This sign in the photo is about the usual tar and asphalt kind of roads. But it reminded me of the metaphorical roads to recovery we all travel on as well, at times.
Sometimes life can take us to places of great desolation: grief, heartache, hopelessness, regret, loss. And sometimes the only proper response is to just dwell in those places for a while. To absorb the landscape. To sit in the solitude. To simply take stock of where you find yourself just now.
But, when it feels right to start the process of recovery, how can you find a path back to that? How can you make your way out of the pain and back to other parts of your life? How might you walk towards your future?
Let’s explore that together for a moment.
Perhaps a good place to start is to ask yourself whether you’re already on a road to recovery. You may already have started out on the path to healing, whether they were big steps or small that you took. And if so, maybe it’s worth acknowledging that, appreciating it, so you get a real sense of that movement and momentum. So you can see your milestones.
Much like “roads to recovery,” “milestones” are both literal and metaphorical. Once, they were actual stones along the path, indicating how many miles you’d come from the place you’d left, and how many more miles to your destination. And now they can also be indicators of having reached an important moment in your life, too. So, if you’re already on your ‘road to recovery,’ maybe it’s worth putting in a ‘milestone’ of some kind, and recognizing what you’ve already achieved along the way.
(What might represent that for you in a meaningful way? What might help affirm your traveling this path?)
And if you are on that road, maybe ask yourself what kind of road it actually is? Does it feel like a smooth highway? A rough track? A cliff walk? How might that impact the way you travel it, and the speed you take things at?
How will you stay on that path?
Or is there more than one road that will lead you to recovery?
Another important factor to consider is the need to rest along the way. In Australia, along the highways and main roads there are signs reminding people to “Stop. Revive. Survive” every couple of hours.
How might you build in a bit of a ‘reviver’ into your recovery? What will nourish you and keep you going for the next stage of the trip?
Sometimes the road might not be all straightforward and downhill. In steeper, harder parts, you may even feel like you’re going backwards. But perhaps growth and healing don’t always happen in a straight line anyway – maybe it’s just the road sort of doubling back on itself as it winds its way up a particularly steep part of the terrain…
And what if it feels like you’re not on a road to recovery at all yet? How might you find your way to one?
Perhaps at times like that, when it’s hard to even see a clear way forward, it might be worth remembering that sometimes the path is made by walking it…
That sometimes it’s only when you’re a bit further on that you can look back and really see the path you’ve trod. The path you’ve created.
And that one step, however small, is already starting to create your road to recovery.
(So, if you feel ready, what’s the smallest step you could take in that direction?)
Photo: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also co-facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She is the editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.