Active Recovery: Trenda's Story

Reviewed Mar 31, 2016

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Summary

Trenda shares her personal story of recovery.

As a young teen, I made my first try at suicide. It wasn’t long after that first try that I began using drugs and alcohol to try to cope. Years of child abuse and neglect had taken its toll on me and I needed an escape. Drugs and alcohol seemed to give me just that. They also gave me a life on the streets. They placed me in risky situations. They exposed me to sexual promiscuity and finally sexual assault. I quickly found a variety of drugs that “helped” me cope. I know now that I wasn’t really coping. I was escaping. These unhealthy coping skills would stay with me for the next 25 years. I was stuck in a cycle of drug use that was causing my illness to worsen. I had no idea how to calm myself down or how to lift myself up without using drugs. And I surely had no idea how to know what was triggering these up and down feelings.

Recovery through hope

Identifying triggers and developing coping skills has not been easy for me over the years. My recovery journey has been life-long. There have been many relapses. There have been major setbacks. Even so, being here today proves that there has also been a lot of progress. Recovery is a process. It is not linear, but rather a series of steps. Some forward, some backward, and some that must be taken in a different way. It is actually taking those steps that enables recovery to come about. What is it that urges me to take those steps? It is hope.

Many people have asked me how one gets hold of hope. The answer to that differs for each of us. My answer centers on finding meaning and purpose in life. Today for me, hope comes from my faith. It also comes from my work. To be able to use my own life’s story to help empower and support others gives me a meaning and purpose here on earth. There is nothing more gratifying to me than speaking with peers who are struggling and hearing that sigh of relief. It means that somebody truly understands how they feel.

Taking an active role in recovery

I am a firm believer in personal responsibility and taking an active role in your own recovery. When I was at my worst, I had the idea that somebody else was going to fix me. I did nothing and nothing changed. It was only when I decided that I wanted to get better that I began to start recovering. I made the choice to stop being a bystander and to start taking part in recovery. Before this, others would tell me what I needed to do to be well. It excluded the one person who truly knew what I needed for wellness—me! 

Before, I viewed myself as a victim. A victim of child abuse. A victim of sexual assault. A victim of poverty. A victim of homelessness. A victim of divorce. A victim of crime. It seemed that I had been a victim of so many things for so long that I could only think of myself that way. For me, recovery was realizing that I no longer needed to live with the false belief that I could not bear all that pain. I had already bore that pain. I needed to realize that I was past that pain. I was a survivor!

One of my favorite quotes comes from Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” The key to living out this quote is to look at my illness as an opportunity. Had I not been given a mental illness, I would not have the chance to share this story. It is because of the trials and suffering in my past that I am empowered to spread the message of recovery. Personal life experience gives a level of empathy and understanding that cannot be reached through a book that teaches about mental illness.

You can expect recovery, take personal responsibility, and find your meaning and purpose. You will find your own hope once you decide to take that first step.

By Trenda Hedges, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Trenda shares her personal story of recovery.

As a young teen, I made my first try at suicide. It wasn’t long after that first try that I began using drugs and alcohol to try to cope. Years of child abuse and neglect had taken its toll on me and I needed an escape. Drugs and alcohol seemed to give me just that. They also gave me a life on the streets. They placed me in risky situations. They exposed me to sexual promiscuity and finally sexual assault. I quickly found a variety of drugs that “helped” me cope. I know now that I wasn’t really coping. I was escaping. These unhealthy coping skills would stay with me for the next 25 years. I was stuck in a cycle of drug use that was causing my illness to worsen. I had no idea how to calm myself down or how to lift myself up without using drugs. And I surely had no idea how to know what was triggering these up and down feelings.

Recovery through hope

Identifying triggers and developing coping skills has not been easy for me over the years. My recovery journey has been life-long. There have been many relapses. There have been major setbacks. Even so, being here today proves that there has also been a lot of progress. Recovery is a process. It is not linear, but rather a series of steps. Some forward, some backward, and some that must be taken in a different way. It is actually taking those steps that enables recovery to come about. What is it that urges me to take those steps? It is hope.

Many people have asked me how one gets hold of hope. The answer to that differs for each of us. My answer centers on finding meaning and purpose in life. Today for me, hope comes from my faith. It also comes from my work. To be able to use my own life’s story to help empower and support others gives me a meaning and purpose here on earth. There is nothing more gratifying to me than speaking with peers who are struggling and hearing that sigh of relief. It means that somebody truly understands how they feel.

Taking an active role in recovery

I am a firm believer in personal responsibility and taking an active role in your own recovery. When I was at my worst, I had the idea that somebody else was going to fix me. I did nothing and nothing changed. It was only when I decided that I wanted to get better that I began to start recovering. I made the choice to stop being a bystander and to start taking part in recovery. Before this, others would tell me what I needed to do to be well. It excluded the one person who truly knew what I needed for wellness—me! 

Before, I viewed myself as a victim. A victim of child abuse. A victim of sexual assault. A victim of poverty. A victim of homelessness. A victim of divorce. A victim of crime. It seemed that I had been a victim of so many things for so long that I could only think of myself that way. For me, recovery was realizing that I no longer needed to live with the false belief that I could not bear all that pain. I had already bore that pain. I needed to realize that I was past that pain. I was a survivor!

One of my favorite quotes comes from Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” The key to living out this quote is to look at my illness as an opportunity. Had I not been given a mental illness, I would not have the chance to share this story. It is because of the trials and suffering in my past that I am empowered to spread the message of recovery. Personal life experience gives a level of empathy and understanding that cannot be reached through a book that teaches about mental illness.

You can expect recovery, take personal responsibility, and find your meaning and purpose. You will find your own hope once you decide to take that first step.

By Trenda Hedges, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Trenda shares her personal story of recovery.

As a young teen, I made my first try at suicide. It wasn’t long after that first try that I began using drugs and alcohol to try to cope. Years of child abuse and neglect had taken its toll on me and I needed an escape. Drugs and alcohol seemed to give me just that. They also gave me a life on the streets. They placed me in risky situations. They exposed me to sexual promiscuity and finally sexual assault. I quickly found a variety of drugs that “helped” me cope. I know now that I wasn’t really coping. I was escaping. These unhealthy coping skills would stay with me for the next 25 years. I was stuck in a cycle of drug use that was causing my illness to worsen. I had no idea how to calm myself down or how to lift myself up without using drugs. And I surely had no idea how to know what was triggering these up and down feelings.

Recovery through hope

Identifying triggers and developing coping skills has not been easy for me over the years. My recovery journey has been life-long. There have been many relapses. There have been major setbacks. Even so, being here today proves that there has also been a lot of progress. Recovery is a process. It is not linear, but rather a series of steps. Some forward, some backward, and some that must be taken in a different way. It is actually taking those steps that enables recovery to come about. What is it that urges me to take those steps? It is hope.

Many people have asked me how one gets hold of hope. The answer to that differs for each of us. My answer centers on finding meaning and purpose in life. Today for me, hope comes from my faith. It also comes from my work. To be able to use my own life’s story to help empower and support others gives me a meaning and purpose here on earth. There is nothing more gratifying to me than speaking with peers who are struggling and hearing that sigh of relief. It means that somebody truly understands how they feel.

Taking an active role in recovery

I am a firm believer in personal responsibility and taking an active role in your own recovery. When I was at my worst, I had the idea that somebody else was going to fix me. I did nothing and nothing changed. It was only when I decided that I wanted to get better that I began to start recovering. I made the choice to stop being a bystander and to start taking part in recovery. Before this, others would tell me what I needed to do to be well. It excluded the one person who truly knew what I needed for wellness—me! 

Before, I viewed myself as a victim. A victim of child abuse. A victim of sexual assault. A victim of poverty. A victim of homelessness. A victim of divorce. A victim of crime. It seemed that I had been a victim of so many things for so long that I could only think of myself that way. For me, recovery was realizing that I no longer needed to live with the false belief that I could not bear all that pain. I had already bore that pain. I needed to realize that I was past that pain. I was a survivor!

One of my favorite quotes comes from Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” The key to living out this quote is to look at my illness as an opportunity. Had I not been given a mental illness, I would not have the chance to share this story. It is because of the trials and suffering in my past that I am empowered to spread the message of recovery. Personal life experience gives a level of empathy and understanding that cannot be reached through a book that teaches about mental illness.

You can expect recovery, take personal responsibility, and find your meaning and purpose. You will find your own hope once you decide to take that first step.

By Trenda Hedges, Recovery Team Manager, Beacon Health Options

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