I’m often asked what the most important thing in my recovery journey has been. What has been paramount in finding real life without my eating disorder, alcoholism and other addictions?
Several years ago, I was never quite sure how to answer that. There have been so many crucial moments: honesty, using my voice and connection to others to name a few. The more I continue living life, I understand that willingness really undergirds all those things.
I have come to believe that willingness really is the foundation in any recovery journey
. None of the other crucial things needed in my recovery would have happened if I had not been willing. As I tenuously stumbled forward several years ago looking for help, I had to be willing to consider that the eating disorder, which I had clung to for over 25 years, was not living up to what it promised. I had to be willing to look at things with a different mindset, to take in what my treatment team was showing me and to consider that I did indeed deserve to live, and live well.
During those early days of recovery, I had to ask myself every day what my level of willingness was. Would I be willing to see weight restoration as an act of refeeding my brain and stay with the very uncomfortable feelings? Would I be willing to open my heart and start to painfully unpack the years of shame and fear? Would I be willing to let people in and hold my hand as waves upon waves of grief swept over me? Please don’t hear me saying that my willingness was always intact and grew every day. No, my willingness ebbed and flowed, but willingness was something that I had to consider every single day.
The lesson I’ve learned is that even today, 11+ years on this journey, living a life worth living still has willingness as a strong foundation. Am I willing to reach out for help when I need to? Will I stay willing to not let fear and anxiety have the final say in my life and keep me from pursuing my dreams?
What keeps me from being as willing some days? When shame and fear show up in a big way, I fall into trying to define my worth by things I used to. I close myself off to seeing things with an open mind and heart. I go into a more self-protective mode which never lends itself to being willing to what could be. I’ve discovered in my life that pride is the flip side of the “coin” that has shame on the other side. Shame and pride seem to work very closely together to choke off my willingness. When shame and pride show up for me, I’ve learned to pay attention and check out what’s going on inside of me.
What shores up my willingness to live life wholly and be fully present? When I am centered on my values…what is of utmost importance to me…I can remember why I want to be willing to stay healthy and well. When I can dream of possibilities of what life can be, I have hope which fuels my willingness. When I remind myself of how life was before I was willing to walk away from my eating disorder, I remember living as a shell of who I am now.
I’m not willing to go back to that. My willingness to live today in recovery is fueled by realizing how much my life has been enriched by the things that have come to me, the deep relationships I now have, and the peace and contentment my heart now has. I never had any of this when I was in my eating disorder and alcoholism.
Willingness truly has been the foundation of my lasting recovery and being able to now live the life I want to live. If you are struggling in your journey today, perhaps you may find it helpful to ask yourself the question I asked myself every morning in those early days: “What do I need to be willing to do in order to give myself the best chance in my recovery today?” It was a hard question to ask myself, but it’s a question that really did make a difference for me.
Kelli lives in Parker, CO, is married with two children, and loves hiking, backpacking, music, and spending time with friends.
She is a member of the Recovery Ambassador Council at Eating Recovery Center, and has a passion to share with others that living a whole, fulfilling life in recovery is possible.
To read more of how Kelli's faith impacts her own eating disorder recovery check out Redemptive Recovery at Kellievans.com