Topic Tuesday: Recovery

“To Be a Good Ally, I Must Choose Recovery (By: Ash Kuhl)

We in the United States are amid what feels like a societal upheaval. Not only are we still in the throes of a global pandemic, but every aspect of our society is being called into question asking of what racist roots it was borne from. Nothing about life looks or feels the way it did six months ago.

I cannot be a good ally during this societal moment without doing the work necessary to keep me steadfast in my recovery. Because as a white person learning about oppression and how far reaching it is having never experienced it firsthand, I will be wrong, and often. Luckily, how I respond to being wrong and my own errors is a wildly efficient litmus test for where I am at with my recovery.

When I am sturdy in recovery to be wrong is an opportunity to learn and grow. A chance to feel fully that wave of guilt of having caused harm, take a step back to reflect on what I have done, and to own up to my wrongdoing earnestly, committing to putting in the work to learn how to do better. I may even thank the wave of guilt for showing me just how much power there is in my choices so that I may remember how important it is to act with kindness, integrity, and care. It doesn’t feel pleasant, but it doesn’t wash me away.

However, when I have strayed from my recovery to be wrong is a siren’s call to retreat within myself. My missteps are fodder my self-doubt will use to convince me of their false tales of my utter unworthiness. The further away from my recovery practices I am the easier it is for the guilt and fear from that mistake to mix with my inner stories to produce a blend of shame that can keep me from trying again at all. Leaving me checked out, numbed out, and essentially a husk of a person, too scared to be anything at all.

Holiday Phillips writes that being an ally in the movement for black justice “isn’t an identity it’s a lifelong commitment to anti-racism”. I need to be willing and committed to being wrong. Over and over and over. And I cannot do that unless I am actively choosing recovery. It is far easier to be wrong when I am already convinced that I am not inherently unworthy. Because I am able to stand and be okay with not knowing.

To be solid in my recovery means that I can show up fully to spaces that I occupy. Not only show up physically but show up mentally and emotionally. Ready to sit with whatever may be there. For myself, and for others. Having done the work needed to be internally validated so that I may have the courage to be wrong. If I am to live a full life, I must show up to each day already having loved myself into being and already assured of my own inherent goodness. For me choosing recovery is choosing to believe that I am enough. That I may do wrong, but that I am not inherently wrong at my core. That I am someone who is kind, caring, gentle, and who can learn.

If not, I will just be showing up asking, even if not with words, for other people to do that heart work for me. And to do that would be to take away from the energy we need so direly to be used to create a more just society.

So recovery for me as of late has been about practicing diligence and courage.

Diligence to do the things that I know keep me well: meditating, making sure to regularly stay in my body via things like yoga and walks, allowing myself to connect deeply with friends and community, journaling and being honest about what’s coming up for me throughout the day, reminding myself what my values are and allowing them to guide the choices I make. And choosing to fully feel it all.

And courage to continue to show up day after day, not knowing what is coming, but being willing to meet it and be with it. Being kind and gentle with myself all the while.

If I am to be helpful at all in this historical movement I cannot let myself be veered off course by my own internal shame and allow it to immobilize me. And for that, I need the bedrock of recovery.

About the Author

Ash Kuhl lives in Nashville, Tennessee and works at a mental health non-profit there. They have enormous gratitude for both Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado where they first began their journey to recovery, and the Renfrew Center in Brentwood, TN. Ash cares deeply about affordable mental health services access for all, LGBTQIA+ healthcare and justice, and building robust and supportive community. Ash can be found climbing, sitting under any good tree, or hunting for the best iced coffee in town.