I waited helplessly as 6,500 pounds of plastic and steel spun around me; waiting for the sudden stop of the crash, waiting for the sickening sound of the truck as it makes that stop, waiting for the punishment that I knew was coming. But how did I get here?
The morning started out as any other morning—I was running late for work because I had decided petting my cat was more important than taking a shower or putting on clothes. By the time I got out to my car, I was already fifteen minutes late…and then I found out that the freezing rain from the previous night has iced my doors shut and completely entombed my car. Crap. So I slid back into the house to grab the keys to my mother’s Tahoe (which had spent the evening tucked within the safety of our garage).
Despite the fact that I have been driving for twelve years in Ohio winters, I decided that getting to work on time was a priority, and did an unreasonable speed of 35 miles per hour down the road. That’s when the truck and the road had a slight disagreement with one another. A patch of black ice completely derailed my morning.
I did not even see the ice, but I know I hit it. The Tahoe immediately fishtailed towards a line of trees, big trees. In an effort of self-preservation, not to mention Tahoe preservation, I overcorrected by spinning the wheel to the right. The truck lurched to the right quickly, but just as quickly started to rotate in a circle. Time began to slow down, and my brain felt like it completely shut off while the waiting time began. I am not entirely sure what happened next other than that the truck entered the ditch rear-end first with the front tire still on the road.
As soon as I heard the crunch of the car in the ditch, a primal scream came from somewhere within me. I have never, in 27 years, heard that sound escape my lungs. I opened the door to try to leave the car. However, because I am five-two and the truck is 6 feet tall and in a ditch, I found myself on my knees in the ditch. I pounded my fists into the embankment. I lost a glove somewhere, but I didn’t care. As the snow seeped through my dress and leggings, I heard the hissing of the tires as they deflated. Hot tears burned my freezing face. My breathing was so shallow and rapid I did not think I could stand up.
A man in a purple suv-like car pulled over to ask how I was doing. I couldn’t find my phone; I had lost it in the crash. Still crying and hyperventilating, I managed to choke out that I needed him to call my dad. The man invited me into his car and talked to my dad when I was unable to get out any words. After the call ended, however, the man had to go. Not wanting to risk further injury by getting back in the car, I grabbed my phone and wallet, and stood in the driveway across the street to call AAA.
While I was on the phone, the old man who lived in the house came out to see what a frantic young woman was doing pacing his driveway in sub-zero temperatures. His golden retriever bounded up to me and made me momentarily happy. The man, Charles, invited me in to sit by his fire. I thawed by the fire with Phoebe’s golden retriever head (she would not let me stop petting her) in my lap waiting, again.
My father came about twenty minutes later. He was livid, to say the least. After he yelled at me, lectured me using curse words still unknown to many in the Western hemisphere, and scolded me for taking the truck in the first place, the tow truck arrived. With the Tahoe gone, my dad had to take me to work. I still had to go about my day as if the accident had not happened.
But why do I tell you this story? Why would I willingly share my inability to drive? It’s not for sympathy or money or whatever. It is because of my recovery. You read that correctly, my recovery.
In the past when things would go wrong, I would feel the need to punish myself through my eating disorder or through self-harm. After my first car accident (in college), I falsely believed my eating disorder was comforting me through the resulting chaos the accident caused. But it isn’t just big events, like car accidents, that my eating disorder falsely lead me to believe I needed punishment for; it could be simple things like forgetting a student’s name, getting an A- on a test, or putting my clothes on in the wrong order…it all ended the same way–my eating disorder.
However, now that I am actively seeking recovery, all of that has changed. I’ll be honest, my first thought upon falling to my knees in the ditch was that I would have to punish myself through restriction or purging. I have learned, though, that I do not deserve to be punished. Eating disordered behaviors only make matters worse in the long run. Restricting or purging would not make the accident go away, they wouldn’t repair the truck, and they wouldn’t make me happy. Eating disordered behaviors would NOT make me feel better; in fact, restricting and purging would make me feel worse, more chaotic, and less in control. Mistakes happen and I do not need to be punished for making one. So, what did I do? I heard my eating disordered thoughts telling me to engage in behaviors, but I picked up my self-esteem and my missing glove out of the ditch, and chose to ignore the them. That is what recovery is all about; choosing recovery over and over again. It may not be easy, but it gets easier each time I practice self-care and recovery-oriented choices. Recovery is always worth it–always.
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.