“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

The prospect of moving from one continent to another terrified me—even though I was the one who decided to do it. In my 37 years, I have moved just under 30 times; yet each time I still feel like I regress to the emotional age of little girl. What I struggle with is impermanence—or period of transition—and it is where my greatest growth has been.

But I overcame my fear, the uncomfortable feelings around transition and not only moved but I pulled off a move to a different continent—I also started a business at the same time too. It has been both the most amount of stress I have ever experienced in my life, and the most strengthening and empowering move I made.

I decided to move to the US because, despite growing up in the UK, the US is my home country. I’ve spent my entire life feeling compelled to return one day. Last year, after paying off the $30,000 of addiction debt, the time felt right. I had no commitments, I was single, and I had realized my ability to write. The opportunity to earn from my writing lay firmly on American soil. And so I planned the move and gave myself six months to get my life in order.

I prepared to take the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken.

People called me insane. They couldn’t believe I was moving to the US without any job, home, or friends—especially in the challenging political climate. Yet, I was firm in my decision to move because I knew it was absolutely the right decision for me. There were hundreds of reasons not to do it, but if I lived there—in the fear of what could go wrong—then that isn’t a life worth living for me. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. And the desire to go, far outweighed the risk and the unhappiness I felt in my life in the UK.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t stressful. I felt those feelings of impermanence. Once I made the decision to move, I entered this place where I detached from my current existence and re-attached to the future—resulting in a very painful resistance of where I was currently at. I think one thing I suffer with, having moved involuntarily so many times, is physical attachment—to a home because it represents security to me. When I move, I lose all sense of safety and security, fear takes over, and I feel lost.

The thing about moving continent is that there is no space for fear. It is such a huge task to undertake that you simply cannot live in a place of anxiety or it will paralyze you.

I had to take this move step-by-step, doing the next right thing. I spoke to people who had relocated to the US and found out what steps I needed to take, from healthcare, to finding a place to live, and finding friends in the recovery community. Then I made a plan with a timeline so that I was able to do just the next task in front of me. That was quite possibly the hardest mindset to take because I’m the kind of person who likes to be five steps ahead—I simply did not have the mental capacity to do more than one thing at a time.

Lots of small steps, careful planning, and not engaging in fear, led to successfully moving.

I had thought that once I got here, that everything would work out quickly; I perceived the biggest hurdle to be getting into the US. I was wrong.

Adjusting to life in a new country is tough. The best advice I received is that the first year is the hardest and you will often question your motive for moving. While there have been moments of joy, there have been many difficult moments—where I cried for days, felt desperately alone, and completely lost. Some days, I wonder what on earth I’ve done. There are days when I feel so very far away from the UK—from what I know. I can feel lost—especially in the very different recovery community here; I had to transition to a new community to find my people.

I’ve found that recovery isn’t all rainbows and glittery clouds—especially this last nine months. It’s hard, its painful, and can seem too much to handle. During these times, I share my feelings on my blog and social media, and with my friends and therapist. They all remind me of my achievements since the move (and in my recovery). They underline the great bravery and courage I’ve shown. And most importantly, they thank me for being real and honest. Because they need to know as much as I do, that feeling uncomfortable and struggling in recovery is a reality. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong; it means that you are present in life. And life is hard as hell.

It has taken time, but I am finally starting to make friendships with people who get me, who are reliable, and show up for me. But that took a lot of leg work and a lot of trial and error. I had to be prepared to try new friendships and let go of one’s that weren’t meaningful. I had to repeatedly get myself out there, ask for numbers, and keep asking to meet for coffees. I received lots of rejections, but also lots of new experiences.

The same has been true with recovery—I had to try different types to see what worked. I have found a recovery home in Refuge Recovery—which has been quite literately a refuge and life-changing.

I think the main reason I coped with this huge undertaking is because I kept up my recovery connections back home and here—I talked to someone in recovery every day. I also practiced radical self-care; yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise to soothe myself—especially helpful when my friends (8 hours ahead of me) were asleep.

And I’ve hustled every day to set up a successful writing and coaching business. I am now able to make a living from my passion—that’s something not many people could say. Some have said that starting a business at the same time as moving continent was a challenge and a half—undertaking that move alone they said could tip me over the edge—but I have achieved it. While with it comes uncertainty—no paid days off, so sick pay, no healthcare—it is the most empowering thing I’ve done. I have worked in jobs that I’ve hated for years. Yet here I am in a new country and have carved out a career in a very challenging market—not many writers make a full-time salary from writing alone. I did that. And I am proud as hell—although can forget this on a down day!

While this has been the biggest challenge of my live, I was able to dig deep, summon all strength, courage, and self-belief I have to take those huge leaps of faith into the unknown. And I did it! I did it because I worked incredibly hard and had the belief in making my recovery about living a life that I dreamed of.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

a woman in a blue shirt standing in front of trees.
By – Olivia Pennelle
Writer and wellness advocate, Olivia Pennelle (Liv), is in long-term recovery. She passionately believes in a fluid and holistic approach to recovery. Read more
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