Recovery is a noun that describes a continuing process. To start eating disorder recovery is to start a journey.
To be on that journey is to be on your path to health and emotional and intellectual development. Your path leads to your true self, to your inner resources of courage, creativity, self-respect, strength, and ability to be committed and dedicated.
Recovery from bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, or compulsive eating is not just about making peace with food and developing healthy eating habits. Recovery is not just about developing or forcing yourself into living with a realistic sense of your body.
Recovery involves living a balanced life. It means feeling all you can feel and digesting your feelings so they inform and enrich your entire personhood. They don’t spill out for others to take care of. They don’t create such distress that you need to use food or drugs or sex or shopping or high drama or manipulations or dissociation to get relief.
Recovery is about being real in the real world. It is about having the ability to live, cope, adapt, work, love, and play in freedom. It means being responsible for yourself and your actions. It means respecting and honoring boundaries so you can truly take care of yourself while respecting and being in relationships with others.
It means more serenity, joy, and smiles in your life. And it means being able to eat and enjoy food in freedom.
Eating disorder recovery work involves just about every dimension of your life, and that’s a good thing. As you gradually let go of your problematic food-related behaviors (eating too much, too little, purging, exercising to make up for a binge, laxative use, etc.) you find yourself experiencing powerful and sometimes subtle physical and emotional sensations and feelings. You want them to stop, and your eating disorder behaviors are no longer an option. Your task and your challenge becomes: How do I take care of myself instead?
This is your great guiding question that leads you to your new and better life. Following where this question leads makes up the bulk of true eating disorder recovery work.
The question not only guides you along your path, it creates your path. For example, instead of compulsive eating to numb your feelings, perhaps you paint to express them, or get involved in a political movement to express them, or get into an academic program so you are more equipped to address the issues beneath your feelings—“I want to be more competent in the world,” “I want a job,” “I want a different job,” “I want to advance in my career,” “I don’t want to be an assistant, I want to be the prime mover who has an assistant,” etc. You can eat or starve over your frustration and live with an eating disorder. Or you can tolerate your frustration, name it, and equip yourself to rise above it. That’s recovery work.
Recovery is an endless journey where life continues to get better as you go.
© Copyright 2009 by Joanna Poppink, MFT, therapist in Los Angeles, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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