Recovery from any pain takes time.
It is a process that you can’t rush.
Several years ago, I discovered I needed surgery on my ankle. The doctor tried every option to avoid surgery, but nothing helped. He cautioned that the recovery would be slow, but I would walk without pain if I followed his plan. I diligently followed his directives, except for the daily exercises. At a follow-up appointment, he noticed that my muscles weren’t responding as they should. Quickly he deduced my lack of daily exercises and warned me I’d be back for a repeat surgery if I didn’t comply.
The hardest part about recovery?
Being diligent in following the doctor’s orders and doing the exercises designed to strengthen the damaged body part.
How about when the recovery is emotional, mental, and spiritual?
At the beginning of our recovery from my husband’s porn addiction, I thought it was all about him. I didn’t understand the help and growth I needed. However, it didn’t take long before God allowed me to be confronted and challenged about my need to heal. At that point, however, I wasn’t sure my marriage would survive or if I wanted it to.
I desperately desired a recovery checklist to work through, so I could get past this horrible pain and move on.
In the years since, this seems to be a typical response to betrayal. “What do I need to do to deal with this and get back to my life?”
Here are 10 realities I discovered about recovery, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
An individualized process.
Not every person’s body, mind, emotions, or spirit heals the same way. A person in recovery needs to heal at their own pace. It is a series of small, incremental steps to work through the trauma. No one dictates how another person recovers. And no two people recover at the same rate.
Some days I felt like I made giant steps forward. But there were others where I felt I moved backward. It was easy to fall into the “I’m a failure” trap on those days. Not true. This forward and backward movement is a normal part of the process. I learned to be gracious to myself during this process.
Dependent on the work you do.
No one can make you recover. You choose it each day. After surgery, you can do the recovery exercises or not. The doctor or physical therapist can’t force you to do the work. They can teach you how to do the exercises correctly, but you must do them. It’s the same thing when recovering from a heart wound. Your coach or counselor can help you understand what needs to be overcome, but you do the internal work to change your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes to move forward.
You don’t get a vacation from recovery. Yes, some days are easier than others. However, each day you choose to take the next step. You decide to leave behind the past thoughts and habits which led you to this crisis.
Surprisingly, determining that I could recover and wanted to was the biggest hurdle to overcome. At some point during recovery, I realized this truth. If I didn’t choose to recover, I wouldn’t, and I’d be stuck in the destructive patterns that led to my suicidal depression and anxiety.
It’s difficult to watch someone in pain decide not to follow the plan, which brings relief. This illustration breaks down when dealing with diseases; I get that. But, when there is a way to move beyond the destructive lifestyle, and a person chooses to stay stuck, no one can help. To recover, you and I must decide to do the necessary work. Change is imperative.
Perhaps a more difficult realization: recovery means more pain. When you’re reeling from the pain of your spouse’s betrayal, addiction, or other destructive habits, you may not want to face any more hurt. But recovery means looking honestly at yourself, uncovering what got you to this point, and making the changes. It means you have difficult conversations with your spouse about your marriage relationship, and you might need to come clean about lies you believe or secrets you’re protecting.
Lasting recovery is fantastic. There’s nothing like looking back at who you were and seeing how you’ve changed. Each step forward brings new hope and brightness to your outlook. The physical therapist measured my progress in centimeters when doing the physical therapy for my surgery recovery. While that seemed minimal to me, my therapist celebrated each milestone.
Nothing changes your mood like excitement. And that’s what you experience when you move beyond unhealthy habits to new, healthy practices. Each lie overcome, unhealthy practice changed, and healthy boundary set and kept brings new hope and joy for life.
As difficult as recovery is, you experience new life at each step in your journey. During the worst of my depression, life seemed colorless and dreary. The color returned with each step toward healthy emotions, mindset, and thoughts. The spiritual struggle I dealt with caused me to seek the God of the Bible. What I discovered changed my relationship with God, challenged my earlier beliefs, and shattered my preconceived notions. All these necessary changes restored my hope and brought new life.
None of these discoveries about recovery are clinical.
Yet, each one changed my life in some way. The first hurdle to overcome was the willingness to leave the status quo and change. Arguably, the most challenging hurdle. Just like the decision to undergo surgery on my ankle to correct the problem, this first choice to recover from your wounds caused by your husband’s porn addiction may be your most challenging. You can choose to stay where you are, justify your habits and actions, or you can choose to face the pain head-on and recover. It’s up to you.
For your sake, I pray you choose to recover. When you do, there is hope and healing available. Let’s talk.