Early in the morning, way too early for a Saturday, my husband and I drove our 14 year old to his cross country meet. These meets include all of the surrounding schools, and there are about 1,200 people in total milling around looking for their team tent. This particular day, we were in a torrential rain and the temps were below 70. I know. I know. Sixty-five degrees is not “cold,” but to me, anything under 70 is chilly. Needless to say, my attitude wasn’t great. Saturday mornings are my day to sleep in. Sleeping past 6:30 and drinking coffee in bed are things I look forward to all week.
Nonetheless, we packed our raincoats and arrived to find the course an absolute mess. The ground was a literal mud pit. Some cars were almost submerged in water, and there were runners everywhere with mud-caked arms and legs. Their running shoes were blackish brown, and all I could think about was how we would have to purchase yet another new pair before the season is over.
We let him out to go find his teammates before the race, and we trapsed around in the mud with other parents, none of us knowing where the race begins or ends. It seemed that no one was in charge, and we are just milling around wet and confused. But as we stood there and the different races began and ended, I started to notice a shift in the atmosphere.
The kids, covered in head-to-toe mud, were smiling and laughing. They were sopping wet and filthy, but they seemed happy. They were falling down in the muck and actually laughing. Needless to say, it was hard to stay aggravated while watching this remarkable attitude the kids brought to these less-than-perfect conditions.
Recovery is Mud
As I watched them slipping and sliding in the knee-high sludge, I began to think of pigs. Yes, PIGS. Not that these precious teens looked like pigs, but I couldn’t think of any other creature that literally chooses to wallow in mud.
So I did a little internet digging (no pun intended) to learn more about the relationship between swine and their choice to stand and wallow in mud. What I found not only made sense to me, but I found I actually strongly related to these farm animals. Their reasons for enjoying the mud reminded me of my Recovery. Stick with me here as I promise to tie this all together.
“Recovery” has become a controversial term since there is no real definition and many argue about what it really means to be “in recovery.” No one has landed on an alternate term yet, so I am just going to use “Recovery” as that’s what I have known for 16 years. To me, and only me, I consider myself to be in Recovery from a Substance Use Disorder that nearly destroyed my life. Today I choose to abstain from substances that, while I used them, took me down a very dark path. People misuse substances in a negative way for a myriad of reasons, but that’s is not my focus here. Today I want to celebrate that I am coming up on another year with a clear mind and, more often than not, a positive outlook on life.
Let me share three facts about pigs and mud and how they relate to my Recovery.
Pigs Need Mud to Avoid Sunburn and Regulate Their Temperature.
Just like mud keeps the burn away and keeps their temperatures level, my continual search for self-improvement keeps me from having too many highs and lows. Ups and downs in life are inevitable, but I have learned techniques such as morning quiet time, exercise, and not over-scheduling in order to keep “my temperature” regulated and steady. When I “cover” myself in these practices, I’m more likely to keep my emotions steady and thus less likely to get “burned” by life’s roller coaster ride.
Pigs Wallow in Mud to Socialize and Gain a Sense of Belonging.
Being around other like-minded people is crucial to my well-being. I need to be with those who are either on a similar journey or are respectful of mine. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my friends are not in recovery, but they are aware that I most likely will not be attending a throw-down band party. It is just not what I enjoy. I have found so many cool fellow mud wallowers that help keep me healthy and balanced. I love my mud pit friends, and I have learned that wallowing in isolation is never a good thing for me.
Pigs Wallow in Mud to Keep Clean of Parasites.
This one is very important to me. After 16 years, I have learned that staying in recovery requires maintenance. I need to be aware of unhealthy habits and thoughts. If left unchecked, they will fester, and the stuff that led me to misuse substances will begin to stick with me. Staying in the mud, wallowing with my fellow pigs, is a sure way to keep parasitic thoughts and actions from creeping in.
Jump into the Mud
To wrap it up, we should be more like the cross-country kids, and more like pigs. I feel so blessed to have witnessed the craziness of the muddy conditions at that cross country meet. Watching the teens squealing with delight while covered in mud is one of the best life lessons I have received.
They were dirty, but they were together.
They were unstable, so they helped each other up.
The definition of wallow (for a person) is to indulge in an unrestrained way that creates a pleasurable sensation. To me, recovery is one big wallow in the mud.
May we all be more like pigs and wallow together!
Elizabeth McKissick is the Director of Communications at Youturn Health. Elizabeth has been in recovery for substance use disorder for 16 years and is a strong advocate for sharing her story in the hopes of helping others struggling with dependency and misuse.