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Check out the latest issue of Connections, our alumni newsletter!


Alumni Update: Affirmation through Recovery

By: EJ Dillow, Renfrew Alum

Back in March 2019, I wrote a testimonial in which I discussed how The Renfrew Center helped me develop courage and authenticity, helping me conquer my social anxiety and come into my non-binary identity. This allowed me to explore my gender more freely, but it also led me to struggle with heightened gender dysphoria. I fell back into my eating disorder and returned to treatment in January 2020. I am writing this testimonial now to say relapse is nothing to be embarrassed about. Some demons are so strong it takes many battles to defeat them. Each battle is a reaffirmation of life.

Going back to treatment another time was well worth the discomfort, hardship and inconvenience. I returned to Renfrew, knowing it was a place where I felt affirmed in my gender identity. I sometimes feel alone as a transgender person. At Renfrew, I didn’t feel alone. I knew there were people looking out for me. Because of the affirming atmosphere, I was able to focus on recovery, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Since coming out as non-binary, one of my biggest goals was to have gender affirming surgery. From day one of my 2020 round of treatment, I made it clear to my team at Renfrew this was what I wanted, needed and deserved. My team listened to that and helped me work towards it. I needed to put aside the disordered methods of controlling my body that were making it too sick to survive surgery. Only then could I care for my body in the way it needed. In July of 2020, just a month after discharging from Renfrew, I underwent the surgery I worked so hard for. I want to tell any person starting treatment at Renfrew that recovery is worth the fight. Your dreams can come true. What’s more, having those dreams and holding onto them tightly can help you through your struggle.

Now that I have had the surgery I needed, my body finally feels like home. I have never felt this free. I have never felt so much joy being me. My willingness to return to treatment is what gave me this opportunity. Now, more than ever, I know I am courageous, I am authentic, and I am resilient. I am proud of who I am. I achieved my ultimate goal of affirmation only because I repeatedly chose recovery.

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