“Peace is not a place you land and unpack.” Petrea King, Quest for Life 2016.
… and neither is Recovery.
“In stages, the impossible becomes possible.” T.V.K. Desikachar
Recovery from any adversity, whether illness, drug addiction, trauma, mental health disturbance, grief, disaster or major life change, is a process that is ongoing. We don't wake up one day cured rather we continually make progress along the path of recovery.
In my own recovery process, I have often felt like I have been ascending a spiral, often returning to the similar issues but at a higher or deeper level of resolution. This appears across all the layers of my experiences and I often don't notice until I am moving out of an experience and may need to reflect on the last rung on the spiral to get perspective and prevent being disheartened.
Yet over and over my students and clients ask why it is taking them so long, wondering if there is something wrong with them or they are doing something wrong. Our society seems to think that recovery from trauma, illness, grief or any kind of life-change happens in distinct stages within a distinct time-frame (usually within 12months), and then we move on.
There have been many occasions when people, having read my book, heard my story or even been taught by me during a particularly ‘well’ phase, will have expected me to be cured and if I fall off this perch they will be distressed and disappointed on my behalf…and perhaps theirs.
I am always moved by people’s concern for my wellbeing and reassure people that I have chronic illnesses that I manage not cure. I manage with the tools I teach and that even if I don't come out of this exacerbation, I will continue to live in peace which for me is what it’s all about and if I do come out, it will be at a higher place than I was before.
You see, this the reality for those of us who have suffered some form of trauma or major life change is that recovery is ongoing and comes in waves. For many of us the greatest recovery comes from the inner peace gained from the acceptance of our present situation and this too is ongoing.
So, if we accept this to be true, if we accept that recovery is ongoing, how do we support ourselves and each other through this process?
Firstly, find a practice that improves your wellness and maintain a regular practice, even after the initial flush of recovery. It seems to be common nature for us to find a practice that makes us feel better only to let it go when we start to feel better. The best way to stay out of the hole is to keep doing whatever it was that got you out of the hole.
And if you fall off the wagon and find yourself in a hole again, give yourself a break releasing as much guilt as you can because you're human. go back to the Same ladder and start climbing again.
Find a support team and give them permission to keep you accountable. This might be a coach or a counsellor, a yoga teacher, therapist or trusted friend. Choose wisely, not because they will take you out and get you pissed but because you know they will respectfully keep you honest.
It is a friend, colleague, partner or family member the first step is to listen. Stop what you're doing, make a cup of tea and listen. Ask questions – what has helped before, how would like me to support you, would you like me to come with you? Questions that invite the person to consider and find their own wisdom and path. Set an example in your own behaviour. Things not to do: nag and remind them they've been here before - They know, already!!!
The most important things I have learned about recovery is that it is not a place you land and unpack. It happens in stages and requires resilience, acceptance and forgiveness. Whether it is yourself in recovery or someone you care for, it takes time, is ongoing and is often more about finding peace where you are right now than finding a cure.
Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story Part 1 and Part 2, and be inspired.