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Recovery from any mental illness is an all-consuming endeavor focused on frustrations, heartache, triumphs, new-found happiness, and gains in perspective which bring on floods of emotion. Anyone in recovery has heard these warnings and wishes time and time again. We’ve been prepared for the obstacles of recovery, but…then what?
The “then what” is life after recovery.
This much-fabled state does exist, but for those of us who spent so many years entrenched in our own minds and despair, it can be daunting. Imagine bears emerging from deep winter hibernation – they are taught what to expect of the new spring. Astronauts returning to Earth after months spent floating in space are under the vigilant eyes of medical teams to assure their reintegration and mental stability.
But what about us? We’re told to “make the most of life,” “take time to smell the roses,” “find out what makes you truly happy,” and “do everything you never thought you could!”
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I’m a fan of motivation and inspiration, but where do we even begin? Advice like this always made me feel like I was being launched into the deep end, blindfolded and without a life preserver. It’s no wonder so many who find themselves on the edge of the leap of faith between recovering and recovered hesitate and take steps back toward their illness.
The unknown can be the most frightening of all frightening places, and life after recovery asks us to confront our greatest fears and trust blindly. As impossible as it may seem, creating a new life in which we become our own hero is well within our power. The pioneers didn’t cross continents just to see the view of new lands and return to their point of origin. They settled the land and created a new universe for themselves.
Be the pioneer of your own life, lay foundations for a new world. What do you want your life to look like? What will bring you connections, laughter, and purpose? Bring these into being, create your own reality. Build a life, yet never settle.
I realized my power the day I dyed my hair red – I was no longer a prisoner of my old status quo. I reached out to the friends I deeply missed, while I distanced myself from those I found no longer brought me joy. I learned to maintain eye contact during conversations with those I find physically attractive (and finally found myself able to smile at the cute barista’s jokes). I became comfortable with my fangirl antics and no longer try to quell them (because it’s perfectly okay to openly squeal over pictures of cute puppies, not be able to stop giggling during One Direction music videos, believe Jennifer Lawrence is my spirit animal, and heatedly argue the intricacies of the Harry Potter universe).
Not everything needs to be profound and meaningful, but I can enjoy anything just because it makes me happy. When unexpected plans arise, I’m beginning to oppose my instincts and say ‘yes’ when something will make me happy despite lingering mild anxiety. I’m also using the word ‘no’ more liberally to keep my own best interests in the forefront, meaning I’m no longer seen as submissive but an entity of strength to be respected. I am not more daring, but I am more impulsive because I’m letting go of any fear of judgement and regret. I’m embracing my love of reading, poetry, kitchen dance parties, getting lost in a song and playing it endlessly on repeat, and using absurd amounts of emoticons in text messages.
Life is what we make of it. Changes can be as small as picking out new colours of nail polish and as large as applying to return to school.
There is no right or wrong step when each opportunity is an experience and a chance to learn more about yourself. Make no apologies, you are who you are. Life isn’t a never-ending series of challenges to overcome, nor is it a series of rules to be followed. Life is a procession of moments to be lived and memories to be drawn and made your own. Let yourself make mistakes; it’s how we grow.
Life after recovery is embracing the new world and making it a place we can call home.
If you enjoyed this article, please donate $2As a nonprofit, we rely on donations to keep our magazine and community running. There has never been a time when our community and content was needed more. As a nonprofit online community and magazine, we provide FREE articles, videos, and other content that is available worldwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Due to the global pandemic, we’ve had to put events, collaborations and business sponsorships on hold, leaving us to rely exclusively on online donations from our community (aka YOU!) We want to be here to support you all through this pandemic and beyond, which is why we are asking you to consider donating whatever you are able. A single (or monthly) donation of just $2 will make a difference and will help keep our nonprofit running so we can continue supporting you and others. If you enjoyed this article, please consider donating:
The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.