Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zipping beyond my comfort zone

In my more than 1 year in Recovery I’ve learned that life is not always comfortable. This is obvious to most people, but nervous persons have a tendency to continuously crave comfort—and overreact in uncomfortable situations. But I’ve discovered that the key to growth is tolerating this discomfort and recognizing that feelings can be distressing but not dangerous.

I recently decided that living outside my comfort zone once and a while might be a good opportunity to practice my Recovery skills. So last week when I was on vacation I decided to try “zip lining,” a type of outdoor adventure/recreation in which you slide down a line while strapped in a harness. The line is attached to trees and the experience allows you to see the forest from a new perspective—from hundreds of feet in the air.

This was not something I had to do, but it’s something I wanted to do. I decided to bear the discomfort and made plans to take a 4-hour zip line tour. I made the reservations weeks in advance, so I had plenty of time to work it up, but I used secure thinking to tell myself I would have a good time.

When the day finally arrived, I experienced tunnel vision, sweaty palms, and a racing heartbeat as I drove to the site. After a short orientation and gearing up I felt nervous about the upcoming experience. Yet I reminded myself that anticipation is usually worse than realization. I acknowledged that I was uncomfortable—but that these distressing feelings were not dangerous. And my friends in Recovery had reminded me earlier that these sensations were average for anyone trying out an activity like this.

My first zip experience was indeed scary yet exhilarating at the same time. I felt uncomfortable at the beginning of each zip line, but enjoyed the experience despite some discomfort. Before Recovery I would have allowed these feelings to prevent me from even considering participating in this type of activity. I gave myself a hearty endorsement for braving, tolerating, and enduring discomfort. It was truly a growth experience for me. I don’t think I’m ready to take up skydiving next, but by moving my muscles I learned I can work through discomfort.