I’m about to go on vacation to my old stomping ground of Nashville, Tennessee. It will be a time to share with my wife and son, visit with old friends, make music with my old band, eat good food, peruse old haunts, and stroll down amnesia lane. It will be a time of joy and adventure.
Not long ago, I wouldn’t afford myself this opportunity. It’s not that I don’t enjoy vacations or spending time with family and friends. It’s that I was so terribly out of balance in my life, even while in recovery from my eating disorder. Once I started my private practice and it grew to be a group practice, I became terrified of letting go of the reins fearing a missed call, untimely email response, or lapsed supervision of staff would doom the whole operation. All my hard work would go down in flames … in a week. Sure, I knew the thought was irrational, but I couldn’t enjoy time away due to that nagging belief I was being less than responsible. Anxiety won out most every time.
Last year at this time, I took my first real trip away from work and drove to Myrtle Beach with my family. When I came back, there were a few hundred emails (at least 50% spam), stacks of mail (mostly spam), several voice messages (no emergencies), and plenty to do to catch up (paperwork paperwork paperwork). It was my first attempt at having fun and letting others do their job covering for me. I had to trust my staff, and that meant I had to trust myself to have hired good people to start with.
All in all, it was a good vacation (though 11 hours on the road back home was a bit taxing). The takeaway is how I felt after the vacation. Instead of stressing out the whole time, I consciously worked on being present for the Ferris wheel ride, the walk on the boardwalk, the draft beer, the great piece of fish right from the ocean, a lazy river ride, hot tub soak, and banter with the southern-fried waitresses who served us all week at our favorite breakfast joint across from the hotel. The other takeaway is my fears were unrealized – all was status quo at work.
We all work hard. Maybe you’re in recovery or working on it, helping a loved one work on theirs, and still trying to hold it all together for work, school, family, and friends. But hard work requires recuperation time. No matter what, you can’t forget that when we’re most at ease in our lives is when we’re able to play, and seek out joy and adventure. It’s the last piece of the recovery puzzle, for me at least. Time to sign off. I’ve got some bags to pack.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 443-602-6515 or email email@example.com.