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Steps to Recovery…

By Alice Beveridge

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Recovery is an interesting concept…

Definition: to return to a normal state of health, mind or strength.

That, right there, is the dictionary definition of recovery. I’m not one to pick fault with the good old dictionary, but I am afraid that definition is misleading at best and rubbish at worst. Recovery isn’t a return to a normal state of anything. Recovery is about the process of dealing with and accepting your “new normal”. Whether you are recovering from ill health, be it mental or physical, addiction, bereavement or frankly anything unexpected that has knocked you sideways, pursuit of returning to “normal” (whatever that is) is misguided. There are a wide range of models that exist to help people come to terms with recovery. Some have 12 steps, others have 5, and if you look hard enough, I’m sure you’ll find one with every number in between. For me I’m not sure how many steps there are but so far, I’ve encountered …

Before I begin, allow me to indulge a little context. Last year I had meningitis. Out of nowhere I went from feeling pretty “normal”, or as normal as any 30-year-old with 2 kids under 4 feels, to being hospitalised, drugged to the eyeballs on morphine and being genuinely concerned that I might die, in less than 10 hours.

Dramatic pause.

I was one of the lucky ones. They caught it early, treated it effectively and I was discharged on bed rest within a week, where I stayed for some time.

14 Steps to Recovery:

Enter recovery.

Stage 1: feeling horrific.

Stage 2: feeling less horrific.

Stage 3: over whelming gratitude and a new perspective on the world.

Stage 4: overwhelming guilt (a weird one I know) but there is something very strange about surviving something that you know other people haven’t.

Stage 5: cracking on with life as normal because you have 2 kids and a job, and the mortgage still needs paid.

Stage 6: I’m fine.

Stage 7: I’m honestly fine.

Stage 8: I’m totally fine.

Stage 9: I’m not fine.

Stage 10: I’m ok again.

Stage eleven: I saw something about someone who had what I had, and they died so I have been sent straight to stage one again. I did not pass go; I did not collect £200.

Stage twelve: I am off to take over the world. Again.

Stage thirteen: total relapse.

Stage fourteen: insert any of the previous stages at random for (what feels like) eternity…

Recommended Reading: Celebrating Victories by Speaker Stuart Fenwick

There may be more stages than this… I’m also pretty sure these are different for everyone. That’s because our processes of dealing with stuff probably don’t fall neatly into boxes predefined by psychologists who did a pretty meta-analysis on people’s coping strategies…

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could write down a nice little diagram that perfectly described what recovery is like? However, from my experience, none of these pretty little flow charts get it quite right. Those stages I described are a brief summary of the last year of my life, but could quite frankly describe a day, a week, a month or the two minutes before you get out of bed on the morning. That sounds depressing I know, and as a positive psychologist I am trained to look for the positive in every situation: what can you learn? What can you gain? What can you share? To be honest, from my experience recovery is accepting that you need to find your “new normal”. You need to accept that the boundaries may have shifted. You need to listen to your mind and body.

Enjoy the good days. Accept the bad days.

And remember that the simple fact of recovering means your survived in the first place. That makes you pretty awesome in my book.

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