Leaving Treatment: It’s Going to Be OK - Savannah K.
I was scared of what was on the other side of the doors. The real world was behind those doors and that terrified me. The time I spent in the safety of the treatment center comforted me because I knew I wouldn’t use eating disorder behaviors. I knew I was safe. But what was it going to be like on my own... in my house?
I believed I would feel more alone then I had felt in months. I continued to remind myself that I would be seeing my dietician, therapist, psychiatrist, attending groups, getting a job, and staying connected — because those are my greatest values.
But I was still so scared. I felt so vulnerable. I felt so alone.
I shared these feelings with my treatment team and with my friends. I was reminded by someone who was in recovery for several years that a new adventure, a new path, a world where I am NOT alone was out there waiting for me. She made sure I understood that. Outside the walls of the treatment center, I might be scared — but look at her own path. She was in recovery and had maintained it for years outside of the treatment center she once attended. That gave me a deep sense of hope.
The value of connection
When it was time for me to walk out the doors of the treatment center, all I wanted to do was run back upstairs and beg them not to let me leave. Instead, I reminded myself that I could do this. It was scary. But I could do it. I had to try.
So, I walked out and took a taxi to my new home. I could feel fear creeping inside me, but I refused to let that interfere with my day. I unpacked my things and paid close attention to the time.
When it was time for lunch, I felt terrified. But, I had texted a friend before I walked into my new apartment. I asked her to talk with me as I ate my lunch. My friend called as I made my lunch and took my place at the table. She talked about her day and the new things that were happening in her life. As she talked, I felt my eyes swell with tears and I felt my hands tremble. I took a bite, and another, and another. My friend checked in with me every few minutes. By the time we had finished our conversation, I had eaten my first meal outside of treatment. I did it. I won. The eating disorder tapping my shoulder was ignored. I would not be defeated.
So, for every meal and snack for the next week, I had a friend contact me. I stayed in contact with my team, attended every session, went to every group, cried a lot, and journaled a lot. The end result was that I won. I did it. But I did not do it alone. In fact, I was never alone. I had so much support and I made sure that I was honest at all times with my friends and my team.
Honesty was key to my recovery
As weeks turned into months and months slowly turned into years, I realized that recovery outside the walls of treatment — which was once my safety net — was and is so possible; it was just scary.
I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think it was possible to fully recover. I didn’t think I could do it without being told to do it or being made to. I thought I had to be watched at all times, sitting with others who were also fighting for the same thing: Recovery.
I thought I was going to feel so alone. And yes, at times I did, but that was when I found it crucial to reach out to friends or family or to reach out to someone on my treatment team. That was when it was crucial to do the things I had written down in treatment for when I felt alone or scared or when I felt the pull of my eating disorder.
And no, it wasn’t easy, but it was possible. Recovery is possible. Honesty, connection, showing up to all of my appointments, and fighting back is what I did to make it possible.
Inside the walls of treatment, we are safe and protected. But outside those walls is where the world and our real lives exist — where we make new friends, connect with old friends, go back to our families, perhaps make a family, fall in love, find a meaningful job, feel the beauty of the sun, buy foods we actually like, get a puppy or a cat, go to school or go back to school, do the things we wanted to do so badly and now we get to.
Now we are able to live; we just have to fight. And that fight is worth it. Recovery is possible and that is a promise I can make.