Early Eating Disorder Recovery: A Tough Boulder to Budge
Let’s face it. Early recovery from an eating disorder is hard. It can be daunting.
Imagine trying to get a giant boulder to roll. That is what early recovery felt like to me.
Finding our momentum
Several years ago, when I started my journey, there were days when I was uncertain if I could go on. Early recovery felt similar to trying to overcome inertia. I was overwhelmed by that giant boulder in front of me (recovery). I was unsure of how to get it rolling. I finally realized that it would start moving if I would just show up every day — willing to place my hands on the boulder.
In early recovery, I wondered:
- Could I really start this difficult process?
- Could I really begin to discover who I was without the eating disorder?
- Could I learn to use my voice and let my heart be known?
- Could I stop several very dangerous eating disorder behaviors, and learn to not see food as my enemy?
Thankfully, I had people in my life who were willing and able to help me. They placed their hands on the giant boulder with me and helped me push it forward. This included my treatment team, my husband, my friends who loved me dearly, and a God who was calling me back to Him. They were all there to help me.
When I look back at those early days in my journey, I am overcome with gratitude for these people — they gave so much of themselves to help me move the boulder and overcome the inertia. I would not have been successful in my difficult recovery journey if it were not for these people.
I knew I was not alone. That gave me courage.
Facing challenges in early recovery
Even though I had a great support system, a number of things still made it difficult to get past the inertia and to get the boulder rolling:
I felt shame. I was ashamed of who I was at my core. I, a middle-aged woman who had been in treatment earlier in my life, had still not figured out how to overcome the eating disorder. My entire life I felt like I was not enough. Standing in front of this mighty boulder called recovery, I was sure, more than ever, that I was not enough. Shame consumed me time and time again.
I was afraid of so many things:
- Asking for help
- Being fully known
- The changes that would come in my life
- Things I could not plan for
The uncertainty of the journey ahead of me was almost overwhelming. I did not know if I was strong enough to do the hard work that wellness called for.
In early recovery, I had so much resistance. The eating disorder was not going to go quietly. As I began to think and act differently, the eating disorder did everything it could to prevent me from accepting this new way of life. It had called the shots in my life for many years. When I started questioning its rules and demands, an intense battle was set off in my head. It was important for me to understand that I was strong enough to make choices based on the values that were most important to me — not based on the rules of the eating disorder.
Finding support in early recovery
Early recovery can seem daunting and even impossible if we do not have the support that we need. This journey is not meant to be traveled alone, and the inertia of starting the journey is best overcome with help. For me, I found this in 1) my support system, 2) my own willingness to be involved in the process, and 3) finding others who were successful in embracing life without the eating disorder.
The following served as lifelines in my recovery; they helped me find hope.
1. My support system
My treatment team continually helped me to identify and be led by my values and what I wanted most in life; they reminded me that these things would not be found in the rigidity of the eating disorder; its safety was a sham. Everyone in my support system was helping to push the boulder with me to overcome the inertia and be successful in my early recovery, but I could not take my hands off. There were times that my support team was pushing that boulder more than I was, but I knew that I could not take my hands off and stand back and let them push while I watched or walked away. They could not push forward without me.
Willingness in early recovery is foundational. My willingness ebbed and flowed in those early days, but I realized that this journey was my journey. No one was going to be able to do recovery for me. I would have help, but I had to want a life defined by wholeness, freedom and joy. I had to step up to the boulder and place my hands on it. My willingness kept me involved in this difficult journey every day. Keeping examples of wellness in front of me was paramount to remind myself of why I wanted to even bother to overcome the inertia of early recovery — strengthening my willingness.
3. Role Models
Finding recovery role models was important to me because it gave me a tangible living person to look up to. Recovery then moved from a solely therapeutic concept to a real thing. There were two women, in particular, who had been successful in their own recovery journeys; I saw them living whole, full lives filled with joy. I watched these women, listened to them, and saw how they navigated life. They were pictures of what I so desperately wanted. On those really hard days in early recovery, when I was not sure I could go on, I kept reminding myself, “I want what they have!” Often, through tears and on my knees, I prayed for what those recovery role models had. That bolstered my willingness to keep my hands on the boulder and to keep pushing forward along with my support team.
Here are some ways to find your own role models in recovery:
- Eating Recovery Center has established a Recovery Ambassador Council made up of alumni who are in solid established recovery. These people can be excellent role models to look up to. They love to support others on the recovery journey.
- Being in a recovery group can be a great way to meet other women and men intent on living life in recovery.
- Therapists or alumni groups from treatment centers can also help point you to role models in recovery.
Real recovery is possible
Recovery has been such a gift and I know that I have a whole life ahead of me where I can embrace every day and be fully present. I am known by others, authentically, and my heart is full.
Life is good!
Read more recovery blogs from Kelli:
- Face Your Fears; Let Go of the Eating Disorder Identity – Kelli Evans
- Eating Disorders: Why We Must Be Willing to Fully Recover – Kelli Evans
- It’s Never Too Late to Get Help for an Eating Disorder; I Did it at 42 – Kelli Evans
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