Friday, January 21, 2011

Life is a journey – a fantastic journey

     Spending time with my family is such a joy. My mother, who had been in recovery from her alcoholism for about 10 years, passed on about 6 years ago. My dad is still thriving at age 87. There are 5 kids in the family and every few years we make the effort to get together with our extended families. It is so fun to watch cousins play with each other and so fun to see nephews and nieces grow up to become such delightful people. This year we met up in Hobart, Australia. We had some lovely meals together, played games, and spent quite lot of time swimming and surfing at the local beaches.
     As I spent time with my family I was struck by the fact that we are all on our own journeys. Some of us in the older generation have struggled with addiction of one form or another. Some have had to deal with illnesses, or marital and relationship difficulties. Many of us went off the rails at one point or another, but thankfully everyone is now back on track and doing beautifully. Some of the younger members of the family are 20-somethings. They are dealing with a different part of the journey. They are having to deal with who they are as grownups, what careers they should have, what people they should date and how do they act in relationships. Then there are the children and teenagers going through their own growing up struggles. Am I smart enough? Am I pretty enough? Do people like me? Am I loved?
     As I think about these journeys we are each on, and the struggles we will all have, I am aware of the similarities to my patients who are working to overcome their addictions.  I love the quote from M Scott Peck’s book – The Road Less Travelled. He references the Buddha – “life is suffering” - but he points out that once we transcend this fact, it is no longer suffering. It is just life. 
     A friend gave me the best analogy for this.  She said, "think of recovery as a journey - like a hike up a mountain." When you start off, a hike is painful. Your legs hurt. Your back hurts. You have rocks to walk over and branches to get around. It feels difficult and often you may wonder why you are even doing it. But as you keep going, it starts to get a little easier. You are still walking and climbing over obstacles but they don’t seem so difficult. Your body and mind are warmed up and ready for the challenges. After a while you catch a glimpse of the view. It looks great. You keep going up. You can get into a rhythm. You are still doing the same amount of work, only it doesn’t seem like work any longer. It is just the journey. And every now and then you catch a glimpse of the view and it looks magnificent. You see how far you have come. You have memories of the journey. You have a warm internal feeling of joy and satisfaction. You can even appreciate the difficult parts because they have lead you to where you have come to.
     Recovery is very much like that journey. At the beginning it is difficult and painful and you wonder if the things you have to do are worth it. Meetings feel like a chore, something you have to do. But after a while, you feel better and you see the progress you are making.  You feel proud of the work you have done, the commitment, and the person you are becoming.  You feel happy. You enjoy the people you meet at meetings. It is no longer a chore. It is fun being on a journey with other people. You realize you can even help other people on their journey.  
     We are all on our journeys. We all have our own obstacles to work with and our own struggles to overcome. It was so nice to be with my family this New Year and it is so nice for us all to be a part of each others journeys. It is kind of like we are all hiking up a mountain together. It is a lot more fun that way.
 Dr. Peter Coleman

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article. the view is pretty good from here.