The rain pours as I tramp through the mud and high grass in my polka-dot rain boots; taking extra care to keep my long dress from getting snagged on the thorns surrounding me. As I smash the mosquitoes attempting to feast on my blood, I hear my friend shout, “I found it!” I look over to find her head-first in a honeysuckle bush—only her black boots visible.
So what, you may ask, were four girls in their mid-twenties looking for in the woods in the pouring rain? We asked ourselves the same question multiple times that morning. With the help of our smart phones, we had set out that morning to go geocaching…in a city that three of us had never even been to. Prior to that morning, I had never experienced geocaching before. And, if you are like me, you will need a brief explanation on geocaching. First, someone with a lot of time on their hands creates, hides and records a “cache” on a geocaching app. A typical cache contains a log sheet (to record who found it) and some small trinkets (like stickers, kid’s toys, pins, etc); although some caches only contain logs. Once the cache creator has logged the coordinates of the cache in the app, people can go out to find it…which is what we were doing in the rain on a Monday morning.
As I think back to finding the ten caches we discovered, the fun I had trudging through the mud, the enjoyment I had with friends and the frustration I had at not being able to find the cache…it made me think of how similar geocaching is to recovery.
1) The GPS/smart phone app can take you to the cache, but it cannot find it for you; it can only lead you to the area, you must do the work of finding the cache yourself. I remember standing in frustration in the middle of the woods repeating “It has to be here, the GPS said so” while I moved branches out of my way. But that was when I realized it was not the GPS’ job to find the cache, it was mine. The same is true about recovery. It is not my therapist’s job, my doctor’s job, my medication’s job or even my support people’s job to find my recovery; it’s mine. All of these people can help guide me to recovery, but if I really truly want recovery, I have to work for it. All of those people can want recovery for me, but until I put in the hard work to achieve it, nothing will happen. It is like saying you want to learn to ski, but do not want to be bothered by actually using skis; it will not work. Wanting recovery but not working towards it will not work either.
2) While we are talking about finding caches, it is important to note that some caches are easy to find, some are difficult, and some are downright impossible. One of the caches we found was easy to spot nestled in a log. However, another was hidden inside a real mushroom and much harder to locate; I almost gave up on that one. Recovery is much the same way. Certain thoughts, behaviors, food rituals or other ED-associated actions may seem easy, difficult or impossible to overcome. The important thing is to continue to work hard towards recovery. The work will all be worth it when you are able to a live a life without ED. I cannot even recall the amount of times I told my therapist I could not stop taking laxatives or stop self-harming, but I did. I told her it was impossible for me to eat two meals a day, but I do. Do I still have a long way to go to get to recovery? Yes, but I know that I will get there if I just stay determined to win. Remember the cache I described looking for in the beginning? I was so furious looking for it. I was soaking wet, dodging thorns, muddy, hot and mad. Mad at the person who made it for making it so hard to find, mad at the weather for not cooperating, but I was the maddest at myself for not being able to find it. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have been frustrated in recovery; I do not know if mathematicians have ever made a number that high. But I never gave in, and that is what matters. Recovery is all about hanging on when you feel like giving up. Once you string together a series of hanging ons, you will have recovery.
3) Once you find the cache, it is ok to celebrate; you worked hard to find it. I mean, given the entire surface area of the earth, it is pretty mind-blowing that we can find the exact spot someone hid a cache. In fact, we may be walking past hidden caches every day not even realizing it. It is ok to feel pride, too, when finding a cache. If you are like me, you fought the rain, mud and thorns to find it…so proudly sign your name on the log and show everyone how proud you are of your hard work. In recovery, it is also important to recognize and celebrate achievements. Reward your hard work in recovery in body positive ways like getting a manicure, reading a book you have always wanted to read, take a nature walk, watch a movie, take a nap or do something crafty. Recovery is hard; it is not the butterflies and rainbows that lifetime movies or self-help books will lead you to believe. However, it is WORTH it. All the hard work and frustration will lead to a payoff greater than you would ever imagine…a life without ED.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.