What Does It Take to Recover?

I most enjoy the company of people who have suffered tremendously. I mean deep in your bones, bring you to your knees, intolerable, loss. We’re folks who embraced the acronym of H.O.P.E (Hold On Pain Ends). Our attitudes are second to none. We’re genuinely happy to be vertical and breathing because what we’ve been through could have destroyed us and it didn’t.

It’s an honor to bear witness to pain. It connects us empathically. I may not share the same experiences as you but I know what intolerable hurt feels like and so I’m willing to be present for you because I’d never want anyone to go through that alone.

Expression is key to overcoming. Suffering is done on your own and it’s recycling pain. Grieving is sharing pain with good people and releasing it, bit by bit. It takes longer than it should and hurts more than it should.

Those of us who get to the other side…find that there’s always going to be a little bit more to let go of. We accept this because it means further opportunities to grow and heal. That’s what it means to be a work in progress.

Pain is a powerful motivator for change. The average person never changes all that much, people in recovery change a LOT and we do it because we must. For each of us, our conditions became intolerably painful and destructive.

“Recovery” is a term most only apply to addiction. Cancer survivors recover. People with eating disorders recover. Trauma survivors recover. People who survive countless forms of abuse recover. What all of these conditions have in common is that they’re never truly over. There’s always the possibility of the sickness returning. Recovery then is not only overcoming the affects of disease(s) but also adopting a lifestyle that ensures ongoing growth and healing.

This adage encapsulates the essence:
“Recovery is awareness of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that block change.”

Change is healthy, inevitable, and necessary, yet we resist it. It’s easier to distract ourselves. It’s more tempting to tell ourselves it’ll go away if we wait long enough. It’s more comfortable to lie. Recovery requires paying a lot of attention to the needs of a person we’ve spent a long time avoiding (ourselves).

Awareness creates insight, which in turn becomes responsibility. Being accountable to those who support our goals and being courageous enough to do the work of recovery allows us to transcend suffering and to become something greater than ourselves.

People in recovery have insane work ethics – for most of us, the hardest part of the process is allowing others to help. To change our lives without the guidance and support of those who have gone before us is not only reinventing the wheel, it is denying others the joy of sharing their experience, strength, and hope.

Recovery demands shifts in perspective. Our concept of “strength” is the easiest example. Too many of us were raised to believe that just moving forward, “getting over it”, suffering silently, and/or being stoic were forms of strength. It turns out those don’t work for us.

My truth: It takes a lot more guts to let it go than to hold it in. Letting go isn’t something I can do alone. I need to know people who are fucked up like me and share with them. That’s the only thing that ever made it (me) better.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.