Forging my New Path: How Peer Mentoring Helped on my Recovery Journey

Freedom

by Kathryn Reeves, EDNS Peer Mentor 

When I started recovery, I thought I had to do it alone and that I didn’t deserve help. I thought I was ‘bad’ at recovery, that this is the way I would live my life and that maybe it was time to give up.

“Maybe it isn’t that bad…maybe others have it worse,” I told myself.

I know today, as I maintain my recovery, that not all thoughts are facts. As soon as I started reaching out I discovered the help, hope and possibility I needed.

I found help in the third psychologist who worked with me and in the walk-in clinic when my own doctor wasn’t there. I hope in books, in song lyrics, in flowers, kittens, and in Instagram (but only the posts of flowers and kittens and quotes!).

I found hope, help and possibility with Eating Disorders Nova Scotia and most importantly, I found it all in myself.

I started my recovery journey on the west coast in college. Although I was surrounded by people, I was completely isolated. I had never met a person who had recovered and even through clinical treatment I was still lonely, scared, and not sure what recovery even was.

The smallest step in the right direction can end up changing your whole life.

After I graduated and moved to the east coast, I felt stuck. I had done the work in treatment and suddenly was on my own before I was ready. The clinic Halifax had an extensive wait list so I was left seeking help on my own.

I emailed EDNS late at night. I was desperate for anything that would remotely feel like help.

I was astonished when I received a reply the next morning. They matched me up with a peer mentor who I started working within less than a week. It was like magic.

Suddenly I had someone in my corner who not only believed in recovery, and who had recovered, but who believed in my recovery. I could tell my mentor “this is really hard…” and they understood.

I reached out to my mentor when it felt dark or when I started to understand the light and needed to celebrate. I brainstormed ideas with my mentor about how to make my recovery mine and she would remind me that sometimes our medical system can fail us, but that doesn’t make us the failure.

With the help of my peer mentor, I approached recovery through multiple facets: a clinical treatment team (once I was off the waitlist), energy healing, life coaching, chakra work, meditation, and integration of real-life. I devised my own treatment plan using the things that worked for me.

I used my peer mentor after I left treatment and as I learned how to maintain recovery. One of the hardest parts of recovery (I think) is the aftermath. The ‘now what!?’. I had the tools to survive, I knew how to use them, so why was there days where it was still so hard? This was when my peer mentor was the most valuable.

My mentor reminded me that recovery is not linear and that no amount of struggle erases the work you’ve already done.

A few years later I decided that I wanted to do for others what my mentor did for me. I wanted to provide hope, an ear while drinking a coffee and challenging a snack. Help empower others as they design their recovery.

I studied coaching, motivational interviewing, and neuroscience of motivation and became a life coach. I became an EDNS peer mentor shortly after as I learned the tools to support a mentee, facilitate a group and the EDNS online peer support chat.

Being a peer mentor is the next step of my recovery journey. It reminds me daily of how far I’ve come and how many tools I have. It forges meaning from the path.

Every contact I make with my mentees and the participants of the groups leave me feeling a renewed sense of inspiration (and a boatload of pride) as I watch them forge their own recovery.

It reminds me that sometimes the smallest step in the right direction can end up changing your whole life, and sometimes all it takes is 20 seconds of intense courage.

About Kathryn: Kathryn is a coffee addict, yoga loving, theatre artist based in Halifax. She has trained and worked as an actor across the country, as well as being a director and playwright. Kathryn wrote about her journey through recovery towards self love in her first play ‘Carpe Noctem’. Looking to merge her creative world with her desire to offer support Kathryn went back to school and studied the art and science of coaching, and now works as a professional life coach—specializing in creativity, motivation, building routines, and recovery. Kathryn is so grateful to be able to work as a peer mentor with EDNS, and to have the chance to help others in their recovery journey. You can follow Kathryn at Actualized Life and Creativity Coaching on Facebook!

EDAW
Eating disorders are serious, complex mental illnesses that can impact anyone. With support and treatment, full recovery is possible.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week is a nationally recognized week designed to raise awareness of eating disorders. In Canada, it is held February 1-7, 2019