When I was with Ed free time was non-existent. I spent all of my days listening to him and doing as he said. Ed didn’t allow me to have free time. It was all about him and doing what he said in order to get and achieve what he promised. It wasn’t until I went into Walden that the concept of free time was introduced to me. We had free time in between groups, on the weekends and on passes. When I first came up against free time I became very anxious and scared. I was not allowed to use behaviors so this free time had to be spent doing something else. I asked myself, if I don’t have Ed with me and part of me, then what do I have, who am I and what do I do with all this free time? I had no idea what Cheryl liked, who Cheryl was or what Cheryl wanted to do because the whole time I was doing what Ed said but I knew that had to change; I wanted it to change.
To help me learn and figure out what to do with all this free time I was gaining, I asked for support. I brainstormed with friends, family and my treatment team to come up with various activities that I could do to fill my time and more importantly, to see if “I” enjoyed them….all without Ed. On my list were various things such as going to the movies, taking a bath, going bowling, going to a pottery place, calling a friend on the phone, going for a short walk in nature and then sitting by the pond journaling, allowing myself to just sit and watch 2 hours of TV, think about a place I’d like to volunteer, make an affirmations/quote booklet, going for a manicure and going to the book store to buy a new book and then read it. All of these things seemed so scary and impossible to even think about doing, especially since some of it required me being social and going out with friends, but I knew deep down it needed to happen in order for me to get comfortable in my own skin and learn healthy things to do rather than listen to Ed. After my list was formed, I committed to do at least one of these things each week and journal about it before and after to get a sense of my thoughts and feelings around it and the experience I had. I also brought my thoughts and feelings to my therapist and talked about it there.
It was not easy to figure out what I liked and what to do with my new found “Cheryl time” but as my recovery got stronger, I became more self-aware of what “I” wanted to do and took risks to try it, despite what Ed told me. I had to find myself and gain control back. Today, I treasure “free time….aka Cheryl time” and build it into my day for balance. Life is about balance. Balance of work, play, family, friends and self. Free time gained during your recovery is a gift. A gift to explore, unwrap and become excited to see what you will find. You will find YOU and what YOU like to do and what makes YOU feel whole. It’s one of the precious gifts recovery gives. How will you use your free time today?