3 Takeaways From a (Two-Time) HopeWay Alumna
September 28, 2023
My Journey With HopeWay
Before I dive in, let me share a bit about my story with you. On paper, my life was incredible, but the truth was, just existing felt unbearable. I couldn’t make it through a day without numbing and I was no longer leaving my house. The catch was - I had already been through HopeWay’s program - all three levels of care actually. If it didn’t “fix me” the first time, why would my second time be any different?
HERE ARE MY 3 BIG TAKEAWAYS:
1. Listening vs Absorbing
There is a difference between understanding and really knowing something. I thought I had done it right the first time. I did what I was supposed to do. I attended the different therapy groups, paid attention and even completed the worksheets. Hindsight is I was just listening rather than absorbing the information. It is like this: how many times have you passively listened to the safety debrief on a plane? If the plane started going down, would you actually know what to do? Maybe you would remember, “Put on your mask before helping others”, but what next?
2. Practice Makes Progress
Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes progress. I had incorrectly thought the hardest part of my recovery was being at HopeWay, but that was only the beginning. My real growth occurred when I was practicing my skills every single day. Not just at home alone practicing, but in the real world. I would practice my breathing when I started to feel panicky at the grocery store. I would remember to challenge my thoughts when anticipatory anxiety told me to shut out the world and isolate. I thought it would take years of practicing, but surprisingly my body and mind actually wanted to adopt these new skills. While clumsy and awkward at first, my subconscious started to realize that the new skills were much more effective than my old ones. Each time it got easier.
3. Learning to Turn Down the Volume of Anxiety
Even though I still experience anxiety, I can “turn down the volume”. Almost two years after entering treatment for the second time, I still have the same fears and inclinations to numb, avoid and isolate. However, I have clear data that acting on those thoughts and feelings only makes things worse. Invasive thoughts pop up, but I acknowledge them and let them fade into the background rather than clinging to them and spiraling out of control. I still doubt myself and experience anxiety daily but it is like turning the volume down on the stereo. I can hear it, but instead of it blaring in my ears and feeling all-consuming, I let it fade into the background and move forward with my life and recovery.
Applying Skills From HopeWay in Day-to-Day Life
In the end, I have come to the conclusion that recovery is like a haircut. You can go to treatment and learn the skills and walk around with your flouncy new hair, but then it requires a lot of maintenance. No matter how talented your hairdresser is or how badly you want to heal, you have to actively choose to maintain the skills you learned.
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