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The Best Way Out is Always Through

The Best Way Out is Always Through

It seems that we are quickly approaching that point in the semester when classwork begins to pile up and midterms are right around the corner. At least for me, the first couple of weeks of each semester scoot by without too many hiccups – until now. And you’d think, having spent the last couple of decades in school, year after year, that I would learn to expect the part that comes next: the part where feels like the world around me is crashing down in a pile of unwritten papers and soon-to-be-failed midterm exams. But no, this reality check still gets to me roughly one month into every semester.

Granted, when I came into recovery, this panicked phase became a bit less overwhelming, thanks in large part to the fact that I was finally doing my schoolwork at all. Still, the whirlwind feeling that sounds like “I should probably just drop out now” has yet again reared its ugly head. Of course, I am absolutely not dropping out of school, and I know this semi-annual phase will pass. This time, however, I am noticing that it is accompanied by an interesting partner: a cloudy, confusing slump. These emotions have been co-mingling with each other for a week or so, and have thrown me for a spin.

See, I tend to be the kind of person who puts a smile on, regardless of how things are actually progressing in my life. In the last few days, though, I have been much more okay with responding to “How are you?” with “I’m alright,” rather than with “I’m great, everything’s great, no I’m not stressed about my mile-long to-do list or that quiz I just failed.” Recently, it has felt more refreshing and authentic to just be alright.

I brought this up with a close friend in recovery and she expressed joy at hearing that I was going through what I had called a “slump”. She responded: “This is just recovery, my dear. We get to feel emotions, to genuinely experience them, rather than cover them up or escape them using whatever alcohol or drugs we can find. You’re almost always cheerful, and it is okay to just feel ‘blah’. The important thing is that you let yourself feel it.”

What a miracle of a reminder this was. Rather than jumping to fix my way out of this passing cloud, I jumped into a healthy amount of schoolwork and wound up killing two birds with one stone. Not only did I begin to unravel the mid-semester ball of stress by getting assignments done; I gently began to pull myself out of the funk by moving continuously forward through the seemingly insurmountable pile of to-dos. Maybe Robert Frost was right when he said, “The best way out is always through.” Maybe this slump, combined with my friend’s advice, will help me to finally internalize a few truths about recovery, forward movement, and authenticity. That is, recovery finally gives us the chance to be our authentic selves – slumps and blahs included. The best way to remain authentic is to move forward through whatever comes our way with honesty and integrity. So, maybe it’s just me, but the three seem to be akin to a happy fact family from my elementary school math class (#tbt to when I remotely understood mathematics). They can exist separately from each other but, when strung together, they each breathe life into the other two.

Again, I’ve been reminded that recovery can be surprising in this way: ideas and experiences that might seem odd, off-base, or unsettling can actually wind up teaching us the most valuable lessons. So, to all of us in the middle of a mid-semester panic and/or slump, apparently, this is all just part of the wave. Power in numbers – let’s ride it together.

Life of Purpose wants to help you conquer your academic hurdles, especially during early recovery. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment, and want to incorporate the structure and passion that can come with being a student, call 1-888-PURPOSE.

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