The Role of Story in Recovery, Part 1

The role of story in recovery cannot be underestimated. Within our stories, our narratives, we find ourselves.

“I don’t know who I am anymore!”

Sometimes, we find ourselves caught up in lives that don’t suit us at all, we are sad when we “should be happy” and we are bored when “should be having fun.” We feel badly laughing at the jokes our friends make and we hate our jobs. We look in the mirror in the morning and we think, “Who am I kidding? I can’t stand this shit.” 

…and then we curl our hair and brush our teeth until our gums bleed, getting ready for another day.

We are all, in our own ways, in recovery. What are we recovering from, precisely? In some ways, we are recovering from ourselves and in some ways we are recovering ourselves. It could be easily estimated that a great deal of human distress is caused by being told we are something that we are not and by being made to do things that we do not want to do, made to be people we do not want to be.

The way we learn ourselves is through story, when we are young we consider who we might be within the tales we’re are exposed to…who is the hero? Who is the vagabond? Who is the hermit, the princess, the criminal, the witch, the servant…

…the mouse in the corner?

Several weeks ago, my child was talking about a book that he had read, one from the Warriors series, a never-ending epic of cats in clans, and we began to speak about reading in general.

“Do you ever feel sad when a book ends? Or if a character dies?”

The boy looked down at his lap, and his mouth squirreled up, “Um, hmmm…”

“Isn’t that a nice thing about books? That you can feel things about the stories and the characters? I love that about books.”

“You know what made me really sad,” the boy looked up,”the part where the whole forest was being destroyed and all the animals were scared and had to leave.”

He paused, “That part made me cry.”

“Well, that tells you something about yourself then. It tells you that you value nature and that you care about what happens to it.”

I think, at that point, I got up to make lunch or something, but I was still thinking about the subject, how stories inform us of ourselves and how we feel in relation to the world.

What happens if, in the story that is your life and all that you are in it, you get cast wrong? 

What if you are told you are things that you know you are not? 

What if you start to believe that you are all, or as little as, they say you are? 

What happens to the story then?

Who is telling your story?

Is there really anything to say?

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