I’ll tell you what, I just celebrated my 14th year in recovery from anorexia, and wow, sometimes I just stop and am literally in awe that I am alive. I mean, the gratitude literally takes my breath away.
Thinking about that scared, shell of a young girl – eighteen years old and 78 pounds, with a deadly case of perfectionism, and enslaved to pride, I’m telling you, it is a miracle I made it through.
There’s so much of that time that I’ve buried away – blacked out of my memory, so to speak. So much pain. So many shame and guilt-triggering memories that I’ve put to rest — another lifetime, another person, another heart.
Like the feeling of suffocation I felt, walking into the inpatient treatment facility and seeing all the skeletal young women with feeding tubes coming out of their noses, feeling like I was in a morgue.
Or the grogginess of being woken up every few hours to have my vitals taken in the middle of the night when I had to sleep in a cot at the nurses’ station, for their concern I would go into heart failure overnight, during my first two weeks there.
Or the explosion of anger I felt when that same inpatient treatment facility accused me of secretly exercising when my weight gain plateaued for a few days, and had all my privileges revoked. (Note: I was not.) But given the fact that eating disorders thrive on deception, secrecy and manipulation, I had no leg to stand on, even if I was telling the truth.
So many little blips of episodes in my head that seem like a lifetime ago, and yet, simultaneously, like just yesterday.
Gosh, the girl I am today…I never dreamed that I would be able to have the life I have today: free, happier than I’ve ever been, in love, enjoying food, and have not just made peace with my body – but actually love it. It is something I did not believe was possible.
When I was in the thick — or rather, the thin — of it, I couldn’t see beyond the next five minutes — how to avoid the next meal, or how to burn calories, or how to just be left alone with my disease.
I was so enslaved to my anorexia, not only could I not imagine a life without it…I didn’t want to. And that was the saddest part.
Recovery was the best decision of my life. And it has been the most difficult, most rewarding, and most meaningful journey I will ever undergo. One that has led to a true, personal relationship with Jesus, the strengthening of my family, a knowledge of how to truly take care of myself, and most recently (and beautifully): the opening of my heart to life’s most beautiful gift: love.
And along the way, I’ve certainly seen and learned a thing or two: everything from recognizing an unhealthy dependence on exercise, to regrowing my hair from 2 inches of peach fuzz, to having to rebuild and re-earn trust from literally everyone in my life, especially those I loved the most.
So sitting here tonight, I wanted to just share Three Truths of Recovery that I’ve learned in these 14 years, so that perhaps, if this falls into the hands of someone who, like me, couldn’t even fathom that a life free of an eating disorder or addiction could be.
1.) Recovery must become your most prized possession: to be protected and fought for at all costs. It’s gotta be priority number one: behind God, of course. (But as you’ll see in #3, they are really one and the same.) But the fact of the matter, is that without your recovery absolutely bulletproof, watertight, rock solid, nothing else in your life can work. Your recovery has got to be solid for anything and everything in your life to function. So protect it at all costs. “Just do the next right thing.” Don’t flirt with anything that might even make you waiver in the slightest. Because relapse is the slipperiest of slippery slopes. You do what you’ve gotta do — even if that means eliminating toxic influences or people from your life. Which leads me to…
2.) Create an environment to thrive. And yes, relationships are absolutely part of this equation. Surround yourself with people who want to see your recovery thrive as much as you do. Purge the toxicity! Throw away the diet books, the “measuring stick” jeans or the clothes you wore when you were sick. Eliminate shows or media that make you have bad thoughts about yourself or your body. Follow through with your care team. Make time every single day for Jesus and prioritize taking care of yourself: mind, body, spirit. And socially take care of yourself too! Call people back, engage with your friends and loved ones. Recovery is truly a second chance at life, and it’s up to you to create a life for your to thrive!
3.) Jesus is the source of true recovery. This is last because it is the most important. Without Christ — His life-changing love that embraces the broken, imperfect me; His calling for my life; His incredible forgiveness; and His promise to make us a new creation in Him: the old has gone, the new has come — without His strength every single day, recovery would not be possible.
Because the truth of the matter is that every self-affirmation, every mindfulness mantra, every body positive mumbo jumbo that people try to use as an anchor or a foundation of their recovery journey — it proves to be hollow and empty at even the slightest rumble of thunder. Because believe me, the storms will come, no matter how strong your recovery may be. The storms will come, and unless you are rooted in the firm, steadfast foundation of Christ, you’ll find yourself flailing and floundering.
“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Jesus is your biggest recovery advocate. And in fact, during those moments I have blacked out in my memory of the past, it was during those difficult times when He was carrying me. He was getting me through: my Savior, my Help, my Advocate, my Deliverer.
It was when I finally allowed His love into my heart that everything changed. I could not do this without Him. I did not do this without Him.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” Psalm 23
So there you go, friends. Three truths that I have come to know to be truth in this lifelong journey of recovery. And truthfully, they can be applied to just about everything in life. Because when all is said and done, it all goes back to Jesus.
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Have a great week, friends! Praying for you! And I’ll see you on Wednesday for a delicious recipe!
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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