How the 12-Steps and Quality Mental Health Therapy Can Affect Life, Not Just Addiction
(Trigger alert... mention of suicidal thoughts)
It's Tuesday, October 4th and I'm on my honeymoon. My husband (a word that's still very weird to say concerning him) is a late sleeper and I'm an early riser. I've avoided getting on my computer/laptop for the last few days - due to a packed weekend of wedding activities from Friday until Sunday then resting once we got to our honeymoon destination.
I wanted to check my email and catch up on a few work activities for a few minutes this morning.
I've reflected a lot on the wedding ceremony and the weekend before a lot while on the honeymoon. For the past six months, I've spent hundreds of hours planning this wedding and details about joining our lives together.
Throughout the process, my mental health issues interfered. From anxiety getting the best of me, to brain fog making it hard to remember what I had just done, to depression or mania just getting in the way of getting anything productive accomplished, there were many times it was a struggle.
My biggest fear was that I would do something that would mess up the wedding. You see, I've been married before. My first wedding was beautiful, but it had some big mistakes. When I think about that wedding, those issues are all I remember. I didn't want that to happen again.
To help work on that problem, I put at the top of the "Detailed Program Notes" this message:
REMINDER FOR TRACY - and anyone else who might need to know:
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, JUST PICK UP AND KEEP GOING.
PERFECTION AND FORMALITY ARE NOT THE GOALS...
HAVING FUN AND SHARING LOVE ARE.
It was a big realization when crap started hitting the fan in the weeks before the wedding as I made that note about the ceremony, not the process of getting there. (Read about that here: https://www.spotlightonstigma.com/2022/09/wedding-rehearsal-day-and-my-dads-in.html)
You need to know that I've been in counseling for years and I've been in 12-Step recovery for about 4 1/2 years now. A major tenet in 12-Step programs is "Progress, not Perfection." Though not worded so succinctly, this is also one of the main mental health challenges I have worked on in therapy - that I don't have to be perfect to be progressing.
If I look at it through the lens of - Did I stay calm when all the adversity happened? Did I use what I've learned to keep going and not get incredibly discouraged? Did I "have fun" throughout the entire process? - then it would be a big FAIL. In fact, one night I got lower than I've been in at least a couple of years and I really thought about taking a bunch of pills because I felt like I couldn't do anything right.
When I look back over this past weekend, was it perfect? Hell, no! There were a lot of little things I wish I could go back and change - the main one being that I wish I could have stayed calmer when all my planning didn't mean a thing as we had to deal with one unanticipated problem after another.
In fact, the rehearsal went so badly, I had no idea if we would even get the basics I had planned accomplished.
HOWEVER... overall, I had fun. I took time to do some unplanned things, like showing my two best friends who live out of state the spot where my now-husband and I spent many of our earliest dates. I played card games with my family and friends, when there was a part of me who wanted to go over the wedding ceremony a few more times to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I really stayed "in the moment" during our after-rehearsal dinner and had a great time with my family and friends.
And when the ceremony didn't go as planned, I literally just laughed and kept going. The biggest blunder was during our unity ceremony. I had planned a sand ceremony but there was no way to practice it and be able to tell how long it would take for the sand to funnel into the receptacle.
We ended up playing the song we were using while we were doing it ("Family" by Dolly Parton) twice and still hadn't even filled it halfway. I made jokes while the sand was SLOWLY funneling in, like looking at my non-existent watch, tapping my foot, and sighing pathetically. Everyone laughed with us as we decided to abandon it and finish it during the reception.
Several times the officiant got off the script - or I interrupted him because I THOUGHT he had gotten parts out of order. But it didn't bother me, him, or anyone else there.
My husband messed up signing correctly part of one song we did in ASL - a part that we had practiced so much and that he had finally gotten down. We both just laughed about it later.
The worst - and funniest - part was during the recessional. As my ringbearer and her owner (the ringbearer was my daughter's emotional support animal) were leaving, one of my aunts stopped her and wanted to get Jake's picture. As my husband and I had planned an "encore" (I called the wedding "the greatest show on earth"), she needed to be out of the ceremony area before we came in.
But with a lot of "encouragement" (me yelling from the door where my husband and I had exited), she got out just in time for us to come back in.
Oh, one other thing. I'm a meticulous planner, especially for vacations. I try to figure out all the options of what activities we can do while gone; I use lists to make sure I pack all needed items; and I clean before I leave so I can come home to a nice environment.
THAT didn't happen. My husband and I just wanted to get going. We hadn't had time to pack the night before like we had planned and so we packed frantically. We both forgot several items we wish we had remembered.
But you know what? It's been okay. We've made it work with what we brought.
Overall, the whole process was nowhere near perfect. I didn't handle the problems "perfectly" (to say the least!) at least not until the actual wedding. I wasn't completely organized or prepared the way I had wanted to be.
And you know what else? I don't look back at the wedding and have a visceral reaction because of all that went wrong. I can think about my wedding and smile - because of all that went right.
It may have taken 32 years between the two weddings, but this is just one more example of "Progress, Not Perfection."
Note: if you want to see the fun we had - and all of the mistakes - feel free to go to our wedding website and watch the recordings. Look for the "Recordings" tab on loveca.st/TravisandTracy (yes, the period is supposed to be there). If you do watch it and notice how therapy and the 12-Steps have helped in a real-life example, please leave a comment in our guest book on that same site.