the cliche of the rock bottom

Unlike the throes of addiction and many other mental illnesses, we will rarely find a definitive answer for what constitutes rock bottom in eating disorders. There are the extreme cases, of course, with hospitalization and medical emergencies, but these do not account for the millions of sufferers silently mutilating their lives.

I don’t have a definitive rock bottom, but I wish I did. It sure would make for a beautiful, neat little story for my cliched memoir one day, wouldn’t it? I can jut picture it now. Chapter 6: THE MOMENT I REALIZED I NEEDED TO CHANGE. A moment of total clarity, a sudden, black-and-white realization that said, OH I NEED TO CHANGE! It probably has to do with getting some kind of scary news from a doctor or someone telling me that they were worried. I mean, that’s what we read about, right? That’s what we hear from so many people. My story isn’t quite so neat, and there is no definitive beginning, middle, or end. In fact, I don’t even know if I have the “climax” (rock bottom) and a resolution. My story is all over the place. I would bet MOST of yours are, too.

I’ve had lows, yes, but they’ve been scattered, and none of them have felt particularly worse than the others. The lying and deceitful ones stand out. Denying that I had stolen food. Lying that I had already eaten. Telling people I felt “great” and had “no triggers” and was “coping well” when it was entirely untrue. The physical pain ones stand out, too. A two-day, free-for-all binge spree which led to severe food poisoning, and (in hindsight) probably dangerous levels of dehydration due to such bad diarrhea and vomiting. The sugar-induced headaches. Pain in the back of my throat. Terrible stomach cramps. Feelings of heaviness. Feeling like I was going to pass out.

But my rock bottoms weren’t illegal nor were they necessarily destructive to society. And nobody really even had to know. Unlike most addictions, I will never be treated as a criminal. Because I don’t have to resort to theft, violence, or prostitution to get my drug of choice. Food is fucking everywhere. Simple as that. And it’s pretty fucking cheap, accessible, and rampant. And best of all: it’s perfectly legal and absolutely essential to live. Talk about a fun thing to abuse, right?

I didn’t have to be scared of jail or hitting someone with my car. I didn’t have to be scared to be stamped with fines or a criminal record. I didn’t have to worry about my physical safety. I just had to worry about my goddamn body and the nonstop chatter in my head.

The cold truth is that if we keep waiting for rock bottom, we keep flirting with death. We can always go deeper. We can always surprise ourselves. As humans, we are incredibly adaptive creatures, sometimes to a fault. Eventually, the “bad feeling,” no matter how terrible it was, wears off…and we will try again. We test boundaries. We push. We think nah, it won’t be so bad this time…I got this…I know my limits. We feed ourselves line after line of bullshit because our diseases will say and do anything to keep us committed to their school of thought.

There is a reason eating disorders are progressive. There is a reason you can’t stop no matter how thin you get, you can’t stop eating no matter how full you feel, you can’t stop obsessing no matter how many times you convince yourself you have control. The science of the disorder may have been built on logic, but the mechanisms of its wiring is entirely irrational and entirely destructive.

I have suffered with an eating disorder on-and-off for about ten years. I have flirted with recovery about half that time. Sometimes, I doubt I ever had a problem. Other times, it feels like nobody has ever had it worse than me. This is not unusual thinking: this is the etiology of any mental illness. It’s conniving and tricky. It’s entirely crazy and entirely reasonable at the very same time.

And yet, there may not be some milestone rock bottom. There may not be a lightbulb moment for change. God may not smite you, in the middle of the road, telling you that you have to pick recovery. In fact, forget God. Nobody may ever tell you to pick recovery. You may never feel like it’s reached that point of life-or-death. You may never be homeless or abandoned by everyone who loved you…you may not even reach that state of pure emaciation you so desperately hoped. You will never be as skinny as you want to be, and your life will never be as perfect as it should. And yet, the disorder will keep promising you the easy ticket to avoiding feelings, shortcutting pain, and mimicking control. You will keep going, numbly and bluntly, because it may never reach that point where you realize that you are choosing the chase of losing weight at the expense of losing everything else.

Emotionally, you are dying. You are avoiding life. You are numbing yourself, self-sabatgoing, self-medicating, doing whatever it takes to avoid the real feelings around you. You may slip through the cracks for months, years, decades without anyone really knowing. You may fool them all. Good for you! Then WHAT?

I was fooling everyone, EVERYONE, but what did that lead me with? A destroyed self-esteem, relationships full of toxicity, insurmountable shame, utter anxiety and depression, and a race on the never-ending hamster wheel towards perfectionism. I may have been fooling the world with my academic success and circle of friends and planted smile, but the more important question remains: why was I taking care of THE FUCKING WORLD instead of myself? 

The WORLD won’t be there when you are driving from restaurant to restaurant at night HOPING that none of the employees will recognize you from a few nights before. The WORLD won’t be there when you don’t get the perfect job, boyfriend, or happiness even if the supposedly perfect body arrives. The WORLD won’t be there when you’re crouched over your toilet seat, finger in your throat, tears stinging your eyes, in that fog of fear, guilt, and total humiliation. The WORLD won’t be there because you’ve probably done such a damn good job at shutting the world out.

You are screaming for help and you are pushing help away.

You are dying because you think it will give you a greater chance at living.

You are sure you have reached your limit, that this is your last time, that you will never do this again because it will never be worse than it feels right now, and then you will fucking turn around and do it again…three times worse.

You’re already on the tightrope. You’re already standing on the quicksand. There will always be more opportunities to fall. Stop glamorizing the rock bottom…because if and when you finally achieve it, the WORLD will finally know thanks to the tombstone with your name.

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We’re all anonymous somewhere

Dear Bee,

This past weekend, my boyfriend needed to attend a variety of Twelve Steps meeting for an assignment, so naturally, I went with him. We went to AA and NA. We tried to go to an OA meeting, but when we arrived at the location, nobody was there.

I forget how wonderful it can be to sit in those rooms, to hear the stories, the pain, the struggle of people all experiencing the same highs and lows. Drug of choice doesn’t matter. Crack, tequila, sugar…they’re all potent and they can easily spiral any of us out of control. The strength and love in those rooms is incredible. Now, I remember why I liked Twelve Steps. The camaraderie and fellowship saved me in many ways. Your voice lives in every addict. Your voice lives in every single person who knows what it is like to be compulsive and addictive and secretive and ashamed. 

I’ve contemplated going back. Contemplated. Just to see. It’s been almost a year. How has the time flown so quickly? Recovery is back in full force, at the forefront of my work again. It needs to be that way for awhile. No more half-assing it. No more finding the loopholes and thinking I can somehow outsmart the disorder. I can’t. I’ve tried. Thousands of times. It’s failed. Just as many times. 

Day in and day out. That’s the process. Tedious, but worth it. Painstaking at times, but still worth it. Always, always worth it. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I have had in recovery for the “control” I felt in sickness, for the “escape” I found in sickness. I wouldn’t be able to love deeply and experience the riches of the world. The Twelve Steps reminded me that this weekend.

I was reminded how much SWEETER life is without you. 

Nothing tastes better than my recovery. 

It’s so easy to lose sight of that, especially when I’m in the thick of it, especially when your voice becomes so strong that it drowns out all the logic and reason. It’s easy for me to feel powerless next to you. And because maybe, in some ways, I am powerless to the throes of mental illness. But, I am not powerless to the fight of recovery.

Your voice is different from my own. It’s more shrill, more desperate, more deceptive. Your voice is not mine. You follow me, whisper in my ear, scream in my face…you always know just where to find me, just when to coax and comfort me into listening to you.

But your voice is not my voice. And my recovery will never be yours. 

old friendships, rebellion, caffeine, bulimia, & positive affirmations.

Dear Bee,

It’s strange. For the first time in about a year, I’m struggling to actually sit down and write these posts out. This was such a natural catharsis for me, a creative high of sorts, but now, it just feels dull. I’m just going to keep writing and see what happens. Spin gold out of a chaotic mess of the clouds in my mind. Or something artsy like that. I don’t want to edit this either. In fact, once I feel like I’ve said what I wanted to say, I will click Publish Post and be done with it. I just want to ramble. I’m not going to go back and read anything I wrote. So, here goes. 

Several months ago, I wrote this: http://loveletterstobee.com/2013/03/21/the-day-i-broke-up-with-my-alcoholic-best-friend/ in regards to my painstaking decision to end a friendship with one of my closest friends. Last night, we met up for dinner. I initiated the contact. I missed her. I wanted to see how she had been. This girl had been by my side through multiple heartbreaks, graduations, vacations, and spontaneous adventures. A few years ago, we had a threesome with my ex-boyfriend, but that’s an entirely different story. We’ve been close. Closer than close. “Breaking up” with her was harder than breaking up with anyone else. So, we were at dinner, and it was emotional. Tears, hugs, laughs. Flowing conversation for five hours without a hint of awkwardness. We both said our pieces. She still drinks. To what extent, I do not know. I struggle to believe that alcoholics can drink in moderation once they’ve reached the threshold of substance dependence. I’ve heard that some percentage (like five percent) can do harm reduction, but the rest must commit to sobriety in order to kick their addiction. Again, she still drinks. I don’t know what boundaries to set up with her just yet. I don’t know if I want to be friends. It just felt good seeing her last night. Telling her about what I’ve been up to. She’s missed so much of me: my new boyfriend, my new internship, Europe, things with my family. At this point, I just wish I could avoid the alcohol problem, but I know if I choose to do that, it will just become the white elephant in the room. And I don’t want that either.

Anyway, enough about that.

I’ve binged once this week. Last night. Any coincidence that this was right after meeting with my friend? I think not. My eating disorder is boring me. Bingeing once used to be exciting, seductive, and glamorous. I actually felt like such a rebel in the middle of the act, like look at me, I’m breaking ALL THE RULES. Now, it’s just a step-by-step process with predictable emotions, inevitable self-loathing, and a total sense of, I don’t give a fuck. I guess in a sense it’s still a form of rebellion. Except, instead of rebelling against whatever so-called diet I was on, I’m rebelling against recovery. Sometimes, to be honest, recovery just feels like another euphemism for diet, but I know it’s not. 

I’ve also been drinking copious amounts of coffee over the past few weeks. This is 1/3 due to the taste, 1/3 due to the jolt of energy, and 1/3 due to the low caloric content. I keep hearing all these positive studies about the effects of caffeine, so that rationalizes my consistent brew. Still, I know it’s not good to suppress my appetite with a cup of java. I know it’s not good to use it as a natural diuretic, and yet, I can’t lie and say I don’t enjoy those benefits. Whatever. One vice at a time. Nobody would look at a serious drug addict and condemn him or her for chain-smoking cigarettes. The same could apply to eating disorder recovery. The importance thing is awareness. Awareness that I am still using/abusing certain substances to mask the remnants of my disease (I write this as I chew a piece of gum. I chewed at least 4 pieces in a row yetjerday, something I haven’t done in a long while. Five second pause. Just spat the gum out). 

Talked about eating disorders in supervision yesterday, because one of my colleagues is working with an individual struggling with bulimic symptoms. It’s so interesting how easy these cases can sound when presented. Just, you know, teach her some coping skills, show her to value her body, pinpoint how there will never, ever be a good enough body when living with an eating disorder, no matter what number, size, or look she is trying to achieve. Obviously, I know nothing about an eating disorder is simple. But then again, nothing about any mental illness is simple. If it was, I would be out of a job. Plain and simple. Surprisingly, I don’t have any clients who have presented eating disorder pathologies just yet (about the only disorder I haven’t seen), but I often wonder how I will be in the room with them. Will I self-disclose the same way my own therapist did? Or will I remain professional, safe in my powerful chair, and keep distance between us? What if someone who reads this blog was one of my clients? They would never know it was me, I can guarantee that. I present myself so much differently in the world than I do on here. It’s subconscious. Part of it is my ability to deceive as a means of survival. I know what it takes to be successful in this world, and, unfortunately, vulnerability isn’t the road to it. It’s an interesting thought to think that a reader could be a client, since many of them must be struggling/have struggled with an eating disorder or relative mental illness. 

This rambling feels amazing. The morning is turning out well. I randomly picked a positive affirmation out of my “recipes for my soul” love box that I made as a demonstration for a group therapy class I lead, and today’s read, I am exactly who and where I need I am supposed to be in this exact moment. Damn straight. Who am I? A young, talented, creative, loving individual with an unquenchable thirst for life and hunger for adventure. Where am I? In my bed, laptop perched on my stomach, listening to music, ceiling fan blowing over me. I don’t have the answers. I am still exhibiting disordered behavior. I STRUGGLE. I fight. I complain. I question whether it’s worth it. But choices, people, and experiences have brought me to this point, and, when I really think about it, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. 

I am so grateful for this life, for recovery, for all of you lovely readers (I read every single one of your emails and do my best to respond to all of you), for the cloudless blue sky, for the warmth of my bed, for the breakfast I am about to eat (I no longer have to suffer and “starve” today to make up for yesterday), for the clients I’m going to see later, and for the boyfriend I’m going to fall asleep with tonight.

The woes of treating addiction in eating disorder recovery.

Dear Bee,

I am just so glad that it’s the weekend. My Monday-Thursday are such a blur between classes, paperwork, supervision, and clients.

I basically spend the weekend at the boyfriend’s house, which is such an amazing way to transition out of the therapist life. I like being able to unwind with him. It feels like a mini-vacation at the end of the week! He’s my greatest supporter. Okay, this is not a time to gush on and on about him, even though we all know I very well could.

So, I have my first addiction on my hands. Alcoholism. This client and I are close in age, but that’s where the similarities concerning our backgrounds end. She’s in that contemplation stage of addiction, that awful in-between in knowing that she has a clear problem, but not sure what to do about it just yet. Her support system is shit. Her living arrangement is shit. She has experienced significant trauma and represents a classic textbook case of life is against her. I understand why she drinks to numb out her feelings. She needs that blanket of intoxication to cope with the chaos that is her life. Like so many of us, escape is all she wants. We don’t fall into addictions to escape the pain and demons outside of us. We fall into them to escape whatever lies within us. When we cannot tolerate our own selves, our own genetic makeup and uniqueness, our own peaks and valleys of emotions and experiences, we must alter consciousness in order to keep going.

Obviously, I have an urge to help her. She reminds me of a friend, one I wrote about in a previous post (http://loveletterstobee.com/2013/03/21/the-day-i-broke-up-with-my-alcoholic-best-friend). Originally, I went into this field with the intention to specialize in substance abuse. Naturally, I wanted to save the world, which is such a novice, idealistic goal for young, fresh-faced therapists. In reality, working with addicts embodies hard, exhaustive work, and the recovery rates hover around 5%. Out of 100 people with chemical addiction, approximately 95 will relapse. Of course, I see it as, Let me be the one who guides those remaining 5.

I am not an alcoholic, but I know what it is like to feel dependent and compulsive. I know what cravings feel like. I know when the thing you want the most is the very thing that is destroying you the most. I know secrecy and deceit, hiding around from others, shame and lying, minimizing and saving face. I know what it’s like to feel like you have absolutely no control. Addiction is just a name and the drug of choice is just the band-aid poorly covering our deep wounds. Food, drugs, gambling, sex, alcohol, it’s all the same. We are in pain, and we cannot tolerate it. The addiction voice has tremendous hold and impeccable logic. There is nothing easy about recovery or sobriety. There is nothing easy about going against every single thing you believe you want or have or must do. Addiction may not be a choice, but letting go of it is. And for many of us, it will be the hardest choice and journey we ever take. Although it may sound contradictory, for those in recovery or sobriety, nothing is harder than letting go of torture and surrendering to freedom.

Alcoholism, just like any other addiction, including eating disorders, is progressive. It just gets worse. You start out with a drink or two a night just to relax and take the edge off, and soon enough, you’re blacking out daily. This is a stereotypical example, but not an uncommon one. The worse the addiction gets, the more the addiction voice justifies it. Our addiction voice protects us because it wants us to remain close and friendly. The addiction is the parasite, and you are its host. It will latch on you, rent-free, and never leave on its own. Only you can remove it.

I don’t know what will happen with this client. My agency does not allow us to work with active drug or alcohol addicts, simply because it hinders therapeutic treatment. She needs to commit to attempting sobriety, and I don’t know if she can do that at this point. I want her to, just as I want any addict to, but that change lies in her, not in me. Therapy is for her, not for me, and I have to continually remind myself that. I cannot change anyone; I can just metaphorically hold their hands as they decide to venture on a new path.

The day I broke up with my alcoholic best friend

Dear Bee,

One of my best friends is an alcoholic. She admits she has a problem, but she has not accepted that she needs to change. Today, after six years of growing, learning, and leaning on each other, I ended our friendship.

I didn’t want to, not at first. I resented anyone who said she had a “problem” and resisted any advice to reconsider what our friendship meant to me. She worked the AA program once and maintained a brief sobriety, but once she stopped attending meetings (after deciding that everyone there was just trading one addiction for another one and that her problem was just a matter of “sheer willpower), she relapsed.

I truly believed we could maintain a perfectly balanced relationship outside of her own addiction, outside of the alcoholic voice that reminded me so much of my eating disordered voice. I truly believed that she was separate from her alcoholism, in the same way I believed I was separate from my eating disorder. I truly believed she was a wonderful friend to me.

I had never even heard the term codependency until this year. And now I fully realize that I 100% enabled her drinking. What are the core aspects of codependency? Overinvolvement in the other person’s drinking, attempts to obsessively control, use of external sources for self-worth, and making personal sacrifice. I have done all of these. I have encouraged her drinking by drinking with her. I have listened to her explain how she can compartmentalize her alcohol problem and still lead a fully functional life. I have seen her passed out drunk; I have driven her home; I have fought for her keys; I have woken up to pages of texts announcing all the regretful actions she had made while under the influence.

She is an alcoholic. There is no denying that.

Yet, she defines the stereotypical, “functional alcoholic.” In fact, she is one of the smartest, most driven people I have ever met. Her IQ nearly qualifies her as a genius. She has been through hell and back. She comes from the stereotypical, textbook-cliched broken family, enduring abuse, rape, poverty, neglect, etc. Given her background, most would believe that she belongs in three places: dead, jail, or rehab. In other words, she nearly has every reason to drink. She has lived through tremendous pain and turmoil.

And today, I told her if she cannot get help for herself, I cannot continue this friendship. She is too triggering to me right now, and I cannot work on my own recovery and mental well-being while I am still putting others needs before my own. I cannot work my own twelve steps and learn to be a better and healthier person while taking care of someone who does not want to be taken care of.

Do I feel guilty? Incredibly. Am I sad? Yes. Do I know I made the right choice? Yes.

Slowly, but surely, I am purging myself from all these toxic relationships and emotionally-imbalanced people in my life. I never realized how taxing they were on my self-esteem and energy. These past two days have been incredibly painful and trying. I have been examining two pivotal relationships in my life extensively (the one with my ex-boyfriend and now, my ex-best friend). And, yet, I know, I KNOW, this is the best thing for me. I also know this is the best thing for HER. Maybe this is the reality check she needs. I don’t think anyone has truly confronted her problem in such a harsh and blunt way before, and while I hate being the person responsible for doing it, I know that it had to be done.

Maybe one day, she will realize that I did this out of genuine love and concern for our friendship. Maybe one day, she will realize that her defensiveness and vicious attacking towards me was her way of denying the ferocity of her disease. Maybe one day, she will commit to sobriety because she realizes she has no other choice.

I will be there for her on that day. I will be the friend to walk into AA with her, to go to Al-Anon for her, to find a therapist for her, to even give up my own drinking for her. But until she wants help for herself, I cannot watch her ruin and destroy her life.

Acceptance is the answer and I am hungry for serenity

Dear Bee,

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this present moment.

I’ve read this quote at least a dozen times today. Alcoholics Anonymous wins for inspirational quotes for this week! I am absolutely relating to everything in that line of thought.

Today has been a rough day in recovery land.  Understatement. The day after a slip is DIFFICULT. It was so incredibly up-and-down, and truth be told, I’m exhausted. I’ve been throwing myself a pity party all morning and afternoon, right through my OA meeting, right through lunch with my sponsor, right through talking to my friends this afternoon, right through my long walk at one of my favorite parks, right through my homework, and right through finally calling my therapist and saying, so, you’re kind of my last resort right now. I’m going insane.

Some of this has to do with my slip yesterday. I get that. I need to just let it go, and I am TRYING to do that. Also, one of my best friends ran into my ex-boyfriend last night, the one I broke up with in November. We had been dating for almost three years, and it was the most serious relationship I’d ever had. We haven’t had any communication (except for my occasional online stalking) since I left him that day. And I know it’s absolutely better that way. I cannot be friends with him. I cannot have any contact with him if I want to heal.

She told me he’s wretched and miserable. He looked as if we had just broken up a week ago. He’s been drinking a lot, she mentioned, and he’s gained significant weight, despite already being obese (interesting how the fitness-fanatic, health-obsessed, eating disordered girl went for the heavyset man). He’s just in a bad place right now. Bottom line: I know I’m better off without him, but part of me still aches for the comfort of the relationship…and another part of me is absolutely thrilled that he’s miserable (this makes me feel ashamed too).

Codependency issues, I guess? Who knows?

Emotions are just rampant right now, and I want to eat them away. I just want to avoid and numb myself…sitting with feelings is SO HARD. 

I’ve been doing everything in my willpower to change my negative feedback loop into a positive one. After dinner, I had coffee with a good friend and she was such an awesome soundboard. Reaching out to people today (and I was pretty much chatting with others ALL DAY) was awesome, even though I must admit I felt needy and weak.

On a side note, after all my efforts, I did just engage in some emotional eating…I had a granola bar and two cookies, but I’m stopping it right now and just going to bed. I’m not a failure. I was actually hungry. I ate. More than I needed to, but whatever. It’s done. I didn’t binge, so I’m considering this as a success (because that’s all I fucking want to do right now…) I acknowledge that this has been a rough day, and I tried my best to cope. Recovery is kicking my little booty right now, but I can’t and won’t lose hope. 

I know  am hungry for serenity, and I know nothing else will be able to fill that gnawing void right now. And just like the quote says, I will not be able to achieve serenity until I can TRULY and GENUINELY accept “what is.” I need to learn and embrace acceptance. When I do this, I let go of the chokehold of control…I let go of the negativity and fear and demons in my mind telling me I “should have, could have, would have…”

This is a new moment, and for this moment, I am okay and alive and breathing and grateful for all that I have in this present life. 

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.

 

 

Writing as my own spiritual awakening

Dear Bee,

 I was at this incredibly uplifting OA meeting this morning and we started out by reading out of the big book (of Alcoholics Anonymous). I really need to read this literature in its entirety. Personal opinion on the Twelve Steps aside, one cannot deny how effective these programs are. This text, indeed, has saved many lives.

Anyway, we did a ten-minute “read-around-the-room” followed by a five-minute writing session to elaborate on what we had just read/any thoughts.

I picked up this quote: We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality – safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us (p. 85).

And here was my response:

To me, this is the pinnacle of recovery–this experience of freedom from the bondage of an eating disorder and all the exhaustive mental preoccupation associated with it. Right now, there is so much fighting, and maybe that is because I have not yet fully surrendered to this idea of powerlessness.

Am I avoiding temptation? I don’t know. Sometimes, it feels that way, because I realize I cannot eat the same way normal eaters do…yet. Will I always be disordered? The school of Overeaters Anonymous says yes. The alcoholic will always be an alcohol, despite how long he lives in sobriety. The compulsive overeater, likewise, will always be a compulsive overeater, abstinence or not.

To some extent, I agree that those maladaptive tendencies will always be somewhere in my mind (preferably the back) during stressful or changing times. Rather than try to resist this, I know I just need to accept and embrace the possibility. That does not mean I need to stress over the future, but rather, adjust the way I cope. The more I love myself, the more I truly and fully value my whole being–mind, body, and spirit–the more automatic these choices will be.

In a sense, this will remove the “problem.” Because harming myself with food or without food will not only seem irrational, but it will also seem ridiculous.

I know that i have been chasing these feelings of “safe” and “protected.” And sometimes, I thought I had achieved these feelings by virtue of my sickness, but they were never lasting, and once removed, I only felt more unstable and vulnerable. So I know now these feelings cannot come to me so long as I punish myself. Because if I am not keeping my own self safe and protected, if I am not able to give myself that primitive need, who will? This is nobody’s responsibility but my own. Maybe that once scared me, but now, it only empowers me.

Because I know I have this extraordinary potential to unconditionally love myself, and that love will transcend to everything I do and everyone I want in my life. To me, that is this surrender, that is letting go and embracing hope.

I am so worthy of happiness. I am so worthy to be own best friend–because the greater my self-worth, the more wholesome and authentic my experiences, reactions, and coping.

Okay, so I went somewhat over the five-minute limit, but once I start writing, well…I just get in my zone, as we all know.

When we went around the room to share, I didn’t originally intend to read what I had written, because most of the people were discussing the spiritual component of the text (it was a very God-heavy reading). And sometimes, being agnostic, I feel somewhat mystified with how to respond to the religious aspect. I know that the Twelve Steps does not prescribe to any particular religion, and I have never felt one ounce of pressure to believe in God, but at the same time, I know many people have found success by turning their lives over to Him.

But at the last moment, I decided, this meant something to me…these are MY thoughts and MY feelings, and I wanted to express them whether people wanted to hear them or not.

Sharing is healing.

And so, I read what I had written aloud and it felt good. So many things have been feeling so good lately. Afterwards, a few people came up to me to praise my writing. One woman in particular said, You’re a writer, right? You have to be. What else have you written? You have a gift. 

And you know what? This took me back for a moment. Because writing was my first passion, and since I learned how to pick up a pencil at four or five years old, I was scribbling stories on scraps of paper. I have drafts of novels, pages after pages of poetry and short stories, thousands of essays from all my classes. And now I have these journal letters.

I always imagined envisioned myself becoming a novelist, as this free-spirited artist meant to move people with my written words. And most of my teachers felt the same way. In sixth grade, I was accused of cheating on an essay. The grader thought my father had written it. He couldn’t stop laughing–said he didn’t even know how I knew half the words I had used in my story. Still, the fleeting and unstable reality of the starving artist scared me enough to settle my eighteen-year-old self into a practical–but absolutely fascinating–major (psychology).

I am extremely lucky to have found a calling that can heal others in a different, creative way by virtue of my presence, empathy, and guidance as a therapist. I know I will be the change agent in so many lives, and I desperately want to be the person to provide that unconditional positive regard to those who cannot even see it for themselves.

Still, writing has been my own higher power, my own spiritual awakening, throughout my entire life. Writing has healed me–this is where my creative energy flows, this is me in my most natural and happiest state.

And writing, probably more than any other tool in my recovery, will be my constant savior. Readers or not, I know that putting the words on paper channels my inner imagination. And that, in itself, is its own religion.

I smiled back at that woman with absolute confidence and thanked her. And to answer her question, I told her I was a writer.

Because I am. And I realized that I will always be writing something or another. I pulled out an old draft of my first novel and worked on it…because, that’s what I do and that’s who I am and that’s who makes me happy.

Today, I am blessed. Today, I am humbled and full of hope.