Why Partial Recovery Isn’t an Option

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As I sip my morning coffee & snuggle up under my comforter I can’t help but thank God for all that he has done in my life this past year.

A year ago today, I was significantly malnourished.

I was fragile.

I was weak.

I was trapped, enslaved by the eating disorder voice in my head.

I didn’t know how to take care of myself.

My anxiety kept me on edge 24/7.

I was drowning in depression.

My body was shutting down.

I felt helpless and hopeless.

I was locked into an abusive relationship with my eating disorder.

My eating disorder, or “ED”, as some may call it, dictated what I could and couldn’t do each day.

If I weighed more than I thought I should, ED told me that I couldn’t eat dessert that day. He encouraged me to go to the gym. He yelled at me to run faster even when I was too tired to keep going. He told me to restrict food. He told me to deprive my body. He told me that I would be in control if I followed his commands.

If I weighed less than I thought I should, ED gave me a little grace. He allowed me to eat a sandwich rather than a salad. He told me that I could have extra fruit. He even let up on the intensity of the exercises I did that day. However, just when I thought I was doing good, he would snap right back at me and condemn me for something that I did or ate that day. There was no way to please him.

ED didn’t just use the scale to manipulate me. He also used comparison and the comments of other people to convince me to neglect my body.

“So-and-so didn’t eat breakfast and they are skinnier than you……you need to start skipping breakfast.”

“If you were actually disciplined you would be able to run a lot longer. You’re lazy because you don’t get up early every morning to train.”

“You’re jeans are getting too tight…..don’t give them away. You need to do whatever you can to fit into them again. Use them as your motivation. You should never wear more than a size ________.”

These are just some of the many, many things that come into my head on a daily basis. A year ago, I would have listened to the “ED” voice in my head. I would have quietly agreed, & obeyed what he said in order to ease my anxiety and get through the day. The difference between a year ago & today is that today, the power and influence that these  words have over me is growing weaker and weaker.

I no longer obey ED when he tells me to restrict food. I eat 3 meals a day with snacks, + dessert if I want it. I exercise when it enhances my day, not when it makes it worse. I say no when I need to say no. I do what I need to do to stay healthy.  I listen to my body. I have given away clothes that don’t fit. The scale isn’t in my life. More often than not, I choose the sandwich over the salad.

When ED tries to lure me back in, I simply tell him that I am too busy to be tied down by his destructive ways. I can’t afford to skip lunch if I am going to enjoy an afternoon with my friends or family. I refuse to exercise when I know it is just going to hurt me. I understand that ED’s promises are empty. He wants to destroy me. He doesn’t have my best interests in mind. He isn’t my friend. I love my life too much to go back to him.

In April of last year, I met diagnostic criteria for anorexia. Many people have asked me about what stage I am in recovery, or at what point I am at on the road to healing. This question is nearly impossible to answer, because healing is not linear. One day you can feel on top of the world, & forget that you have an eating disorder all together, with the next morning slipping back into the same old habits.  At this point in recovery, I tell others that I am recovered from anorexia, however, that I am not fully recovered from my eating disorder. I am in a very good place, progressing every day, & resting the urge to run to ED when life gets more difficult or stressful.

However, ED doesn’t give up without a fight. He tries to convince me to come back to him. He tells me that I am basically recovered, and that I no longer need the support of my treatment team, family, or friends. He tries to convince me that restricting food won’t hurt me if I only do it a few times a week. He encourages me to exercise more than I need to. He criticizes my body & diet, never holding back his opinion about what I wear or what I eat. He wants me to believe the lie that partial recovery is okay. That it’s okay to live life by simply maintaining my recovery & managing my relationship with him rather than completely cutting it off. He want’s me to stay.

The thing is, we can’t experience true freedom with partial recovery. We’re still out of control. ED still runs our lives whether we realize it or not. Imagine if we sat in at an AA group & the group therapist told us each member that as long as they could just decrease the amount of alcohol that they consumed that they would be able to manage their addiction throughout their lives. This is horrible advice. It wouldn’t work. The addiction is too strong, & it’s too simple to not use it as a cooping mechanism when life is too much to handle. I know for me personally, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to get sober if I knew that I would never truly be set free. Why would anyone settle for anything less than sobriety? Why anyone settle for anything less than full recovery?

In many ways, eating disorder recovery can be similar to this. Making the conscious effort to disobey ED do what you know is right for your mind, body, & soul is what is going to set us free. Little by little, day by day. This doesn’t mean that it has to be perfect. It will never be perfect. What is does mean, is staying committed to recovery even when it’s the last thing you want to do.

Even after we slip up.

Even after we relapse.

Even when we have a difficult day at school.

Even when we are stressed with work and school.

Even when we are uncomfortable in our bodies.

Recovery can’t be put on the back burner. Treatment appointments can’t be missed. Unhealthy behaviors can’t be justified. We have to make the conscious choice each day to choose recovery so that we can attain complete freedom.

We are going to have to fight the battle against ED more than once to attain complete victory; he won’t go down without a fight.

Every meal, every bite, every mindful decision, every step forward, every time we disobey ED he becomes weaker and weaker. The battle is ours to win, we just can’t give up the fight.

Right now, in this moment, I want to invite you to choose recovery with me today. It doesn’t matter what happened last week, last night, or 20 minutes ago. You have permission to start fresh right now, & to do the next right thing. True recovery is hope for a future, beauty produced from ashes, and life without limits. It’s trusting the process, and having faith in what we cannot yet see. It’s believing that we are worth the fight, & not stopping until we have complete victory.

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