Yesterday morning, I walked in the door of the residential treatment center that I stayed at not once but twice. Two times I walked through those doors for the first time, packed bags in hands, facing a twelve-week stay that would inevitably pack the pounds on me and change my life.
It’s an old Victorian house just outside of Boston, with a white wraparound porch, narrow stairways and a chandelier in the entryway. Nestled in the middle of a normal neighborhood, it’s impossible to tell the building isn’t a normal house, save for the numerous cars in the driveway and on the street.
The two times I entered residential treatment, I started in March. Something about the end of winter, maybe, with the promise of spring and rebirth just on the horizon? The two times I appeared before those doors before, there was snow on the ground, and the air was crisp and thin, made even colder by the lack of padding on my bones. The two times I left, there was green everywhere, and bright colors peeking their way out of once hard soil.
New growth. Not flowers in full bloom, of course, but something more than frozen earth.
This week there were Christmas ornaments in the yard and a tree in the foyer. Even though the temperatures hovered in the mid-fifties and I walked up the front walk without a coat, even though everything was different, things still felt familiar.
I’m probably supposed to be disturbed by this, that it didn’t freak me out to be back there, that I wasn’t immediately traumatized by memories of how I was when I was at my sickest.
I can’t be disturbed by a place that changed my life, though. I can’t recoil at the sight of a home that gave me my self back, a place where I spent six months struggling and angsting, crying and healing.
I remember curling up on the couch on the second-floor landing, reading a book and wishing I was anywhere but there. I remember getting in trouble with my case manager because my friend took me out on a pass to the Museum of Science and she thought it had been “too much activity.” I remember Sunday nights making meal plans and our little mail cubbies. I remember girls freaking out and locked bathroom doors.
I remember playing games while we ate and making place mats. Crocheting and Friendship. Movie nights and The Bachelor and support.
It wasn’t all bad. Treatment wasn’t a hell hole and it wasn’t a nightmare. At least not for me.
For me, treatment was a relief. It was a chance to let others make the decisions for me while I rested the parts of me that needed it. I emerged from treatment a different person.
I wasn’t cured, of course. Ten more years of “almost recovery” were ahead of me. I was different, though. That house was a pair of jumper cables for me, though, revving my engine up so I could start moving forward in life again. So I could eventually speed up enough to merge into the traffic that had been passing me by.
When I walked through that door yesterday, I was recovered. I had baggage, but no suitcase in hand. I had an appointment and met with the director. It’s under new management now, so the people are different, but the place is still the same. We walked into the same room where I had learned about nutrition and done self-esteem exercises. We walked the same hallway I had inched down on my way to the scale.
Then we scheduled a day for me to return as a recovery speaker, to talk to the clients there about my journey, to give them hope that this place, this building, this temporary home, could really, truly change their lives.
Then I shook her hand, went to the bathroom without a staff member hovering outside the door, and drove home. Yesterday night, I decorated the Christmas tree with my family.