Struggling with Identity in Recovery

The featured image came from a website called Post Secret. The concept of the website is: people send in their secrets on postcards, and a selection of them are posted each week on Sunday.

I check the website every Sunday and never fail to find a secret I can relate to, which seems to be the general experience with Post Secret among those I know who read it.

This secret, however, hit me in a way I normally don’t experience. I don’t think I realized, entirely, that this is still sometimes how I feel.

Losing my destructive behaviors felt like I was losing the most reliable things in my life. I considered my destructive behaviors to be my best friends. They would never leave me if I still used them, they were able to help me fill needs that I couldn’t fill by myself, and they seemed to be able to “fix” whatever was going on in my life.

I know now that there are other ways to fill those needs, that destructive behaviors don’t actually fix anything, etc. However, sometimes, it still feels like I lost my best friends in pursuing recovery.

I went through a sort-of identity crisis entering recovery. I had identified myself as “sick” for so long that I wasn’t sure who I was. I was the symptoms of my illnesses. Creating my own identity outside of them was challenging and uncomfortable, but it also made me excruciatingly sad.

I was sad because I had used these behaviors for so long, I had been so reliant on them, that I didn’t want to let go of them completely. I wanted the comfort that my behaviors brought to me when I used them.

Sometimes, I still do, and that’s one of the most challenging parts of recovery for me. The “easy” solution in my brain is still to return to behaviors and comfort myself with them, instead of pursuing a healthier option.

It’s hard to get out of such an ingrained mindset.

I try hard to identify what it is I need when I want to use behaviors, and pursue obtaining it in a healthy manner. Most of the time what I want is connection, and I make plans with friends or I go to a coffee shop.

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing the work to understand what I need, so I watch hours of television until I inevitably forget the urge completely. Sometimes I just go to sleep.

But what I do know is that my destructive behaviors are not my best friends. They are not comforting, they are not helpful, they do not fix anything. I know that going back to that is not an option, and that I cannot let it even seem like an option if I hope to continue in sustained remission from symptoms.

All of this is to say that, yes, recovery feels like losing a best friend. What you’re really losing is the illusion of friendship, which is masking a really unhealthy relationship.

In recovery, you stand to gain so much. It isn’t easy, it’s not always successful, but it is always worth it.

Be kind to yourself.


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