… ‘Cause not everything *really* has to be about your eating disorder.
Likely, we are all recovering from something.
A bad break up, alcohol addiction, divorce, death, loss of job, 20s changes, mid-life crisis, parents aging, you name it.
But after my recent self-proclaimed “recovery trip” to Colorado, here are 5 reasons I will continue to advocate for that total EatPrayLove adventure, and that Wild hike experience:
1.) You’re Forced To Trust Yourself
What better way than to book a whole trip on your own?
For those of us in recovery from addiction or ED- especially in the early stages- it can start to feel monotonous at times, as though you’re just being herded from one self-help lecture to the next. (Except often, it’s just regular non-licensed family members/friends advising regular non-helpful cliches as you sit there just trying to mindfully eat your lamb-chop.)
Now, are your parents/friends/lovers/teachers/children doling out advice out of the goodness of their heart? Sure. But it can’t help but make you feel a bit like the general public and even your immediate family views you as someone who is too unstable to walk a street alone, let alone take on a full solo trip.
So… my advice is to do it anyway. Do it BECAUSE of that. Fight that seed of doubt that we all have in us after we get help and book your flight to Neverland. (Although, maybe not actual Neverland… I hear it’s up for sale anyway. RIP Michael Jackson)
Look at it this way…
You already did the hard part. Rather it’s rehab or therapy… or even just admitting it to your parents and loved ones that you’re struggling, you’ve suffered through the worst.
AND you helped get yourself there.
You can’t sit behind the keyboard forever. (I mean, you can, but yikes- talk about some muscle dystrophy.) You have nothing to lose (except maybe some money… oh and the bike path. I lost the bike path a lot…)
Book a trip. 2-days. 10. A month. Do it so you’ll know what it feels like to have done something completely on your own again.
As that is what travel does; it liberates you from you.
2.) To Start Forgiving The Past
Forgiving the past of the disrespect you’ve done to your body is hard.
Forgiving yourself for the pain you’ve inflicted on others is hard.
Forgiving yourself for not loving yourself… even harder.
It’s fluid. A trip won’t solve it. But there is something wildly innocent- and invigorating- about taking concrete steps in your recovery. Something incredibly confidant and assuring about active measures of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone.
It’s an affirmation at how far you’ve come.
Forgiveness comes in waves – for all the things in you and to others that you’re personally struggling to rectify.
Sitting at Emerald Lake one afternoon – I watched an elder-ish couple pass. The man’s arm around his wife’s back, she was struggling to climb up some rocks and he was guiding her- her cane dangling from his free arm, whispering words of encouragement.
“Yep, right there,” he muttered as she lifted her foot.
There was something so natural about it that I couldn’t help but stare; observing what was so clearly an established pattern between two people. The script of ease that a couple can have together after so many years.
In that moment, I ached for it- to be a partner to someone again- to have that kind of constant intimacy.
I thought of the relationship I left this year; of the team we had been. I reflected on our own hikes we had done together- the way he used to scale rocks while I puttered behind- cursing him for his long legs and athleticism, mostly just for showing me up.
It’s a little rough up here, he’d warn- looking back at me- to which I likely gave the middle finger because I’m too prideful to admit that I was lagging.
As all couples do, we had our routines and our patterns.
Sitting on a rock that day, I allowed myself to feel lonely. I missed that part of my life. I ached for what might have been if we’d ultimately wanted the same things, and the comfort of which we’d never share together again.
But I knew too, sitting alone that day, that I wasn’t going to fight for it back. No matter the ache of that moment, or the memories of what had been good and decent and loving- I wasn’t going to fight for it- just as he had known, and ultimately not fought for me.
I got out my notebook that afternoon, my legs dangling over this big boulder-
“W- I wrote-
It feels disjointed now, writing your name after so long-
But I just want to say that I forgive you. I forgive me.
And that I’m proud of us for respecting each other enough to know that we would’ve been happy for a time, but not when it came down to a life full of choices.
Together, we ultimately made the right one; and we are both happier for it.
I’ll think of you for always-
I forgive us.
And thank you for helping me find two feet to stand.
All my love – L ”
Forgiveness comes in small moments. It fluctuates. Clarity fluctuates, but several times on this past trip I found myself eating dinner- completely alone in the corner of a restaurant- a glass of wine-
And I had to ”Cheers” myself for recognizing that I was finally in a recovery place to eat a meal alone- and not care what anyone else thought.
I felt strong throughout this trip – and not weak. I felt capable from this trip – and not dependent.
And I felt the past becoming a blur of memories that I no longer connect to in my daily life.
And dat’s a damn nice feeling.
3.) Because Being Alone is HARD
A solo trip- no matter how long- isn’t exactly an EatPrayLove plot, especially since most of us aren’t financially capable of dropping our lives and roaming around the earth without having to budget our reality (and money…)
But it can be an effective chip to the game of recovery.
Forcing yourself into solitude allows you to think. And I mean really think.
We’re so inundated with stigma in 2015 that we fail to ever really be in silence.
Walking on those trails, I started with earbuds blasting, but realized over the first day that again- as always- I was clogging this vacuum of space and silence I had to just hang out with myself.
I never really hang out with myself. In fact, my therapist would argue that I’ll do anything to avoid it. I crave the safety of environmental distractions.
I am 100% an email addict, a social media whore, an iPhone glued to my hand-
Even music, which to so many seems like a normal part of our commute to work, our exercise routines, our daily lives- music is a defense mechanism to me; a form of escapism.
I was dating a musician once – and one night we sat on the floor- 2 in the morning with a keyboard – talking piano (we had both played competitively growing up), and this person was mulling over some chords with me- asking if I wrote my own.
I snorted then- Wrote? I said flatly. No. I never had any interest in all that.
In, um, music? He said, his eyebrows lifting. (Yes, I could hear the condescending too)
I shook my head. You and I have different uses for it, I paused. I don’t listen to music for rhythm or beats or even sound, I admitted. I played piano because every piece meant a story.
He tilted his head.
It was all so I could dream up stories in my head, I said. I’m really not even musically inclined. I’ve never had a good ear for rhythm, I admitted again. But when I played- and now when I listen- I’m affected by it solely in the way that it makes me feel. It opens up little worlds. Helps me write stories. Even as a kid, my Grandpa would play classical music and I’d just write scenes in my head. Entire plots. Made up characters. All of it.
I get that, he said. The escapism of music. It’s not all that different for me.
Sure, I said. We just use it to go somewhere else. For me, it’s kinda like reading a book I guess… except I’m in charge of the scene.
In turn, this is how I’ve lived my whole life.
I used my entire eating disorder as escapism. To distract myself from sadness.
Exercise was at the height of that. I never really cared about muscles and bulging calves. I started over-exercising in 2007 after my best friend died. It was one of the few escapisms I found from that grief.
Someone dump me? Binge and purge a box of Special K cereal (cause #health) Distracting, self-destructive, and time-consuming. (Also, bloody miserable.)
Unhappy with myself? Go vegan/raw/gluten-free/soy-free… cause THAT’LL change it. Also, you have to spend like umpteenth amount of hours to live like that so I could always distract myself with endless google searches for the 8% of recipes out there that will cater to all that.
In short, I thrive on escaping. I do it without even a catalyst.
So I took out the earphones this trip.
It was uncomfortable, deathly silent, and raw.
But as I reached the top of Quandary Peak- 8 years to the day that my best friend passed away-
I watched the sun peak through the clouds, the way it hit the top of the mountains-
And I listened to my best friend as he shows me continuously that life is for the living. Not the escaping.
4.) To Remember What You Enjoy
When you travel alone, you have entire days to do as you please. The entirety of the time is spent choosing what you’d like to do, and not what you feel obligated to do.
It can be tough for someone coming out of an eating disorder. Often, we are so mangled by the habits of our ED that we’ve left behind so many of our interests.
8 years of eating disorder cycles left me very boring by the end of it. I had really no invested interest in anything else.
Exploring Colorado, I had the opportunity to do exactly what I felt inclined to do. I was bestowed the gift of freedom, non-responsibility, and time.
While I’ve always found solace in hiking, there was something more pleasurable about charting exactly where and what kind of hikes I wanted to do.
While I’ve always enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir, there was something more enjoyable about scoping out a place, investing in it, and having one glass with my dinner.
At night, I wrote. I went out to places by myself- I watched live music. The blues, jazz, classic cover bands. I enjoy that. I truly just… enjoy it.
I spoke to people I’d never see again. I listened. Cross-legged on boulders, Indian-style on a bench, I felt at ease knowing there was no pressure to impress.
I kissed someone. We sat well into the night talking about our lives, our mistakes, our space here on Earth- we felt very human I suppose- the both of us- and kissed as we left- because it’s enjoyable to connect with people.
In short, there are so many little moments that you can find contentment in, and when you travel alone you open up even more opportunity to remember the very basic ones.
5.) To Feel Free
…Because you have always been free, but likely forget it.
Eating disorders don’t take away your freedom; they conceal it.
And it’s up to you to go find it in the crevices of every part of your life.
Traveling alone allows you the entitlement to sweep your mind of all the cobwebs.
You won’t get all of them, but you’ll recognize that they’re there.
And perhaps you’ll want to do something about them once you remember it.