I never owned a laptop before, but I decided it was about time to get one. In a way I never expected, I became consumed by an urge to set up my new device with all kinds of apps and software. Day after day, I found hours slipping through my fingers as I sat in front of the screen, making tweak after tweak to get everything just right. But I always thought to myself, “Let me just get this right, and then I can go back to living properly.”
I slowly let go of the things I’ve learned to be essential to my recovery – things like paying careful attention to my needs and keeping up daily routines of self-care. Not too long after, I relapsed after my longest and most fruitful stretch of sobriety yet.
Just days later, I began a month-long program of intensive Islamic studies. I was there to learn, but also to assist as a staff member. The atmosphere was great, but the schedule was demanding. My entirety was invested into the program, with no time or energy remaining for the pursuit of my healing. I sensed this, but I did not make much of it. A few days in, I relapsed yet again.
These two events share one essential thing in common: I consciously made a choice to delay my pursuit of healing so that I could dedicate my focus to something else. In both cases, I harmed myself and compromised my commitment to sobriety. This time, I would not let the lesson go unlearned. I could no longer let a single day pass without prioritizing my healing above any other pursuits.
Why can’t I be like everyone else?
I mentioned in the story above that I began to sense a lack of balance during the early days of my Islamic studies course. What I should have done is slow down, take a pause from all the action, feel the pain that thrived within me, and take reparative action. For example, I could have taken a day off from class and spent the time to rest, exercise, journal, and pray. That is what prioritizing healing above all else would have looked like.
One challenge to making such a choice was that when I looked around me, I saw people who seemed perfectly committed and focused on the task at hand, such as the other staff members. The focus, collectively, was on the course, and so it was easy for me to forget everything else.
“Each day requires significant time, energy, and emotion be dedicated to healing – even when that means turning away from other pursuits.” – BrTwoThousand
I felt something I have felt several times before: that I am different. I must think about something others don’t – my sobriety. So, while those around me seemed able to really immerse themselves in the course, something else constantly demanded my focus: seeking and maintaining my health. It’s a lonely feeling at times.
I realised that I need to accept that other people choose to focus on different things. As for me, this is who I am, and so my priority, every single day, remains the same: seek balance and healing. I am climbing out of a deep, deep hole and there is still much distance to cover. Perhaps, when I am out, my attention can be directed elsewhere. Until then, I will continue climbing.
What it really means to prioritize healing
Prior to my recent slips, I had spent months focusing very keenly on my healing. But now I had allowed just a few days to pass wherein I gave recovery no more than a passing thought or two, and that’s when I fell. To have neglected my recovery in this way, even for a day, was a grave mistake.
When situations screamed “Slow down! Wake up! Danger ahead!” My response? With an expression of confusion and aloofness, I looked at the signs and said, “Oh. Just give me a bit more time. I’m busy right now.” That, my friend, is precisely how not to prioritize healing.
Each day requires significant time, energy, and emotion be dedicated to healing – even when that means turning away from other pursuits.
No pursuit is nobler or greater than my recovery
My recent experiences reminded me of something that can be painful to swallow: that no matter how noble or important or even exciting some activity or project may seem, I still must be very reluctant to dive in and immerse myself in it. That is because I am committed to something that demands so much energy and attention: my recovery.
This hurts. It hurts because it’s easy for me to see recovery as necessary, but not worthy or valuable in itself. That it’s merely a bridge I must cross to get to my destination where I’ll do all sorts of great and noble things. It hurts to be reminded that it’s not time for “great things” yet, and that I’m still stuck doing gruelling grunt work.
Today, I am adopting a completely different way to view my recovery. It is a perspective which inspires me and makes it entirely obvious that no pursuit really matters like my recovery does. I want to share it with you, and I hope you also find inspiration in it.
So, what is recovery really about which makes it so great? Recovery is about regaining the full potential of my humanity.
My humanity, at its peak, offers me so many things which are pure gold, things that really matter – connecting with Allah, genuinely and deeply caring about another person, feeling connected to the creation which surrounds me, deeply appreciating the gifts of my body, heart, mind and soul. I am talking about gratitude, love, sincerity, integrity. I am talking about tears and laughs. Dreams and aspirations. Sorrow and grief. Hope and celebration.
This is the full human experience for which we were created.
Unhealthy and unbalanced living strips this experience away from me and locks me in a place of numbness and darkness. Once I am there, I lose sight of what I’ve lost. I become fidgety and anxious and needy. Life loses its flavor and its color.
A keen focus on my health and life balance, on the other hand, helps restore my humanity, and continuous practice and refinement helps me to achieve new heights and gain new experiences. I know this because I have experienced it.
There’s so much for me to gain in this world, so much I want to do and achieve, so many things I want to be. And I will pursue these things with passion, insha Allah. However, nothing has true value if I am not gaining, maintaining, and nurturing my humanity. At any given moment, I must not hesitate to completely drop whatever is demanding my attention and come back to healing if the situation demands this. This has to be my principle in life, because in recovery I am gaining everything as everything that’s good and worthy lies in my humanity. I have no way to regain my humanity except through keen focus on and commitment to my healing.