Monday, May 31, 2010

~Mental Health Monday Guest Blogger ~ ED and Substance Abuse Recovery

Today I am proud to be introducing Kendra from VoiceInRecovery. Yet another very inspiring woman I have met thanks to twitter where you can find her at @VoiceInRecovery. Here is her story on why she became an advocate.

I have been through a lot with my addictions, and being in recovery is my greatest blessing I have been given in life. It is through recovery, relapse, and recovery again that I have discovered my life path. My destiny so to speak. My mission in life is to help people who struggle with addictions and eating disorders and help give a voice to the diversification of these disorders. Almost 2 years ago I started advocacy and then shortly after started a Voice in Recovery and since then I have become a mentor through Mentor Connect, started blogging on eating disorders, body image, health, balance, recovery, etc. Advocacy, blogging, tweeting, volunteering, is al a “side” passion to me Your browser may not support display of this image. I think of it as round the clock, work – but ultimately the most rewarding thing in my life.

So why did I start Voice In Recovery? I started it because there were a lot of memoirs out there, there are a lot of pro-ed sites, but the voices I felt I needed and wanted to hear were those in recovery. Recovery is such a dynamic process, very different for each individual. But I didn’t seem to find those voices when I was in desperate need of help. I felt the support being given and given by myself were those struggling in their disorders and that was hard. I wanted to create a place where voices could be heard, stories could be shared, and journeys could be shown to the world. I didnt know what recovery looked like, felt like. I find many people coming to me asking about recovery – feelings the struggles are hard, that recovery includes a lot of the thought processes we had in the disorder. Am I doing enough, am I far enough on this journey, am I doing it right? I have started this journey because I believe recovery is not black and white. I believe it is hard, but hope is possible. I believe there is no right or wrong way. I believe the journey is more important than the end result. I try not to get wrapped up in the thinking that because I struggle or have a bad day – that I am not making large strides in my life. I also feel I am living an authentic life, I no longer feel torn in what I do. I have days where I question my voice – but never its honesty. I wanted to start Voice in Recovery to provide a safe place for people to share their recovery stories. To find hope, and find solace in the journey. I want to provide to others what I did not find when I went looking. If I can help just one person either find their voice, or understand that recovery is possible, and that although there are struggles – there is hope in the process.

My mission is to be a voice in recovery. To create a place where those can find and use their voice in their own recovery. This is about sharing, learning, finding support. What does recovery look like to you? What does recovery feel like? What are the struggles? What are the achievements? Lets create a place where we can talk about what recovery is. Often I am asked how long I have been in recovery, what struggles have i faced, is this normal, is this relapse, etc.

I want this to be a safe place to not only create advocacy and awareness for eating disorders in all forms, but for those to share with me and the world their personal experience with recovery.

My hope is to be a VOICE but not the voice. I am one of many. I strive to help people, but I also want us to be a community, a team, people seeking understanding, support, without judgment in the individual process.

I think there’s also a lot of media attention on those who struggle with eating disorders, and a lot of people sharing their story of their struggle, but often I wish there would be more news on recovery. I personally felt lost in recovery because I had no idea what recovery meant, what it looked like, what the experience was like, what the struggles were, etc.

This is the reason I started being an advocate – to learn and share what recovery looks like. I wish there were more books focusing on recovery, and how to handle struggles in recovery. I think if I had found a community online focused on recovery, it would have helped me immensely. This is why I love doing my Voice in Recovery advocacy, and being part of the MentorConnect program. I think AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is great because you have a sponsor, and I love how MentorConnect has this ability for those who struggle, to be able to have a mentor to share the struggles with.

I do worry about the media’s representation of eating disorders. I have seen TV shows that show ED behaviors and then never address them as serious issues. I worry that because dieting is running rampant in this country by a multi-billion dollar industry, that parents will see dieting as a girl’s “right of passage.” I worry people will start dieting and end up with eating disorders. I believe the diet industry is a very damaging, powerful industry.

I watch the media, and the news, and am grateful there is so much eating disorder awareness. I think it is a daily worry though, that clich├ęs, and misconceptions are thrown into media articles. This can make it harder for those who really struggle, and the loved ones trying to help.

I honestly hope by tweeting & blogging about body image, that I am spreading awareness of how we think of body image. I think we have to understand what body image is, how we personally view ourselves, and how we wish to change that. I also think its important to remind myself of how I view others. No one likes to make rash judgments based on appearance, but I think so many people do, and I hope by tweeting, and spreading advocacy on body image that I can get people to start to be more mindful of how they think and treat others. We do not know others stories, or struggles, and by creating awareness and hopefully getting people to really think about their own body image, they can start to see others with more compassion. I also am of course hope to help people in their own personal recovery from eating disorders, but that is a noble and large goal. I hope by tweeting my own personal struggles that I can help others know they are not alone, that they do not have to struggle alone, and that their voices are important. I hope to be a voice, but not the voice. I hope to be able to share others peoples hopes, struggles, successes, and recovery stories.

I absolutely believe recovery is possible. Recovery takes a lot of soul searching, and what helps one person may not help the next. For me, recovery has given me more than my life back. It has made me a better person. I am able to better empathize and care for people, and it has also given me the ability to care for myself and no longer see that as being selfish. I hope to give people hope that recovery, while it is a hard path, and not linear, can open a new world of possibilities in life.

I want people to know they are not alone, that there is support in the pro-recovery world. Reaching out and asking for help in recovery is a great strength. I hope by sharing my story, people see that even though I may struggle, I am still in recovery; being authentic, honest and accountable to my words and actions are my tools to keep me healthy in life and in recovery. I want people to know I struggle, and that struggles do not equal failure.

I think many people question what recovery is, what it looks like, and often wonder what “stage” in recovery they are at. I try to tell people to live in the now, be honest, process and allow yourself to feel. Feelings, while sometimes overwhelming, do not determine or control my behaviors. I am able to feel, and cry or laugh, and in the end make a healthy decision about what action I want to take in life.

In the end I want people to know that they are not alone, and do not have to go through recovery on their own. I personally hid enough within my disorder and substance abuse and decided in recovery to never hide again. I hope through my words, actions and support that I give in the social media community, I can inspire others to come out of the dark and use their voices as well.

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