Gaining eating disorder abstinence happens ‘One day at a Time.’
For the person in recovery a day turns into a week, a week into a month and eventually this person is celebrating a year of eating disorder recovery and abstinence. In the world of 12 Step Recovery, birthdays are milestones that are celebrations of freedom. Appropriately a great deal of honor is put into birthday celebrations. Many recovery fellowships ask that an individual share ‘How they did it?’ ‘How they were able to get to their birthday this year.’
This past week was my own eating disorder recovery birthday. By the grace of God, this year I am celebrating 3 years of recovery! Yesssssssssssss! Happy Birthday to me! I never thought I would be able to say I have 3 years, but alas I am here! I was thinking maybe some of you think you could never get 3 years of eating disorder recovery either. Therefore, I think some of you might enjoy hearing ‘How I did it” ….
Currently, I sponsor 3 women in eating disorder recovery; they range from the ages of 23 to 65. The youngest, Brittany, called me on her birthday this year at 6 am (ON HER OWN BIRTHDAY) to thank me for being her sponsor. She went on to go into detail about how much my recovery means to her and how thankful she is for me in her life. I was overwhelmed and as I listened to her voicemail I was visually able to see the domino effect that had happened in both of our lives. Ya see I’m not naturally a ‘Great Person’ who mentors women out of their eating disorders. When left to my own devices I can be quite selfish. I had to be taught how to be a great person. I was taught by a very amazing woman named Cathy who is my own sponsor.
It gives me chills realizing that if Cathy didn’t have someone teach her how to get recovery, she never would have taught me and I never would have taught Brittany and Brittany currently sponsors other women. It blows me away thinking about how each and every one of us matter more than we can truly comprehend.
Cathy not only taught me the 12 Steps, she taught me that I had value as a human being. She invited me to go hiking with her friends, we got coffee and walked her dog and when I had to distant myself from my family on holidays she was there for me, ready to go for a walk and just ‘be’ with me. As kind and loving as Cathy was she also taught me that I wasn’t allowed to pull any BS with her. When I binged at four frozen yogurt stores in a row she laid into me loud and clear and said, “That isn’t acceptable. You don’t just head out and wreak havoc on yourself and others. You make a phone call and reach out for help.” I needed a Sponsor who wouldn’t let me push them around. Someone who would call out my weaknesses and encourage me to continually work on them. Cathy is not only a Sponsor to me, she is what I call a ‘Fairy God Mother’ someone who guides me through life with wisdom and love.
However, I never could have received Cathy’s wisdom and love had I not chosen to SURRENDER my eating disorder to God. To me the word, ‘surrender’ is a big and intimidating. It is defined as To yield something to the possession or power of another.
It took over a year of me going to meetings, losing my abstinence, falling on my face, picking myself up again, losing jobs, almost losing my car and trying to control the uncontrollable food and body image…. I finally surrendered my disease to God. I was driving down Pacific Coast Highway, with the sun setting behind me I was thinking about how painful the binge was that I experienced the night before, how long I had tried to control this thing, what a mess my life had become and how much I hated myself. I realized that my great ideas on how to stay skinny and abstinent really sucked. I realized that I was in so much pain that I really didn’t care anymore if being abstinent meant I got fat, was homeless and had no friends. I just wanted out of the evil eating disorder. That was June 8, 2008.
That was three years ago and I can tell you that that was the most difficult, painful decision I have ever made in my life. I have probably cried more tears in the past three years than I have in my entire life, most likely because I wasn’t numbing my feelings with starvation or food. In the past three years I have worked on my relationships, boundaries and making amends to those I have hurt while in my eating disorder. It has been a humbling and painful process and I would confidently do it again because I have been given 10 times more from my recovery than I ever imagined. I have amazing friends that I truly love and adore, fun, creative jobs that use my talents and challenge me and I have a faith in God and myself that I never knew was possible.
One of the things that helped me to initially get recovery in those difficult first few months was a verse that I kept up on the mirror in my room. I read it every morning and repeated it to myself throughout the day:
“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
This verse helped me to remember that my thoughts are choices and what I BELIEVE is a choice as well. I could easily believe that I am a doomed anorexic, bulimic, compulsive overeater and will die this way, or I could believe that the little voice within me (that I call God) was guiding me and showing me where to go and that voice would not harm me. I’m glad I believed that little voice because three years later I am happier and healthier than I have ever been in my entire life and I have many kind hearted people and God to thank for that. Happy Recovery Birthday to me and I hope to one day say, “Happy Recovery Birthday to YOU!”