Today starts our eating disorder recovery series where I share real questions straight from my sponsees and my answers, in terms of my own experience, strength and hope, in the desire to help you recover as well. Hopefully you will be able to see that we all share the same ups and downs and that even if you are struggling with an eating disorder, you can not only recover, but live a more victorious life than you ever dreamed possible!
Please note that I have already been in strong recovery for the past year and a half and that I am able to live my life free of the eating disorder every day, but only because of the very Grace of God and because I help others to get free also. To see my initial post about what I do as a sponsor, please visit my previous post entitled, “The Hope Diary: Sponsoring Eating Disorder Recovery”.
Ok, let’s get started! So many things go on in our lives on a daily basis and it can be hard enough to handle them without an eating disorder. I remember before I ever sought help for my ED, my life constantly seemed to be spiraling out of control, even over the most simple things, like spending time with my friends and family, or focusing at school and work. I lost all interest in even taking care of myself. After 17 years of being completely wrapped up in bulimia and anorexia, I was living a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual hell that was killing me. Recovery has taken three years, and it has only been a year and a half of those years that I have been Blessed enough to really be able to live a life free of addiction. But here’s the deal: for the rest of my life I have to accept and understand that the moment I stop working my recovery and helping others, and doing things in the world that give life a deeper meaning, I am in a very vulnerable position to fall right back into my disease again, and probably a million times worse. It’s just the truth. Recovery is different for every person and you have to take it one day at a time, and love yourself into wholeness every step of the way. Self love and acceptance is one of the biggest keys to true healing and happiness to not only healing from this disease, but to living a life far greater than what you can ever imagine.
So my question for today comes from a girl I sponsor that I’ll call “Rebecca”. Rebecca is in her mid twenties, married, and has a small child. She has an eating disorder classified as binge eating disorder and has been in a sponsorship 12 step program with me for about six months. About a month ago Rebecca started going back to college and at first was very excited about finishing her two year associates degree at the community college and then transferring to a four year bachelors program. Since we have been working together for six months, she has seen great improvement in her desire to stop binge eating on a daily basis, she follows a food plan and emails it to me daily, she communicates to me almost every day about how she is doing, follows an exercise program, and sees a therapist for her emotional issues. Overall she is very happy since entering the 12 step recovery program and getting a sponsor because she has put her recovery first daily, and her life is now manageable and joyful. However, after being in school for about a month, she starts to have some ups and downs, as we all do. She writes to me:
I am not feeling too well today, I feel very isolated and overwhelmed. All this struggling has made me realize that today I have to put recovery first in my mind and do the work. When I don’t put recovery first in my life I feel terrible and slip backwards as I’ve been for the past two weeks or so. With school it is too much too fast and I think that I should drop one or two classes. I signed up for six classes right now, and I did that because I feel like I have to take them, in order to graduate before the Fall semester and move on to a 4 year college. But I’ve been realizing that I’m doing this more because of what other people will think. For example, my parents, sister and best friend have always criticized me and said that it’s taken me too long and when am i finally going to finish? I feel this way too, and so I took on this load of classes, that I’m now drowning in. I haven’t been in school in almost a year, and when I was, I was only taking two classes. So to go from 0- 100 now feels so overwhelming. I don’t want to feel like i’m letting anybody down…”
Rebecca then goes on to explain that because of the stress of her situation with school and her feeling the need to “people please” her family, she has temporarily lost her abstinence and has turned back to the food for comfort. My response to her below.
Give yourself a big hug right now because you have progressed so much to recognize the patterns that are not serving you well. You are awesome and deserve to be happy in every area of your life!
I am so impressed that you are being open and honest to yourself and me because this is vital for continuous recovery.
Loving yourself is extremely important, and this means balance in everything. Put recovery first, and everything else will make sense. When I feel overwhelmed it is usually because I have my priorities way out of balance and am not putting my recovery first. I am an extremist-type of person unless I am checking everything in-line with what God wants me to do. I can’t just pretend that I am superwoman and try to do a billion things and expect to get the same results as I will when I have recovery first, followed by the priorities that are healthy and beneficial to me for the short and long term. So I put the food down, and say yes to life, and no to the things that do not ultimately serve me.
Now let’s go back to people pleasing. It just never does us any good. We get worn out and lose our recovery fast and hard. As a child I never learned to say “no” to anyone. I was filled with fear, anxiety and always worried that if I did not say “yes” to my parents, friends, peers, stressful situations and eventually food for comfort, that I wouldn’t be able to handle my life. I wanted to be accepted and loved, and I thought that the only way was to say “yes” to everyone and just about everything. But in recovery we learn that if we say “yes” just to make everyone else satisfied and “no” to our recovery, where is our health and life?
Perhaps you should assess what is best for Rebecca. Pray to God, consult Him first in everything, because truly without Him we can do nothing!! If you feel then that you need to let go of a class or two to balance your life, sanity and recovery, then by all means I hear you.
At the age of nineteen I went to community college, and I wanted to prove to my family that I was “the best”. I was also trying really hard to “people please” a boyfriend that I was infatuated with at the time. He had all types of rules and regulations for me to “fit into” and one of them was going to college. Now I understand of course that I was following old behaviors from childhood of trying to win a person’s love who was similar to certain people in my family. So when I did go, I of course, took pre-med classes, and something ridiculous like 22 credits in ONE semester. What happened? Burnout, majorly!! Fast and hard. And the whole time I was binging and purging to release my stress. All this just to be “good enough” for someone when really it was the opposite. I know now that I am already a Queen in the Eyes of God and that I am a human BEING not a human DOING!
You have to work at your pace, at your level to achieve the best results for you. You are running your own race, and no matter what anyone says about you, truly their opinion doesn’t really matter because they are not living your life or your recovery for you. You have to daily put Rebecca first and say NO to people pleasing and YES to your best life now.”
<3 Nikki DuBose