I’ve made the comparison of mental disease to the disease of addiction for a long time now. I’m not stating that those who are mentally ill are addicted to their illness, I’m stating the fact that they, just as addicts do, have to choose wellness. I realize how that could come across as a particularly bold statement, and that not all those who attempt to choose wellness will win the battle. However no disease is acquired by choice, the choice lies within what you do to work with it; how you fight it or how you give into it. I admit I’m coming from a bit of a “tough love” perspective, but you have to be tough to fight illness.
I’ve had a few addicts cross my path in life, along the way showing me the parallels between our diseases. There’s the recovery and relapse aspects, creating new good habits and falling back into old bad habits, removing yourself from people, places, and situations that trigger symptoms, the slippery slope into relapse, the ‘never cured, only recovered’ aspect, and the ultimate of making the conscious decision of recovery and taking action.
Having addicts in your life is no walk in the park, but it gave me some great takeaways. Watching someone you love lose themselves to reckless decisions, go through intervention and forced into rehab only to come out and fall right back into their old patterns and behaviors, appearing as though they have no control over it because they weren’t ready to choose recovery, and then watching them almost die because of it, is terrifying and traumatic to all those involved. That whole process though, it bore so many similarities to my own struggle with my illness that it gave me the ability to recognize and rectify whatever situation I found myself in. The overarching parallel point being that no one can force a person to try and get better from any disease, you have to choose attempting recovery.
Just like an addict I had to hit my own personal rock-bottom in life. Moments so grave that I began to wake up and realize that by not taking action, I was giving away my precious life to this savage disease. I was in my 20’s, it was supposed to be the prime of my life. If time is money, it felt like the equivalent of setting $100 bills on fire every day for a decade. It eventually shook me to my core, made me want to pick myself up off the floor, give this disease the middle finger, and claim my life back.
Recovery is a tough decision! It’s certainly not the path of least resistance. Obviously it’s easier to just let illness consume you til you’re a shell of a human being, and generally the apathy is already there to contribute to your degradation. I knew deep down though, that no one else was going to do it for me. No one else was going to usher me along, pick up the pieces of my life, put them back together, clean up the messes I’d made along the way, and make sure I did what was necessary to get better. I had support along the way, but in the end the only one that was going to be responsible for any real improvement was me, and I alone had to own that. Every single day.
Every day it meant I had to make the choice to really own up to my illness, take responsibility for how it had affected my life, and start figuring things out going forward. It can be a long, arduous path, the one to wellness, as is such with any disease. No one ever said recovery was easy, but anyone on the other side of it will tell you it was their choice and no one else’s. And if they happened to unfortunately lose the battle, they can still say they went out fighting.
Peace, love, and choosing wellness.