(this will send you to an online application process)
Wednesday, June 28 2017
As I was parking at the grocery store today, there were no spots up front, so I decided to park in the back near the buggy drop off- as a mom of littles, it is easier/safer that way. After I parked, I noticed a woman creeping down the aisle obviously looking for a front row spot. I got Anna Blue out, and the woman slowly passed by again, visibly frustrated. Then it was Graham’s turn, and we snagged a cart next to the car. AGAIN the woman came down the aisle and proceeded to honk at me when I was crossing in front of her to go into the store. She threw her hands up at me, said some words I would not want to repeat, and banged her fists on her wheel in sheer anger. Guess the parking lot fairy, as my mom says, was not being kind to her today. I waved, walked me and my children into the store and went on with our shopping. What is my point? Let me get to it…
That woman paced the parking lot at least 4 times looking for a front row spot. I went to an open spot in the back, parked, got my kids out, and walked in the store in the amount of time it took her to get good and mad and she STILL did not make any progress in her task at hand of shopping. You have seen this scenario play out in many different ways, shapes, and forms in your own experience, but did you stop to think about it in reference to recovery? There are no short cuts. If you try to cut corners in treatment, you will only prolong the process and end up frustrated and behind. Let’s look at two specifics.
When I first started to see a nutritionist about 8 months before I entered inpatient hospitalization I was put on a meal plan to attempt to help me balance out and bulk up my food intake. I was so skewed in my perception of what I was actually eating that I would log that I ate two servings of fruit when I actually only had half of one, and I would lie outright about my fats and carbs. When I would walk into the dietitian’s office I would look like gold on paper, but my weight was steadily dropping. Obviously, I am not the first client to do this, so after 6 months of me lying, cheating, and manipulating my meal plan, it was determined that I needed a higher level of care. I thought my team was delusional; I was not even thin in my mind, so I just stopped eating. As I was drug crying into the Carolina house (a residential eating disorder center) I still had opposing opinions about the meal plan that was put in place for me. I knew what was good for me, and that was not what I was there for; didn’t they get that?!? (Insert eye roll towards my disordered self here) I was flabbergasted by the portion size and thought they were truly trying to kill me. The dietitian finally took me aside after a few days of my protesting and griping, and she said, “Brooke, we are only following the plan your dietitian had in place in Atlanta. Didn’t you follow this before?” With my hands clinched in fists and tears in my eyes, I slammed my hands on the couch and said, “Hell no! I cheated like a mug! Why do you think I am here?!?!”
Do you see the comparison playing out? I was the lady searching for the front row space in the parking lot. If I had listened to my dietitian from the beginning, did the hard, diligent work of following a meal plan (along with the obvious therapy that I needed) I may have been able to park and go on into the store without making any detours. But, that was not in the cards for me. I didn’t want to put in the work. I wanted to cheat the system. I was not willing to change my ways short term to ultimately get better mentally and physically in the long run. I wasted so many years trying to cheat my way out of fully healing. Turns out, all that avoidance, stubbornness, and unwillingness to work only landed me deeper in my disorder. There are no escalators on the climb to recovery… only stairs. You cannot wait around for the elevator that does not even exist… you just have to hike up your boots and start climbing.
Phew, this is a tough subject. There are so many scenarios, hardships, hurdles, and circumstances that come along with this topic, but such is life. There is no such thing as a free lunch (pun intended), and recovery will never come free, both metaphorically and literally. Let’s discuss the literal in my journey- my husband and I are teachers, have great insurance, and get paid a decent monthly salary. We would be considered lower middle class, had (before my treatment) zero debt, and we follow the Dave Ramsey rules of “if you live like no one else today, you’ll live like no one else tomorrow.” Why am I giving you my personal financial business? Because when I was told that I would have to go to inpatient treatment to fight the disorder that was killing me, even though insurance would cover 70% of my medical needs, that still left us with a $27,000 bill that we did not have the money for and me out of work for 6 months without pay. Gulp. So what did we do? We made it happen. We applied for medical loan after medical loan until someone covered us. We maxed out our credit card. We sold whatever we could of value in our home. We cut the cable. My husband took extra jobs coaching and driving a bus. We grinded for the money because my life is worth more than the $27,000 it would take to get me the help I needed.
Honestly, my point is a little tougher to swallow. Nothing worth having comes easy. Because we did, and still are working to pay off that debt (we are down to $15,000 after 12 months of hard work! Whoo Hoo!), because it was not handed to me, to us, we do not take the weight and value of recovery lightly. It is all too easy to set up a go-fund me page and beg for someone to take the financial burden away from you, and there are cases where that is needed and that is the best option/blessing there is, but it also takes that I earned this aspect out of recovery. I had a colleague that placed her daughter in an anxiety/depression recovery program, and her sweet daughter asked to help pay for the cost by working and paying her mom back for the treatment. My friend said, “Brooke, there is no way I can allow her to do that. She is my daughter and I would do anything for her health and well-being!” My response was, “What if her taking responsibility for the financial part of her recovery will be the factor that makes her appreciate the hard work she is doing to live free from her demons that much more?” Get my point? It is like buying a kid a cell phone verses making them earn money to buy one on their own. Let’s be honest, the kid that worked for that phone will always be the kid that understands its worth. Recovery is no different.
Another point I want to throw out there is that it is always easier to help to someone who is working his/her damndest to make a way for his/her self. I have learned that first hand. We have had help along the way, but that help was never asked for, it was always given through God prompts on our loved one’s hearts after they saw our diligence, hard work, and dedication to work so honestly and hard for my health and freedom from ED. Derrick and I never stopped tithing or giving to others throughout our own struggle, and God provided tenfold for us. Even in months that we were going to be $1,200 in the hold solely from bills alone; somehow we always ended up with the exact amount of money that we needed to survive and provide for our family that month. This may seem like a cliché, sing-song pitch, but it is simply the law of attraction. What you put out there is what you get back; give and it shall be given to you. Don’t wait around feeling sorry for yourself or think it’s not worth it… I am not worth it… because you are. You are more than worth a free life, even if you have to work like hell for it. It pays off in the end… and I am proof of that.
My point… you can’t have a million dollar dream on minimum wage effort. Recovery will never be handed to you. It will never be the front row spot. It will never be the million dollar power ball. It will come from blood, sweat and tears. It will come from the long hours of extra and grueling work. It will come from the sacrifices, the faced fears, and the digging deep. But I can tell you this… the sooner you get to work, the sooner freedom comes. Waiting is just accepting where you are in misery instead of demanding a better life for yourself. Recovery is not a privilege, it earned. So get started. It is worth it, Fighter.
Sunday, June 18 2017
I attend 12 Stone church in Snellville, GA, and although today’s teaching was geared toward honoring Father’s Day, the valuable lesson that was brought forth was priceless to me in my search for inspiration to continue on my path of recovery, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
The sermon today was based on two concepts: working to provide for your kids is honorable, and making time for your kids is powerful. Replace kids with recovery and you have my new mantra. Think about it- recovery is one of the most needy, precious, priceless endeavors that you will ever face.
You have to provide for yourself in recovery.
Provide space to heal- I can honestly tell you that I have over and over again asked for, demanded, and taken the space needed to work on my recovery. Last year, it meant leaving my kids, my husband, my job, my life to honor myself enough to provide the help that I needed to get well. When I got home from treatment it was me asking my friends and family to provide me with time to heal and re-adjust to life without ED behaviors. And just recently, I have taken the space from social media and writing I needed to reflect on why I want, need, and embrace recovery even in the face of uncertainty that life always holds. Working to provide the time, space, attention, love for recovery is honorable, self-full, and truly necessary for long term healing.
Hebrews 8:1-2 says, “We have a high Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There He ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle.”
I can rest easy in honoring myself and my recovery because there is a God in heaven who honored me by giving His only son in a true act of unconditional love for all His children. I am one of those children… I am His. I matter. So do my strife and struggles. God cares even when it seems like the world does not. When I honor myself I am ultimately honoring Him because when I am at my best I am doing my best work for His kingdom. I once heard struggle on Earth compared to Jesus’ struggle… We do not go through hardship on Earth because God is vengeful or unfair.
Making time for my recovery is powerful.
Time is a tricky thing… it can be the source of joy but also pain; it can be a blessing but also a curse. It can wound, heal, scar, and replenish… but my favorite thing about time is that it passes no matter what. It is the one constant in this life; everything is temporary- the good, the bad, the joyful, and the mourning. Time is going to pass, so I have learned that instead of fighting it I can embrace it with grace and fervor that will aid in bringing me through pain and suffering and setting me up to bask in the joy that time can bring, too.
What does that mean for me? It means that instead of trying to avoid, rush through, or fast forward through pain, emotion, and tough times, I need to be present in the time at hand to fully honor my power and strength that God has given to me. The other day, when I was struggling with the feeling of imperfection in my body and the old anxiety that attaches itself to being full, I made myself sit in the moment in those feelings without rushing to get rid of them. I deserve to feel the power that I have cultivated in my recovery. Think of it like this: we all know the speed limit, but we have a choice to break it or to adhere to it. We all have the ability to know right verses wrong, healthy verses unhealthy, and recovery verses relapse- and all of these will look different for each individual in his/her experience; taking the time to recognize the difference in all of these spectrums takes courage. My pastor often says anything hard in life merely takes 30 seconds of courage. I use his tactic daily to face my fears, and I encourage you to do the same.
There is an age old saying of “people don’t change.” In a way, this statement is true. People alone will not change. With God, anything is possible. I am living proof. I went from an anxiety driven, self-hating, body and food obsessed, exercise addict to Brooke. I say Brooke because she is someone worth knowing. I am now not only a mile time, flat stomach, and a clean-eating lecturer that takes others down, but I am now a child of God who lifts others up. My value is in my heart, not my body. My mind is clear enough to connect and healthy enough to live free.
God raises the dead to new life. We all have challenges to face in this life, and if we go at them working to provide and make time to cultivate the best life possible, God will be there fighting alongside of us. What is your challenge? What is God calling you to provide for and spend time on? Where do you need to honor yourself and nurture your power?
One of my favorite quotes is by Ron Blue- he says, “The longer term your perspective, the better your decisions will be.” To have the bigger story, see the bigger picture. Recovery is my big picture, so I am providing the space and taking the time to honor that vision for my life.
Exodus 3:14, “I Am that I Am.” God is bigger than my struggle, and all I have to do is reach for him and he will meet me in my needs. His timing is perfect, but my timing is worth my efforts. Work to provide and make the time. It will bring you honor and power.
Thursday, June 08 2017
Well hello there! It has been a Mississippi minute since my last post! Elenore Roosevelt once said “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”; we as human beings love to romanticize the concept of distance because it beats admitting how hard it can be, but I think Ayn Rand was more correct in my case… she once was quoted saying “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” Through my recovery journey, I have been 100% candid about my recovery: the struggles, the triumphs, and all that fall in-between. I have not posted in a while for a few reasons, and I feel compelled to share them with you. Avoiding is my go-to protection mechanism, as Dr. Burnett so kindly reminded me of today, and I am done hiding what I have been going through, so bear with me!
Okay, so I guess I can do it the old fashioned way: Hi, my name is Brooke, and I have been struggling. Phew. That feels so freeing to admit. I feel better already. Shall I elaborate? I think so.
The last few months have been rough. I have had my safe haven of a home disrupted because of circumstances beyond my control, warmer weather has brought a whole new challenge with my growing body and need of new clothing, and the constant drone of “Mommy” due to summer break has prompted my wise mind to take a back seat to the ever persistent eating disorder voice that promises to fix everything. It has been rough. As I type this I am a bit teary because I think this may be the first time I am truly letting it sink in how tough it has been. Again- avoidance is my jam until reality catches up with me… and here I am being real. I have had to fight tooth and nail to say recovered the past two months.
Two weeks ago, I went to Starbucks to get a Frappuccino; as I was driving home, all I could hear was my ED mind telling me “I didn’t need that coffee treat. Why was I so weak to give into that craving? Brooke, you know what to do. You know how to get rid of it.” So, like my eating disorder brain wanted me to, I dutifully, reluctantly, yet desperately went running up the stairs as soon as I got home to the trusty bathroom. I paused. I looked at the toilet and thought about my choices. My ED mind was telling me to “get rid of it!!!”while also calculating the calories I consumed… but my wise mind was frantically reminding me of the past 16 years of suffering followed by the hardest 87 days of my life in treatment followed by a year of being free of behaviors…. Wow. Once I really compared the two as I was staring down at my crossroads the choice seemed so clear. I literally shook the ED thoughts out of my brain, said “NO” out loud and walked out of the bathroom and back into my messy life.
It was not an easy choice. I wanted to use a behavior so badly. I was there, alone, and no one would know, but I would know, and through recovery I have discovered that I matter. You see, I use to put all my worth, all my happiness into others. My body, my life circumstances, my abilities were my determiner of my worth. How fast I ran, how good I looked, how liked/loved/accepted I was by those around me… and guess what? Having those things at the forefront of my contentment was a disaster waiting to happen, always. Dr. Burnett often told me the only thing I can control is myself; that woman knows what she is talking about, believe me. I cannot control everything around me, I can only be settled and well with myself. I actually matter. You see, using a behavior in that moment of panic would not have changed the circumstances of my life; in all truth, it would have actually complicated it even more. Behaviors such as running, purging, binging, and any and all in-between are not solutions, only a mask for reality. Avoidance. Distance between me and a life of freedom. I am no longer willing to give up that freedom so easy. I have lived in it long enough now to understand its value… and a Starbucks Frappuccino is not the straw that will break this camel’s back, I can tell you that right now. But in all honestly, I can talk big now, but I almost allowed that delicious drink to be my first slip. Recovery is a choice, just as anything in life, and it is easy to make the wrong choice in a moment of weakness, not just for me in my battle with my eating disorder, but for everyone every day in this life. Can I get an Amen?
So, here is the deal. I struggle, but I am proud to say that I have taken time to process my struggle and choose the free life. The ED voice can be strong, but the skills I have learned through my treatment are stronger. I needed to do this without the accountability and pressure of social media to know that it was truly what I wanted, not just what I was promising to so many for acceptance and approval. Thank you for understanding my absence… but the reality it much sweeter when we share our hearts. I am grateful that I finally know the value of mine.
It is simple, but not always easy. Thank God for living free.