I was recently asked to write a letter to a current client at the treatment center I most recently discharged from. Below is the final product.
To My Fellow Client,
I want to let you know that you’re a badass. You’re a badass for doing hard things—for being in treatment, for shedding light in the darkness, for talking about things that hurt, for crying/laughing/raging with anger, for unavoidably feeling ALL the feelings that the eating disorder has masked up until this point.
Let’s be honest, recovery is painful and terrifying and foreign, but it won’t always be that way. I know. As someone who left Alsana this Spring in a completely different place, with a different perspective than I’d ever had before, I can assure you that if you give recovery an honest chance, your life will be immeasurably better than you’d ever imagined.
When I first came to Alsana in December, I was jaded, worn out, pissed off, and miserable. And I was scared, scared of everything—of myself, of the eating disorder, of not having the eating disorder, of making connections, of being alone, of failing, of succeeding. No matter what I did, it felt like a lose/lose situation. I felt paralyzed. So, naturally, I tried to work the system. I tried to stay in the same place and to only restrict or purge so much. I thought that if I arbitrarily placed a limit on the number of times I was self-destructive, I could control my demise. The thing is, that was how I’d lived ever since the first time I went to treatment in 2011. I attempted to live with one foot in recovery and one foot in the eating disorder, too terrified to pick a side and commit. I didn’t believe it at the time, but by choosing inaction, I was choosing the eating disorder.
To this day, I’m not entirely sure what or when it changed. But I’m grateful something did. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide TODAY’S THE DAY. (NEWSFLASH: if you’re waiting for that perfect moment of motivation to hit you, for the stars to align, you’ll be waiting until you die because it’s not a thing.) Rather, I made small steps daily, often times without realizing it, which contributed to the overall leaps & bounds. Sure, I fucked up a lot along the way, but I learned from my fuckups. Instead of being judgmental toward myself for not being perfect, I slowly learned (& am still learning) to take a stance of curiosity.
If I had to identify one or two things necessary for recovery (and life), I’d have to say gratitude & connection. I am deeply grateful for so many things, from my eating disorder experience to my recovery experience, for all the treatment I’ve received, esp. at Alsana, for my feelings (even the intense ones), for self-awareness, for my dog… I could go on for pages. Gratitude is one of my strengths and usually comes easily for me, even during difficult seasons. Connection, however, is another story.
I once had a therapist tell me that I was like a feral cat—I wanted and needed a certain amount of attention and love but would get overwhelmed & aggressive & bite/scratch if it was too much. It royally pissed me off, but he wasn’t wrong. Though I tried to deny it, genuine connection was something I deeply craved but didn’t know how to get or ask for. I longed for it yet was frightened by it. And without realizing it, I started developing relationships with peers & staff at Alsana. I’d tried the whole recovery-on-my-own-and-on-my-own-terms thing up until this point, and SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few (AKA many) meltdowns along the way because attachment caused me shame & anxiety & terror (TBH, it still does), but all of that risk was and is worth those feelings of being seen, understood, and not alone.
All of this is my long-winded way of saying that you can do it. You might not believe that; you might not always want to; you might want to say FUCK THIS SHIT and give up and throw yourself a pity party—hell, you might even actually do that a few times along the way—but I firmly believe that as long as you commit, tell the truth, trust those who care, and cultivate gratitude, you’ll be golden.
Wishing you all the best,