Who am I?
My name is Regan. I am looking forward to sharing with you each month, my recovery journey. I’m an…I mean, fill in the blank. I’m an addict, and an alcoholic, and an anorexic. I could list a few more—codependent comes to mind—but I generally stick to those three because they are the strongest reminders of what I don’t want to go back to. I don’t know why I’m one of the many, many people who experience addiction in their lives. Call it nature, call it nurture, call it bad luck, call it a blessing in disguise, I don’t care. I do know I used to live in the dark, silent, desolate, desperate world that is addiction.
Because of recovery, I live in what feels like an entirely new world. I live now as a person in long term recovery from addiction, as a writer, poet, director/producer, artist, speaker, teacher, nomad, cat-mom and recovery advocate (to name a few).
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows—although, admittedly, if I see a rainbow now, I swear it’s brighter than I remember. And yes, now I live out in the open, in the light, rather than a world of shadows. That’s recovery. It’s connection, plugging into life and feeling a sense of belonging. Community, kinship, people to look up to, giving and receiving, caring for each other. Holding out my hand to somebody who needs a lift up, or to someone who simply doesn’t want to stand alone in the world.
These words are my offering of a hand. You know that scene in every action movie where one person lifts a hand in desperation and someone reaches what looks like an impossible distance to pull them from danger?
It’s cheesy, I know, but that is exactly what recovery is to me. Three years ago, I threw my hands up in surrender. I didn’t know there were people ready and willing to pull me to safety. I was exhausted, broken, and defeated. I was sick of getting high, ashamed of blacking out, and completely enslaved by a fear of food that I’d had as long as I could remember.
Since, well, forever, I’d felt like something was very, very wrong. Life hurt more than it seemed like it should. I lived in terror, yet when I looked around everything seemed fine—on the outside. Even on the inside of my family, things looked shiny. Until they didn’t. It took years before things started to look as bad as they had always felt inside me. So until then, I thought the problem was inside me. Doctor after doctor looked inside me for the problem. I had pain so they gave me painkillers. I hated eating, but there was no pill to fix that; nobody knew what to do so we did nothing. And I had nothing to do but retreat deeper inside the dark, silent, desolate, desperate place inside me where the disease of addiction hides.
I used to hide, in every way, every part of me. Somebody wise once told me that anorexia is quite literally an attempt to make yourself invisible. That was my life. Three years ago, the idea of what I’m doing right now—writing this and genuinely hoping people read it—would have been paralyzingly frightening. It’s still frightening today, I’ll be honest, but there’s something about recovery that makes me lift my chin up, even when I’m scared, and look people in the eye. (Well, sometimes I look at my computer and then my words look people in the eye, but close enough.) The point I’m trying to make, and that I always feel I can’t say as well as it deserves, is that life in recovery is incredibly and infinitely better than life in addiction. Even when it sucks, it’s better. Even when everything goes pitch black again, the memory of the light pulls me forward.
A friend in treatment said something that has stuck with me: that the universe hands us a cord—full of power, ready to give us life-sustaining energy, laying right there in our hand—but we have to plug it in.
And then it clicks.
Something inside me clicked when I took my seat in a circle of addicts a couple days after I got to (my second) treatment. I felt like that seat was my place in the world that I had always longed for. My own little lifeboat in the shape of a chair. It’s taken three years of recovery for me to feel like I was in more than a lifeboat, like I’m doing more than fighting to survive, but the memory of that moment when I sat down and plugged in keeps me going. That, and the many, many people who took my hand and led me—dragged me when necessary—forward, into the light.
People who breathed life back into me. People who showed me what integrity meant, and bravery, wellness, kindness, authenticity, success in every sense of the word. I was so accustomed to the picture of success they show you, and the “normal” rules that were supposed to get you there: be a good girl, get good grades, don’t cry, don’t quit, get a degree (psych, you need two!), get a job, get a man, have a skinny body and a pretty face. Today, success to me means going to sleep at night sober and fed. A good day means feeling like I was given this life to do something meaningful. A great day means I get to tell somebody I love them and know I’m actually alive enough to feel it.
Sometimes I can’t believe I get to have this life—sometimes I can’t believe I stayed alive long enough to get the chance—and I can’t believe I was asked to write about it for this community. I am honored for my words to be here. I am honored to recover alongside others, others who came before, who walk beside, and who have yet to follow. We recover together, and we recover in the light. And if writing about it keeps the cord plugged in and the light turned on, then I’ll write about it as long as I can.
Regan Spencer is a writer, filmmaker, recovery advocate, and person in long term recovery. She currently resides a town called Hope (and yes, she loves the metaphor) in Idaho, USA, where she is preparing to take her life and her recovery on the road in a converted van. Obsessed with wildflowers, roads that curve, and smiling at strangers, she is always looking for the next adventure and another good story. Regan would love to share her journey with everyone who’s interested at www.ReganSpencer.com or @ReganSpencerWriter on Instagram, and she welcomes anyone with a desire to reach out to continue the conversation with an email to ReganSpencerWriter@gmail.com. The primary purpose of her work is to help engage and connect people because, despite her stubbornness, life has convinced her we can’t recover alone.