“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.”
~ Eleanor Brown
Two and a half months ago, one week before I went home for the summer, I began this blog post with that quote. In it, I wrote about how I had convinced myself that I was going to relapse this summer. I wrote about fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The ambivalence I was experiencing at the time colours the entire post. I posed a number of questions to which, at the time, I had no answers.
Two and a half months ago, I had no idea how good it would feel to be in my new dorm room on the Friday night of a long weekend, having just completed my “first week of classes”. I had no idea how proud I would feel of being able to come back and report progress rather than relapse. I had no idea how my freedom would be celebrated.
This summer, I gained an understanding of what it meant to tell myself a different story. I learned how to change my own narrative, and oh, what a powerful lesson that was. I realized that I was capable of things that I never even imagine could be possible, and I realized that whenever I made changes in my own life, there was a ripple effect that trickled into the lives of those around me.
Initially, going home felt both foreign and familiar. I was forced to choose how to respond to various challenges that were thrown my way early on. I didn’t always put my recovery first, and when I didn’t, I was able to see a noticable change not only within myself, but also with the way that others treated me. This taught me that I much rather be treated like a healthy person, than someone who needs to be taken care of.
The summer progressed and the things that were hard at first – being in my room, eating with my family, etc – all became routine. They were no longer scary. It was then that I began to experience a sense of profound loneliness. I loved having my friends and my family, but I found myself yearning for my other home. I missed feeling connected to something bigger than myself. That loneliness translated into self-imposed isolation. I began to believe lies about my worth as a human being again, and I was comparing my relationships at home to my relationships at school and feeling discouraged. It was impossible to feel connected at home, and I was doomed to a lonely, isolated existance in Canada forever. (Dramatic, I know…but it’s me. What do you expect?) I was challenged once more to examine the story I was telling myself. I realized that I was not destined for a solitary life – not in Canada or anywhere else. I realized that relationships would look different in different places, but I was reminded that even though my friends were scattered all across the globe, I was still cherished by them. I had a friend in Sri Lanka check in and send me her love, one in New York City telling me about her fun experiences there. I reconnected with 3 friends in British Columbia and California. And right there at home, I had my person. My person who means the world to me. I felt alone and isolated becase that’s just how I was supposed to feel at home, but by examining the facts, I was enlightened to the fact that I am, indeed, connected to the world ouside my house.
When it came time to begin preparing for my return to school, I was filled with a profound sense of sadness. I was going to miss the life that I’d built for myself at home. It was very different than my life at school, but home had become a safe place. By changing the story I told myself about everything related to home, I successfully transformed my experience. Because I did the hard work of creating new experiences there, I don’t have to be afraid of it anymore.
My return to campus was filled with running hugs, squeals of excitement, declarations of love and joy. I saw all the people who loved, supported, and walked with me last year and found that being able to come back to school and say, “I did it, guys! I made it through the summer, but more than that, I actually had a pretty good one!” was so much more pleaasurable than returning to school the same way that I did last year. The smiles that spread wide across my friends’ faces as I told them of my numerous adventures and revelations this summer breathed life into the depths of my being. Their words of affirmation and celebration of my progress assuaged the fears I had of what it would mean about my relationships if I were to come back after the summer saying that I did well.
I changed the stories I told myself about the summer, and by changing the stories, I was able to make choices that would lead me to this place of tremendous growth. I have worked so hard to get to the place where I can say I am proud of the work that I have done and the choices that I have made. The lessons I learned the summer were invaluable, and I am so glad that I gave myself the opportunity to grow.
I did it. I made it through the summer, and I proved myself wrong.
I am victorious.