What we need to feel and function better is often a little more complicated— and sometimes even contradictory— than we’d prefer.
I know I, at least, would prefer that my struggles all fit neatly within one or two categories, so I could choose the most straightforward plan of action to deal with them, and not have to worry about, you know, all these NUANCES.
Alas, nuances exist.
Most of us have challenges that exist on multiple levels— and we have to figure out how to address them on multiple levels.
Taking myself as an example: one level on which I struggle is my attention difficulties. I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, inattentive subtype, and so one of the levels on which I have to center my recovery is the fact that I struggle to follow through on tasks, I struggle with planning and thinking ahead, I don’t instinctively manage time well, and I often struggle to prioritize things when they’re not sufficiently stimulating.
All that, in itself, could be the focus of an entire treatment plan. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
I also have a history of having been abused. This fuels issues with self-esteem and self-image, as well as difficulties with trust, boundaries, and intimacy— not to mention strong impulses toward self-destructive behavior when those symptoms are particularly inflamed.
Again— enough there to build an entire treatment plan around. BUT WAIT!
On top of those struggles, I struggle with depression, which is probably fed by my genes, my biochemistry, and my history.
Oh, and on top of THAT, over the years I developed chaotic patterns of addiction behavior that seemed to overwhelm anything ELSE I happened to be struggling with or trying to manage at the time.
An effective recovery plan for ME needs to address, in some way, all of those areas: attention, trauma, mood, addiction.
While entwined in multiple ways, those are four distinct levels on which a recovery plan needs to touch— or else the neglected levels will likely undermine the levels that ARE addressed.
Thing is: I’m not particularly unusual.
MOST of us have some variant of the situation I’ve just described: For most of us, our challenges exist on multiple levels, and need multiple types of interventions.
We can’t just decide we’re going to ignore a major chunk of what’s f*cking up our life, and hope for the best.
We need to be realistic. Our problems are usually more complex than we want to admit. I know mine are.
It can be intimidating. It can be disheartening. Who wants to admit that they have complicated problems?
The good news is: by getting clear about the various levels on which we struggle, we can actually design a recovery plan that has a chance in hell of working for us.
Our complex problems will exist on all the levels they exist, whether we acknowledge their complexity or not.
The only question is whether we’re gonna give ourselves a fighting chance to actually solve ‘em, or whether we’re going to let them get bigger and hairier by refusing to acknowledge they exist.
We actually don’t have anything to fear by acknowledging how complicated our problems are.
After all, for as complicated as they are: we’re managing them, somehow, some way, right now.
The ONLY thing acknowledging our problems— complete with all their contradictions and complexity— will do is help us get clearer on what we need.
I know for YEARS I tried to solve my addiction problem— while not realizing that I wasn’t gonna touch it without addressing my attention problem.
For YEARS I tried to solve my depression problem— without realizing that it had a lot to do with the abuse stuff I wasn’t interested in looking at.
By actually looking at our stuff and identifying their various levels, we can finally, FINALLY start to craft a life plan that WORKS.
And we don’t have to deal with the anxiety of knowing we’re shoving part of our struggle in the closet— where it’s probably doing nothing but getting bigger, more painful, and less manageable, the longer we leave it there in the dark.
Subscribe to the Doc’s free email newsletter!