My Journey Into Recovery, Part III: A Life Worth Living

In parts one and two of my story, I shared my journey towards rock bottom, and my passage into recovery. Recovery has been a voyage of discovery. Joe McQ describes it as a process of discarding, uncovering, and letting go. He couldn’t be more right. My experience has been that I have only been faced with one issue after another. And they keep coming.

First, it was alcohol that needed discarding and I did so with the help of AA. After a thorough uncovering in step 5, my sponsor took me to an NA meeting revealing to me that I was in fact an addict.  

I then experienced great pain with smoking. I was using cigarettes in the same way as drugs; smoking one while thinking of the next one. I smoked 20-30 a day. I was sick with it. When I’d had enough pain, I got help and I discarded smoking.

Last, was food. My nemesis. Food was my first drug of choice. I recall using food to change how I felt when I was less than ten years old. My whole life followed a cycle of starvation, binging, purging, and desperately low self-esteem. I had always attached my self-worth to a number on the scale. I was never thin enough. I was, therefore, unattractive. I told myself that I would never have a relationship until I was slim.

At three years clean, I was faced with a 150 pounds of excess weight, and using food in the same hurtful way as drugs, nicotine and alcohol. The addictive pattern remained the same: I fantasized about escaping with food, planned what I would buy, and went through the ritual of purchasing it and rushing home to binge and isolate. It was swiftly followed by acute self-loathing and promises of never doing it again. Yet it happened again, and again.

Having reached a place of awareness, and pain, I did what I know best: I reached out and asked for help. I found a health coach and I began to learn about my disordered relationship with food. This was costly. But I invested in coaching for a year, and then I became a health coach myself. Because I am passionate about health and wellness in recovery being accessible to all, I will share with you what I learned over the coming weeks and months.

Having reached a place of awareness, and pain, I did what I know best: I reached out and asked for help.

In short, this is what changed:

  1. Awareness. I uncovered a complete awareness of my physical situation. I weighed myself, spoke honestly about my eating, lifestyle and exercise habits and I faced those facts.
  2. Education. I learned about what good nutrition and a healthy relationship with food looks like.
  3. Mindfulness. With awareness and knowledge, I could eat more mindfully, and decipher exactly when I was eating for hunger, and when I was eating for emotional hunger. I was then able to soothe myself with other mindful activities, such as yoga, meditation, walking or talking.
  4. Exercise. I was encouraged to start walking 10,000 steps immediately. I was challenged to take up a 5k race challenge. I felt inspired to buy a bike and use it as a mode of transport. I discovered that I was physically built for strength, and found a love for lifting weights. Before I knew it, I had incorporated activity into my everyday life.
  5. Fun. What I uncovered was a distinct lack of fun in my life. My life consisted of work, and recovery. There were no fun activities, I had yet to discover my interests. I ventured out into the world and discovered a love of blogging, writing, creative expression with food, photography, art, hikes in the countryside.

In working through these areas, I let go my unhealthy relationship with food. By developing a sense of self, through my interests and taking charge of my health, I rebuilt my self-confidence and esteem. Food became less important. The scales tipped from seeking escapism with food, toward choosing a life worth living. It isn’t perfect, but it is a journey that I take every day. I am still aiming to discard another 50 pounds, uncover new passions and let go of old habits.

The scales tipped from seeking escapism with food, toward choosing a life worth living. It isn’t perfect, but it is a journey that I take every day.

Olivia Pennelle

Olivia Pennelle is a writer, blogger, nutrition and recovery advocate, and is in long-term recovery. Liv passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Her popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen is a resource for the journey toward health and wellness in recovery. For Liv, the kitchen represents the heart of the home: to eat, share, and love. You will find Liv featured amongst top recovery bloggers and published on websites such as: The Fix, Sanford House, Winward Way & Casa Capri, Intervene, Workit Health, SaplingAddiction Unscripted and Transformation is Real.