It strikes me that having bipolar (or another mental health condition) and having a drinking problem are similar in some ways. When I started this blog, I called it a “Recovery Blog.” Since I started writing it, four things have happened:
- I have come to accept that you don’t “recover” from bipolar.
- “Recovery” has come to mean more to me than learning to cope with my mental illness; it has also come to mean coming to terms with, and learning to cope with, my drinking problem.
- I have come to recognise that I will not permanently “recover” from my drinking problem.
- I have come to a different understanding of the word “recovery.”
When I say that you don’t recover from bipolar, or from a drinking problem, I don’t mean to suggest that there is no hope. I just mean that I don’t entertain dreams of becoming magically “better” one day. I know I won’t be “cured.” Most probably, within my lifetime no cure for bipolar will be discovered and no cure for alcohol dependency will be found. Instead, what we have are treatments and coping strategies, and these are what I now understand as part of “recovery.”
“Recovery” is an ongoing process without an end goal. Each day is part of a journey but the journey has no ultimate destination. I won’t one day sit at the top of a hill after a hefty climb and think “wow, that’s the end of all that- I’ve recovered now,” and be able to stop taking my medication and start drinking again. It doesn’t work like that. Even people who have been in recovery, or remission, for years, are only working on the principle that they are recovering one day at a time. You can be “in recovery” but- in my view, at least- you can’t be “recovered.”
It’s frustrating at times to recognise that an uphill journey doesn’t reach a peak. Saddening to think of how fragile happiness is, and how temporary it can be. And sometimes I wish I could recover permanently, start from scratch and wipe away the traces left by my illnesses- but I can’t. recovery is acceptance of that fact.
Recovery is a process I have started now, so that every day of my life will be part of a journey of recovery- even when I am ill, even if I relapse, it is a path I have begun to travel. Straying from a path doesn’t mean that your travels are over
I am “in recovery.” I might always be in recovery. Along the way I will learn things about myself and the world that I didn’t know before. I will learn to understand some of the things I did know before. I will grow, and change. And day by day by day, I will come to accept that this meandering route is what it is: it is life.