Going to La Europa Academy for Girls, a residential treatment center, felt like a “be careful what you wish for” moment. I’d wanted to go to a long-term facility for over a year — not because I thought I needed it, but because I wanted to be “bad enough” to be sent there and to have a center tell my parents: “We can’t help your daughter; she is too far gone.” I self-harmed, purged, and pushed everyone I loved as far away as I could. After my last suicide attempt, my parents had finally had enough and decided that they couldn’t keep me alive on their own.
At first I was excited, which seems ridiculous looking back on it now. Then, once all the tickets had been bought and I was on the plane with my family headed straight for Utah, I started to panic. I had never been that far away from home for more than three weeks…ever. Now, there I was, looking at spending a year on the opposite side of the country with complete and total strangers whom I was expected to spill my entire life story to.
Once we were on the plane, I started begging my mom for her to please just give me one more shot at home, and if I screwed up, then she could send me away — just not now. My parents did not relent, which was a new thing for me. I was used to being able to manipulate my parents to get what I wanted.
When we finally got to La Europa, we split up. They went to go meet my new therapist, and I went to go get all my stuff checked in. One of the first girls I met asked what my relationship with my parents was like, and without skipping a beat, I responded, “I hate them” — not because I did, but I was pissed off and wanted to hurt them and betray them the way it felt like they had betrayed me.
I’m a very stubborn person in general, and being forced to go to La Europa felt like recovery was being forced down my throat. I had been there four months, and in that time I hadn’t given an inch in regards to recovery or working the program. While I may not always get along with them, my family is more important to me than anything. Parent weekend was coming up in the next two weeks, and my therapist, Michael, said that if I didn’t stop with my behaviors and start moving forward, my parents wouldn’t be allowed to come up. Keep in mind that this weekend only happened once every two or three months and would be the second time I would be able to see my family. I was counting on them coming up to see me; they were counting on it, too. I went to bed that night and decided that I loved my family a hell of a lot more than I loved my addictions. I told Michael the next day that I was going to get it together, and I did. I think I did more of a turn around than anyone expected.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need goals to work toward and people to hold you accountable. I personally turned my entire treatment process around by working toward my short-term and long-term goals, such as getting to the next level in my facility, getting more privileges, being able to see my family more often, or going home in general. It may seem at some points that those around you don’t care or that you don’t want to burden them with the truth, but in the end, you can’t do it alone. In no way am I saying that it’s easy. I’m saying that you have to want it, and you have to strive toward a healthier, happier life. It may seem like you’re all alone, but there are those around you who care.
Recovery isn’t a get-to-the-finish-line kind of goal. Recovery just sort of happens. One day you’ll wake up, and you won’t subconsciously reach for a way to numb the pain, or you won’t look back on what I call “The Dark Ages” with fond memories; some days you may not even think about it. “It” can be so many different things: self-harm, depression, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders — anything that affects your life in a negative way emotionally or physically that you use as a safety blanket to protect you from unwanted issues or emotions.
There will always be ups and downs, good days and bad days, hard times and easy times. Overall, it’s an uphill battle that you have to think of short-term. When I was in the thick of everything, the thought of my recovery and going the rest of my life without self-harm became overwhelming to the point where I shut down and decided I couldn’t even bother trying. So, I eventually decided to take life a minute at a time versus trying to swallow everything all at once.