The Seasons of Recovery
As with Life, we experience the seasons of recovery
It’s officially the beginning of summer, Memorial Day weekend. It’s a hot day. A good day to cool off in the water. I sit on the edge of our pool and stare into my reflection. The water is too cold to get in so I only put my feet in. As I expected, it’s cold. As I’m sitting with the warm sun on my back and the cold water at my feet, a subtle yet strong emotion begins to arise with me. I smile inwardly, secretly enjoying this little treat. It’s a treat because for years I believed that because my feelings seemed chaotic and intense, I also believed they were uncontrollable, so this ability to notice and sit with them is a novelty that never gets old. I continue to just sit, with my feet in the water and the sun on my back, secretly celebrating my growth. Yet, it’s cold and my body resists my attention of going in. My obscure watery reflection begins to symbolize and mirror back to me my long journey to recovery.
I am 46 years old and have been in recovery from my life’s wounds and eating disorder for 26 years now. I am in the summer of my recovery. Just as there are seasons of life that we must go through, those of us in recovery also move through seasons. Just as the seasons of the earth, my springtime in recovery was about growing and becoming. Pushing up through the hard and unyielding surface of life I was compelled by some inner knowing that growth was necessary for survival. Springtime in recovery is about choosing life.
Springtime in Recovery is about Choosing Life.
“And, the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful
than the risk it took to bloom.” Anais Nin
Just as the leaves in summer darken from the consistent light and nutrition they have absorbed during the growth of spring, my recovery has only deepened in my 40’s. This stage is about not only knowing who I have worked so hard to become but gaining confidence in LIVING it out.
I sit on the edge of the pool pondering this revelation. I have always been a thinker. I like to think and think until I have analyzed every last morsel of detail, but action…well…that’s a different story–as spring time in my recovery was a very long season of change, as fear and lack of self-confidence kept me from my full bloom. As I reflect upon this, I am motivated to move from the edge of the pool where I am wading my feet to sitting on the first step. I continue to feel the cold. This awareness clears away my fear and uncomfortableness of the coldness I feel on my body and with my intention stronger, I ease myself into the water. I am now waist deep.
The biggest difference I have noticed about this season is that my intention is clearer than ever before. As opposed to the past, I now know what I want, and give myself permission to have it. This has applied to both my life as well as my recovery. The deserving, deprivation and scarcity mentality my eating disorder brain washed me into believing about myself and the world has been slowly but noticeably replaced by acceptance and compassion. As I hear those words echo in my head, my body exhales and relaxes and I move further into the water. For so very long those concepts felt so foreign that I easily dismissed them and, in my resistance and misunderstanding of them, kept me from the sustenance I now know they provide.
I move into the water up to my chest. I’m cold but my body is adjusting to the change. Again, I smile at the irony of my current situation appreciating how I am being healed in the present moment. Yet, I am aware of my resistance to go fully in. I allow myself to continue with the metaphor to see what insight my deeper self has for me to learn. Like with my eating disorder recovery, my movement through life has been a slow progression of allowing myself to move from comfortable to uncomfortable. I did not like or trust myself in the uncomfortable. But, just as the cold begins to fade as my body adjusts to the water around it, I am also adjusting to my new ability to sense my deeper and stronger self. And, I find that I am behaving more in line with her. My heart quickens with this wonderful realization. Reflecting on the risks I have taken, for example, all the food I have relearned to like or not (a very surprising fact I have found in my recovery), or the risks I took to marry, start a private practice and so much more. I feel them throughout my body as I stand in the pool with the water up to my shoulders. Standing, water chest high, I am filled with compassion for my slow yet steady forward progression towards full recovery and healing. With eyes that have seen the spring through, rather than growth, I understand that summer will be a time of establishing what I have grown into. I’m all but in. My head the only thing left above the water. The irony doesn’t escape me.
“Are you willing to become a unified oneness
and immerse yourself into the process of your life?”
My mind has always been the problem. In its desire to control it has controlled me. Recovery in my 40’s has been about taking hope and faith into action. And, that has shown up in learning to let go of my head being in control to allowing my heart to guide. And, by letting my heart to guide, I have learned that I possess a wonderful connection to others. The summer of my recovery has been about letting go of what I thought I needed to be in order to be succe, “Likessful in life. In fact, it has been about letting go of the need to attain success at all. It has been about developing a willingness to accept what I can’t control as well as letting go of the need to know. I have learned that I can heal from as much as I can and with forgiveness I let the rest go. I am learning to identify, trust and be led by my intuition and through that I am learning to be willing to be led rather than lead. I now see that my natural ability to feel so intensely is the means by which I experience the world and I have come to understand that it is those unique experiences that bring the only meaning I desire in life. Summer has taught me that, even though it doesn’t have the newness of spring, it reveals to me that I will forever be changing and evolving and the expectation I once had to KNOW myself has grown and blossomed into a fuller appreciation of always being a learner of myself and of life. I have learned that meaning is what I hunger for the most. Summer is about letting go of the not me and embracing my Jeanness (my favorite term from my dietician). I have learned even more how to appreciate who I am and not apologize or try in vain to cover her up with who I think others would like better. I am more confident in who I’m not and have learned a valuable lesson that “worthiness is overrated” (one of my favorite quotes from my own therapist). I have let go of beliefs that worked for others but not me and have let go of that awful accompanying guilt. I have learned to love myself as I am, which I believe is the heart of all recovery and healing, and I have uprooted my deepest wounds and replanted them with compassionate forgiveness. As I am reflecting on all that I have faced and overcome, holding my head above water, I take note of how disconnected my head is from my body, I do not like this feeling as it makes me anxious and I am reminded again of the metaphor. My eating disorder was a manifestation of the disconnection of my mind, body and soul.
“Anxiety is the experience we feel when our mind, body and soul are disconnected.”
The excitement continues to build as I walk across the pool. This is a comfortable place for me to be. To have my head disconnected from my body. The intensity is building as all the memories from my past flood me. My mind wonders to the bikini I am wearing and the movement of the water has on my body. I think about how my body has been the victim and been bullied by the waves of my mind’s pursuit of false control. I feel it sluggishly moving through the weight of the water. The metaphor loud and clear. My body doing the work for my troubled head. I am heavy. I have come so very far walking this way in life but it has taken so very long. The water representing the weight of what I have come to realize hasn’t been mine to carry. The realization that it is more than my body I have been carrying. I stop and radically say aloud to myself, “Like recovery and life, Jean, are you willing to become a unified oneness-your Jeanness-and immerse yourself into the process of your life? Not someone else’s, yours?” I wonder what there is left to do? What is the work I have left to do? I wonder what the fall and winter of my recovery will challenge me with and what gifts I have yet to know? Springtime in recovery has taught me that my disorder nor my wounds have ever been about who I am really am. They were identities but not my authentic one. Summer has taught me to live out my AUTHENTIC ME. The work I have to do during this season is continuing to practice releasing what isn’t me and maintaining my connection both to myself and to the world around me. With this realization, my excitement subsides and a feeling of calm rushes over me. I hold my breath and lower my head into the water. I remain there momentarily captivated by the watery womb. I am embraced, held, supported, and sustained. Finally, in need of my own breath, I stretch out and reach up to the air above me and with metaphor of my summertime in recovery is born. In joy, I realize that in every season of recovery and life, I will be reborn anew. With understanding of what I have learned from previous seasons I will embrace the next season with a mixture of excitement and calm understanding. The is a new sensation for me. I hold my breath, reach out and with my face to the sun, I allow my body to rise to the surface and float. What once held me down, my own belief that I must tread to survive, is now what allows me to float. With chills from the coolness on my skin, I breathe in the air, soak in the sun’s warmth, and just float.