Homeless to Healthy- A Testament to Recovery

4 Sep

     I took a big gulp of the rapidly-chilling air and braced myself to make it through another night as the temperature, even though it was October, was plunging. Though the city lights obscured my view, a glance upward told me the sky looked darker tonight than the days before, an ominous omen of impending rain. Standing on the filthy, trash-littered sidewalk, I fought to keep myself standing in the howling, bitter wind. To my left stood a green, metal CapMetro trashcan overflowing with the odors of the day’s excesses- greasy fried chicken wrappers, dirty diapers, and bottles with the sludge of stale beer. Behind me, against the dark building wall, a bearded, straggly-looking homeless man sat, rummaging through his dirty pack for more cigarettes. And down the street came the rowdy men, fresh from the sixth street bars, with blood alcohol levels to rival their cockiness. “Isn’t this one a sweet, little thing? Wonder how she’d taste…,” one slurred as he reached through his intoxicated haze out towards me. I shrank back before he could touch me, taking refuge within the radius of the homeless man’s suffocating stench and silently praying the bus would arrive soon. There I stood, my frail set of bones and my vulnerable heart protected from the cold by only my thin, green Target sweater and the sadness, suffering, and loneliness that enveloped me me.

Almost a year ago, this was my reality. Homeless. Because of my eating disorder.

This description is real- it was one of the lowest points I had with my eating disorder. When my treatment team and mom decided to create an “intervention” for me, I was given the ultimatum that I was going to fly to an eating disorder treatment center in California immediately or be kicked out of the house. Because of a variety of factors, especially my previous history at an inpatient facility in Florida, I chose the latter and gambled with my life on the streets of downtown Austin. As a young female, I put myself in grave danger wandering the streets at night and riding the bus system when I could to escape the danger of nightfall and find shelter from the cold. Although I sought safety from some of the local homeless shelters like the Salvation Army, they turned me away after I waited in line for hours everyday, telling me there simply weren’t enough beds. So I managed the best I could, sleeping on midnight bus runs and in parking garages, where the smell of engine oil coated my nightmares.

Although the experienced changed me, it still wasn’t enough motivation for me to recover. The series of heart-wrenching days ended when I wound up in the emergency room from digestive and electrolyte complications and my mom agreed to take me home. But for months after, the fear of returning to the streets was not enough to keep me from starving, bingeing, and purging my pain away.

It took so much more misery before I was at rock bottom and decided to fully recover. But the dejection, hurt, and fear stayed with me long after I slept once again in the comfort behind my apartment walls. For months, it was emotionally excruciating to drive past the street corners where I walked alone and desperately grappled for my life, in more ways than one. I grew up in Austin and went to school downtown, but, though their pain has lessened today, the only memories I relive are the ones from when I was starving on the streets.

I write about this now because the anxiety and depression from the event has loosened its steely grip on me enough that I am no longer suffocating, but learning to breathe again as I cruise down Austin’s potholed avenues. The once raw and open wound has scabbed over enough. And I think I’m at a point in recovery when I can look back and examine the pain of the past without sinking into it.

And most of all, I have come so far in the past year. In stark contrast to the dark description above, my days are filled with joy as I attend classes, practice yoga, tutor struggling students, play with my dog, meet up with friends, and write this blog to inspire others who might just be at their lowest point with no hope to spare. In place of struggling, I am now recovering. My experience is a testament to the power of hope. I turned my life around. Now it’s your turn.

You can overcome, no matter why you are desperate.

You can find new direction, no matter how lost you are.

You can recover, no matter how far you may be.

If you are in pain, let me offer you hope:

Recovery is possible. Believe it.

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7 Responses to “Homeless to Healthy- A Testament to Recovery”

  1. Scarlett September 5, 2011 at 9:42 AM #

    This post is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    Although I’ve never been homeless, I’ve put myself in equally dangerous and stupid situations because of my ED. It can be so easy to lose hope when we find ourselves at rock bottom (or falling below what we thought WAS rock bottom)–it’s wonderful to hear a message of hope from someone who has climbed out of the hole eating disorders throw us into.

    Take care and keep fighting!

    • eodwyer September 5, 2011 at 9:54 AM #

      Yes, when I look back now, I can hardly believe that this wasn’t my rock bottom- that the ED was able to pull me even further down. Being homeless was far from my worst moment. I’m so glad you got some hope from the post and I hope that you are finding your way out of your own “hole.” ED’s cause so much suffering and I know that at the part of my life I’ve recalled here, I wish I could have believed in recovery.

      I took a look at your blog and will continue to read it. You give such a raw and honest viewpoint on EDs that is refreshing. Hope you continue reading mine!

  2. servetheworld September 6, 2011 at 6:36 PM #

    Sometime it takes us hitting rock bottom to realize there is hope. My mom told me once I hit rock bottom, it was new, it was a fresh start and the best news was, it was only up from here! I am taking joy step by step and each day finding more and more to be grateful for… life and hope being the two are the forefront. You are a beautiful writer and I encourage you to keep being a light to others. Your words have made me feel as though you are sometimes in my head, haha! That’s a gift! Keep encouraging others and I wish you the best on your way to recovery, THERE IS HOPE (I am actually getting this tattooed on my foot so that I never forget!)

    Love and blessings,
    Chloe`

    • eodwyer September 6, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

      Hey girl!
      I tried to take a look at your blog, but wordpress says it no longer exists. I’ll have to check again soon. I’m so glad you are finding your footing and joy again… sometimes that is so hard, to take that first step! Similar wishes to you-best on your road to recovery and let me know how the tattoo works out! Thanks for reading!

      Erin

      • servetheworld September 7, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

        haha that one is REEEEEALLY outdated! I now use slipperyleaves.blogspot.com if you ever want to stop by 🙂

  3. menia September 29, 2011 at 12:06 PM #

    what a beautiful post. Thanks you so much for sharing your experiences and your stories. Sometimes we can’t believe that the downfall will stop and that we ‘ll be able to find what we are looking for. Even i don’t know you, i’m very proud of you. 🙂

    • eodwyer September 30, 2011 at 8:01 AM #

      Thanks so much! It’s true, isn’t it? We never do believe that it life can go up, so we stay on the same path and continue going down. Sometimes it takes believing in yourself to make change!

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