Addiction is a monster, and recovery is a bitch.

The monster will eat you up. It wants everything: your relationships, your health, your money, your marriage, your kids, your self-esteem, your peace of mind, your sanity. It will swallow them all, if you let it.

This is no less true of control addiction (a.k.a. codependency) than any other.

But recovery’s no picnic either.

It requires strength, and courage, and persistence, and patience, and faith, and lots of support.

And for some people it just gets too hard.

It’s like they’re climbing a mountain, and they get tired or sore or discouraged. And suddenly they just can’t take another step.

So they stop and pitch a tent on the mountainside.

For some it’s just an overnight break, a breather. Next day they’re able to pack up and resume climbing.

For others the break lasts longer. Weeks, months, years even. But it’s still just a break.  They know they’ll resume climbing eventually.

And others give up.

They tell themselves they’re still in recovery. (I’m working on it, they say.)  They continue in therapy, attend meetings, read recovery books, stay in touch with recovery friends.  But they’ve lost hope. They no longer believe they can get where they were going.

So they move into that tent they pitched and set about making it comfortable. They rationalize staying in the bad marriage, the bad job, the toxic relationship. They justify their lack of self-care, their fear of coming out of hiding, their dependence on untrustworthy people. They stop listening to themselves and fighting for themselves. They relapse into trying to manage people, places things.

The tent has become home.

There’s not much a therapist can do when this happens. I can point out what they’re doing, empathize with their discomfort, warn against the lure of camping, suggest ways to start climbing again.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

In the end, I think, what distinguishes climbers from campers is their support system.  Climbers create strong ones able to sustain them during times of discouragement.  Which includes at least one person honest enough to ask, “What the hell are you still doing in that tent?”

But campers never quite get around to trusting other people.  So when discouragement hits, they’re all alone.

And nobody recovers alone.

* * *


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One response to “Camping

  • Ali

    Being able to seek and then accept the support of others has been, is, will be the essence of my hope and recovery.
    While it felt counter intuitive to accept this initially, it now feels like it’s the wise thing to do.
    Counter intuitive because my Plan A based based on the rule that ‘I must be independent and emotionally strong – always.’ To ask for help was to be weak and let the ‘side’ down. Shame of it, irresponsible.
    Once I busted this myth I regained a sense of hope, founded in the care from others.
    A brilliantly explained post Steve. Thanks.

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