In recovery, it seems that we always want to lose something, get rid of something, give up something, or to decrease something. We want to quit smoking, lose weight, get rid of anger, stop drinking, stop feeling anxious, stop feeling depressed, and the list goes on. Our lives become consumed with these things, these unwanted habits, hurts, behaviors, which are pieces of junk that we store away into a box. You see, we all have a closet. Some of us have a rather large closet filled with many boxes of junk. Some of us have smaller closets with large boxes of junk. Yet we all have a junk closet, filled with boxes of our hurts, our habits, and all of the things we want to get rid of. Things we NEED to get rid of. We also have boxes of significant treasures, of memories, gifts, of things we cherish and love. Pretty soon, those boxes get stored in the same closet of our lives, mostly unorganized and unlabeled. In the midst of our addictions, our grief, our anger, our depression, our codependency, and the laundry list of struggles, we push those treasure boxes to the back to make room for our boxes of junk. When we try to get to a box of treasures, we find that the disarray of boxes prevents us from getting the box that we want, causing frustration and a closet, a life, that’s unmanageable.
Perhaps we hoard these boxes of junk because we are faced with an empty closet, an unfulfilled need, desire, or want. Maybe a need to be loved, to feel wanted, needed, to replace parents who weren’t there for us, to make up for a distant spouse or family member, or to induce the feelings that we want to feel. We choose our hurts and our habits and act out our behaviors because we are trying to fill a void that is left behind. This also applies to mental health. Instead of reaching out for help with our struggles, we try to place those struggles in a box, hiding them from friends, from family, from the world. We are ashamed and afraid of what’s in those boxes, but why? We fear that no one will be able to help us handle what’s in those boxes. We think we can manage our mental health struggle boxes on our own. So we wrap it in a pretty bow and make it look nice when company comes over. The kicker? We can’t get rid of those boxes. Those mental health struggles may always be there for most of us, hanging out with the other boxes of addiction, anger, etc. So, what do we do about it if we can’t get rid of our box?
We start by asking people to help us unpack that box. We reach out, realizing that we can’t do it on our own. Slowly, we will unpack those boxes and remove the things that we can remove, such as the anger, the inability to cope, the isolation, the worry, our responses, and our reactions. We remove those and place treasures in place of those pieces of junk. It won’t happen overnight, but over time it does make a difference. By reaching out to others, they may not be able to organize or understand what’s in our boxes, but the company is really nice.
What do you need to remove from your junk box, and what do you need to replace it with?
April Brantley, CR Mental Health X-Factor