To anyone who has done any hillwalking, it is a familiar story.
You park the car at a well-known beauty spot from where you have a magnificent view of the distant peak.
To begin with, the going is easy. You’re on a gentle path across the fields and the mountain top remains in view and is very slowly getting closer.
After a while, though, you find yourself under a sleep slope. The going has got much tougher. Instead of striding you are scrambling, sometimes slipping, sometimes sliding, always sweating. All you can see is the rock and the rough grass a few feet above your head. You begin to wonder if it’s worth it.
Then you break out onto the ridge above and you realise that all that struggle and all that effort has suddenly brought you so much closer to the hilltop and, apart from preparing yourself for a final hard scramble to the top, for most of the rest of the journey all you need to do is to keep going forward.
The journey through recovery from alcohol addiction, drug addiction or any other addicition can be very similar. Sometimes we lose sight of our destination; we begin to wonder if it’s still really there and if we can ever reach it. But it’s just when the struggle seems hardest that we are actually making the best progress. So long as the way is leading upwards (or even if by a careful step down we can begin a better route) all we need is to keep going.
The view of the mountain top brings hope and encouragement but it’s often when you can no longer see it that you are making the best progress towards it.
We are bombarded with claims that only the best is any good. You’ve heard them all … “Coming second is first of the losers” … “Either you are first or you are nowhere” … and so on.
It’s all vanity and arrogance.
If a junior doctor saves my life, I don’t care if he was top of his class.
If you make a real improvement in your life or a real contribution to the good of others, then it is those who cannot value it that deserve scorn, not you.
It is especially important for those who are in recovery to gain strength and satisfaction from what they achieve. Your life may not move forward as fast as you would like. You may have setbacks. But anyone who makes any progress at anything should feel good about it.
It’s really important to have goals and to aim for the best all the time. But it’s equally important that those goals are realistic and that we value every successful step toward them, even when the steps are small or others leap further.
Many of the world’s famous leaders have paid too high a price for their success and often what they spent was the lives and happiness of others. Often it brought them little contentment, only the desperation to find “new worlds to conquer”.
Humanity survives not because a few are best but because the many do some good.
Life does not run smoothly, as most people reading this Addictions UK Blog will be all too aware, especially those who have faced the challenges of alcohol addiction, drug addiction or anything similar.
We make plans and they don’t work out. We set out with the best of intentions but fail to achieve our goals.
The proverb tells us that “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”. When disaster overtakes us we need to have resources and rescue plans already in place.
For anyone in any sort of recovery, the value of family, friends and mentors is beyond telling. Not only will they be there for us when things go wrong, helping us to get back on our feet, but often they can save us when we’re on the brink. Picking up the phone and talking over our worries or temptations is a lot easier to do than facing the consequences of mistakes and failures.
Building strong and supportive relationships is essential to survival.
In so many other ways too, preparing for the possibilities of a crisis can lessen its effects when something goes wrong … and sooner or later it will.
Only a fool drives a car that has no spare tyre.
A tin of soup in the cupboard, a torch by the armchair and a spare battery for a radio, these are all basic and obvious preparations to deal with problems. And we should be looking at every aspect of our lives to see where a little preparation for the unexpected could make all the difference.
The last thing anyone in recovery needs is additional stress and so even the tiniest, every-day contingencies matter.
Take a moment now and opportunities later to think about what you can do weather the storms, large and small.
A recent article in this Addictions UK blog concluded with the though that “the only barrier to success is the fear of failure.”
Most people are nervous about anything new and people whose lives have been disrupted through whatever cause are more cautious than most about reaching out of whatever security and stability they have managed to find.
But if you do nothing then nothing is going to change. Risk is an inescapable part of life.
There’s no need to be reckless though. “Risk assessment” may be a cliché but it’s nothing new. Our grandparents knew to “look before you leap” and whenever there’s an opportunity to seize, it would be irresponsible not to consider all the factors and possible outcomes.
It is foolish too to refuse support and to avoid sensible precautions. Take advice from your friends and family and mentors and consider what options there are to limit the damage that a failure might bring.
For those seeking recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs or something else, that extra support is vital.
In truth though, most of the opportunities that come along are not at so threatening or dangerous.
Nervousness and hesitancy come from an invitation to join a new support group or to try a method of meditation, to read a lifestyle guide or immerse yourself in the healthy distractions of a new activity.
So “if it might just work”, and especially if it HAS worked for other people, why not see if it can work for you too?