(a chapter from Telling Ed No! by Cheryl Kerrigan©)
After going out to lunch on that first day in residential treatment, we were told to bring paper and a pen to our support group meeting. We were instructed to write a letter to ourselves about the positive aspects of recovery, where we were at that moment, and what we wanted. We were to put it in a self-addressed envelope and seal it up. The interesting part about this exercise was that the staff intended to mail our letters back to us six months later. I thought that was a cool twist.
I sat in the corner of the couch, staring out the window at the tree across the street and wondering what to write. I wanted to be poignant and honest. The room was quiet, and we had all strategically placed ourselves around the room for privacy.
I took a deep breath and began. I wrote about what I had accomplished so far, what I wanted from life, and affirmations that spoke to me. I wrote with passion and honesty. I didn’t hold back. When I was finished, I sealed the envelope and passed it to Holly, the counselor leading this exercise.
I didn’t think about that letter again until the day it arrived in my mailbox.
It was a Saturday, and I was having a particularly hard day. Holiday and work stresses dominated. Ed was annoying me, although I tried to ignore him. I flipped through the pile of mail and noticed an envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting. I was confused, but started to remember when I opened it and began to read:
I am sitting in the living room of residential and it’s Thursday, my first full day here. I was overwhelmed when I got here yesterday and was crying and scared. I settled in and am making myself feel at home. It was a bit challenging to make dinner and breakfast for myself, but it worked out nicely. Today we went to the restaurant for lunch and I ordered what I wanted, not what Ed wanted. It was hard to do, but I did order a buffalo chicken wrap. It was good. I ate fries, too. I had a great lunch.
I’m here at resie trying to get my life back. Learning how to fit food and feelings into my day, to be strong, and to be “normal.” I want to be free of Ed’s control. I want to win this battle like never before. I am building a strong foundation here with this phase of treatment and recovery. Real life is next and I want to be a part of it.
I am really learning how to live my life without the eating disorder. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning to when I shut them at night, it is a challenge to keep things real, to learn, and to feel—and most important, to eat. Despite the guilt I have for leaving my family and work again, this treatment will show me how great life is. I want to enjoy my family, my friends, my work—my life. I do not want Ed to take any of that away again. I want to rise up and be free. I just wish there was a magic pill because it is very hard to overcome, but I believe and trust my treatment team. I want to be one of their patients who has recovered. I really do love life and want to be a part of it. I want to experience all the good and bad with feelings—to feel it rather than be numb to it. I want the gift of life for myself. Stay strong and always believe!
Getting that letter was the boost I needed that day. It reminded me of what I was working toward and what I wanted to leave behind. It inspired me to be strong and confident. It arrived at exactly the right time.
Sit in a quiet place and write a positive letter to yourself. Include thoughts about where you are, where you want to go, and what you want. Seal it, stamp it, and give it to someone you trust to mail after a specified amount of time. When you receive it, you may be surprised by how much it helps. I am sure it will arrive exactly when it should.
With health, hope and strength,