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What I continue to learn in my recovery and healing process: It's okay to not be okay!

What I've learned in my recovery and healing process: It's okay to not be okay!

I celebrated 16 years of sobriety on 1st January 2024, except it wasn’t a time of much celebration. My business partner and friend died unexpectedly in December and left a massive void in many people’s lives, including my own. To be honest, I wasn’t much in the mood for celebrating anything at the time and although I am trying to be okay, I am still not in much of a joyful, celebratory frame of mind right now. I am more of a head down, keep going space at the moment.

The year’s been tough emotionally, financially, spiritually, and mentally. Carlos’s death was just that one final straw at the end of a big pile of scratchy, annoying straws (the kind that you feed horses, not the other kind). I have found myself very uncertain about the future and the business we were starting to build, and that’s a shitty way to start the new year. It’s like the promises of 2023 have become the unknowns of 2024. Not the exciting kind but the “Oh shit, what’s going to happen now?” kind. The ones that keep me awake at night worrying about where this is going and how we’re going to get there. I know you know what I am talking about!

If you’re wondering what this has got to do with 16 years of recovery, the truth is that I am so grateful that my recovery is solid and sustainable at this point, because it’s been a very long four years of disappointments and heartbreaks. I’m trying not to wallow, and we all suffered through the early years of the pandemic…we just had different challenges that we needed to face and overcome in that time. I lost my fulltime job in the early months of the outbreak and that was a substantial financial and emotional blow to deal with, which I am still trying to pick up the pieces of.

Then there was the death of my father, who unceremoniously disinherited my brother and me for a complete stranger who I couldn’t pick out of a line up and wouldn’t know who she was if I dumped into her in a shopping centre. Strange and tragic end to a very complicated earthly relationship. And although it’s not just about the money, it’s about the final “fuck you” from a father who was only there when he needed or wanted something or had something to gain. He never just showed up for the shake of showing up; well not in my experience of him.

So that all kind of surfaced again at the end of last year. And sure I wanted to drink! Big feelings of grief, loss, confusion, anger, sadness, and disbelief are intolerable to have to deal with…especially for someone who knows how to effectively numb the pain. I didn’t like the feelings then and I don’t like the feelings I a1m going through now! Anxiety about the future and the fate of Alchemy Wellness which lies in the hands of the municipality and a rezoning tribunal. Uncertainty about the next steps in terms of my professional future also pops up its ugly little head which makes the self-doubt threaten to overtake me. Some days it's a minefield of crappy life stuff! Where I need to pause and remind myself that I know how to be okay, even when I am not okay.

That a lot of what is going on at any given time is a story that I am making up in my head. That the monsters in the cupboard are not real and that I have the capacity and the skills to get through extremely difficult situations! I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. The thing about personally earth-shattering events and experiences is that they are exhausting. They diminish our resources and leave us feeling tapped out and empty. And filling up that well takes a lot more than a couple of workouts at the gym or a few therapy sessions. It takes time, patience, acceptance, tolerance, and self-love to build ourselves up after we’ve been through something traumatic. It’s a slow process of going back to basics and doing the hard work of creating new resources that can be used to support us through challenging, or quite honestly crap, times.

No one really loves the hard work of any sort of recovery! The rewards are great, yes, but the work can be very tiring. It’s also a bit like living a double life of showing up in our professional (and some personal) spaces in a certain way, and then going home at the end of the day and collapsing because of all the energy that requires. Burnout doesn’t just come from working too hard, it comes from having to deal with life, while we are also working. And sure, we all know the antidotes to burnout – rest, exercise, meditation, self-love – oh, you must try yoga! But the truth is you can do all those things and they are just not enough. It’s like slowly stitching scarps of torn fabric back together, with a thread that is very delicate and prone to breaking if we are not careful. It’s a tricky business.

I’m not just talking about addiction recovery. I’m talking about any mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual recovery. Recovery from illness, recovery from loss, recovery from a breakup, or recovery from retrenchment to name a few. Sometimes they feel manageable one at a time, but then the universe decides you need a little more spice – not of the fun kind – and then suddenly it’s all too much to handle. Once the chillis are in the food it’s difficult to “unspice” the dish. And a drink would go down very nicely to just take the edge off that heat… But that’s not an option because we make choices in recovery that serve us rather than destroy us.

I always have the choice to drink. To hand my recovery to whatever situation or person has unhinged me and pissed me off. “Here you go dead father, take all these years of sobriety to the grave with you…I’ll start this whole recovery thing again at the end of the week.” That’s one that could have “made me drink”! Or maybe, “Thanks, job loss is just what I was hoping for at the beginning of an international pandemic. I think I’ll drink to that!”

I’d rather feel the anger, the pain, and the disbelief than anaesthetise it with alcohol, even though the short-term pain can be excruciating! And yes, the short-term gain of numbness would be nice, but it’s just that – short lived. It doesn’t last; I remember that much from my drinking years. It’s just a temporary solution to a longer-term problem; and the problem that alcohol creates in my life is me. I become the problem and then no amount of commercial anaesthetic bottled as bourbon is solving that shitshow!

So I sit in the feelings. Okay, I don’t always just sit, sometimes I wail and gnash my teeth when it feels unbearable, but I try and do that in the privacy of my own home. We all have those moments when the world, and our experience of it, feels completely unmanageable and overwhelming, and far too challenging for our brains and minds to deal with.  Then we release, and there’s nothing better than a good cry for me. Unfortunately, sometimes we misstep and take it out on the people around us, which we never mean to do and yet it happens. We get angry with our partners, shout at our kids, rage at the terrible drivers on our way home from work, and the awful injustices of the world…but that’s just our fear, overwhelm, anger, or frustration spilling out sideways, which also doesn’t feel good after the fact. Hmmm, maybe not we, but definitely me, except that I don’t have kids.

I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I’m also just a human and sometimes “humanning” is really hard for me. I lose my centre and my head a bit, and then need to work come back to a place of emotional manageability. I’d like a timeout or to be sent to life’s naughty corner; it’d kind of feel like a respite, but that’s not how these things play out in real life. Not everyone gets to take time off from their lives to heal; that’s the privilege of the few. Most of us just need to double down and get gritty(er) and take another one on the chin. And of course find time for exercise, meditation, breathwork, yoga, podcasts, and cold-water exposure therapy. Even the healing and wellness sometimes feels overwhelming – a little too much…

We need to find ways that we can heal and recover that are doable for us. Not that make us feel even more unsure of ourselves. We need to rest, find restorative practices that resonate with us, and engage in activities that don’t tire us out even more. It’s hard to find that perfect mix where we feel like we are stretching ourselves, but not to breaking point, and where we’re practicing fierce self-compassion, which means we’re being loving, compassionate and accountable in the choices we make.

A lot right!? Yup, healing and recovery definitely aren’t for sissies! But we don’t have to be superstars either – the winner of recovery just doesn’t exist. It’s an infinite game. Not like a sport’s match or a competition that has definite rules and a set time frame. Recovery, like life, business, relationships, and well-being aren’t like that. We’re not going to get a medal for getting well and recovering from life’s challenges and obstacles. No one is going to award you the “winner of recovery” trophy. Rather, we do the work because it’s going to make life more peaceful, more meaningful, and more fulfilling, not because it's about being the best.

Be the Change Coaching - It's okay to not be okay

So, some days I am the statue and some days I’m the pigeon in life’s little dramedy. And recently it’s been shitty unfortunately. I know that the universal energies will shift and that it will get easier as I continue to do what is manageable for me. I haven’t been able to absorb too much new knowledge recently, and I haven’t listened to a podcast for a while. That’s okay! I just need to stretch myself where I can and rest when I need to. I am not looking for sympathy – that’s not why I wrote this post. I am just resonating with and acknowledging that we all go through difficult periods in our lives, and that’s okay. That no matter what we do or who we are that life can hand out some nasty bitch slaps from time to time, and it’s not always easy to bounce back from these.

It takes to recover and restore to our previous levels of resilience and grittiness. It takes time to heal and get well after pain, death, disappointment, illness, job loss and all the other things that we experience. And sometimes it’s okay to not be okay, because we're all just trying to human as best we can...


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