes, but you need to think small in order to make big changes. Because you climb a staircase a single step at a time. You don’t leap up an entire flight at once. That’s not the goal. You keep taking small actions, and eventually you get there.

And it was true. That’s precisely how it worked.

But what they didn’t tell me is that no matter how hard you work, to take control over the parts of yourself you want to change, you never completely stop being that person you were before.

That person doesn’t really go away.

And that’s been the most humbling thing, really. Times of extreme stress when the person I want to be — the person I’ve worked so hard to be — slips away, and something darker deep within me, darker and wounded, something that spins wildly out of control, emerges.

And I realize that regardless of how much work I’ve put into recovery that she’s still there, underneath it all.

That person I’d rather not be.

Nobody ever told me that. At least not in those terms. I’ve been told that you have to stay vigilant. That the world outside of you will always contain challenges and temptations. Obstacles that will test you.

But nobody told me that the version of myself I don’t like will never go away. No matter how hard I work or how much I challenge myself, I will be never be completely rid of that version. Not permanently.

Because that’s not how it works. You are what you are. You work with what you have. And even as you move intentionally away from what isn’t serving you, parts of you will always still remain, some of them things you’d rather not be left with. Like weeds you pull up to find out during the next season that you didn’t get the entire root.

It’s not as easy as just cutting out the parts you don’t like and leaving the rest.

Instead, you find ways to spend less time as that version of yourself. That side of you will emerge less frequently. And when it does emerge, you’ll be more skilled at getting away from those modes and slipping back into ways of living that work better for you.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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