“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You’ve probably heard that quote before. It’s an oldie but goodie. It’s also true. This is true too – healing is a journey, not a destination, and the sooner we accept that truth the more able we are to step fully into the experience. As long as we maintain the idea that we’re supposed to arrive somewhere specific, we set ourselves up for suffering. We spend our time seeing the ways that we haven’t yet arrived at our imagined stop, resisting aspects of the healing process because they don’t fit our idea of what’s supposed to be happening, and missing out on the beautiful sights and bits of growth along the way. Embracing the journey idea can bring a greater sense of ease into the process. Here are some insights and tips from long-term travelers.
- Getting started can be hard. Perhaps there are some vacations you’ve been excited about. You’ve jumped out of your bed at 4 in the morning, grabbed a cup of coffee, and flowed into your car and onto the road blasting your favorite mix-tape. The healing journey may not feel that easy. More than likely, you’ve been caught up in some patterns that have prevented you from getting on this road for a while, and the idea that you’ll be rip-roaring to go right from the jump might seem ridiculous. And that’s okay. Getting started CAN be hard, but you CAN do hard things. Rather than thinking you should feel a different way or experience a different thing, give yourself a break by accepting that getting started on a healing journey can be hard. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
Make the phone call, buy the book, write the letter. The momentum of that first step will help carry you onward.
- Travel buddies, guides, and even strangers along the road are awesome. Lone travel is a wonderful thing, but even on a lone journey, it’s nice to have folks to talk to and smart people along the way who can help you find a good place to eat or help you fix a flat tire. The same is true of the healing journey. So much of healing work is internal, and it can get lonely because you’re the only one who can get inside your mind, heart, and spirit. Still, finding folks to walk with for a while, asking help from experts, and sharing your travel stories with people you meet along the way can make the tough spots feel smoother, navigating roadblocks less hazardous, and seeing beauty in some of the strangest places possible.
Reach out to your trusted friends and family, make an appointment with a therapist or other professional, or join a support group. Humans are social animals; support and company are basic needs.
- Sometimes the road gets bumpier before it smoothes out. We’ve found that the healing journey can be a bit like rural roads in New Mexico. Here’s what it looks like: the map (your therapist, the treatment center, your heart) indicates that you are on the right road, so you drive forward. It starts bumpy and gets even bumpier. The bottom of the car rattles and shakes. At just the moment you think you can’t possibly keep going forward, the road smoothes out or a smooth new route presents itself. It can be tempting to turn back when things get hard, but there’s a difference between driving your car and stepping into a healing journey. In a car, you might be able to turn around if there’s enough room on the shoulder. You might be able to drive back to where you started. The healing journey is a little different. Once you’ve stepped in, while you can turn around, you will probably never find your way back to precisely where you started, so it’s better to keep going.
When things get hard, reach out for help, and keep going. The road will often get more challenging before it gets easier, but the only way to get to the easy part is to continue forward motion.
- Roadblocks can feel like full stops, but if you look closely, you might find just what you need for the ongoing journey. Every once in a while, a tree falls over the road. This is true of cross-country trips, and it’s true of healing journeys too. External events like a death in the family, an illness, the breakup of a relationship, or internal experiences like difficult mood episodes, traumatic memories, or relapses can feel alarmingly final. Sometimes these challenges can feel insurmountable, and it’s not uncommon to question the worth of the journey or your ability to carry on. As in the case of the bumpy road though, turning back isn’t the best option.
When you hit a roadblock in healing, practice accepting that it’s hard, reach out for help, and engage your sense of curiosity about what’s happening. This approach can help you not only move past the block but can arm you with more tools and tricks for the journey ahead.
- Pullover to rest, and gas up often. If you’ve driven along the interstate in the United States you’ve seen at least 1 of those giant truck stops. They have a bunch of fuel stations, a convenience store, a restaurant, and sometimes even a motel. The smaller ones often have nice restrooms, some kind of hot food, and gas. These spots, along with the rest areas that dot the interstates and highways are there, not for beauty or enjoyment necessarily, but for safety. Tired, hungry people without fuel in their cars are not safe drivers. The healing journey is long, and healing work is hard sometimes. Finding ways to rest and discover the things that give you fuel for the journey are critical. Being well-rested and well-fed prevents bumps, smoothes out those that are not preventable, and lends the necessary strength for moving through or around roadblocks that present themselves.
Rather than waiting for exhaustion and hunger to strike, make finding healthy ways to rest and gas up a part of your healing toolkit. Check out our posts on Moment to Moment Self Care and Fun in Recovery for ideas.
- Enjoy the beauty along the way. Even the best road trips that start in one place and have a defined final destination are made better when you take the time to notice the sites and sounds along the way. When it comes to the healing journey, one of the best things you can offer yourself is the opportunity to enjoy the big and small wonders, successes, opportunities, and new ideas that you experience. Sometimes it’s easy to see the hard stuff: attending to the perceived failures, slights, and missteps is a habit. Part of staying gassed upon the healing journey is learning to practice seeing the beauty too.
Make a habit of listing all the good things you can think of at the end of the day. List things you’re grateful for, and also list things that you did well, times you stuck to your values, moments when you felt good in your skin, and things that you saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched that delighted you. Send yourself an imaginary postcard from these beautiful spots.
Healing is a journey, not a final destination. There are bumps, blocks, and beautiful things all along the way, and all of those experiences are important. In this post, we’ve offered you some insight and some tips for making the most of the journey. If we can help you get started on your healing journey toward recovery from substance use issues, or if you’ve hit bumps or blocks along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re available to talk via phone at 1-888-448-LUNA, or you can direct message us from any page on this website.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.