Leaving the eating disorder treatment center left me with many questions. After leaving treatment, would I still be in recovery? Would I still be supported?
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.
My name is Savannah and I am a part of the Recovery Ambassador Council at Eating Recovery Center. I am a little over seven years recovered and the path I have taken to get here has been hard but worth it. I write about my recovery because I want others to know that they are not alone and that it does get better.