Healing Isn’t Linear

Healing is not linear. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s the truth. We all have good days and bad days. Good weeks and bad weeks. Good years, and rough years. 

So often I’ve worked with clients who say, “why can’t I just be better already?” Or “I’ve been coming here for a few months, I just want this to be over with!” I understand this can be frustrating – especially if you’ve committed to attending treatment almost daily, as in some of the places I’ve worked over the years. 

It can be excruciating to have a string of good days only to be triggered and set back to what feels like zero again. Or to go a period of time without using an unhealthy coping mechanism and then experience a lapse or relapse. 

What I always tell clients is that you don’t go back to zero. Because even though you may be hitting a rough patch or experiencing a lapse, you haven’t forgotten all you’ve learned. You don’t actually go back to square one. Hopefully you learn from each setback, and therefore fall back a little less. And often we need to repeat things in order to truly absorb what we’ve learned. We need to practice new ways of coping and different ways of thinking until they become second nature. We’ve practiced dealing with discomfort in a way that’s no longer working, however change doesn’t happen overnight. We need to be committed to the bigger picture, to choices that bring us closer to our goals and our authentic self. 

My favorite example of this is the following poem by Portia Nelson.

Autobiography in Five Chapters


I walk down the street

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…I am hopeless

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the side walk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the side walk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It’s my fault. 

I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the side walk.

I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

So healing isn’t linear. It’s a process, a journey, with ups and downs and twists and turns. But it allows us to learn more about ourselves and our inner strength than we could have ever imagined. 

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