Years ago in the midst of my first heartbreak a friend gave me the wisest piece of advice I’d ever heard… just keep breathing and get through the next hour, then the next day, and the next week.
“One day,” she said, “You’ll get to 10am and realise the pain wasn’t the first thing you thought about that morning. And then one day you’ll reach the end of the day and realise you haven’t thought about it at all.”
I’ll be honest, in that moment those two days she spoke off seemed so very far away, but the more I concentrated on breathing through every hour and every day, the sooner they arrived.
I recently started reading Russell Brand’s book, Recovery. If you haven’t heard of it before it is, very simply, a journey through the twelve steps pioneered by AA in his own beautifully eloquent, spiritual and hilarious way.
Recovery is a brilliant book, which not only makes that approach accessible and engaging, but is also a seriously powerful tool in itself for the healing that comes with those twelve steps. I’m working through them for sugar, and having to take regular breaks because the healing is So. Damned. Powerful.
But as I’ve been reading one thing in there has struck me more than anything; that good old theory of one day at a time.
There’s a reason that line has become so synonymous with AA and other addiction organisations, and a reason that recovering addicts count their sober time in days, months and years; because they know that – just like my heartbreak experience – that process of change and healing can only ever really be done step by step by step.
What does that mean?
Well for starters it means that we all need to take a deep breath and accept that when it comes to the deepest and most powerful emotional healing, there is no such thing as an immediate miracle.
You cannot and will not drink a magic potion, say a few words or have a split second revelation that makes everything 100% in that very instant and forevermore. And as I always say to clients, unfortunately I haven’t yet invented that magic wand that makes us fast forward through the healing and get to the other side in one simple session (but believe me, when I do you’ll be the first to know!).
But sometimes that long journey of healing – as frustrating as it is – can be a good thing. Because those moments of clarity and instant healing can only ever be one of two things; either the gate way to deeper and more long-standing healing, or a sticking plaster that will cover the wound just long enough for us to say “la la la la la” over their buzz and pretend that everything is fine.
Until it’s not.
Real, true, deep healing takes time and so it requires patience – for the journey that will come step by step, for the fact that there are likely still frustrations ahead of that, and for yourself as you work through that process.
Yes, there will be times that you may want to slide back into old, easy patterns and ways of being; there will be times that you want to curl up and pretend everything is fine to make all of that pain go away.
Because it will be painful. As you go through any deep healing process you will not only feel the stuff that’s going on in the here and now, or that you’re currently trying to work through, you often need to feel the stuff that goes back much further in time too. So go gently with yourself.
And remember to take it one single breath and one single day at a time, always.
Whether it’s the pain of a loss, the recovery from an addiction (and by the way, an addiction to negative thought patterns, shopping or bad relationships is just as real as an addiction to alcohol, gambling or drugs) or behavioural pattern, feeling completely lost, or something else entirely; it is possible to work through the healing you need for that process, but doing so will take time.
Whatever your journey and wherever it begins, no one is saying you must make your changes once and for all and have them stick forever – actually no one is telling you you need to make any changes at all, all of this is your prerogative.
Just do what you need to do to make that change and get through today, and then see where you go from there.
And where you're struggling to even focus your mind on that current day and that next breath, then seek out some help. Click here for details of my counselling sessions.