Over the past semester, I’ve learned that recovery is a slow mending process. A process that has no final destination, but rather a journey that follows an imperfect line of growth and process. A journey that leads you in and out of the darkest and brightest moments of your life. A journey that will grow you, break you and put you all back together in the same week. Along that path, that little thing you call your eating disorder will make its presence known, whether you want it to or not, screaming at the dinner table or whispering as you brush your teeth in the morning, however, there are also moments where you celebrate small victories and she’s nowhere in sight. You know, the days where you eat chicken nuggets, ice cream and sweet potato tots or the days where dress shopping with friends doesn’t end in tears? Those moments will all exist and how you listen will be a sign of your recovery. You know when she’s screaming and when she’s whispering, but when you’re on top of the mountain, the only thing you will hear is the encouragement and cheers from those who have been in your corner all along.
The past several months have been filled with large victories and small bumps in the road. I have counted the days, 250, 275, 300, 320… and I have stared in the mirror crying over all the things I want to fix. I’ve been in the darkness and in the light. I’ve walked away from meals with tears in my eyes and celebrated the end of hard days with ice cream. It has been a path that twists and turns with each passing day, but that’s all part of the process.
I always thought that passing day 200 would be the point where I would be “fixed” or “healed” from the past. I thought that I would walk away from unhealthy habits and thoughts and live a life chanting recovery mantras and sharing my story as one of hope. What I didn’t realize was that just like most things you learn in seminary, recovery is both and. It is both the chanting of mantras and asking for help when the urge comes flooding back. It’s both and when the numbers keep climbing and a bad day is thrown your way. It’s both and when you are crying over ice cream, yet celebrating a victory all at the same time. It’s both when you are sharing your story on one of the hardest days you’ve had in almost a year. It is all a part of the juxtaposition that exists as recovery.
I’ve learned more about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become on the hardest of days. I have learned that sharing meals with people you trust is important and avoiding certain situations is key. I’ve figured out that healthy exercise and control are important and compulsive behaviors are not necessary. I’ve come to realize that people truly care and want to remind you that you are worthy of health, love, and to belong.
I thought that at this point in my journey I would be telling stories about when I used to struggle, but more and more I am realizing that it’s in the thick of the struggle and pain where I find the greatest story that I can tell. When I speak about the hard days, the triggers and the moments where I don’t feel okay, that’s where I see the growth happening, even if it’s small.
It’s a process. That’s the only thing I know for sure. In the midst of counting days, I have forgotten what it’s like to count calories and that to me has been the greatest accomplishment so far. My focus has been taken off of numbers that destroy and kill and placed on numbers that give life a meaning and purpose.
I’m not there yet, but I’m 320 days closer than I was several months ago. I’m closer to that one-year mark than I ever imagined I would be. As the number of days continues to climb, I remind myself to give myself a break, ask for help when necessary and live and dwell in the juxtaposition that is recovery.
It’s a process, my friends, may you find peace in knowing that you are not alone.