Skip to main content

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

Is Your Recovery a “White Knuckle” Recovery or a Freedom Recovery?

When I was five years old, my parents took our family on a day trip to an amusement park outside of Philadelphia. I begged my parents to ride the wooden roller coaster at the park only to discover that it was a traumatic experience that would linger with me for many years.  The amusement park did not have height restrictions, seat belts or other safety precautions back then. They should have had those safeguards though because my mother fought to keep me from falling out of the ride!  Many years later, I can still remember the trauma of being unable to hold onto the safety bar and bouncing around the car only to feel as if at any second I would fall out.  That experience stayed with me and I was unwilling to try anything adventurous at amusement parks for many years after that.  Finally, a friend convinced me to try the roller coaster again when I was 14 and I discovered I enjoyed the adrenaline rush! After that, I tried anything and everything until I hit the age when motion sickness became the norm.
I share this story as a means of explaining recovery.  Sometimes, you can hold on really tight to recovery and the sheer exhaustion of holding onto recovery causes us to tire and release our grip. Then, we bounce all over the place in times of high stress. I call this kind of recovery “White Knuckle” Recovery.  I am holding on to my recovery so tightly because I have not grown emotionally to the point that I have the strength to hold on the emotional safety bar with ease while I ride the hills and curves of stress.  Many times people are white-knuckling their recovery to please a person who is also riding through life with them. They hold on to the safety bar of recovery so tightly that they eventually lose strength, let go, and give up again.  There is a constant cycle of holding onto the safety bar of recovery only to eventually cycle out of recovery when the going gets rough. It can be a vicious cycle. The person holding on tightly to the safety bar of recovery is emotionally weak because they have not worked to strengthen their emotional muscle energy.  True recovery comes when people do a variety of activities to make sure they can hold on to their recovery. These activities include :
1.  Working on the issues of their childhood that cause them to lose their grip.
2.  Growing in their understanding of the truth about themselves and replacing childhood beliefs with adult beliefs.  Just like we grow physically, people will grow emotionally when they focus on self-growth.
3.  Feeding on a steady diet of emotional and spiritual truth. This is the food that enables a person to have the strength to withstand the speed and stress of the ride of life.

We are not promised a life without struggle. However, we are promised that truth will bring freedom, that love can replace fear, and that letting go of childish ways can enable us to ride through life in a freedom that helps us intuitively know what to do when we encounter difficult stress.  Are you “white knuckling” your recovery or are you taking the steps to enable yourself to make stronger decisions and ride in freedom?  Believe it or not, you can enjoy the ride when you take the steps to no longer ride as a child.

I Corinthians 13: 8-13 ( NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The Problems of Pain

I’ve been thinking a lot of the allegory of physical pain and emotional pain, and how you treat both as I go through extensive physical therapy for my physical pain.  My physical pain requires me to focus on stretching out my muscles multiple times a day so that I am in less pain each day.  It’s a challenge to choose to do painful exercises that take away time from other portions of my day, but my physical pain increases when I decide not to do the stretching exercises.  Likewise, it is this way in the therapy process.  Clients ask me, “How long will this take?  How many months or how many sessions will this take to get better?”  My response is always the same:  to whatever level you put into practice the things that I tell you to do outside of the sessions is to what degree you will recover faster.  Last time I was going through physical therapy, I had a severe achilles injury that required doing daily stretches.  The problem was that I was in the midst of a move to another house and forcing myself to stop packing up my house and do the necessary stretching was very difficult.  I wound up requesting that my doctor sign off on doing more physical therapy so that the therapist would force me to do the work I needed to do to get my leg back.  The process of physical therapy took longer because I was putting many other things ahead of my recovery.  Moving towards emotional pain and the work we need to do to recover ourselves to psychological health is a painful process.  We are forced to stare down the things that we avoid dealing with in life, and we are forced to deal with the feelings that we would medicate by keeping our minds occupied.  However, I have noticed that the higher my physical pain levels are, the more I self-medicate and the less I reach out to others.  My mind is so preoccupied with my pain that I am unable to focus on giving proper care to those close to me.  I realize that I must force myself to do the exercises that cost me time and pain in order to get better for both myself and others.  My life is happier when I am pain free.  I am not hindered in my daily life and the activities that I can choose to do when I my pain is lessened.  The same is true for my loved ones.  I give them better care when I am not focused on my pain.  I am much more pleasant and amiable when my pain levels are down.  How about you?  How are you dealing with the emotionally painful things in your life?  Are you facing them down daily or are you avoiding them at all cost?  Each decision has its own payoff.  Avoidance of the pain feels as if it lessens the pain in the short term, but  the less we deal with it, the more the pain grows, the slower the process of recovery, and the less I give those whom I love the quality of care they need.