Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Healthy Addictions

my healthy addiction

“Addiction” has a negative connotation.  We think drugs and alcohol when we hear the word “addiction.”  For those of us in the eating disorder world, we’re told our eating disorder is an addiction.  For some of us, self-harm can be an addiction.

Letting go of an addiction is not as easy as just stopping.  If it were, there’d be no need for hospitals and residential treatment facilities.  We’d all just stop and be cured.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  But letting go of the eating disorder or self-harm, or any addiction, leaves a giant gaping hole in our lives.  That hole often drives us back to the very thing we tried to leave.

My suggestion (and it’s not really mine, the experts came up with it long ago): find something to replace the eating disorder and the self-harm.  In DBT-lingo, we call this “distract” with ACCEPTS.  Sounds easy, but there’s a slight problem: generally the thing we’re giving up is much much larger than the one thing we pick up to replace it, still resulting in a gaping hole.  A hole that’s slightly smaller than before, but still a hole.  And holes leave us feeling empty and hollow and quite crappy.

So my real suggestion is to find multiple addictions to replace what you’re giving up.  Here are mine:

knitting, crocheting, writing, reading, writing people letters, drawing, taking pictures

Right now, knitting and crocheting are my main addictions.  I always have multiple projects going because I have Yarn ADD.  Currently I’m working on an afghan (the very first one I’m making for me; I’ve always made them to give away), three different hats (I’m also addicted to hats), washcloths and hats to donate to various places, potholders, and a scarf.  There’s probably a couple other projects buried in the bottom of my basket that I’ve forgotten about, too.

The nice thing about knitting and crocheting, for me, is that it keeps my hands busy.  When I get urges to self-injure, keeping my hands busy is rather important.  And I feel good about myself if I’m working on a project for someone else.  And knitting and crocheting are things I can take pride in. And writing letters to people also keeps my hands busy and I love that I’m going to make someone smile when they open their mailbox.  I know I get this huge smile on my face when I get snail mail.  When I was recovering from the eating disorder, knitting and crocheting and writing letters were things I could do after I ate, when my stomach felt ugly-full and I felt awful.  The knitting and crocheting and writing letters took my mind off of those thoughts and feelings and kept me distracted until my stomach digested the food and settled down.

Taking pictures gets me out of the house, outside where I can breathe fresh air and see fresh things and take wonder in the amazing world around me.  Right now, flowers are starting to poke through the soil and peek out at the sun. Trees are starting to bud.  The air is getting warmer and the squirrels are more active and run in front of my floor length window and drive my cats absolutely crazy.

I would love for people to leave a comment here–not on facebook, because not everyone who reads this goes to facebook–with your healthy addictions.  I know that some of us are recovered and exercise has once again become a healthy form of release, but please keep in mind that for a great number of people reading this, that is not the case.  Try to leave suggestions that anyone at any stage of recovery could engage in.  Maybe, just maybe, someone will see something and think, “That sounds like fun; I could do that.”

And I dare each one of you to try one of these things or something you’ve always meant to try but never got around to.  Just one thing when you’re feeling stressed and anxious.  And if that one thing doesn’t work, try a different one next time.  Keep trying things until you find something that works for you.

Happy addiction hunting, y’all.


March 29, 2011 - Posted by | coping, Eating Disorders, recovery, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I have replaced the ED cloud with Painting, drawing, spending time with quality friends, searching for new music/bands, playing piano and flute, and learning new computer programs to help me with my art 🙂 You’re so right Alexis, it takes many many many addictions to finally fill in that huge hole when the ed leaves your life. I think that’s why it takes so long-at least for me- to feel stable in recovery, simply because it has taken me almost two years to find enough other distractions that I didn’t still feel the need to fill it in with the ED instead. Great post today 🙂

    Comment by Nikita | March 29, 2011 | Reply

  2. Reading books, watching movies, writing people letters, playing with my roommate’s dog, painting my nails, experimenting with hair and makeup, trying on random ridiculous clothing and shoes while out shopping, walking around the harbor (NOT running, walking!), people-watching, creative writing, cooking/baking (although this is a dangerous one for certain ED symptoms), having dinner or lunch with friends, singing at the top of my lungs while driving, honing my photography skills…the list goes on and on!

    Comment by Coco | March 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. 1. taking care of/obsessing over my cat.
    2. finding a job and internship that i love and make me feel worthwhile and alive. or volunteering, etc.
    3. drinking coffee.
    4. journaling like it’s my job.
    5. I wouldn’t consider this to be an “addiction” but something that really helps me is self care. When I was in my eating disorder, I never wore make up because I didn’t want anyone to see me. I wore sweatpants and 2 sweatshirts so no one could see my shape. Now I try to wear clothes that show my personality and it helps me feel pretty and confident. Same with things like lotions and perfumes. Perhaps that sounds like a vain/girly “coping skill” but it definitely helps me!

    Comment by free. | March 29, 2011 | Reply

  4. OMG, what you said about stopping not being the same as letting go really hit home for me. That is where I have been for most of my recovery(my recovery has been several years). My substitutions have been working with children two days a week(small part time job), yoga, my fabulous cat and her saggy belly(so cute and even helpful to my recovery), and lately, the internet/blogs.

    Comment by Tahnya | April 1, 2011 | Reply

  5. yeah I coulda wrote that better.. lol jk! I was really impressed with your blog and I must say, you are a pretty good writer my friend.

    Comment by unusual | April 21, 2011 | Reply

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