When Will I Be Self-Harm Free?

April 21, 2022 Kim Berkley

When we talk about self-harm recovery, we like to think of it in terms of goals and milestones. We like to think of it as something measurable that we can track, a box we can tick off, or a line we can cross. But at what point do you get to claim the title of being self-harm free?

Being Self-Harm Free Is a Path, Not a Finish Line

The first thing to understand here is that recovery itself is not something you achieve at a specific point in time, the way you might win a trophy or pass a goalpost. Yes, there are milestones to mark along the way—in fact, tracking this is often helpful in the healing process—but there is no set time or date at which you will officially be "Recovered" with a capital "R."

People like to use the phrase "the road to recovery" (I know I'm guilty of it too, from time to time), but in fact, recovery is the road. It's something you do, something you choose, over and over again for as long as you can, until the choice becomes so natural you no longer notice that you're still making it—even though you are.

This might sound discouraging to some. It's human nature to want to complete things, to mark a task as "done," and move on with a sense of satisfaction and closure. Unfortunately, mental health doesn't often work like that. Typically, recovery is a long-term process with no set timeline and no finish line.

But the good news is that this also means it's not something you can fail at by falling short. Even relapse isn't failure; it's a detour from the path of healing, one that you can find your way back from. Recovery isn't a race; you heal at your own pace, and what defines "success" for you is up to you.

Every Day You're Self-Harm Free Is a Win

The other thing to remember—something that all too many people forget—is that every milestone matters. Being self-harm free for a year or more is impressive. But so is staying clean for a month, a week, or even a day.

Don't let anyone tell you that your progress doesn't matter or somehow doesn't count. Don't let anyone, including yourself, minimize the effort you've put into getting better. Every single day you can get through without hurting yourself matters. Everything you're doing to get well makes a difference.

In reality, the moment you stop hurting yourself is the moment you become self-harm free—and you get to stay that way for as long as you continue to find other ways to cope. If you relapse, you stop being self-harm free for that moment in time―but you can take that title up once again as soon as you begin the recovery process anew.

As for when you get to claim that title out loud—that's up to you to decide. You decide, no one else.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, April 21). When Will I Be Self-Harm Free?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 18 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

November, 13 2023 at 7:24 am

I've been self-harm free for like 1 year and 6 months. It wasn't an easy road but I made it!! Congratulations to all of you for being self-harm free, to many more years of being self-harm free.

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