Career girl Susan had been flying high in her chosen line of work, climbing the ladder at an impressive pace and reaching rungs rarely attained by someone of her age. She came to volunteer for a month at New Life and ended up joining the resident program for two months, confronting some hard truths along the way and ending up on a very unexpected path.
What prompted the change from volunteer to resident?
I switched to being resident within a few days of being here because I just saw the program that was on offer and, more than anything, it was just really affordable and I kind of thought, why not? The 360 degree nature of the program – looking at addiction and with emotional counselling and with the personality stuff on the Enneagram – seemed like really good value for money.
When you became a resident, was there anything that came up that you weren’t aware of?
Pretty much everything I ended up working through in the resident program surprised me. The resident program taught me a lot about myself – a huge amount about myself. I thought I was very self-aware before I came here but then I saw I actually was very kind of tunnel-visioned in how I saw myself. I had been in very strong denial about an eating disorder that I’d had for a long time and it was a particularly big shock to me that the way I was around food actually wasn’t okay and wasn’t normal and I wouldn’t accept it for anyone else so why would I accept it for myself. After crying solidly for about 48 hours, I realised that this was a good thing that I knew this was an eating disorder and that it was a form of addiction and I was able to start having counselling for that probably about three, four weeks into my time on the resident program so I’ve had four, five weeks solid looking at that, which has been hugely helpful.
Now that wasn’t the only big change that’s happened in your life since you’ve been here – you actually quit your job. What was that like and how did it come about?
I did quit my job. So yeah, it came about because the job that I’d been doing – although I loved it – something had been going haywire in my life and I had been ill for a while and although the job wasn’t the cause of that, it wasn’t helping me get better. It was a bit like [what] lots of people [go through], it was a stressful job and I think I’d known a while ago that I needed to quit, but coming out here and having the space and time allowed me to realise it – and so I quit. It felt amazing, and so now I’ve got no plans for the immediate future, which also feels amazing.
Is that something of a departure for you from normal reality, not having goals or immediate plans? How does that really feel, other than amazing?
No, there is nothing else actually to describe it. It is a complete departure from my usual way of being. I’m very organised, I’m very planned and a very deliberate kind of person – I know where I’m going, I know how I want to get there, I know the milestones along the way and I know how long it’s going to take me to get there and right now I don’t know where I’m going to be in two weeks time let alone six months time.
So it just feels like a very new way of kind of being and almost like a new way of approaching things that I’m trying on. It is very – yeah just really amazing, really, to have the time and freedom to try it.
You’ve been a resident for two months and you are now leaving. How did you know it was the right time for you to leave?
When I arrived the life coaches and I worked out a kind of estimated time plan. I’ve been flexible about that time and they’ve been flexible about it too, which has been really useful on both sides. I think there’s really no way of knowing [that], “Yes I’m fixed and now I can go back”, but for me two months felt like a good time to really look at things on a deeper level then go back out into the world feeling much more confident and ready to face life, basically.
What’s been the most challenging thing for you here?
Admitting I have an addiction. I’ve known about the 12 Steps for a long time, everybody has, right? Everyone has heard of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and it didn’t ever cross my mind in a million years that I would ever be someone that has an addiction and now I’m here, I can see it as plain as the nose on my face.
What will you be taking with you from here? How’s your life going to change in the way that you approach it?
The person I am leaving as now is completely, completely different to the person who arrived two months ago. I feel that I’ve been given a huge amount of information about myself and a wide variety of tools through which to understand that information and be able to handle things back out in the real world so that I don’t keep making the same mistakes I was making before.
On top of that, actually, there’s been a real shift inside me – the way I view things, the understanding that I have of the world around me. My values, my attitudes and my beliefs have all fundamentally shifted so much for the better – with very carefully constructed life coaching to kind of get me to that point. So, for me, New Life has really opened up a sense of deep relaxation and well being and personal accomplishment that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else.
NB: Interviews and testimonials on our blog have only been edited for length and grammatical accuracy. Name used is a pseudonym.