Where are you now?
Where am I now?
What a complicated question that poses.
Let me start off by saying that not a day goes by that I don’t think of my experience in rehab.
The crappy food- the stiff beds- the 5am wake up calls- not even the unshaven legs. (I’ve actually made a fairly terrible habit of that since…. much to the dismay of my partner)
One year later- and I sit here thinking how quite often that time period can change on a whim for me- from feeling so near- to coincidentally so far.
How are those girls? I get asked. Do you keep in touch with them?
Sometimes, I say.
Because sometimes, I do- and sometimes, I don’t.
Different ages, different backgrounds- together we felt so very close- sitting in those god awful strained therapy rooms. Our feet tucked under us- notebooks out and on our laps.
So close in the times we were forced to make “sand stress balls,” forced to count from 1-100 when we went to the restroom.
Close in the times we cried over a donut- laughed on the ground playing bananagram- laid on the couches.
Watched as our parents came and went. As Christmas and New Years passed quietly.
Sometimes, I can still feel Lilly’s head in my lap- braiding her hair like I did my friends in middle school.
Other times memories of it all come to me innocuously- on a plane coming back from Thanksgiving, a note falling out of a book.
“I’ll miss you always Linds. Come visit me when you’re out.”
Kenzie’s pink gel pen sparkling off the paper.
A year later, I still wish sometimes that I could go back to that place-
To the floral comforters, the narrow halls, the community room we always had to leave Jacy in because she wasn’t allowed to walk around with the rest of us.
A year later–
I didn’t know I’d look back at in this light-
But I do.
A year later-
And I quit writing for awhile.
The months passed– and I started to feel disconnected from the truth of what I was writing– like I was a walking inspirational board for how beautiful life is post-recovery– as though it’s always one Chicken Soup for the Soul away from a Lifetime movie.
The truth is that the past year has been wonderful– wonderful, insightful, loving, and calm– but how horrifically selfish of me to pretend, for face value, that it’s been simply that.
To write things for people so they walk away from my blog thinking ”Damn, that girl’s got her shit together.”
How absolutely discouraging to someone out there who is feeling like they “failed” at recovery because they still struggle. And how incredibly naive of me to pretend that people will believe for one second that my life is a straight and narrow road because I spent 6-weeks in a facility.
I think that today, one year after I sat down with my parents in their living room– the real truth is that I’m still very much human– and most of those girls I had the fortune of meeting in Florida– well, they are very much human as well.
Some having gone back– some having trekked on.
We lost somebody earlier this year- in August. She passed away in her sleep.
There were text messages exchanged, phone calls.
But, in a sad, in a strange, utterly unforeseen way- life kept moving on.
And it didn’t stop us from still feeling what so many of us do- even in recovery.
A year later, sitting here on my computer peeling string cheese as I type, I think I’d like to emphasize that Rehab doesn’t provide a magic little pill (although Prozac’s a gem) to make you accept stretch marks, reverse addictions, or correct the circus mirrors of your mind.
It doesn’t fix what someone broke. It doesn’t shed light on tragedy.
A year later– You are making your own decisions again.
You are ultimately free to live your life as you choose.
And because of this, you have to understand– perhaps embrace– that at some point you will most likely have some sort of relapse.
Is this too honest? Perhaps. Pessimistic? No.
(Stay with me people, I promise I’m not coming to rain on your parade.)
It’s the truth as only I have seen it. It’s the truth that I’ve pieced together from each story I hear, from each girl I continue to follow up with– and from my own.
And it’s a scary word– “relapse.”
But one year later I can say with clarity that relapse has been a part of my growth. And an even more significant piece of my recovery.
So, you’ve relapsed then? You’re wondering.
In a year, I’ve relapsed thrice. Separate nights moderately close together. 4 months back.
Why? I can’t tell you exactly-
But it happened. Calmly, slowly, methodically.
The first time- Tears ensued.
The second time- the ease returned.
It’s easy- God it’s easy.
I forgot how easy it is.
And the third time- Disappointment.
A slimy finger and a sore throat.
I’m over it, I remembered – my back resting against the wall.
What am I doing?
Staring down at my hands.
It doesn’t fix anything, does it?
Well by God, it doesn’t actually fix a bloody thing.
And yes, though it did take three times before I reached that inevitable point again– The ‘Christ, what a waste of time’ moment–
I got myself off the ground that night–
And one year later I was strong enough to come back to that conclusion-
And this time on my own.
This is where my life is at a year later– at a point that I have the ability to rewrite the story.
So my goal is that it sticks with me for longer this time around.
And if it doesn’t, well–I gotta ‘nuff faith in myself to know the same revelation will hit me again– and again– and again.
Does this seem self-defeating? To propose that relapsing is a continued option?
I don’t look at it that way.
A year later- I’m in a place where I understand that life is not one strike and you’re out.
A grey and white road that says you either do or don’t.
This extremity didn’t work for me in the past–
And it won’t work for me now– or maybe even for you.
Because, let’s face it, those ”skills” you learn in rehab?
Lemme fill you in on a secret—
They ain’t ”permanent”– 6-weeks of force-feeding isn’t enough to last a lifetime.
A year later, those skills are forgotten on a whim- modified on a bad day-
And can only be practiced efficiently over a course of time.
Rehab isn’t a place you send your loved one to and hope they walk out a brand new person– brandished from all their impulses, their habits, their manipulations.
It’s merely a starting point:
A facility that can give you a chance– and only that– a chance to begin pounding out a different foundation–
A preliminary point to unearth a basic concept we’ve all heard since grade school–
“That with every action, there’s a consequence.”
Simple in context- but hard to live.
And rehab provides an atmosphere that forces you to think of consequences before your actions- and not after.
Forces you to evaluate why you ate a pint of ice cream and vomited it up in the bathroom-
What you actually feel from it when the ”episode” ends–
And forced to come to terms with the gritty truth of it all:
That throwing up that ice cream doesn’t do shit.
And it doesn’t change that you binged it in the first place.
You don’t get to cancel out one impulsivity with another.
You don’t get to binge eat 5,000 calories and expect to rid your body of the toxic choices of that decision.
Sorry Linds, but it’s not a get out of jail free card.
And one year later- ANYONE who’s been through addiction is still learning that choices have direct consequences–
Like last weekend, for example, I went to a wedding– I drank too much and it made everyone around me worry.
I was loud, boisterous, likely obnoxious—scrapping salad dressing off the salad leaves as I impulsively (and drunkenly) pushed the food away.
It was inappropriate. And I was embarrassed. Am embarrassed.
But one year later– I still tend to drink too much when I shouldn’t– blurting out bizarre statements–notorious for asking inappropriate questions (putting my roommate into frantics).
I drink medicinally as my therapist so lovingly states.
In other words, I tend to use alcohol to free myself from the discomforts that recovery brings.
Discomforts of my image.
Discomforts of my insecurity.
Discomforts of boredom.
Yes. The boredom of recovery – the absolute sheer confusion of time without a time-consuming sickness.
I stopped drinking when I was sick. Stopped socializing.
So when I mean “from boredom”- what I really mean is that leftover time you’ve never had before– the anxiety of sitting on a couch at night watching a rerun of Scandal, twiddling your fingers wondering what in God’s name to do with yourself now that you don’t devote all your attention to 12-mile runs and calorie counting.
Basically– the discomforting lack of constant stimulation–
The “Instant Gratification” that an eating disorder always gave. The thrill of leaving the gym after a 10-mile run. The fulfillment of eating 200 calories in a day.
We are a generation that implements this into every facet of our lives- whether it be an Instagram like or a salary hike in your first 6 months. We live in a world that expects immediate results- that culturally drinks to numb the past 8 hours at work, drinks to feel comfortable before walking into a bar, takes MDMA to thoroughly “enjoy music,” and where “better” looks are always readily attainable via a website or a skin product.
Maybe that’s a cop out- maybe not- but what I do understand now that I didn’t understand a year ago is that I still continue to struggle with the idea that with boredom–discomfort– there is not always an “instant” fix– as our culture implies– that a band-aid is not a stitch, and that self-respect, self-love, peace, tranquility, and all those other serene words are built upon mounds of discomfort. Are built on hardships– at the events that transpire in your life– and I’m still understanding that to be uncomfortable is natural at times– and that a healthy resolution to discomfort is conditioned within yourself.
That fulfillment is not based on a scale, a food item, or how many Facebook likes your profile picture gets that day– but a quiet amount of success in the wake of adversity.
In the times you trust yourself to do the right thing– make the right choice– and you do.
Does that mean I always link that wisdom to my life now?
I weigh what I weigh today and I’m uncomfortable– It’s the most I’ve ever weighed and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t seep into my thoughts when I’m doing anything outside of my normal 9-5 work day. Doesn’t irrationally make me wonder if my best friend’s parents noticed and talked about my 4-lb weight gain when I left their house after Thanksgiving.
I’m often preoccupied with my physical image a year later– an aftermath of an eating disorder– and so I find that I drink when I’m in situations that I haven’t conditioned myself to do daily.
Like go to work for example. I can go to work every day. I can eat Goldfish for a snack. In fact, I can basically eat anything. I haven’t counted calories in so many months that if you put a milk carton in front of me I’d probably struggle trying to remember if it’s the 1% or the 2% that has 110 calories and 12g of sugar.
One year later, I know that a meal isn’t going to add 10lbs to my waistline– that a piece of cake will not go “straight to the hips.” One year later I don’t cry on the subway when I catch a glimpse of my thigh in the window and I don’t freak out if I eat an unwashed blueberry (PESTICIDES!).
This is what has improved. This is what allowed me to eat Thanksgiving with my family this year and not be preoccupied in my thoughts at the table.
These are the things I’m now very conditioned for. These are the things my skill set has enhanced.
However– on the other hand– You make me dress up for a wedding– you ask me to attend a formal event– and one year later I still have the “tick” going off in my head- the tick that starts thumping at my brain-And so I drink to quiet it- this little tick that whispers that everyone is noticing your thigh. Your lack of definition in that too tight dress.
And it’s that 2-glass fog that continuously helps me to take off the coat at a wedding, that helped me feel confident when I walked into my best friend’s parents house for Thanksgiving.
One year later- and I’m not quite ready to let that security go.
But I am, however, understanding the effects of it.
And that I am only stunting my own growth.
My therapist is calm with me in this way- understanding that this is part of the up and down process– but she does make me face this next challenge in my recovery–
The challenge of accepting myself as is– without a crutch.
Recently, I have began to start looking at my relationship with alcohol and define it as perhaps something different than it’s actually been.
What exactly? I can’t say yet— and I don’t know.
Do I ultimately want to be alcohol free? No.
Like I said, I don’t abide well by that philosophy–
Sets myself up for failure and I’m done setting myself up for unattainable goals.
But I suppose I’d like for it to become what smoking has become to me now- a year after I left it behind in Florida.
A whim. A random Friday night pleasantry. An after-thought.
I have a cigarette now- a year later- when the mood fancies me, and it doesn’t quite matter the same anymore. I don’t smoke to not eat. I don’t smoke to “feel calm,” so the idea of it is all represented differently.
Its purpose deconstructed.
I find I go months without one– weeks– and that the urges go as quietly as they come.
And I imagine this is what alcohol will become to me in time as well– as I continue allowing the transformation to take place.
I imagine the discomfort of “recovery” will fade each time I force myself to take off that leather jacket at a wedding.
That in enough Thanksgivings, my mother won’t have to get my plate for me because the “buffet” style way of eating freaks me out to my core.
Or maybe my impulses to delay discomfort will merely just recede with time–with age, and with every milestone, with every faced obstacle, I’ll continue to grow into someone that is quite proud of what she’s accomplished.
Who knows, right? Again, I am nothing but a human.
And one year later- I can’t dwell over the reason I do something.
Won’t dwell on the choices. On the backslides. On the impulsivities.
But instead focus on the outcome I was trying to get from it– and if that’s truly the outcome I was expecting to find.
The truth is– despite the ups– despite the downs– despite all the discomforts that recovery brings, it’s been worth every damn one of them.
Worth every discomfort to every breakthrough.
So I return to my original question and ask again – what is life a year after rehab?
Well, I suppose– in a word– it is this: Malleable.