I try hard to frame the content I put out there into the world as, “here’s something you might find helpful.”
“Here’s a thing to think about.”
“Here’s something that was a game changer for me.”
“Here’s something that’s been helpful to a lot of people I’ve worked with.”
I think it’s really, really important in our recovery from depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction or any other kind of emotional or behavioral struggle, that we NOT frame it in terms of whether we’re “doing it right.”
Yet, it seems that I very frequently see people writing about these subjects, framing the discussion in terms of what most people are doing “wrong” in their recovery.
Don’t get me wrong: I do think there are traps in recovery that are really important to avoid.
For example, we really need to steer clear of viewing recovery as a “competition.” It can be really tempting to look at our recovery gains and setbacks in terms of whether we are “winning” or “losing” a very high stakes “game.”
Thinking of recovery in this way can be disheartening— because we’re absolutely GOING to have days where we take a step or two back. If we think of that as “losing,” as opposed to a normal, expected part of the process, it can put a negative spin on our efforts that is discouraging— and which doesn’t need to happen.
Likewise, there’s the trap of confusing how we’re feeling on a day, with how we’re doing in the big picture.
We’ll have good days and we’ll have not so good days— but it’s entirely possible to be on a successful overall recovery arc, while having a day or two where we don’t feel great. Just feeling bad in the moment doesn’t mean we’re crashing and burning in our recovery— we might just be having an off day.
So, sure. There are traps in recovery that are common, and that we need to avoid.
That said: I really, really hate it when I see personal development writers framing things in terms of how “most people” do something or other “wrong” in recovery.
These tend to be the same writers who frame a lot of their content in very advice-like terms, coming at the equation as if they’re the enlightened “guru” guiding naive’ seekers through the dangerous waters of recovery.
Like, give me a break.
I write the things I write because I think I have things that are helpful to keep in mind as we all navigate our journeys. I’ve gone to school and I’ve worked with a lot of people who have been struggling and who have overcome struggles.
That’s where my expertise begins and ends.
I have no right to tell you you’re “probably” making a mistake that “most people “ make in recovery— I don’t even know most of you.
Who is any self-help writer on the internet to tell you you’re doing recovery “wrong?”
You don’t need to be talked down to by people you don’t even know— especially when you’re reading their content looking for help.
I’m a big believer in self-help content and culture. Self-help resources were the first and most effective tools I found in my own recovery journey.
I believe in reading everything you can, trying things out, and thinking outside the box when it comes to designing our own recovery journeys.
Well over half of the stuff I have done and continue to do to keep my own head above water, let alone thrive, have been derived or adapted from things I’ve read in the self help sphere. There are some extraordinary resources out there.
I just wish that those who produce self-help content didn’t automatically assume their audience was “doing it wrong.”
I don’t think you’re “doing it wrong.”
I think the very fact that you’ve survived so far means you’re doing something quite right.
Your strategies and skills may not be perfect. Some of them might have outlived their usefulness. Some of them might create more problems than they solve at this point.
But they’ve worked in an important aspect: they’ve kept you alive.
I think your ongoing recovery needs to build on the recovery you’ve already established.
Even if you’re at a point where a significant overhaul might be necessary, I STILL think it’s essential to acknowledge that you’re not new to this “recovery” thing— or this “survival” thing.
You’re already a recoverer, a survivor, a thriver.
If you’re reading my words and using my ideas, it’s ME who is lucky to be a part of YOUR life.
So thank you.
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