It occurred to me after five years of a rather successful, peaceful recovery, that recovery and change were not going to be the pieces of cake I thought they would be. When I started to slip back into a bit of a mess that I will now call My Life, I noticed that all I had learned five years prior, seemed to have, poof! disappeared and become unlearned. For those five years, as I went around, resting on my laurels, insisting that love addiction can, in fact, be cured (and don’t get me wrong, I definitely do still believe that new, healthier behaviors and thinking patterns can replace unhealthy ones, permanently), I forgot three maddening facts:
1. Time, and therefore life, is not linear. You don’t just move in a straight line up or down or left or right. You don’t just choose to recover and when you do, you move in a straight line upward, and just keep getting more and more perfect. It’s not that easy. Sometimes life is circular. Sometimes you make the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes you take two steps forward and five steps back. You fall. You get up. You standstill. You roll over. You play dead. There is no simple movement forward or special force that acts as a lubricant to ease you up and out of the mess you’re in. Sure, there are shoots and ladders available, that propel you in one direction or another with speed and effortlessness. But, the reality is that Life, and being human is complicated, disorganized and sometimes you get sidetracked. And that fact alone, should tell you that in order to be successful at it, you might have to let go of your preconceived notions of what success is. Because it’s certainly not linear.
2. If I am to be realistic, I have limitations. All that made me the person I am today, all the pain, suffering, goodness and beauty that flowed through me and taught me how to “be” is all still there–good and bad. And many of those traits and behaviors and shortcomings and strengths that now make me who I am, much like my eyeball or my elbow, are here to stay. Sure, I can tweak my behavior here and there. And I can work damn hard to force my brain to think more positive thoughts. But, I cannot ignore the fact that my brain is prone to anxiety and worry, that I have a tendency to be a control freak, that I have trouble retaining new vocabulary words, that I just don’t like being away from my family for too long, and that I am totally OCD when it comes to food, house-cleaning and my coffee intake. I can’t just ignore these things that, like it or not, can often get in the way of progress, just as I cannot ignore the head on my shoulders or the caps on my knees. They are there. For better or worse. The question is, how to work around them.
3. Life is a surprise. Expect the unexpected. The moment you think you have it all figured out and everything is under your control, you get bitten by a rabbid dog. Or you lose your job. Or your 16-year-old son gets his girlfriend pregnant. Or your parent dies. Or you come down with the bubonic plague (suggestion: get on antibiotics quick for this one). The list goes on and on. The world is unpredictable and filled with good surprises and not so good surprises and whole lot of chaos. And while, sure, you can stop adding to the chaos by not creating drama yourself. But you can never fully protect yourself against the ebb and flow of the unknown. You only have a finite amount of control. Thinking you’re in total control is an illusion you have when everything just happens to be going right. And so the trick, at this point in my life, is not only to figure out how to live my life (that was my very first lesson as a love addict, by the way, –to figure out what kind of life I wanted because I never really knew), but to also figure out how to maneuver my way through The Fun House without being too surprised when something jumps out at me from behind a corner. There’s only so much I can be prepared for without driving myself crazy.
Perhaps all that I have learned has not disappeared, but rather, perhaps, new lessons and challenges are now upon me. These three are toughies. They are not lessons I ever really wanted to learn. I don’t really like change as much as I thought I did! But, the responsibility of recovery, and ultimately growing up, is to face life, not run away from it. And to never give up. And while I may have taken a few steps back this past winter, this post is proof that I am working hard at leaping forward. In the past, I would have believed that leaping forward meant “Make no mistakes.” Now, I think it means, “Embrace what you’ve got (unless you’ve got a really bad situation that YOU can actively get out of), expect the unexpected, and let go of hanging on so tightly.” Easier said than done. But I’m going to give it my best.
7 thoughts on “3 Tough lessons we all need to learn”
Life is such a surprise! I appreciated that point and completely agree! Perhaps if we took the dang surprise away we would better be able to cope : ) ha! Enjoyed the read!
Wonderful advice! I see that the way I react to problems is so different now, but problems are still around. I don’t automatically assume I am dirt and my life is cursed when something bad happens – I am more able to just see that these things happen to EVERYONE in some form or another. I am having financial issues – maybe someone else isn’t, but they’re having some other kind of problem, guaranteed. This is growing up and stopping being a big baby who expects everything to be my way. I hope things smooth out for you soon but it sounds like you’re determined to weather this storm and that’s great.
The more I read and learn about attachment theory and addiction the more I’m convinced that we, as humans, are perpetuating the dysfunction and drama. Why? I’m not sure, but I can’t seem to make sense of it otherwise…
Yes! kac527. We are indeed perpetuating the dysfunction and drama. And the “why” is easier to answer than you think: it works! And we tend to make a habit out of things that work for us. That is to say that not everything that works for us is healthy or good. Just that it works. Usually what breaks an addiction and a bad habit is the enormous act of defying gravity. In other words, you need to take extreme measures to block your habit (at least in the beginning), replace it with something healthier, and retrain your brain to think logically about not doing that thing anymore. Tricky! But humans can do it. 🙂
Something I wrote after a great revelation that I had actually changed my own behaviour…… Land of the broken hearts.
Once upon a time, there was a lonely girl. She was not a happy girl, and she was so isolated. She had had her heart broken many times and there just didn’t seem to be any cure. She was not used to spending time with people, or rather people of any value, so she simply chose to be alone, well most of the time. The only people she felt an affinity with all seemed to have a broken heart. The place was awash with these kinds of people. They all talked the same talk and all sounded just the same. One day, she decided that enough was enough and she just had to do her utmost to move away from this land. It was so samey. But where would she move to? When would she move and how? She had lived there for so long! She shopped around for a map and a compass, but they were sadly unavailable; they were all sold out to a local mariners group who were planning a great voyage that weekend. She clicked away at her keyboard and searched and searched for help. Nothing.
In desperation, she typed in the words “I Must be addicted to love” in the search bar, and there it was! In black and white! The Lovely June, on the Lovely Addicts website! The broken hearted girl couldn’t quite believe her eyes! Was there really another person on this earth who knew about such things? How could this be? Why haven’t I noticed them before? She was deeply puzzled. ‘Who cares,’ she thought as she read and read and read! Minutes turned into hours and hours turned into a day and before she knew it, it was daybreak and the birds were singing in the trees. Still, she read on, frightened that if she tore herself away from the screen, she would fall asleep, wake up and find that it had all been a dream. ‘Cut and paste, cut and paste, just in case,’ she thought.
Sleep won the battle and rest came to her sore eyes. She eventually awoke and returned in great haste to the wondrous screen of healing. She drank in the chapters and absorbed every syllable until a week had passed. Within this time, all her past in the Land of Heartbreak seemed to evaporate. It was truly as if she had never ever lived there. There was nothing else to read. She had read it all. Deciding on a rest from the reading, she opened her door and walked out onto the familiar street. She recognised most of the people on it. As she walked, she noticed her oldest friend. “Hi!” she waved, and her oldest friend came towards her.
But the oddest thing happened. As her friend began to speak, a mysterious language drifted from her mouth and floated off into the atmosphere. “Sorry? I didn’t quite catch that!”, she said. Her friend opened her mouth again and another trail of verbal nonsensical dialect dawdled off and away towards the trees. “Pardon? I don’t quite understand you!” the girl said.
Detecting an old boyfriend in the distance, she paced towards him in the hope that he could shed some light on her friend’s oddest behaviour. Stunned, she gasped, as he too appeared to be afflicted with the same condition! ‘There must be something in the water’, she mused as she shook her head in dismay. She walked on and met yet another old friend and she too was talking in this foreign language. Not quite like archaic Chinese, but something much similar.
Fearing the worst, she packed all of her belongings and moved as far away from that place as possible. She settled in to her new abode and unpacked her few items of necessity. She slept like a baby. When morning arrived, she decided to go and explore the new neighbourhood. She passed a lady on the street who smiled generously and said “Good Morning”.
‘WOW! I can understand her’, she thought. She walked into the local store. The store owner asked her could he help. ‘WOW! I heard every word he said!’ she enthused. “Excuse me for asking” she said to the shop keeper, “but I seem to have been having trouble with my hearing lately, however, it seems perfectly ok now; have you any idea why this might be?” “Oh my dear, have you just moved in locally? Did you used to live in the land of broken hearts?” “Yes! However could you tell?” She asked. “Well”, said the shop keeper, “I happened to notice the removal van coming along the road just yesterday. It was coming from the direction of the land of broken hearts and when it got to the fork in the road, I noticed it stopped and then took a left turn up the side street named ‘Recovery’. I said to my wife, ‘hey! There goes another one!” Amazed at his perception, she asked “Are there many living here in recovery?” “Sadly, no” He said. “But ones better than none and one just has to have hope!”
‘This place seems to be ok’, she thought and decided to make the most of it. She settled in much sooner than she thought she would. She thought she might stay here forever it was so beautiful and filled with peace; and that’s exactly what she did. Happy ever after; I do believe she will live there forever. ❤