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Alumni Reflection: Recovery is a Process

November 05, 2018


This spring of 2018, Arts in the Garden gave me the perfect excuse to drive to Atlanta for the weekend. It was wonderful to see my amazing staff again, as well as several fellow clients with whom I shared my journey of two months at Skyland Trail. That is when my recovery from depression began.

Recovery is frightening.

I had been so desperate. A perfect storm of menopause, job loss and a toxic relationship caused a major depressive episode with extraordinary anxiety, and I went spiraling down until I hit bottom in January 2014. Something had to change, and Skyland changed it. I arrived in Atlanta in the midst of its worst ice storm in history, with my cold hands shoved in my pockets and my head hanging. I had no idea what I was doing there. I was terrified.

Recover is confounding.

Within the first two days, clients and staff had me standing up straight and interacting, even smiling, talking, and eating again. How could I have missed this kind of miracle in my life? Why didn’t I find it sooner? What would it take to make it work, to make it last?

Recovery can be so rewarding.

The groups began to challenge my tormented brain. Individual therapy validated and comforted me as I struggled to make sense of each day. EVERY staff person knew my name, and little did I know that they kept in very close contact with one another to track EVERY client’s progress. The Skyland magic began to weave in and out of my consciousness. I learned to meditate; I played piano again, did yoga, went on expeditions, and challenged myself to go to Starbucks on my own. You have no idea what a huge thing that was for someone who was too scared to shower without someone in the bathroom with me.

Recovery means learning.

I gained tools I had never before had at Skyland Trail. The friendships I made were like any others: some for a reason, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I absorbed and I shared. I cried, and I smiled. I hugged and I was held. When I graduated, Jeff accompanied me on guitar as I sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the perfect expression of gratitude to those on whom I counted to help me on that precious path to recovery.

Recovery is a lifelong commitment.

I’ve regained my life. I live on my own for the first time ever, accounting to no one but my dogs  I’m active in 12 Step Programs which support and sustain me, regularly attend Mass, work part time in mental health, and have developed my own podcast and Facebook LIVEcast. I have begun again to thrive, not survive. 

Nothing is perfect. Mornings are still hard, and it takes until midday until I feel like myself. I know what to do, though: distress tolerance learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy carries me through the hard times. And that’s the point. Get through the hard times, and relish the good ones. 

Envision your own success, won’t you? Reach out and start your new life, today. Rejoin the world. Do you believe your life can never be better, your future can never be brighter? Think again, my friend. Look at me.

Recovery IS Skyland Trail.