What I define as my “first recovery” is the period of time from when I stopped cutting (August 14th, 2011) until summer 2013 when I thought was I doing amazing and doing great at life. For this part of my story, I am going to share mini stories about what happened through my recovery. I am going to share the highlights of what the first 2 years of being clean was like.
September 20th, 2011 I got my first tattoo. It says “pray” on the top of my hand and I got it a week and a half after God showed me the tattoo. I luckily don’t regret it at all but I would recommend waiting on things like tattoos. My “pray” tattoo means a lot to me. It reminds me when I chose to start my recovery. It reminds me of all the strength and courage I had. Shortly after I got my tattoo, I was sexually abused and my tattoo reminded me to pray. The abuse also showed me how much strength I had. “Pray” represents my first recovery. Everything that happened, everything I went through. During this season of my life I moved in with a family from my church. (See “Boot Camp” article for details of this time). They became my mom and dad. My time with them was priceless. I learned so many valuable lessons that I am forever grateful for. I was able to actually do my senior of high school. I was able to learn something academically for the first time and keep up with the classes. I was able to master over triggers and actually make some friends. I found a therapy that actually worked for me, DBT. DBT stands for deltaic behavioral therapy. DBT with God forever changed my life. I learned the skills that I was never taught growing up. I finally learned how to have friends and what to do with triggers. I finally learned other ways to relieve stress and anxiety other than cutting. I was finally starting to find relief and I was finally starting to love life. I was starting to love myself. I was beginning to power through the anorexic mindsets but it wouldn’t be thoroughly dealt with until my second recovery. With the help of the family who took me in and these skills, I ended up graduating high school December 2011, seven months after I was kicked out.
YOUTH GROUP TRIPS
One of the best memories from my first recovery was the youth ministry at my church. There were three trips the school of year of 2011-2012 and I went on every one of them.
The first trip was a fall retreat. It was the best weekend of my life but also the most terrifying. I was just recently clean from cutting but still had anorexia, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. I was still a mess, but I loved groups and I refused to miss anything youth ministry related so I forced myself to go. Fall retreat was a Friday night to a Sunday afternoon. I remember Friday night was miserable. I remember Saturday before lunch there was a testimony time and I went up and shared how I went to this retreat even though I was miserable and had anxiety beyond belief. I shared how I was only a few short months clean of cutting and how I was forcing myself out of my box. Afterwards, a group of people come up to me and shared their stories with me and before I knew it I had a small group of friends. That night, November 5th 2011, I went into Saturday night service knowing something life changing was going to happen. The worship team was singing the song “Embrace” by Jake Hamilton. The words “And I don’t have to die to go to heaven I can go right now” was being sung and everything inside of me turned against suicide. I no longer wanted to die, I no longer wanted to only live through my teens. I was crying and jumping up and down for joy! I was free, I was free, I was free at last! The next day, I wouldn’t stop talking. I was so cheery and full of life. I noticed an instant change.
During that school year I become the official arts coordinator for the youth ministry at my church. I was in charge of all the supplies for any trips and for any time the youth got together and needed art supplies. I felt so honored and proud to have a real title. A place to belong.
The second youth trip that year was over New Year’s called Onething 2011. That trip was intense. I was riddled with anxiety and fear once more. I had graduated high school and I was quite proud of myself. The Onething trip was going to be five full days. I remember on the drive down to the conference I pretend to be asleep during all the group check-ins and I refused to get out of the car during breaks. We got to the conference the first night and went to the first night session at 7pm. One of the leaders gave me a very strong, prophetic word, saying: “You are like an owlet and over these next five days you will hatch. All the rest of mental illness will come off of you and you will go home completely free and new.” I couldn’t believe her. It was a lot to ask God for and I just didn’t believe and trust it would happen. That was a Wednesday and the conference went until New Year’s Day, and we would get home Sunday evening. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that in five days anorexia, depression and anxiety would just be, poof, gone. Every day at the conference I found more and more freedom. I felt extremely triggered and forced to look at my issues and battle through them. It was an amazing journey and time. The last session of the conference included New Year’s Eve worship until midnight! I got re-baptized in the Holy Spirit that night. At about 11 pm God asked me “Why not hatch right now? Why not leave mental illness in 2011? Why drag it into another year of your life?” At 11:58 pm on December 31st, 2011 I hatched! I became free from anorexia, anxiety and depression. On the drive home they couldn’t get me to shut up. They told me to share the testimony with others. I was becoming a whole new person again. I was finally happy and I was finally wanting to live. Fully. I started planning my future. I started realizing my dreams were going to become a reality.
After we returned, I started taking myself off of meds and stopped my therapy. I do not recommend this. I was in a really determined mood to rely solely on God. I now know that my first recovery would have been easier if I had stayed in therapy and on meds. During the first chunk of my first recovery I was growing spiritually and emotionally like crazy. I was learning what it meant to be an adult.
In January 2012 I moved to college. I was going to go face every trigger I could find. I think living on campus was the best thing for me. I learned so many things about myself and people. I started learning about independence. I started figuring out how to master triggers. I was trying to learn how to have friends. I loved being in college. I hated living in dorms but it was an amazing semester of growth. I felt like I was actually becoming a woman through this time.
The third trip that my youth ministry took during the 2011-2012 school year was at the end of April 2012. That trip was the best and the worst. Let me tell you a little back story to explain. My uncle was my recovery buddy. He is the one that started my owl collection and fascination. We became buddies and would hold each other accountable through our own recoveries. He was facing a lot of demons. He was bipolar and dealt with alcoholism and depression. When I had my suicide attempt in 2011 he always told me it was never the answer. Yet on April 23st, 2012 my uncle took his own life. It was one of the hardest things I have had to face. On that night when I got the call he was gone, I started living not just for myself but for him. I did not only my recovery, but his. It happened on a Monday night and the conference was that Friday and I went and I started grieving and facing things. I never relapsed. I wanted to so bad but I knew I couldn’t. That was a huge test to show me that I wasn’t going to relapse. My uncle’s death would take quite a bit of time to heal from. There’s still times when I will cry about him. I loved him so much and I will always be his hoot.
I then I dropped out of college because it was too expensive and I got my first job spring of 2013. Getting a job was a huge milestone because I never thought I would live long enough to get a job. It was one of the hardest jobs I could have found for my first job ever. I was a Certified Nursing Assistant at a nursing home working overnights. It was a long four months but I was able to hit another milestone. I got my driver’s license and a car. That summer of 2013 my friend found the most perfect job for me. I applied to work in a group home. In the group home I was (and am) able to teach my clients the things I have learned and I am able to help my clients problem solve. I get to help them find breakthrough. That job has been an amazing part in my recovery.
FIRST RECOVERY THOUGHTS
My first recovery was intense; it was painful. Things I never wanted to happen became my reality. There were so many times I wanted to quit and give up but I knew I couldn’t. I knew I had to make this recovery stick. I knew I couldn’t relapse again. I experienced such freedom and life through my involvement with my church. I was forced to face triggers and overcome. These are milestones in my life. The positive and the painful. I learned not to look ahead, but to focus on today. I now had the will to live. The desire to love myself. Growing strength to walk through my recovery. Would it be enough?