You know that moment when symptoms creep up and it feels like they will win and then you give in and decide you’ve ruined everything so you might as well continue? You know that tiny voice inside that whispers how easy symptoms are? How much comfort they would bring? Those moments? They are normal. They are part of recovery. Those moments can grow shorter, and less frequent. Until one day, you hear the voice, you have those urges, and you are able to use your skills and find a different way to comfort and soothe yourself in times of distress or difficult emotions. And you may have another slip. And that’s what it is: a slip.
This week, Andrea shares her thoughts around how hard it can be to commit to recovery. She uses the analogy of a dance. I love the image of myself dancing with my Eating Disorder, my Recovery-Self taking the lead while ED steps on my feet. Sometimes ED makes me trip over their feet. Sometimes over my own. Sometimes I fall. The getting up is the work. Getting up and dancing again. Until one day, I find myself dancing alone.
Take care of yourself, and remember to nourish your body, mind, and spirit.
A Wavering Commitment
Recovery, it has been said, is more like a dance than a walk forward. There are some steps to the front, some to the back, and some to the side. In my recovery I’ve found the accuracy of this analogy to be incredibly comforting. Being able to anticipate the slip ups and set backs, as well as tolerate the lateral moves and shifts in the recovery process has really helped me to work through a wavering commitment to walking away from my eating disorder for good. Going into it, I knew that recovery wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses, or by any means easy. I think I was surprised to find that it wasn’t all doom and gloom either. While I haven’t always felt as driven towards recovery, I’ve always returned to the fold, have decided to give it another go whenever I’ve slipped up. I often ask myself what keeps me coming back to my goal of living a life free of eating disorder symptoms. It’s the snippets of freedom I began to feel, after time, seeing the changes that CBT and DBT have made to my life. Placing great faith in the process, despite a fear of the unknown, was a turning point for me in my recovery. Faith is the cornerstone of a wavering commitment; it’s what keeps you coming back to the journey. And that faith is developed over time. Recovery is learning to trust yourself, it’s about learning who you are, what you feel, and what you need. It’s allowing yourself to have needs, and to take up space.
Sometimes my own commitment to recovery wavered so far that I gave myself permission to be symptomatic, even well after I left treatment. Usually my symptoms return to me in times of emotional difficulty, or when I am under a lot of stress. That familiar voice will creep up on me and I see myself lured into the comforting patterns of behaviour that carried me through a challenging past, patterns that ultimately betrayed me. I learned to see slip ups as separate from relapsing, and not to let my slip ups define my recovery process. I refused to interpret them as failures or as a deviation from the recovery path; my slip ups were cobblestones in the unruly path before me. Maybe even baby boulders. I took comfort in knowing that I was exactly where I needed to be, positioned to learn a valuable lesson about myself. Fostering a curiosity about myself and about my recovery allowed my commitment to my recovery to grow exponentially into a counterforce, and to become what-feels-like permanently anchored within me. While the eating disorder voice is still with me, there’s another voice who speaks just as loudly, who reminds me that the scenarios proposed by the eating disorder voice are not actually options for me to explore. Not anymore. Slowly, I am replacing my symptoms with self-soothing behaviours that work for me. These too have taken time to develop.
What I wish most of all to leave you with, dear reader, is that it’s perfectly normal to have a wavering commitment to the recovery process, to not always be sure that the juice is worth the squeeze. What I can promise is that it absolutely is, that recovery is possible, and that wherever you are on your path today, in this very moment, you are where you need to be. You are positioned to learn a valuable lesson about yourself. Your story is interesting and noteworthy. It’s not always easy to push through to the other side, but at least there’s a happy ending in sight.