You’ll often hear it said that “recovery has no timetable.”
I understand why people say that, what they mean when they say it. They’re encouraging us to not be impatient with ourselves, to not pressure ourselves, to let our trauma recovery unfold at exactly the rate it has to unfold.
But at the same time, I find it frustrating.
It’s true that we can’t force or rush trauma recovery.
But it’s also true that we live in the real world, with commitments and deadlines and relationships to which we have to be responsive.
I’ve never thought it was particularly fair to tell the people in our lives that our trauma recovery will just, you know, take the time it takes.
That leaves even the most patient and invested people in our lives kind of hanging— and I think they deserve more than that for their patience and investment.
I’m not a fan of trying to slap strict time frames on recovery milestones.
The truth is that people are so different, our traumas and reactions are so different, our supports and resources are so different, that if “experts” start throwing out generalized time frames, it’s only going to make people feel lousy when they don’t happen to fit into those time frames.
Here’s what I can tell you about recovery and time:
Thinking of recovery as “I need to get to this milestone” may not be the best way to frame what we’re doing here.
The point of trauma recovery isn’t so much to get to a place where we are definitively “recovered.”
To think of recovery that way invites kind of a dichotomy of “recovered” vs. “not yet recovered,” and that’s just not how I think of recovery.
When I use the language “in recovery,” I mean we’ve chosen recovery as a lifestyle.
We acknowledge something happened to dramatically impact how we feel and function, our safety and stability; and we have chosen to live our life with an appreciation for how what happened affected us.
That don’t mean we are forever a “slave” to the trauma.
It means that as we construct our life going forward, we do so with respect to the damage that was really, actually done.
Addiction recovery is the same way. To say that we are in “in recovery” from addiction doesn’t imply that we’re progressing toward a place of “recovered;” it means we are constructing our live around the central understanding that we NEED to take into account how the FACT of our addiction affects us.
Recovery is not a destination; it is a commitment and a lifestyle.
When you think of it in those terms, the “timeline” question kind of becomes moot.
How long do we have to wait or work until we are substantively better? The real answer to that is, we are better every single day, if only by teeny, tiny increments.
One year into recovery tends to be better than one day into recovery.
One day in recovery tends to be better than one hour in recovery.
It’s not a matter of asking the people in our lives to wait it out with us; it’s a matter of inviting them to be part of an active, creative process that unfolds every day.
There’s a reason why “one day at a time” is one of the most famous recovery slogans: because it emphasizes that the only day we REALLY have in recovery is THIS day. This one, right here.
Those days in the future might never happen.
Those day sin the past are gone forever.
But we know we’re here. You, reading this, know that you have today. This minute.
We don’t have to “wait” for recovery to happen, because it is happening. This minute, this day, one day at a time.
So, how long does recovery take?
It takes today.
That’s what I know.