One of the questions I ask during my intakes with new clients is "when will you know that therapy is complete? When will you have been healed?" I do this to get a sense of their goals and the changes that they'd like to make, I ask them to imagine a future where they don't need me and can support themselves. Most clients answer with something along the lines of "when I'm no longer using drugs," or "when I can be happy again." Noble goals for sure, and usually much more complicated than they sound.
I find myself asking the question now: What does it mean to heal?
And, you know, I'm not so sure I know the answer to that. Personally, I've been in therapy for 8 years, I've gotten sober, worked out many of my harmful behaviors, delved deeply into my past, and build stronger relationship with the ones that I love. But I don't know if I've "recovered," I still have hard days and I still act out and hurt others.
I wonder if recovery is an attainable goal. Perhaps recovery is just a model for an ideal way of living, a goal to work towards. But, like they say in Eastern Philosophy, it's not the goal that's important, it's the journey. The journey towards recovery illuminates every part of oneself. It burns us in the places that we guarded the most, it roots out the insecurities and shame that we hold and presents them to the world unabashedly. Recovery challenges us to confront our fears and to have difficult conversations, it inspires us to dive into uncomfortable feelings and memories.
One of the most challenging parts of this process is that it is mostly invisible. Others rarely see the struggle that we go through. They are unaware of the daily battle that goes on in our heads. They don't see the long nights and lonely moments when we dip a toe into hopelessness. This is a deeply personal quest. It behooves us to surround ourselves with allies and healers but we have to take every single step ourselves. This can get so exhausting.
We want to heal but it can be challenging to recognize when we've gotten there. Those in the recovery community know the term dry drunk, a person who is so committed to sobriety that their life, in a way, is still about alcohol. These people cling onto their sobriety like a badge of honor and build their whole reality around it. Of course, for many this has been life saving, but I wonder: have they truly recovered? Have they moved on from their past? It's hard for me to believe.
Many of use create our identities out of our pain. We use our wounds as shields that separate us from others. We push others away but we feel as though they can never understand us. This is an illusion. We are just not that special. Perhaps the last step in recovery is letting go of the idea that we have a problem.
Perhaps recovery means embracing our humility. Realizing that we are just like everyone else. That's a hard one to swallow: being ordinary. Learning to enjoy the little moments in life: a sunset, a cup of tea, or sitting in traffic.
Maybe, recovery lays in the mundane?