Reclaiming resilience is a cumulative process. It is a series of saying yes to the things that foster freedom and saying sayonara to the things that no longer serve.

All children are born innocent and pure. Children behold life with captivating attention, wonder, and awe. Inherently, children are resilient. And then the stuff of life piles on. Ambitions become shadowed by obligations. Curiosity and creativity get cast to the side and clouded by adult fears and worries, harms and injustices. Sometimes, resilience seemingly becomes a distant memory, fading into the background like scenes from a rearview mirror.

WHAT IS RESILIENCE + WHY DOES IT MATTER?
A basic definition of resilience is the ability to bounce back. Picture a rubber band: you stretch it and it lengthens; you release it and it returns to its original form. Now, let’s expand on this and apply to the “stuff of life.” As we layer in complexity and modern adulting, our subject matter becomes heartier and multi-faceted. Good ole Webster tells us, “Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Change.

(My favorite word, said no one ever.)

If we are alive, we are continually evolving. Therefore, change is inevitable. Some say the only constant is change. And sometimes these changes occur in the form of traumas—big or small. Think: death of a loved one, illness, car accident, money struggles, divorce, or addiction.

THE ESCAPE ROUTE
Before getting sober, I was not awake to the power of my own resilience. When change came knocking, I had one set of instructions in my social-emotional-psychospiritual GPS: the escape route.

First date jitters?

I drank.

Winter blues?

I ate.

Low self-esteem?

I shopped.

Social anxiety?

I took pills.

Some of you are wondering, aren’t these just coping strategies? Societal norms? Yes. Until they’re not.

When life hands you lemons, and you can’t make the lemonade, things can get pretty sour pretty fast. For some, it’s a slow and subtle spiral. For me, it was an express freight train that jumped the tracks.

I couldn’t handle rejection.

I couldn’t manage fear.

A lot of days, I couldn’t get out of bed.

So how did I make it to the other side? I’ll save the Comeback Story for another day and share with you a few nuggets I’ve learned along the way.

ONE DAY AT A TIME
This one has universal acclaim. Often for me, it’s one hour or even one moment at a time. The ultimate practice in mindfulness, this adage doesn’t let me time travel and ruminate about the past or worry about the future. By being here now, I get to experience THIS very moment. Insider tip: this moment will never happen again. Or as one of my yoga teachers says, you can never breathe the same breath twice. As an addict, this concept made me run for the hills the first time I heard it. But then someone shared with me this piece of wisdom: All that is sacred and holy exists right here, right now. When I have trouble staying present, I just look down at my feet and am reminded of the firm ground on which I stand.

LIVE + LET LIVE
The past several months during the pandemic I joined the ranks of the doomscrollers. The result?

Omg, I can’t believe he posted that! Oh, I am so offended! Ooooh, I need those shoes! Well that’s not fair they always get to go on fancy exotic vacations! Eeek I can’t leave the house—like ever!

Translation: jealousy, envy, fear, sadness. My ego took over. Gratitude checked itself at the door. I looked outside of myself instead of within. I regressed to the thinking that the hole in my soul could be filled with the next new thingy, gadget, or racking up a few hundred Likes on my latest profile pic.

In recovery, one of the most important truths that I’ve learned is that I’m gonna do me, and I’ll let you do you. There is no mistake that the Universe put me in this very body, in this town, at this very moment in time for a reason. When I allow Divine Grace to flow through me, I’m a vehicle for love, serenity, and joy. I am meant to live. On purpose and with purpose.

PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION
Woof. This is a tough one. In my long list of all-the-things-I’m-healing-from, recovering perfectionist is near the top. Growing up I was told that I had to be the best. I had to get the best grades. I had to be on all the teams. I had to win all the awards. I had to be the everything girl. In adulthood, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction: if I couldn’t be the best, then I wouldn’t bother trying at all. If I couldn’t do it perfectly, then it wouldn’t get done. So the laundry piled up around me. The unread books grew into mountains covered in dust. The ideas and hopes and dreams stayed scrawled on scraps of paper in my mind’s eye.

When it was suggested to me that I could do a little bit at a time I was truly floored. When I was told that I didn’t need to be THE best, and I could just do MY best I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Eyes aglow, ears perked, and heart on fire. By taking large tasks and breaking them into small parts, life felt manageable again. The victorious delight of little achievements nestled one on top of the other tastes so much sweeter than a fiery ball of frenzied, chaotic energy racing toward the finish line.

KEEP COMING BACK
Never give up. Like no, never, not ever.

Despite thinking I had lost what made me ME, living life as a sober woman has only served to reveal to me the beautiful magic I possess. Resilience is a lot like energy – it cannot be created or destroyed. And like peeling back the layers of the onion, I am continually amazed by the things I discover about myself. Life may have had its way with me, but it did not keep me down. Brave, courageous, brilliant, and creative as ever, I’m grateful for the journey, thus far, and the adventures that lie ahead.

Much like getting on the treadmill again and again, day after day is helping me shed my pandemic binge-eating weight gain, reclaiming resilience is a lifelong, work in progress. It’s not a chop-dice-BAM like one of Emeril’s cloves of garlic. Reclaiming resilience is a cumulative process. It is a series of saying yes to the things that foster freedom and saying sayonara to the things that no longer serve.

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Rebecca Anné is a writer, meditation + yoga teacher, certified stress management consultant, and neurolinguistic programming practitioner. She has transformed her health physically, mentally, and spiritually through a trauma-informed lens and uses her skills to help others. A person in long term recovery, she mentors other women affected by substance use conditions and volunteers in her community. She adores the beach + the mountains, city streets + quiet solitude. She and her husband reside in Pennsylvania with their two kitties, and she loves having sober fun with her friends at Sync Recovery.