"This is Recovery"

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one day, when I came across a friend’s status update.

“This is relapse. This is recovery.

They were his words, and when I read them, they became mine as well—my heart broke.

The friend who wrote them is one of the strongest people I know. He knows the pain of depression, of substance abuse and of self harm—he is all too familiar with the daily task of managing those feelings of loneliness and loss. 

My friend is also resilient, and has a heart that pours out for other people. When I read his words, I felt the pain that prompted them, and I sensed the conviction that stirred him to make such a bold statement in a public forum. He has overcome the monsters of mental illness before, but now he was back at the beginning. He had relapsed.

My friend’s words resonated with me, because I have also experienced relapse. It makes you feel as though you’ve lost everything. All your hard work; the minutes, hours, weeks and years that have gone by where you have walked in recovery, seem to count for nothing. The belief that you should have known better, or that you should be stronger, haunts you. When a person relapses, they feel empty.

“This is relapse.

As much as this phrase is something I wish to simply spit out of my mouth, I have realised that like my friend, it is part of my story. While he was brave enough to share this with his closest family and friends asking for their support, I have done the opposite. I balk at the thought of my own relapse, because I have mistakenly believed that it nullifies all the healing that has taken place over the last decade. So I have stayed quiet, and in doing so have struggled in silence. I believed the lie that demands I fight relapse alone. But as my friend shared his own struggles, I realised that I could do the same thing.

“This is recovery.

There is so much beauty in these words, and when I read them I was filled with pride for my friend. Recovery means asking for help. Recovery means being honest. Recovery means believing you are worth being alive. 

My friend had fallen in quick sand, and he was being pulled under by thoughts and habits that he had long ago conquered. Yet when he reached out and bravely penned those words, he invited the people around him to join his fight.  So as he asked for help, I silently said yes to walking through the good days and the bad. I said yes to keeping him accountable. I said yes to believing he was stronger than relapse- because he is. 

And as I said “yes” to his recovery, I began to believe in my own. Maybe, if he was brave enough to reach out and ask for help, I could be too. And when I have a bad day or I feel things spiralling out of control as they sometimes do, instead of keeping those thoughts to myself, I now have to courage to ask people to fight with me. 

Relapse is not an end. It is an invitation to enter recovery again. To remember why you started and to seek the help you may have forgotten you needed. It is a precious chance to gain strength from the people we love.

“This is relapse. This is recovery.

Relapse is followed by recovery. Believe that. My friend believes this. He believes in hope, in the strength to go another day. And I'm there to go there with him, and he with me. Relapse is not an end; it's the chance to start where you left off. And it will be worth it, because victory is even sweeter when we rise from falling.