The Tiny Evolutions in Recovery
WARNING: The aim of Say It Brave is to inspire honest and brave conversations about mental health. Some posts may unintentionally trigger an adverse reaction, particularly for someone with PTSD. If a post is beginning to upset you, we advise that you please stop reading it immediately and talk to your support team.
I’m sitting on top a bed that is not mine in a communal cabin shared by humans I’ve never met. The door to my ‘Room 3’ single room dormitory is open, spilling into the shared living room, and I can’t determine whether I left it that way to appease and fit into the open community feel, or if I’m just too lazy and cold to close it.
If I were to be completely honest, I’d venture to say it’s the former. I want to be liked by the other seemingly free-spirited humans inhabiting this cabin. So, I leave it open in part for appearances.
Right now, I’m nestled into a black robe that’s fanning out across this twin bed at my shins. It’s winter, the type of winter you feel, and I was naked earlier in a hot springs with two people I’d never met. My feet, still thawing from the outdoor chill, are crammed under a folded blanket provided by staff.
One of the men I soaked with today is my age, a carpenter staying in his deceased grandparents' hidden cabin down the way from the springs. He’s 30 and helping clean out the place after his grandma passed a month ago. His grief is the palpable kind that is exposed when he speaks of them. He talks a lot in general I noticed, while the other man next me, older—perhaps mid 50s, stayed mostly quiet, chiming in when he had something to say. Mostly listening. He works at the Denver airport we learned.
For an hour or two, we were all naked beside one another in the chill of the mountain Moffat weather. Snow was whipping across our backs as we all laid stomach-first in the springs, trying fruitlessly to submerge and cover with warmth from the water.
I was not uncomfortable around either of these men, which still surprises me as I write this. I suppose in part because I have been a crusader of clothing-optional hot springing since I first learned of its Colorado existence back in 2016. And over the years and the many experiences, I find I have continued to wear down the edges of my birthday suit body discomfort around strangers.
When it perculates, I ask: Why does it matter?
When I am feeling vain: Who really cares—but me?
A friend was here with me last night. She’s in recovery and it was her first time here at these springs and I wondered how she’d feel amongst the clothing-less soakers, and the occasionally unspoken pressure that whispers in the air: Be comfortable as you are. Be free in your skin.
Without ever asking: Why is that so hard?
She handled it with a forging ferocity—eager to embrace what she referred to as a "liberation."
It made me smile when she said it. I too once proclaimed the naked soaking a liberation—because it is. Eight years tethered to an eating disorder, of baggy sweats and oversized t-shirts. Eight years of perfectly straightened hair and fake baked skin and dresses a size or two bigger than my frame. Eight years of punishing showers, and forced interactions with the mirror.
And it does feel like a liberation, to be naked.
Not for the benefit of others, but for the benefit of sitting with yourself in that nakedness.
The tiny evolutions we experience—in all this recovery: what a gift.
Recently, I quit drinking. Isn’t it interesting how you start recovery with one theme in mind: Cure this anorexia, I prescribed.
And how you end up bumbling your way onto many different paths unkempt?
I quit drinking recently because I found myself replacing the discomfort of recovery with the comfort of checking out—and how parallel that experience felt with anorexia.
It is trying—sobriety. And it is more trying in some ways than the eating disorder. A confusion between the very stigmatized and whispered "alcoholism" and the very accepted brunch and drinking culture.
I don’t find myself an alcoholic. I don’t even know if I like or believe in that word. But, I do find myself an addict to checking out. And that’s the addiction I attempt to address.
Before I came to type this, I was standing in the kitchen with a kettle of boiling water for tea. There was a wine bottle, half drank, at the end of the counter. A "Have me" note was posted to it, leftover by another guest.
I considered it. I am alone here in these mountains—and I considered having a glass. It’s one, I thought, and I didn’t quit drinking because I couldn’t control the amount.
Who’d know anyway? I pondered briefly.
But, as I played with the options—much as I have played with the idea of restricting or purging or bingeing throughout my now six years in recovery, an unfamiliar perspective crossed my mind:
You can, it whispered. And you will likely be fine. You can have the wine and no one will know.
Another thought, an intersection:
But you, Lindsey, you will. You will be the one to live with that choice. And is that the choice you want? And will that wine change anything?
In that moment, it was enough for me to stare transfixed ahead at that wine bottle and say, "Ok. It’s not worth it."
In a few days, my job will be over. My partner and I have been taking some space to grow. And my cousin is sick with cancer.
Life feels, in this time period, like a confusing—and expansive—unknown.
But with each micro decision, with each moment I eat the dinner, and ignore the wine, and prance naked, bumbly, over hot spring loose rock:
There is a self-esteem that continues to bloom. And a clarity that continues to undress.
And a soft awareness: I cannot change or control the world around me. All I can do is be alive.
Right now, there’s a man sitting in the living area. I cannot see his face, but I can hear his age—and he is older in his certainty. He laughs to the other man, sitting across from him at the wobbly four-post table:
“I suppose I’ll mosey up to the bunks,” he says. “I’ve been here a week or so. Hanging out. Paying day-by-day.”
The other older man chuckles. “And where to next?”
I hear this man’s smile in his voice: “Suppose I’ll try to go figure that out tonight.”
“But who ever knows?”
He agrees. “Who ever really knows?”
And in some ways, isn’t that magnificent?