A few summers ago, a disk in my back herniated. The story of how this happened is far from interesting.
I was vacuuming.
There was no mistaking the “pop” I not only felt but heard when I tried to move an end-table with one hand while I pushed the vacuum with the other. When the crisp snap in the small of my back occurred that small voice inside suggested the incident wasn’t something to simply shake off.
Did I listen? Of course not.
Most people would have shut off the Hoover and sought some sort of medical attention. Not me. I continued forth seeking the housecleaning I’d planned for the day. That plan shifted quickly with seriously painful consequences.
The next morning, in addition to shooting pain in my lower back, my leg was tingle-y numb. Almost on instinct learned at a very young age, I convinced myself the situation was probably nothing and I’d be fine. I was sure if I just kept moving the pain and numbness would pass. This was the same kind of irrational thought process I’d use to drown the small voice inside when I wanted that “one more” drink or didn’t want that much-needed meal.
After more than a few 24-hours of healthy recovery one would think I’d learn a thing or two about how willful I am, attempting to control things I have no business controlling. Unfortunately for whatever reason those repetitively spoken words of wisdom were not rising to the occasion in my head. Instead my solution was to get on the floor and stretch the area of my back that was causing me to feel such searing pain.
I made an already awful situation far worse. Before I knew what happened, my husband was carefully guiding me to a seat in the waiting room of a back specialist.
After a few preliminary tests this very kind and patient doctor listened with intention to what happened and was gracious enough to keep her face stoic.
Upon finishing the tale of my pain and subsequent attempt to self-heal, she explained the tests confirmed a herniated disk and calmly identified for me the ramifications if I chose to continue irritating the area via the solution I’d previously tried.
When I asked her opinion on long-term healing she responded, “Well based on practical experience there is a plan of what has worked for others. However, every person’s body is different. How about we give what I’ve recommended a try. We’ll then schedule you for a follow-up in a few weeks. If you are still experiencing discomfort we’ll try something else.”
I felt relieved by the doctor’s prescription to practice her suggestions and adjust as needed because the intention was parallel to my early days in addiction recovery.
When I first admitted the need for help to cease unhealthy behaviors, I tried desperately to find anyone who would provide a guarantee I’d never drink again or obsess endlessly about food and body issues. Each time I eased the question into conversation I heard the same thing.
“Alison, seek out those who have overcome what you struggle with. Ask what worked for them and their suggestions for next right recovery steps. Practice what they offer for your consideration every day. However be advised, just because something worked for them doesn’t guarantee the same will work for you. If you remain willing to try, eventually you’ll determine what works and hopefully one day you’ll share that as practical experience with someone else.”
The key word here is practice. First attempts don’t always work so we try again and again until something clicks. This is how we gain much-needed practical experience.
Just as doctors are always learning, experimenting and challenging themselves with new patient experiences, so too are we who seek long-term, healthy recovery. As a matter of fact, the word “practice” appears in the last step of the 12 listed for those seeking the same freedom from addiction I’ve achieved.
Maintaining the kind of life I’m deeply grateful to now live requires daily practice. When I began living without alcohol and with a renewed perspective of food and body image, I began to attain the kind of practical experience I now share with others who trace the same footsteps I did not mark but followed.
The equation is simple. Practice leads to practical experience and practical experience leads to progress, the very thing I strive for every day.
A Moment to Breathe…
Throughout the day think about practical steps you can take to progress toward your goals. Are people available to you who might offer suggestions based on practical experience? I welcome your feedback on this idea either by leaving a reply below or as a comment via your preferred social media network.