In Recovery, if you think you're always going to move forward, you're wrong. You take "one step forward, two steps back." Just like the song says.
I know. That really sucks. But it's true. So, let's just deal with the reality right here, right up front, and that is this: If you can count on anything in Recovery, you can count on experiencing setbacks.
I do mean the plural form, for more than one. I don't know how many, I just know those nasty little setbacks will return when you least expect them, and sometimes you'll know they're coming. Other times, they'll be so big and burdensom and heavy, yet manage to still sneak up on you. It'll be months before you recognize, "Oh, so that's why I've been doing that!"
I've been in the middle of one myself this past year. Yep, you heard me right. I said, "year." Despite so many successes in 2009, I've also experienced a setback--a long-term one that just wouldn't let go of it's choke-hold on me. I knew it. I knew I couldn't stop it. And I knew I'd get through it. I was just riding it out, so to speak, on my symbolic BIKE.
So I let myself feel bad. I let myself be angry. I stayed away from people when I knew I wasn't going to be good company. I took charge of my feelings and just went with it, because I knew they would pass. I think that's the best way to get through these kinds of obstacles.
For me, I could tell when I was acting out my setback. It mostly had to do with words; I said things that I should have kept to myself--to and about a particular person. And I knew it. But I just let those words escape my mouth, anyway. I'd say I felt better afterward, but I didn't. Not really. In one instance, I wanted to make a person feel something that he wasn't going to, no matter what I did or didn't do. In another instance, I wasn't trusting my gut instincts. I was falling back into my codependent ways.
So I read. I pulled out Melody Beattie's book on the topic and read the parts that would alert me to my bad behavior and make me confront myself. And then I realized that sometimes, I'm not going to do the right thing. Sometimes, I'm just going to feel what I'm feeling. And maybe I better write it all down, rather than put it out there where it really won't do any good. So that's what I did. I journaled.
In Recovery, you must believe you'll get through it, whatever "it" is. You must believe that you can go ahead and feel the bad feelings, that they won't hurt you any more than what caused them, that they are probably the right and true effect. Remember, in yesterday's post, I mentioned that feelings are fleeting. That means they'll pass.
If you're experiencing a setback right now, if you're in a moment where you recognize you are stuck--again--realize that's normal. It doesn't mean you won't overcome it. It doesn't mean you're failing. It just means you've probably found a trigger, something that pulled you back into the grief. From here on out, focus on what that trigger might be. Is it a person who reminds you of someone that hurt you? Is it that person? Maybe you had to come in contact with him or her for some reason? Did an event spark a memory? When you figure out what the trigger is, and maybe there's more than one, then you'll have an awareness that you didn't have before, and you'll be better able to cope with the challenge. You'll read a book that you know will help. You'll journal. You'll make a phone call to your favorite therapist. You'll take action.
Think of your setback as just another life challenge to face and then set aside when done with it. It's not your friend. It's not your enemy. It's just another challenge. And challenges are like puzzles. Once you figure them out, you don't have to do that particular one again.