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Spotlight on Lasting Recovery: Kristen Connell

In sharing your stories about the recovery journey, we hope to offer inspiration, hope and support to Eating Recovery Center and partner program alumni. This month, Kristen Connell, an Eating Recovery Center of California alumna, reflects on the journey of lasting recovery and she says, By allowing myself to be vulnerable to all emotions life throws at me, I gain better understanding of who I am and regain possession of what my eating disorder actually stole from me, my life.

In sharing your stories about the recovery journey, we hope to offer inspiration, hope and support to Eating Recovery Center and partner program alumni. This month, Kristen Connell, an Eating Recovery Center of California alumna, reflects on the journey of lasting recovery and she says, “By allowing myself to be vulnerable to all emotions life throws at me, I gain better understanding of who I am and regain possession of what my eating disorder actually stole from me, my life.”

KristenConnellWhat does lasting recovery mean to you?

By definition recovery is “the process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.” Personally, this is a process that involves some additional work besides gaining control over your eating disorder behaviors. To me, lasting recovery involves the willingness to be open and learn from our experiences. These experiences include our achievements, our struggles, and everything in between.

Being the stubborn person that I am, it took me a while to become comfortable with the vulnerability this mindset would require. By allowing myself to be vulnerable to all emotions life throws at me, I gain better understanding of who I am and regain possession of what my eating disorder actually stole from me, my life. Every single day we are given endless opportunities to learn, grow, and gain understanding of who we are. We can then use this new knowledge to continuously build up strength and face whatever may lie ahead. The quote below wonderfully describes my truth on “being strong” and I believe that this form of strength is what can make recovery everlasting.

“Being strong doesn’t mean hiding your pain. It doesn’t mean forgoing help when you’re struggling. It doesn’t mean denying yourself things that feel good for the sake of practicing self-control. It doesn’t mean refusing to show sadness and vulnerability. And it doesn’t mean carrying the burdens of life all by yourself. Anything that prevents your healing and stifles your growth does not correspond with strength. Being strong means refusing to tolerate people and things that wound your soul. It means practicing self-care when you’re hurting. It means honoring your feelings by actually allowing yourself to feel and express them. It means treating yourself with compassion and kindness, even when you feel like you don’t deserve any. It means doing what makes you happy and being with people who make you feel good, regardless of outside judgements. It means asking for help when the weight of the world has become too much. It means giving yourself permission to get your needs met by setting boundaries and using your voice. It means forgiving yourself on the days that you’re struggling and can’t be brave. It means challenging the voice telling you that you’re inadequate and worthless and reminding yourself, repeatedly, that you are enough.”

— Daniell Koepke

What advice do you have for fellow alumni as they navigate their recovery journeys?

My advice, which I often have to remind myself of, is to remember how far you have come and how much progress you have made during your entire recovery process. It is common to put focus on a shorter period of time during your journey, dwell on specific setbacks, and therefore believe that you are no longer succeeding in recovery. This is completely untrue! Yes, every now and again we may take a step backwards but, we have leaped infinite steps forwards. We should all be eternally proud of ourselves for the progresses we have made and then use this momentum to keep moving forward in recovery.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced since leaving treatment? How did you address this challenge?

While in the program, I was continuously provided with amazing support through staff and fellow group members; however, once out of treatment, I held the responsibility to make this support readily available. I faced my greatest challenge of actively building up my own support team. I did so by continuing to open up with my friends and family, choosing a fantastic outpatient clinician, reading inspirational books, and even by reaching out to The Alumni Task Force. It has definitely been worth the energy for me to build such reliable support and I highly encourage everyone to set aside the time to do the same during their own recovery journey.

Has anything surprised you about the recovery process?

The most surprising thing for me about my recovery process is that it does in fact become less difficult or dare I say, easier. When I was in the depth of my eating disorder I never thought that I would be able to escape, even at the beginning of intensive treatment. After some hard work, I came to a realization that my eating disorder was no longer choosing me, I was choosing it. At that moment, I knew that I now held the power to NOT choose my eating disorder anymore. So, that’s what I did.

I know, easier said than done, right? My pre-treatment self would completely doubt the recovery clichés I just mentioned but, my heart now knows them to be true. By pushing forward, you can better learn how to navigate around obstacles that held you back in the past and continue to build resilience. Don’t ever give up on yourself and keep fighting for the freedom you deserve. Your future self will thank you.

Do you have any inspiration quotes, saying, or affirmations you would like to share with fellow alumni?

I love reading quotes. They are beautiful words of reassurance or messages telling us that we are not alone. Here are a few I look to for inspiration, motivation, or just as a small reminder of the power I hold within.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“I am thankful for my struggle, because without it I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”
– Alex Elle
“Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong.”
– Ben Howard

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Have you been able to attend the Alumni Retreat, and if so, in what ways was the experience beneficial?

I have yet to attend an Alumni Retreat since I more recently completed the treatment program at the Eating Recovery Center but, I fully plan on attending the next one. All alumni are connected through a mutual empathy and understanding of our personal recovery journeys. The Alumni Retreat provides an opportunity for us to meet and experience this unique support, which I can only see as being beneficial.

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