My Recovery Story
by Fran Goldstein SAMHSA Recovery to Practice E News October 26, 2012
Growing up in New Orleans, I thought I was happy in my early high school days. I was active, made friends, and did well in school. When I entered my junior year, however, I started to withdraw. I slowly fell into a depression, which deepened as the years passed and by college was severe and incapacitating. I quit school and moved into my parents’ home, sleeping all day and crying all night.
Finally, I was allowed to see a psychoanalyst, but it didn’t help. I checked into the hospital for treatment until my insurance ran out. After months of barely surviving, my new insurance kicked in and I was admitted for long-term hospitalization. Two years later, I was discharged and started outpatient care with a new therapist. She was very nurturing and I was able to begin rebuilding my life. However, I still had bouts of depression and trouble managing my emotions.
I developed new symptoms, which evolved into an eating disorder, significant weight loss, and another hospitalization. After a few months, my therapist arranged for me to participate in a 6-month treatment program at the National Institutes of Health for people with eating disorders. In exchange for strict behavior-modification treatment, I gave blood and spinal fluid samples (used for research) and participated in medication testing. I was able to regain some weight, but my depression worsened. I returned to New Orleans and started seeing a new psychiatrist.
Back home I was unable to manage my health and emotions. I lost the weight I had regained and was hospitalized once more. When I couldn’t put the weight back on, my doctors began to lose hope. Finally, I started working with a new psychiatrist who focused on the emotional problem behind the weight loss. The previously prescribed medications had not helped me, but my new psychiatrist was very knowledgeable about medication and newer drugs. He helped me get on track and I started to have a better life. Still, it would be some time before I could maintain meaningful relationships, manage my eating, hold a job, or feel real satisfaction with my life overall.
Then, at a local performance of a friend’s band, I noticed a familiar face. She introduced herself and I remembered her from a support group I had attended years before. As we chatted, she told me about a group called Recovery International (Recovery, Inc. at the time). She invited me to come to a meeting.
I hesitated at first because of the difficult experiences I’d had in other groups, where people groaned and complained for the duration. However, the woman at the concert said the Recovery International group was very upbeat. So I decided to check it out.
At the first meeting, I was a bit uncomfortable with phrases like “striving to be average,” until I learned the meaning of recovery. I genuinely liked the people in the group and found a lot of sense in what we read and discussed. I loved the optimistic feeling and practical tools we learned, like how to rely on simplicity instead of complexity. I saw a lot of value in continuing with the group and knew I could greatly benefit from the lessons and practices. I haven’t missed a single meeting.
Four years later, I am the assistant leader of my support group and co-leader of a Recovery International area. I am also a part-time counselor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and have resumed a relationship with my first love from high school. I’ve even started to gain some weight. Most important, I value my ability to manage my feelings, think positively, identify solutions, and help guide others-all of which I’ve learned by working with Recovery International and my support group.
The practical tools offered by Dr. Low and Recovery International helped me take the reins of my life into my own hands. I finally laced together all I’d learned in previous therapy. Recovery teachings lessened my heavy dependence on therapists-today I stand on my own two feet. I am able to acknowledge my efforts and recognize my successes and limitations. I can be average, and I can make and forgive mistakes. I believe my involvement with Recovery International has helped me get to this point.