By David Joel Miller.
Linger at the fork in the road – you won’t come this way again.
So you have reached that fork in the road. You have been in pain or unhappiness too long and have determined to set off on a quest for the happy life you want. You know you do not want to go back and if you wait too long that is exactly what will happen, you will get sucked back into the quagmire of pain and misery. So you are anxious to set off.
Which way should you go?
This is a common problem for people in recovery. People in recovery from depression, anxiety, a bad relationship or an addiction all reach this place of the crossroad. You will need a warning about the potential danger before you make a choice.
Forks in the road don’t lead off in just two directions. There are three. You could go back the way you came. Given the choice between two potential new lives, many of us will avoid the uncertainty and turn around and return to our misery. Going back is the most common choice and also often the worst one. But that is not the only danger here.
I will not argue with you which path you should take. That is your choice and yours alone. Some people prefer the well-trod path and go that way. Clearly many others have gone that way. Some of you may pick the road less traveled, for better or worse you decide to strike out and explore that route.
Some few of you in the rush to reach a new destination will head out across the wilderness looking for a shortcut. There are no shortcuts to happiness. Occasionally someone tries to make a new path and they are successful. You might be that one, but we find a lot of skeletons in the desert, people who wandered off the trail and got lost far away from civilization.
If you are fortunate there will be an information booth at this fork in the road. This is one time it pays to ask for directions. The people at the booth can’t tell you which path is right for you, but they can tell you the reports from up ahead on the roads.
Recovery groups will suggest that you linger awhile at the fork in the road. They don’t call it that but that is the way I see it.
What you are likely to be told is that during the first year in recovery; do not make any changes that you can’t take back. If you have a job, don’t quit it. If you are in a relationship don’t end it precipitously. And for sure do not jump into a new relationship. Give yourself time to figure this out.
The reason for this advice is that having left where you were before, a place of pain and unhappiness, you will begin to feel all sort of feelings. One way our emotional memory protects us from pain is to shut down feelings, sometimes called dissociation. I think there are levels or variations in the experience of dissociation.
Having been through a period of time where you tried to avoid feeling because of the pain, or where your mind helped you out and did this for you, you will suddenly begin to feel all kinds of feelings and you may not know what to do with them.
People in substance abuse recovery frequently find that they have suppressed their appetite for all sorts of things and they go seeking to fill those cravings. Sudden sexual feelings are common. So are cravings for excitement and novelty.
So if you are coming from a place of a bad past, linger before committing to an uncertain future. Don’t quit the job that has been stressful right away, but begin to explore ways to make this job less stressful or what else would you want to do.
If you were married young and never got to date be especially careful of the one who comes along and you say they are what I have been missing out on. In this highly emotional state of early recovery what we see in the opportunities are what we want them to be not the reality of what they are.
That new job on the other coast sounds perfect until you give up everything to move there. That new partner, there is a reason their last ex left, and you need to take your time to check this out. Make sure you see things and people as they are not as you want them to be. Explore your options and keep options open as long as you can.
So here you sit, at that fork in the road ready for a whole new life. You are lingering to think things over and getting back reports on the road ahead. You are anxious to be off on the trip to a happy life. Just one thing.
That trunk you are sitting on is full of a lot of very heavy baggage.
What to do with that baggage is the focus of our next post.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books
- Are you successful? (counselorssoapbox.com)
- How safe is the neighborhood in your head? (counselorssoapbox.com)