The One Thing I Needed to Learn to Begin My Recovery from Addiction

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD, CRNP, ACRN, CPH on February 5, 2018Written by Megan Lawrence on February 5, 2018
addiction

Health and wellness touch everyone’s life differently. This is one person’s story.

“My name is Megan Lawrence, and I’m a recovering addict.”

It hasn’t always been so easy for me to say the above, and I’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to understand what I’m even having to recover from in the first place.

But when I look at the timeline of my life, I can find addiction threaded throughout most of it — most of what I can remember, that is. It was at the age of 12 when I had my first drink, 14 when I got high. And 23 when I put myself in the hospital.

I’ve just turned 26. In the short two years and five months since beginning my recovery on Aug. 10, 2015, I’ve only just begun to learn why I’ve always felt the need to run from my truth.

The biggest truth I’ve learned? What it was that my addictions were trying so hard to hide: My mental illness. This is also what one could refer to as a co-occurring disorder, or a dual diagnosis.  

Growing up as an only child, I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts. Without a sibling to talk to, I found comfort in writing in diaries. And I learned how much easier it is to keep secrets when there’s no one there to tell on you. So, I collected shame, and the older I got, the worse my situation got. Anytime I couldn’t handle an emotion, I’d suppress it, numb it, and live in denial of it having ever occurred.

Due to my inability to form healthy coping mechanisms for my pain, it would instead manifest into anxiety and depression, substance and alcohol abuse, disordered eating, love addiction, intimacy issues, and codependency.

And it would end, or almost end, with a suicide attempt.

What was so wrong with who I was that I felt the need to run away from her — with anything, or anyone, I could get my hands on? Why was I so determined to find my breaking point?

Who I was, and who I choose to be

Back in 2013, with an arrest on my record and having been freshly kicked off my university’s soccer team, I had a bit of a wake-up call and managed to quit my Adderall addiction cold turkey. But all that getting rid of the amphetamines did was allow my already prominent alcohol problem to slide right into pole position. Not to mention, it was during this point in my life when depression had taken the driver’s seat.

Whatever it was that I was trying so hard to avoid feeling would eventually demand to be felt.

In August of 2015, I attempted to end my life.

I’ve spent every single day since then accepting the parts of me I cannot change, forgiving those who may have harmed me, and learning to love the hardest parts of myself.

Looking at the course of my life, there’s now a clear distinction between who I was “Before Recovery,” and who I choose to be each day moving forward while “In Recovery.”

How I’m recovering from my past hurt

I’ve never really believed in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to dealing with addiction, mental illness, and recovery. To expect us all to fit into the same box isn’t just unrealistic, but unfair.

But I can share what has worked for me when it comes to healing my past hurt:

To recover from my eating disorder, I make sure to remain honest with myself when I recognize obsessive behavior with calorie control, overtraining, and unhealthy restrictions. I make note of when I’m eating as a way to cope with my anxiety, and I make a conscious effort to end food rituals right when I notice them happening.

To recover from my codependency, I actively remind myself that I’m able to say no when I don’t want to say yes, and that I don’t have to please someone else if it doesn’t please me as well. I give myself permission to be selfish, and I’m now able to recognize when I’m avoiding my own emotions to cater to someone else’s.

To recover from my anxiety, I pay attention to what it is that may be causing me to feel anxious in the first place. That way, I’m able to confront that issue the next time it comes around. I’m slowly learning to manage my thoughts so I feel less overwhelmed when they seem to be “out of control.”

To recover from my love addiction, I’ve had to come to terms with where my desire for reckless attention comes from, as well as learn to love myself even when I’m alone. It’s been through my recovery that I’ve learned no one can love us more than we can love ourselves.

To recover from my substance abuse, I’ve discovered numerous ways to cope with my mental illness in a healthy manner, whereas before, I would’ve reached for some kind of drug, some kind of drink, or some kind of fix that was only ever temporary.

This is how I heal, this is how I get better, and this is how I continue to recover: Through writing out my feelings to understand the emotional part of me; through talking to my therapist to battle the mentally ill parts of me; through pushing myself with exercise to see the potential of the physical side of me; through connecting with other people to tap into a spiritual piece of me.

Explaining recovery to people who will never understand having to make that choice always proves to be a challenge. But the important thing to remember is that recovery is all about figuring out what works best for you!


megan lawrence

Megan Lawrence understands that the world can feel like a lonely place, and she’s made it her goal in life to reach as many people as she can to remind them that they’re never alone. None of us are. From stumbling into her writing journey while in a dark depression to now sharing about her experience with substance/alcohol abuse, mental illness, and disordered eating, Megan is no longer someone who holds back from sharing her truth. In fact, she shares her truth with the world, in detail, over at her website, HealingHopefuls.com — a website built on the idea that sharing your story with the world can save a life, as well as your own.

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