Learning To Choose Recovery
By Jenna Spowart
My recovery journey began six years ago. I admitted to myself that I had an eating disorder. I told my parents that I needed help. I asked my best friend to look online for treatment options. Before long I was walking up the front steps of Woodstone Residence (now Looking Glass Residence). This was the first time I chose recovery.
Since then, I’ve chosen recovery time and time again. I created meal plans during both stressful school semesters and unstructured summer vacations. In order to fight through anxiety and nausea triggered by a car accident, I scheduled regular checkups with my doctor. After losing a dear friend to suicide I grappled with concepts of life and death, ultimately choosing life and recovery for myself. These are extreme examples, but there are subtler ones as well.
There are times I have felt anger without punishing my body. I have been exhausted and still made time for breakfast. I have eaten Christmas cookies and still allowed myself a delicious Christmas dinner. I have intentionally decided not to step on the scale. I’ve caught glimpses of myself in the mirror and attempted to gaze at my reflection instead of turning away in disgust. I’ve agreed to see a therapist. However, there have also been several moments, days, and weeks that I have neglected healing and health, instead succumbing to the deadly grasp of addiction and well-worn destructive neural pathways.
As I continue to trudge through seasons of extreme set backs, I’ve found myself wondering if the act of simply choosing recovery isn’t enough. This season has been confusing, frustrating, and exhausting. I’m tired of therapy appointments and the emotional hangovers. I’m tired of tear-induced headaches. I’m tired of fighting because it seems like I’ll never get to where I’m trying to go.
This past week in therapy, however, was a game changer. Although I spent the hour drowning in apathy and feeling disconnected from myself, it has proven to be one of the most important hours of my life. Although I don’t recall much of what we talked about, I do remember that my therapist would not let me leave her office until I returned to my body and made a conscious decision about what I was going to do with my evening. She surprised me when she said:
“You can decide to choose self love tonight, or you can choose self destruction, but either way your decision needs to be a conscious one.”
Before I left her office, I decided to choose recovery. I wasn’t committing to forever or even all week, but just for the night. And to my surprise, it worked. How was it possible that I could take care of myself after a week full of setbacks and what seemed like a useless therapy appointment?
I learned that choosing recovery is enough. But I have to choose it all the time. I need to choose it in times of strength so that when challenges arise I have already committed to recovery.
I learned that choosing recovery is enough. But I have to choose it all the time. I need to choose it in times of strength so that when challenges arise I have already committed to recovery. I find it helpful to sit down with my journal each morning and write down what I choose to commit to that day. Sometimes I need to text a friend for the sake of accountability. Additionally, I’ve realized that I need to recommit to choosing recovery when I get home from work. I’m trying to make a habit of doing this before I get out of my car, or at least make it the first thing I do when I get inside.
Recovery is a conscious choice. It is overwhelming and rewarding. It’s exhausting and freeing. It’s daunting and it’s absolutely possible. There is wisdom in every cliché, including the phrase, “One day at a time.” Perhaps we’ve heard this saying so often that its meaning has dissipated over time. It is up to each of us, however, to intentionally choose recovery each and every day, one day at a time.
Jenna is a poet, musician, and lover of the outdoors. She holds a BA in Psychology, and hopes to one day support others in their journey of recovery and healing. This desire stems from Jenna’s gratitude toward those who walk alongside her in her own recovery. You can often find Jenna enjoying a strong cup of coffee and connecting with dear friends.