Recovery Epiphany

By Jamie Nordby

I attended my first Recovery Night back in July of 2011. The speaker? Dirk Miller. Dirk’s sister? Emily, of the Emily Program (maybe you’ve heard of it).

I had been in treatment for a little over a month at this point, and was growing more and more frustrated with every day that passed. We would wake up, eat, process, eat, use the restroom together, eat, process, you get the gist. I didn’t seek out this Recovery Night, rather, I was told I would be attending with my mother and another girl from treatment; it was “recommended” that we all attend.

I wasn’t paying much attention to anything Dirk was saying, as I didn’t think any of it pertained to me. He spoke mostly of his struggle with alcoholism and overeating, and I forget the rest. Towards the end, I had had enough and just wanted to go to bed. I stood up to leave, and immediately stopped in my tracks.

You can’t force recovery. To fully commit, you need to experience your epiphany.

That statement changed my life.

I continued my program every day from that point on, waiting for myself to have an epiphany. But, just like you can’t force recovery, you can’t force yourself to have an epiphany and magically want to get better. I was growing sick and tired of working every day towards something I could no longer fathom.

On my 18th birthday (August 18th, 2011), I made the decision to postpone college and took a medical discharge from UMD to focus on my health; and even that couldn’t spark an epiphany inside of me.

On September 1st, I got a text message (we weren’t allowed to have our phones out during meals but #yolo). I received three different messages from friends that had moved in to the dorms that day, wanting to catch up and scope out the campus. The problem was, I wasn’t in a dorm; I was in the same bright windowless room I had spent my entire summer, staring at a piece of pizza, silently begging it not to destroy me.

Is this what my life is going to be like? All of friends growing up and graduating college and getting jobs and getting married? And I’ll just be here in this room, trying to eat a slice of pizza?

That was it; the epiphany.

It’s slightly less climactic than you think it’s going to be, but roughly seven weeks later, I celebrated my final day in treatment. I realized I didn’t want to spend my life staring at food and begging it not to hurt me. I didn’t want to be escorted to a bathroom, or have to ask my parents for permission to use a kitchen knife.

I wanted to be free and, for the first time, I wanted to be healthy.

Looking back, the spark was always there.
I got up every morning and went to my therapy appointments, ate my meals, and checked-in with my doctors. Even when it was rough and I thought of giving up, a tiny part of me always came back and faced the music.

If you’re in treatment, or thinking about seeking help, know that it’s going to be difficult.

But if in this moment, you have a spark,
even if that spark is so small you’re not even sure it exists,
Hold on to it.
Because that spark is going to save your life.

I celebrated my six years out of treatment this past October, four days before my wedding. That’s right, I ended up not only being “one of those friends” that got married, I was the FIRST friend to get married. And though the days leading up to the wedding were stressful, I surrounded myself with coping skills I learned in treatment (i.e. colored so many Trolls coloring books I think my husband thought about calling it all off), staying in contact with those on my recovery team, and being open about my struggles. That spark remained lit throughout the entire stressful week and, when it was all over, that spark and I ate the dang wedding cake (I think my husband was there too).