Thursday, December 2, 2010

what recovery means to me: metamorphosis

This word. Recovery.
Official definitions:

restoration or return to any former and better state or condition.
the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.

it does seem that to be considered "in recovery" two things are necessary:

1. you must have something from which to recover (an injury, a sickness, an addiction, a heartbreak, a loss or a traumatic event... to name a few)
2. you must, by your own definitions and morals, be headed chiefly in the upward direction. (though up and down seems to be a very real part of the process)

I can respect this definition.. however, I believe that this definition also plays into the most common and harmful thinking we have surrounding recovery...that what was lost/changed/hurt can truly be regained. 

As anyone in recovery can tell you (and lets just generalize and say we've all been there), you're never really the same again. Because you see, to recover, we must go through things, and not around them. It's the going around them that lands us back at square one again and again. (see: African Sunsets a small look into my view of avoidance)

I'm not regurgitating this post from any Sunday School lesson; and I'm even more certainly not minimizing grief, addiction or loss. Because the whole "you'll be stronger when you're through this" is exactly the kind of thinking that cheapens the experience, and suggests that one day you'll wake up and your loss, trauma or addiction is somehow not there.

Part of the innate beauty of mortal existence is the fragility of the memory; so I suppose that hurt does lessen and time does heal.

However, going through something (anything) puts your body and spirit in a metamorphosis; it's automatic. it's these events, these trials, whatever you want to call them, that shape us, that help us make marks on time as it flows by. And it's these that eventually live inside of us, not as poison, but as parts of us; very often the most beautiful and tender parts.

You may not find yourself stronger in every way (although it does seem to be a frequent side effect), more likely you will end up more delicate in many ways. And to my eyes, there is nothing more pure than a vulnerable spirit, as it's much harder to obtain than a crusty rigid front. The last thing I want out of life is to become hardened, stringent and closed off. 

So maybe a more accurate definition for recovery is moving forward, acknowledging our life experiences as part our beings, and learning to live not with a chip on our shoulder, but with acceptance. Because the very simple truth I've been circling around and around in my mind and in this blog is: it is what it is

I've been thinking so much lately about beginnings and ends and wishing desperately that the things of life had more clear versions of both. Because although you can talk about chapters opening and closing in the time line that is your life, the trick seems to be learning to live in the interim space.


  1. kelsey, i really enjoy reading your posts - you are a really good writer. it's long as we are in bodies on earth, we are in a constant state of metamorphosis, which is a great thing really, even if difficult. always learning.

  2. I agree that the "metamorphosis" of recovery is that the person in recovery actually morphs, changes into something she/he was not before. I believe that the real "recovery" is (1)knowing and accepting that which will never be recovered, which you wrote about and (2) deciding who the new self will be post-metamorphosis. I think that this second part requires the acceptance you wrote about, as well as deliberate action, which I think is the hardest part.

  3. PS: I also wonder if perhaps RESISTANCE can be an effective form of recovery that is often overlooked. By resistance I don't mean denial of the trauma or anything like that. I mean active and well-aimed resistance/activism against the forces that sent us into recovery in the first place. For example, my best friend is a recovering meth addict and part of her "metamorphosis" and recovery has included her goal of becoming a rehab counselor. I think any time that we can take the energy of our grief/pain/anger/etc and direct it squarely at the oppressive forces around us, we are not only recovering but helping others do the same.


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