April 18, 2011

Stages of Recovery

When you're pulling through any type of emotional crisis, psychological upheaval, or other difficult period, it can help to have some kind of scale to measure your progress. My best friend and I invented the Stages of Recovery model about ten years ago. You can use it to determine how you're doing on your way back to being all right, to being fine, to being yourself.

There are three stages:

1) Active member of society. At this stage, although you may not be doing much else, you've returned to work if you're an employee and to school if you're a student. You're no longer skipping class or calling in sick. Even if you don't wash your hair before going, you actually leave your house at some point during the day.

2) Active member of the household. At this stage, you start doing a couple things to help the household run smoothly. You probably don't repaint the bathroom, but you put your dishes in the dishwasher, feed the cat, and take out the recycling. (NB: this stage is often expedited by living with someone--it's much easier to not be an active member of the household if you live alone.)

3) Active member of yourself. This is the best part--the return of personal hygiene, personal projects, and social activity. You feel good enough to do the things that make you feel even better. You make actual meals, reintroduce yourself to your razor, return to the gym, and see your friends. You finish your book, bake banana bread, give your bike a tune-up, and buy a new pair of shoes. You start thinking about the future and making plans for what you might do now that the crisis is past.

I know that not everyone will go through all the stages or necessarily go through them in this order but I like the stages of recovery because even when you're at stage one, you can congratulate yourself for what you are doing rather than focus on what you aren't doing. At stage one, even if your work clothes aren't exactly ironed or clean, at least you're earning your living. At stage two, it might be only spaghetti with sauce from a jar, but at least you made dinner. Then when you get to stage three, you get the double pay-off of doing things that give you pleasure, and feeling pleased about how far you've come.

NB: These stages are also applicable to recovery from physical illness.

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