The holidays are upon us, and you know what that means. Countless family functions, rushing around to various holiday parties, and opportunities to reacquaint yourself with your community and both old and new friends. Undeniably the question will arise, How are you? What have you been up to this year? And for the more bold, how was your time in treatment?
For you, what others call “treatment” represents a time that was absolutely life-changing, where you learned more about yourself than you thought possible, and began to experience yourself in a new way than ever before. While you are certainly not done processing through the lessons you’ve learned, or insights you gained, you are newly aware of the steps you need to take in order to continue your progress into the new year and throughout the rest of your journey.
How is it possible to share those insights gleaned in the midst of intense months of therapy, and condense them into a story worthy of cocktail hour? How do you share the heart change that took place, the redefinition of the life you once knew? How do you know how much to share and with whom to share it?
Start with listening to yourself, you true self, or Wise Mind, as it is called in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Then the answer is simple. Follow your instincts with who to share and how much detail you give. The very act of talking about what you have learned in treatment is at its very core showing others all that they need to know about you and your recovery.
Learning to Trust
Perhaps one of the most intangible lessons learned from time in treatment, is to once again hope for the possibilities of a better future. This begins with learning to trust in the right support to lead you in the path of whole-person recovery, and learning to trust the process. Eventually, the goal is to transfer that learning into a greater experience of self-trust. When you leave treatment, remember that you have been equipped with the skills and tools needed to chart a path forward, all that remains is for you to put them into practice.
Learning to evaluate whether others deserve or have earned your trust is the first thing to consider when speaking about something as valuable as the lessons learned in treatment. When you choose to share your story, it echoes your decision to give yourself over to the process, into the capable hands of the treatment team, when you began to see real change. Even if you begin by sharing just small pieces of your journey, continuing your progress in everyday living is more likely to be successful when you create practices that help you feel less isolated from others, and when you are able to rely on them to support you in your journey.
It was in treatment when you learned of the power of vulnerability. Both to bring you together with others, and to create a community focused on recovery, forged in heartbreak and trial, and the resilience to overcome it. Remember now that this conversation with well-meaning friends and family can help you to establish similar supports outside of the treatment community. Taking the steps towards facing your demons and finding the words to describe them robs your fears of their power over you.
Abandon Attempts to Control
Your willingness to venture into a conversation where you cannot control the outcome is a testament to your ability to tolerate increased amounts of distress and the ensuing uncomfortable emotions that go along with it. In general, increasing your comfort with what that which you cannot control will likely be a noticeable shift to those in your life. Your ability to be able to find stable footing and experience less emotional reactivity in the midst of discussions about difficult topics will communicate a great deal about the nature of your growth.
Ask for What You Need
After determining that you can trust your concerned loved one with pieces of your journey, and deciding you are willing to enter a space of vulnerability and uncertainty, a final step involves being willing to advocate for yourself. Ask for what you need from those in your life, even if that is simply the space to be able to process all that you have learned.
Share how they can help to keep you accountable in establishing routines and structure that supports your recovery. Put the “Interpersonal Effectiveness” skills of Dialectical Behavior Therapy to the test, and invite others to support you in your relapse prevention efforts. Even your willingness to ask for help is likely to be a key demonstration of your growth to those in your life.
The lessons that you have learned in treatment were always meant to be viewed as a microcosm of your life outside its four walls. Important lessons in trust, vulnerability, relinquishing control and asking for help mean little unless they translate to the outside world. Even if you are nervous to share the details of your journey, remember the old adage, “actions speak louder than words”. The way that you approach others with new insights in mind speaks to the life-changing experience you had in treatment, and is a good starting place to communicate all that your time in treatment meant to you.