Being honest with yourself about what you do, why you do it, how it is impacting you and what (if anything) you want to change is the first step in recovery. Like ripping a bandage off of an infected wound, getting honest with yourself may hurt like hell. However, once you clean the wound and figure out what you are dealing with, you will be able to start trying to figure out what to do next. Think about it….
You feel like crap and go to see the doctor. She asks you about your symptoms. You answer her questions honestly, because lying might not give her the information she needs to make an accurate diagnosis. She runs a few tests, then comes back, tells you what is wrong, what may have caused it and what the course of treatment will be. Likely you feel a sense of relief—hope that you will start feeling better. Why? Because you have faith that the doctor knows what she is talking about, faith the medicine will work and faith in yourself that you will have the discipline to follow her directions. Some of this will start sounding familiar in the next few sections….
Right now you feel like crap. You are your own doctor though. The next few activities are your “tests” to figure out what you are dealing with—addiction, anxiety, depression, all of the above??? The majority of people with addictions also have some degree of mental health issues. Whether the addiction caused the mental health issues, or the mental health issues existed first is really pretty irrelevant. Either way, your brain chemicals need to be balanced out. The first step is to be honest with yourself. It is a humbling experience; however, once you have identified the scope of your problems, you can start making them better (hope, courage, discipline). Remember, other people have had similar issues and found happiness.
It is important during these first few weeks to find other people who may have the same symptoms, and who are finding that recovery is possible. InTheRooms.org is one place you can meet these people online. 12-Step, SMART Recovery, Celebrate Recovery and Recovery and Resilience (R&R) meetings are also good places. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. People do not often chat about their recovery in the break room or after a worship service. While not everyone will find “meetings” to be their cup of tea, it is certainly a good place to start meeting people who understand.
Another helpful activity is to think about past times when you did not have your symptoms. What were you doing differently? If you have recovered from these symptoms before, what has helped—even if only for a few hours or a day? This will help you remember that recovery is possible for YOU.