When I first started my surfing class at the beginning of this semester I was blown away by how similar it was to recovery.
I began to get to know the beach and each week became more familiar with the ever changing tides, how the bottom of the ocean affected the way the waves broke that week. Usually there's a dip in the floor of the ocean that is close to shore that creates a spot for the waves to break – perfect place to catch a wave right? So so wrong. This is where surfing relates to recovery. I paddle out and then a wave curls itself over me sending me into somersaults under water. In those moments all I am doing is trying to stop twirling and make my way up to the surface so I can gasp some air into my lungs.
I find my board and go at it again, only to be clobbered by waves over and over again. This is what Ed feels like. It feels hopeless. He makes you feel like you can't move anywhere and you will never be able to breathe for more than just a few moments, so why do you keep trying to recover? But FINALLY, you get past where the sets of waves are breaking and you get to a calm place where you can sit for a moment, regain some strength until you feel strong enough to go at it again. Often times, you go straight back to being clobbered by waves, but soon, something happens and you catch a wave and you find yourself STANDING UP!!! This is like the moment in recovery where you finally find some freedom. Where you have a moment of defeating Ed and glimpse a moment of life. Yes, you'll have to keep fighting the waves. Yes, you'll have to keep practicing standing up on your surfboard – but soon, you'll be standing on your surfboard all the time!
Like I said, when I first started my surf class, I saw how similar to recovery it was. However, last week I realized how my surfing is totally mirroring my recovery right now. Last week we had some good waves and I got up a few times at the beginning of the class, but then I began to struggle and couldn't get up again. I stood near the shore with the waves lapping against my shins holding my board on top of my head trying to analyze what I was doing wrong. Maybe I was trying to take too many waves and I needed to be more patient and wait for the right one. Maybe I was just getting tired and needed a break. I went back out again only to keep falling off my board every time I tried. I finally went up to my teacher, Allain, and asked him what I could do to improve when he imparted his surfer wisdom upon me. "I saw you get up so I know you can do it, so I started trying to figure out what you were doing wrong. You need to go with the waves. You're trying to go a different direction and you have to let go and be one with the waves."
Needless to say, I didn't really catch many more waves that day, but Allain's comment hit me later that night. It means many things to me. I have this vision of what recovery and recovered is "supposed" to look like, yet I don't have my own definition. I know there are still things from my eating disorder that I won't let go of and surrender to. I take on entirely too much and forget to take care of myself. But most of all, I feel like deep down inside I'm fighting against listening to my heart because it scares me to listen to it. And in that way I'm fighting the waves, because going with the waves and listening to my heart will lead me in the natural direction I'm meant to go to.
So maybe my next surf class I can practice not fighting against the waves and as I do that I can practice listening to my heart.
– Meg Burton