Updated: Feb 12, 2021
In the aftermath of World War II, soldiers gave candy bars to holocaust victims when liberating them from concentration camps. They did this because they were compelled to feed the victims with anything they had on hand. The sugar was such a shock to the victims malnourished systems that it made them sick. In some cases, it even caused death. Their stomachs were too small and they were deprived of nutrients for too long.
Recovering from abuse, addiction, war or any other trauma is similar to recovering from malnutrition. It doesn’t happen over night. It takes patience. It takes strength. It takes love.
Love is a gentle, persistent feeling of compassion and understanding towards another person. It is not dependent on or conditioned to certain terms. Love is not confined to the demands of time.
When reaching out to someone in recovery, you may be compelled to approach them with overwhelming expressions of love. Do not be alarmed if your affections are not reciprocated. Your kindness may be a shock to their system. It is perfectly normal for the victim to feel overwhelmed and resistant. They are experiencing sensory overload. It is perfectly normal for you to feel hurt and confused. You are experiencing rejection. Everyone heals and grows at their own pace. Recovery is not confined to the demands of time.
To love someone is to admire and encourage them to grow, with or without you, and to expect nothing in return. It is not controlling. It is not demanding. It is not overbearing.
Similarly to recovering from physical injury, recovering from mental injury takes time. Hold space for your loved one. Be gentle, patient, and persistent. Slow and steady wins the race. Too much too soon will create resistance and fear. It will create a shock to the system. It will trigger fight or flight instincts. Your loved one will either shut down or run.
Recovering from malnutrition requires a methodical approach. Victims require high quality diets composed of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. Recovering from trauma requires a deliberate and empathetic approach. Victims have to be fed a high quality diet of compassion, patience, and understanding.
You can’t just throw a candy bar at someone and expect them to forget the war that they just lived through.
Recovery takes time.