Recovery Share: The Curse of “It’ll Be Okay”

When I was growing up, there was a phrase I heard a lot in my family: It’ll be okay.

kidOf course, a lot of times that’s what you call encouragement, soothing, or just plain comfort. When you’re crying or upset and an elder tells you it’ll be okay, they’re saying “Hang in there, this will pass.”

If, on the other hand, you present a problem, which you’re seeking understanding or help with, and what you hear is, “It’ll be okay,” that’s a little different.

Think of it this way: If you know someone who’s struggling, and you ask what’s up, or how can I help, or “are you okay,” and the answer comes back, “It’ll be okay,” then what did they just say to you?

I don’t want to talk about it.

Now, let’s go back to that little kid, who is bringing problems to his elders, or maybe asking about theirs. If that kid keeps hearing, “It’ll be okay,” then he eventually understands the elders don’t want to talk about it. And if they never want to talk about it, he might decide that either (A) this stuff (my stuff) isn’t important or (B) people just don’t talk about this stuff. Or both.

The former can turn into a whole mess of self-esteem issues, which I can talk about some other time, but the latter — if that thought gets way down in there, makes itself a Truth in your life, here’s how you might wind up dealing with problems: by telling yourself It’ll be okay, and then trying not to think about it anymore.

drunkExample: I’m drunk and high all the time, super depressed, know I have a drug and alcohol problem, feel scared and powerless, then tell myself, It’ll be okay. Nothing you need to do now. Don’t even bother yourself about it because … It’ll be okay. So, for now, why not have another drink?

Another: My health is poor, my weight is too high, my diet not good, exercise almost non-existent. I know all of this is a problem, I can feel it, but I tell myself, It’ll be okay. The specific thought is, “I’m going to start eating better and exercising …” and then fill in the blank with “after this trip” or “next year” or, even better, “next week.”

As long as I tell myself this kind of “It’ll be okay,” the kind that tells me I don’t need to do anything about the current problem, the problem never gets solved. It isn’t even being acknowledged. And I know from the first example, above, that no problem gets solved until I acknowledge it. The only reason I’m sober today is that, back in 1999, I realized, No, it isn’t going to be okay. I am not going to figure this out. If all I do is keep telling myself I’m going to figure this out, then I will keep getting high all the time.

When I reached that point, I was getting into acceptance, and I was dealing with the reality that I had a problem I couldn’t figure out. Then I was ready to seek help and make changes, like going to meetings and opening myself up to the help of others and the power of the program. That’s also why it was so important for me to decide, at my first meeting, that this was no place for bullshit: Be honest or get nothing.

I say all of this because I hope it will be helpful to someone, but also because I need to call bullshit on myself. That second example above, the one about health and weight, is a current one. I could add to that finances, career, relationship, and one or two other areas of my life in which I absolutely know there are problems that need addressing, that are sucking my energy, and about which I keep saying … Well, you know:

  • I’ll start working out next week
  • I’ll eat better when I get home from this trip
  • Someday, something will click, and I’ll start making more money
  • I’m sure all this relationship stuff will work itself out; no need to do any deep work or have uncomfortable situations.

If you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you how those thoughts are working for me.

And just like recovery, as they say, will screw up your using, recovery will also screw up the temporary comfort I get from telling myself, “It’ll be okay.” Because every time I say that, another voice is in there saying, “No, it won’t!”

I know that on my current track, the above issues (and others, God knows) won’t get better; quite the opposite, in fact. And I know from past experience that it takes a lot of pain and discomfort for me to accept what’s going on.

But I also know that once I get into acceptance – and maybe writing this down will help – I can start getting into solutions.

Thanks for reading.

You can find more shares like this here.