I have been blessed with many great friends. One of those people is a great inspiration to me. She constantly shows me what life looks like in recovery. She agreed to share her story. It brought me to tears and made me proud to call her friend. Her name is Shanna. Here is what she wrote.
Trigger Warning - If you are easily triggered by ED behaviors, I suggest checking out some previous post and skipping this one.
When people say I have changed, that is an understatement. I developed anorexia nervosa by the time I was 19 years old. I had my first break up and I was devastated. He left me pregnant and I was scared and had an abortion (which I regret of course now in my life). I went back to school the summer of my abortion and hated myself. I thought that if I was skinny, he would love me again. How young and dumb I was. I counted the pretzels, carrots and peas I allowed myself to eat. I lost the weight easily and quickly. I hated myself so much that it was very easy for me to punish myself through starvation. By my junior year of college, I was pulled out of college by my parents and put into outpatient therapy for the first time. I was forced to exit music school in Illinois and drive back to Wisconsin with my dad and live with my grandparents, sigh not exactly how I thought my life would go. The first question my therapist asked me was if I was bulimic. I was offended. How could anyone do that to themselves? So gross. Well it gave me a great idea. It would get people off my back if they just saw me eat again. So I started eating then I learned how to throw up. It was like, GAME ON. I was waiting for a change in my life and this was it. I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and I would just purge afterwards. My family thought I was getting better but I knew exactly what I was doing. The manipulation was stronger than ever.
I was admitted into an inpatient treatment center in 2008 for an eating disorder a few years after I found bulimia. I was out of control. I went into treatment and got to my “goal weight” and then was discharged. I was there and none of my issues were truly addressed, I just was forced to gain weight. I left even more lost than when I was admitted. After my discharge, I was also in intensive outpatient program where I would be there 9-3 daily then drive an hour home to eat dinner with my husband and sleep there. It should be noted that my marriage was short lived due to the decisions I was making and we divorced after I got out of treatment. I hated how I felt. I was miserable and so uncomfortable. I started drinking before therapy and on the way home. I quickly became an alcoholic. Its like that game of whack-a-mole. I “took care” of one problem, and another one came up. I left treatment with a much larger problem than when I was admitted. I was officially physically dependent on alcohol. I would shake if I didn’t have alcohol in my system. I slept with a bottle of vodka under my pillow so I would drink that when I would wake up. I got 3 DUIs and was sentenced to jail. My life was falling apart and I was a basket case.
I got put into my second treatment center where I was sober there but my eating disorder came back while I was sober. When I was sober, I would binge and purge. And when I was drunk, my eating disorder was null. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t know how to stop it.
I was in ICU, the detox unit and psych ward more times than I can count. I have no idea how I did not die. People would just drop me off in front of the hospital or I would be having grand mal seizures if I didn’t get alcohol in me fast enough. The problem was that I was in the hospital more times than not and there were no consequences. I would forget the pain I was in when I was dropped off and would get discharged a week or so later after they would pump me back up with fluids and give me enough ativan to keep me chill and forget the predicament I got myself into. I would waltz out the hospital doors feeling great, ready to tackle life one more time. And every single time, I would walk or drive straight to the liquor store to do it all over again. The last time I was in ICU, the only people that showed up that time was my mom and her husband. The doctors told my mom that I was going to die. My mom didn’t know what to do because I had already been to treatment centers and nothing was working I refused to stop drinking and puking. My step-dad that day told my mom something that she said was exactly what she needed to hear. He said, “Well you could either take out a loan to pay for her funeral, or you can take out another loan to pay for a treatment center.” Mom took out a loan and sent me far away. She sent me from Wisconsin to Mississippi. Mississippi was the perfect place for me to go because I knew no one and needed to be alone and truly sit in shame and disgust of where my life was at. This treatment center dealt with chemical dependency and eating disorders. That was exactly the type of problem I had. The facility also had a strict no contact policy for the first few weeks I was in there of the 90 day program so I would not be able to speak to anyone or manipulate my way out of treatment. I needed to want to change. And for the first time in my life, I was ready. I wanted my brothers back more than anything, they didn’t want anything to do with me anymore. I needed to own up to all the crap I was doing and grow up.
I took this program seriously. I broke up with my drug dealer boyfriend, “Scuba Steve” (which was a very big deal for me at the time) and signed up to go to a sober living facility after my 90 days were up. I was told that if I wanted to change I needed to change everything and I was willing to go to any lengths to figure out how to stop my destructive behaviors. After the inpatient facility I hopped on a plane and went to a sober living facility in Florida. For the first time, I was excited to do the deal. I stayed at the sober living facility for 13 months. At that time the staff encouraged me to make a change because they were scared I would get too complacent just being a tenant at the facility. I did not want to work there so I moved out into my very first apartment … alone.
You would think this is the end of the story where I lived happily ever after but it wasn’t. It was terrifying. I could do whatever I wanted because nobody was watching me anymore. I didn’t have roommates and I was free. I have never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin. I quickly started my bulimia back up. I was dating someone I met from sober living and asked him to move in with me. I was scared of myself. I didn’t want to go back to my old ways and I didn’t know how to stop throwing up. I am grateful that I feared booze so much that I refused to let that back in my life, but I knew that if I continued to throw up I would for sure drink again. I finally confessed to my boyfriend, then my sponsor in Eating disorders anonymous that I was acting out again. I was humbled very fast. I knew I needed to make a spiritual change or I would fall apart again and it would be quick. My boyfriend, Gary, and I moved to his home town of Denver, CO. I was told that I was walking in murky water, running away from the situation. But in all honesty, I didn’t think I was. I was doing the best I could, at that time, with what I had. I felt like moving out of Florida where working 2 jobs and trying to adult was next to impossible to keep up and moving closer to family, even though it was not mine, would be good.
My mom bought our one way tickets from Delray Beach, FL to Denver, CO. I remember the first breath I took when I stepped out of the plan. I felt like I could breathe and it was incredible. When I saw the mountains for the first time, I thought I was looking at a scene from a movie set. We both got jobs within 4 days of living here and they paid a lot more money than our Florida jobs substantially. It is like it was meant to be. I quit wearing my bleach blonde hair extensions and all that makeup. I dyed my hair back to my normal brown and decided to just be me. To stop by pretending to be something or someone I was not. They did not have a strong eating disorders anonymous program in Denver but I was able to find great support by some women in recovery for both alcohol and eating disorders in AA. I have made a decision to stop hating myself and learning to just accept. Acceptance is truly the answer to all of my problems and the reality of it be is that all the crap that has happened to me or is happening is a direct result of what I did to myself, nobody else, but just me. It was a beautiful thing to finally see that. I got a sponsor in Denver, a few of them actually and did what I needed to do and forget all the regret and just do the best that I could everyday.
My faith has sky rocketed since I have grown in my sobriety from alcohol and eating disorder. I know that there is a God, there is a good God and He is working in my favor. I have found a great church that helps me grow and met some fantastic people that challenge me and then are there for me when I simply need a hug.
I ended up marrying my boyfriend that I met while living in sober living in Florida. We have a daughter that is almost 3 and another baby on the way. I have had my struggles in sobriety and my life is far from perfect. This our 4th pregnancy since our first daughter and we have lost the first 3. It was easy for me to slip back into a victim mode of “why me?!” and “why God?!” But I chose not to stay there. I have blessings in my life. My life is completely different. I am grateful for my sobriety. On November 3rd of 2017 I celebrated 7 years. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that would be possible. The people I have met in recovery are some of the best people and some of the strongest. To handle the worst days without drinking, drugging or puking is quite incredible. It is, to me a miracle, and only God was able to remove the obsessions from me. I am grateful for everything God has given me, and I am grateful for everything He has taken away from me. That is my story, a big mess but I do want to spread to the sick and suffering that recovery is possible because at one point I never thought it was. We can make it through anything, we just have to keep putting one foot in front of another.