"I can't leave them!" I fretted. "How will they feel if I'm not there to tuck them in at night?" "What will my Hubby do without me?"
It all felt so life-threatening back then, six years ago.
I'd relapsed into drinking alcohol — I chose alcohol to cope, instead of the messier option of relapsing with food.
It is true what they say about eating disorder recovery — that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. It doesn't mean that we will all immediately stop trying to medicate our feelings with something else.
An end to self-medicating
Medicating myself with a substance, whatever it was, was a lifesaving tool I had used since I was eleven. Self-medicating was my go-to solution; I justified to myself that it hurt no one else but me. But this was not true. Once I became a parent, I saw how much my self-medicating was affecting my children, too. So off to treatment I went.
Before I went to treatment, I worried about all the nasty things that could possibly happen — but once I entered treatment, these terrible things I had worried about didn’t happen at all!
I did, however, get the chance to build a stronger foundation for my recovery. I learned how to equip myself with tools that I needed — tools that would help me deal with life on life’s terms.
I needed a replacement to the self-medicating, I couldn’t get this by myself through self-will or knowledge alone.
Treatment: the biggest gift of all
When we become parents, it is rare to go to a place that provides us with tools for life, like a treatment center offers. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t wish mental illness upon my worst enemy, but the silver lining for me was that the tools that were provided to me in treatment were tools that I could use every day — tools that I could share with my partner and pass onto our children.
In treatment, I sat across from my children and Hubby. I was able to be clear and present, something I hadn't been in a long time.
"I am in Mommy camp," I told my daughters. "I'm learning how to be a better Mommy."
Overcoming the fear of not being able to leave my family, the fear of their not being able to get along without me, turned out to be the biggest gift — a gift that they would not have received if I hadn't had the courage to enter treatment.
Working to be a better parent
My children got their Mommy back, the Mommy who could be available for them instead of a Mommy who was imprisoned in her head. My husband also got a far more accountable partner.
I needed to ask for help, again. Yes, again. Making the decision to go into treatment despite the fears of what would happen was the ultimate choice for my recovery — and it said that I mattered, too. Going to treatment was a choice that was the best gift of all — a gift that keeps on giving — even six years later.
Flight attendants tell us that if the oxygen mask is needed during a flight, then adults must place the mask on themselves first, before placing masks on our children. Turns out there’s a reason for this.
Helping ourselves is helping our partners and our children
I have learned that the right decision to make for my own recovery is in line with the best decisions I make for my family’s wellbeing. Yet, the right decision doesn’t always feel easy. I need to remind myself of this often because I have also learned that when I put my recovery first, life has a way of working everything else out.
Do you have the courage to take the steps you need to take care of yourself? Learn more about the signs of eating disorders:
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and the online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.