Celebrating the Milestones on the Road to Recovery
Thanks to some really great coaches, teachers and mentors, as well as a few good books, movies and songs, I know that it is easier for me to get through things when I give myself little goals or milestones to hit along the way. During my recovery, sometimes I would set conscious milestones and sometimes I would realize in hindsight that I had somehow arrived at one that I didn’t even know that I had.
Whether these growth points were planned by me or by the universe, I still honored these milestones in my personal recovery with a celebration. Sometimes I would light a candle, sometimes I would share them with my therapist, sometimes I would simply just mark the moment with a quiet “Yes!” to myself and keep moving on.
Here are three of the big ones that I want to share with you…
Taming the Vices
When I get depressed (as I was during my recovery), I don’t binge on alcohol, I don’t indulge in drugs, I don’t seek sex and I don’t smoke. I eat. I eat comfort food – bread, fast food hamburgers and the like. I also drink my calories in the form of coffee shop specialty drinks.
(Now remember, during this time, I was sedentary so more eating and no exercise meant a 20 lb weight gain and all the shame and horrible self-image that went along with that weight gain.)
Unemployment helped me tame the eating binges because I simply could not afford to eat out on $400 a week. Once I got a job, I fell back into eating fast food and processed food for a while…actually, for a couple of years. Only lately have I started cooking again. And when I say cooking, I mean I made a small but powerful decision to cook the recipes in the cookbooks I have had for years but rarely, if ever, opened. I began to celebrate what it felt like to create again. And this time, I was creating for me, based on my taste buds, and interests that I had let be dormant for far too long.
I started with soups. I used books like Cooks Library Soups which I think I got from Barnes and Nobles for less than 7 dollars. Sometimes I use the internet recipe sites. Having my own Julie and Julia experience, I cooked a different kind of soup every week for about two months. This was relatively easy on the budget since most of them were water/broth based. But they were decadent none the less… Some were delicious like the Asparagus soup, the Thai-style Chicken soup (with lemongrass!) and the Senegalese soup. But some I tried once and quickly moved on. Perhaps I will try Carrot soup again in the future!
After the soups, I moved on to pastas, then salads. Again both relatively easy on the budget. With each new recipe, I slowly built up the spices in the spice rack and, more importantly, began eating healthier.
Restoring My Sense of Self-Worth
When people around me were trying to keep me down, or blocking me from being successful or advising me not to speak out, I found it very hard on my own self-worth. Have any of you experienced this?
I reacted by swallowing my opinions (i.e., losing my voice) and eating. I also became a voracious nail picker and biter. AND I started wearing black to help me not look as fat as I was or felt I was.
I only just recently started celebrating my self-worth again. I still wear black most days of the week though I am adding a little more color here and there. But I began to commit to a time every week to pay attention to my nails. I could not afford to get to a salon ‘mani/pedi’ so I slowly built up the things I needed to have my own living room salon. Even though I sometimes regress and bite my nails or pick at them, the time between having ugly nails and having pretty nails is dramatically shorter. It is easier for me to shake hands with people. I no longer scold myself for “not being as ‘put together’ as I should be.” I feel better about myself and find a sense of peace when I remember that I am worth paying attention to. I also am re-learning that helping myself be/look beautiful is something I do for me, not for anyone else.
I want to mention here that it really took a lot of emotional work to get to this celebration. Because I hated – actually loathed is a better word…because I loathed the negative attention that often came with the sexual harassment, I used to think that if I made myself less pretty, i.e. became fatter, wore black, had ugly nails and did not put any makeup on, that the people or type of people who typically harassed me would leave me alone. Well what a fallacy that was!
More on this during a later blog, but suffice it to say, this was one of those “walk down another street” ah-ha moments that took me about 3 years and a life time to realize.
Regaining My Health and Fitness
I went to the doctor the other day and for the first time since this all happened, my blood pressure was back to my lifetime average. I can’t tell you how absolutely happy I was. I finally felt at peace. I could finally exhale. I had arrived. My long road to recovery had ended and I it was time to live my life again. I had finally gotten my life back – literally.
I attribute this milestone to the combination of all of my efforts – better eating, the Trauma Releasing Exercises I mentioned in my last blog, swimming in the ocean, for example – and the friendships and support I have received along the way from friends and family. I will be competing in my 2nd triathlon next month. I haven’t set my expectations too high. I just hope to finish and don’t care where I place compared to the other participants. The point is for me to get out there and exercise!
If you are willing, I would very much appreciate hearing what milestones you experienced in your recovery and/or how you celebrate them.