The Necessary Temper Tantrum
Recovery offers us the chance to grow up.
Even if we may think we are already grown up.
We may be of an age, have a bank account that would suggest, or work in a profession that indicates we are most definitely grown up.
But until we wholeheartedly commit to navigating the often choppy waters of recovery for as long as it takes to get to shore safely, we are not truly grown.
This is because, as long as we are mired in uncertainty when it comes to pursuing recovery, we are still holding on to our childhood dream and hope that we can have everything we want.
That is, we are clinging to the inaccurate belief, however alluring, that we can have our addiction or issue, and we can also have a happy, healthy life too.
Regardless of the origin of our disease (ie. some diseases are more body-focused and some are more brain-focused) or behavior (ie. some behaviors are truly biologically-based while others are incidences of deliberate abuse for a specific reason), the continuation of it indicates at some level a permission.
This permission is born of an inability to perceive accurately that the disease or behavior is a threat to our very life – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
For instance, if you received a diagnosis of cancer, you would initially choose one of two directions. Either you would lapse into denial (stage one of the Five Stages of Grief) and pretend like your cancer would just “work itself out,” or you would gird your loins for a full-on battle and lunge in, determined to claim victory over your diagnosis.
But when it comes to issues such as substance use, alcohol use, eating disorders, depression, and other disorders of mood and emotion, we often waffle. We are not clearly convinced that our diagnosis is its own brand of “cancer,” with the same ultimate result if we do not wholeheartedly fight it off.
Because we are not convinced of its danger to our health and life, we allow ourselves to remain in a state where we are not sure we can live without the repetitive, temporary sanctuary our use and abuse of food, substances, or mood provides to check out of life when life feels hard enough to be unacceptable.
We are not sure we can live without whatever it is, because we are not yet convinced we have to in order to survive.
In these cases, we are not yet grown up. We are still having a very understandable temper tantrum. We want to have our thinness and our life too. We want to have our substances and our life too. We want to have our emotional instability and our life too.
We are not sure we can live without what we must learn to live without, if we are to survive.
I threw this temper tantrum for years – eight years to be exact.
No one had ever told me I couldn’t have my eating disorder (which I believed I needed in order to attract and retain social acceptance and artistic success) and my dreams of a happy life too. Since no one had ever told me I couldn’t have both, I had been busy telling myself I could.
When my own failing health woke me up to the lie I had been repeating to myself, I threw a mega temper tantrum until finally I exhausted myself and accepted the truth.
I would have to choose.
And I did.
In that moment, I grew up.
Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been refusing to accept some necessary recovery-based work that you still need to do? It is time to have your temper tantrum, get it out of your system, and let it go so you can heal, recover, and get on with both the business and the wonder of living.
Cutts, S. (2011). The Necessary Temper Tantrum. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2011/11/the-necessary-temper-tantrum/