I agree completely with your astute assessment of how we need to set expectations for our treatment and recovery.
I was determined to, as I often stated: 'get my life back' following my AN (Retrosigmoid) surgery. I was well aware that it was major surgery and that recovery might be difficult but I also had things I still wanted to do, even at age 63. As my general health was excellent pre-surgery, I always assumed that I would recover quickly and, even as my neurosurgeon was informing me that my recuperation would take "months, not weeks" I silently decided that I would do everything in my power to make my recovery as rapid as possible. That is exactly what happened.
I must state upfront that I was fortunate to have a top-notch surgical team and come out of the surgery with no facial paralysis or other major problems, although my hearing on the 'AN side' was already gone - and hasn't returned. I was sitting in a chair on the third day following my surgery and walking around - unassisted - on the fourth day. I was discharged the next day, based on the fact that my balance was quite good, all things considered, and my 'vital signs' were remarkably stable, including a very healthy BP and pulse rate. So far, so good.
Once home, after a week of feeling lethargic and sleeping a lot as the hospital drugs worked their way out of my system and my body started to regain strength, I was visited by a VNA PT. I faithfully did the balance exercises she suggested. I also, with the PT's encouragment, started walking outside as much as I could. The PT stopped coming after only 2 visits as she decided that I was regaining my balance so rapidly that further visits were not necessary. I never had any problems walking in the dark, at least, not in my own home. I kept at it and four weeks after my surgery my surgeon gave me permission to drive - a milestone.
Long story short: I was pretty much back to normal within about 6-8 weeks of my surgery. My neurosurgeon was elated. My wife was relieved and I was pleased, too, of course. However, I had few surgical complications, was in very good health pre-op and had a very positive attitude that determined - as much as it depended on me - I would fully and quickly recover from this medical crisis.
I thank God, my great surgical team and my supportive wife for much of my recovery. However, I also believe that having the mental determination to get back to normal as rapidly as my body would allow me to was a major asset in my recovery. I recommend any future AN patient try to develop and maintain the same attitude, when feasible.