Finding Resilience and Determination to Crawl From the Hole to Achieve True Recovery
I often find myself in a space that feels like a chasm, a huge void that I am stuck in and I can’t see a way out. I stare up, aghast, and wonder how I got there. For me, life is a series of these moments. It's a collection of perplexing crevasses; I struggle to reach out for guidance, a way out. Recovery means learning to manage the gaps of where we are—the ravines—and look to our desired destination beyond the pit of despair.
Lately I've been engaging in an unhealthy relationship with food. It's a struggle I once thought I'd conquered. This is my deepest chasm: it's the first void I tried to fill and causes me just as much pain as my excessive use of drugs did. Like a stuck record, my behavior was predictable, and I always seemed to turn back to the comfort food offered me.
I had entered that all too familiar pattern. I first find myself in a difficult situation and I see no way out. Since I think I'm stuck, I use food as a reward to make myself feel better. But it wasn’t working. All the unhealthy coping mechanisms eventually stop working. I’d entered the abyss, stuck in the bottom of a hopelessly deep crevasse.
Since my strategies didn't seem to be working, I reached out to seek help. I engaged with a therapist.
A challenging situation I am faced with causes stress, pain and turmoil on an almost daily basis. I want to pursue my dream to move back to America at the end of the year, so I knew I had to stick it out. It felt like I was incessantly banging my head against a brick wall of obstacles though. I kept trying to find new ways to deal with every new hurdle, but another canyon (filled with delightful food) materialized in my path!
I was flummoxed again and again until I felt defeated and I turned to my old friend, food. I screamed from the chasm and the echoes bellowed back: Give it time, Liv! You'll make it!!
It was the message I needed to hear. And a new perspective too.
Thankfully, my therapy proved invaluable; I learned a lot through the process. I was able to examine each stumbling block, pick it up, hold it, look at it from a different angle, and see the light more clearly. That’s the beauty of working with another person, especially a professional: mine offered both perspective, but also a different angle to view my life.
Sometimes when we’re in the chasm, we focus on the depth of the hole and how far we have fallen. We also dread the obstructions that we need to navigate to get out. Seth Godin writes:
from Managing the Gap
Here's how I see it: rarely are we able to see the bigger picture by ourselves. Perspective matters. We don't realize that the struggles themselves can form the ladder out of the supposedly inescapable void.
It's our difficulties we need to overcome that enable us to grow in our recovery to develop into authentic human beings.
What I learned was that I am doing way better than I think I am. I ask myself often why I constantly revert to that not-good-enough place?
I say: This is so painful; I must be doing it wrong!!
Bullshit. Utter detritus.
The truth is I've developed more coping mechanisms than most people will in a lifetime—at least according to my therapist! I have learned the gift of expression. I am able to express myself in so many ways:
- Writing: I write for my blog. I write in my journal. Writing helps me to process my thoughts and feelings.
- Talking: I speak to close friends in recovery like a sponsor or a therapist. It yet another method of processing and hearing aloud what is happening.
- My Tribe: There is huge power in the collective empathy of others . . . like you! I find great comfort in those words ‘I'm like that too.'
- Meetings: The 'power-of-we' recalibrates my centre of gravity to hear of others' struggles and to gain a sense of perspective, to remind me of where addictive behaviors could lead.
- Creation: I express myself creatively through my blog, collaborations, and cooking.
I've discovered that perception means everything. When I pause, reflect, and take the time to view the chasm looming before me, I can see that its not half as big as I think it is and that there is usually a different path around it. I'm open to looking for new pathways—a new point of view helps reaffirm that I'm good enough, that I am trying.
I’m already making little leaps forward. I now know when I'm stuck in the chasm and can't see a way out, it's because I'm not acknowledging the coping mechanisms I already have. These are tools in my toolbox to climb out of the gorge! They're things like humility, persistence, or resilience. All I need to do is take a step back, take a deep breath, and see that I have tools to construct a ladder to escape the pit!
It just doesn’t feel that way, sometimes. But our feelings can lie to us.
I'm determined to be determined, and to find the resilience to bounce back and climb that chasm to freedom.
About the Author
Olivia Pennelle keeps herself busy interviewing people living in long-term recovery, and running her knockdown, awesome website Liv's Recovery Kitchen. This past year has presented a range of emotions and challenges to her, and she has grown exponentially. One thing she's learned more than anything recently is her determination. She truly set out to change herself physically, but what she didn't expect is an emotional and spiritual change. Transformation is all encompassing. She lives and works in Manchester, England in the UK.
Dan's Note: You'll be seeing lots more of Liv soon enough. TIR has been cookin' and schemin' with the best. More to come!!