By Amy M. Klimek, MA, LCPC, Director of Program Development, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
For as simple as the word recovery seems, the actual definition in real terms is not. This is because eating disorder recovery is as individual as the person striving to achieve it. There are no absolute rules, no manual, no specific steps to follow; what works for one woman may not work for another.
But that is the incredible beauty of the process – everyone finds their own path, their own way to a meaningful life. And here is what we know definitively: recovery is possible for every single person who has, or is, struggling with an eating disorder.
Identifying Your Own Individual Truths
Certainly abstaining from eating disorder behaviors must be part of the new journey, but the rest is up to the individual. Each person needs to identify her new truth, her new reality apart from the previous reality, which was the eating disorder.
This is a huge exploration and takes a certain amount of time and effort; it can be as daunting as it is exciting. It necessitates a person viewing herself anew with such questions as:
- What is my new connection to myself?
- What are the messages I want to tell myself on a daily basis?
- What are my values?
- Am I living up to them?
For example, a woman may say a core value of hers is trust. Now, the question might be: am I a trustworthy person? In the past, she might not have been; perhaps she lied about food-related issues. But now, if the answer is “yes” then she is living her values. This is an exceptionally important step. Living our values creates peace in our souls and pride in our hearts.
Being Present In the Moment
A wonderful component of recovery is the ability, willingness and capacity for a person to be present — present in the moment and with herself. Addiction to anything translates into escape – an individual is trying to get away from pain, memories, or who she perceives herself to be “right now.”
Living a life of surrender, forgiveness and honesty means there is no need to escape.
Recovery is building community, interacting with people, creating new relationships, working the 12 steps. More than anything, recovery is a state of mind, which ultimately becomes a whole new way of living. In the beginning, it may require a certain amount of thought and structure. Yet, in time, it becomes a way of life; in time, it just becomes living.