Recovery can be one of the most daunting words that any person, struggling with any kind of addiction, can hear. It sounds terrifying, impossible and so friggen hard. It, in itself, can be a trigger for a relapse. It can also be one of the greatest words to utter in the world.
But I think in order to get that amazing feeling you have to understand a couple of things: firstly, recovery is never perfect and secondly, recovery means a million different things to a million different people. It is an individual experience and no one person’s recovery looks the same. I think that if we all started sharing what recovery meant to us as individuals, then maybe that word wouldn’t hold so much weight. Maybe it wouldn’t be so scary.
If you really want the honest truth, a lot of what defines my recovery is super boring. A large part of my recovery is about the daily maintenance stuff. For instance, I know that I am in a good place if I’m flossing regularly or shaving or cleaning up that eyebrow hair or getting dressed in people clothes (I would live in pajamas and yoga pants if I could). I know I’m in an even better place if I make my bed, finish all of the dishes, and put the laundry away.
Then there are the bigger things, like making it to yoga consistently, cooking and eating right, doing things that make me laugh, journaling and meditating when I need it, and most importantly, knowing when it’s time to reach out for help.
When I was sick I didn’t know how to be human. I was a floundering soul in a very painful body struggling to break free. My bed was my home, television and food were my friends. I would go days, sometimes weeks, without showering or brushing my teeth and I almost never wore clean clothes. I was 19 at my sickest—way too old to be living like a baby, but that’s what I was doing. I was decaying. The simple act of shaving my legs or going outside was huge for me. But it was when I started doing those little things that I started to get better, or at the very least, started to reach out for help.
Today I am a fully functional adult human, but I can very easily fall back into that slump. Even though I’ve been in recovery for 8 years that slump is still the most comfortable place for me to go. It’s soul-sucking and zombie-making, yet still somehow comfortable. Because I learned that it’s those small acts of self-care that begin to lift the haze, I know that if I take one step the other will follow and I’ll be back to myself in no time.
Of course there is way more to my recovery than just those few things. My recovery is multi-layered and a massive undertaking. But honestly those few things are probably the most important. They are my roots, they lay the groundwork and provide me with the key to my success: stability. Without stability I have nothing to stand on, and in this world of instability you have to create your own solid ground.
As simple as it sounds, waking up and taking care of myself, even in these small, seemingly normal ways, centers me so I can function. They are my gateway to thriving in both my recovery and as a person.
If you are struggling with addiction or depression—or really anything—my advice is to avoid being overwhelmed by recovery. It’s just a word. Start with the small stuff, whatever that means for you, and be consistent. I promise that it is way easier to deal with the big issues once you’ve become human again and gained some stability. Take it one step at a time and you’ll get there.
Sara Romeo-White is a born and raised New Yorker living in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats. She recently released an online memoir about her struggle and recovery from a Binge Eating Disorder which can be read for free at bingemystory.com.