Open Sky alumni student Izii T. recently reached out to share her story with the greater Open Sky Community. Izii began a journey of self-love at Open Sky and has been pursuing big dreams since graduating the program in 2014. She hopes her update can encourage and inspire other Open Sky alumni and others thinking about embarking on a path of healing at Open Sky.
I flew out across the ocean from the UK to Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, straight from one rehab to the next. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, but I was trembling with fear as I drove with two guides further and further away from all civilization. Away from all temptation and distraction, I knew in that moment there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Buried in the midst of nature, I was going to have to face myself and my demons. My world had become so small, it was a flirtation with death all day every day; from anorexia to self-harm, to alcohol and drugs. Anything to escape the world, the hurt, the hate, to not be me, to disappear. Anything to not be alive. It was such a twisted relationship; the abuser I could not leave was entrenched in my own mind. But it was my normality, and it was all I thought I deserved.
I felt so small and vulnerable, my mask I had worn for so long to protect myself, my darkest most crippling secrets, thoughts and feelings were laid down. Never once was I faced with judgment. I was shown love, understanding, empathy and kindness day in and day out by every staff member and every student.
Those four months were tremendously challenging but at the same time filled with such beauty. The power of endurance. Thunder, hail, snow, throbbing heat. The earth renewed, and the sun rose each day and so did we. The feeling of being able to stand strong on this great earth we have, finding the strength of our naturally available bodies carrying us through each day. I gained an incredible beginning of a relationship with myself and learned to let others in and trust. My soul was nurtured, I slowly began to feel life seeping its way in. There are so many profound memories. One of which brings me great joy was finding my passion for singing again. It was one of my tasks to write a song most days. Each night we would sit around the fire and I would share what I had written. One evening after a long day of hiking we climbed up to a little cave in the side of the canyon. I sung my song to the rest of the group, they all joined in. The sky was filled with colour, the sun cascading its final rays, the only sound was our voices echoing. Peace and harmony rippled through my bones. I was not alone.
Since 2014, from a world so small and encapsulated by darkness, I have fallen in love with living and see the bigger picture. I do not hide away in a world of self-destruction or try to shrink myself into nothingness. I have learned to be kind and gentle to myself. That I am courageous, brave and resilient. I see a bold girl that made her way. I have taken the time to do a lot of healing, the memories that haunted me have been put to bed. I learned to forgive others but mostly myself. Letting go of the past hurt and worries of tomorrow and live for today. I am alive, not just merely surviving, but truly thriving. I am experiencing this extraordinary life, with all its quirks, rough edges and array of colour, in its most raw form. I am clean and sober for two years, and not relying on any false high and escape addiction gave me. All that I have gained cannot be measured by a number on a scale. My value is no longer determined by my appearance and I am nourishing my body. I have found dignity and respect for myself. I am a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a girlfriend, a friend, who is loved and loves so dearly. The mask is gone, I no longer deny who I am. I was so ashamed of myself, not one inch I was proud of, but I am proud of where I have come from, who I am now, and who I am to come.
Graduating from London Southbank University with a First-Class Honours in Addiction Psychology, I now work at The Priory Hospital as a Health Care Assistant where I was once an inpatient, alongside doing a Master’s at King’s College London in Addiction Studies. I am aiming to do a PhD to become a Clinical Psychologist specializing in Addiction and Eating Disorders. I hope my experience can benefit others and give even just one person a flicker of hope.
I love myself enough that I never want to go back to that way of life. The chaos I lived with no longer incites me. It took me a little while to get to this point. It was not just a straight road to recovery. But Open Sky planted that seed and ignited the fire. A burning desire to fight for me. To blossom into life. I was taught so much at Open Sky it’s hard for words to do the experience justice. I am grateful I don’t wake up dreading the day ahead.
I am grateful that everyone kept fighting for me when I didn’t
I am grateful for the treatment centres I went to
I am grateful my body survived the years of destruction I put it through.
I am grateful addiction did not kill me.
I am grateful my suicide attempts did not work.
I am grateful for being surrounded by fantastic people.
I am grateful for laughter and smiles that are real.
I am grateful for recovery.
I am grateful for my existence and to be excited for the future, what a joy that is.
The mountains of memories and lessons Open Sky filled me with I shall never forget. Each and every member of the team profoundly impacted me. The pure dedication and passion that shone out of them have so much healing power. For telling me not what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear, I am endlessly grateful.