Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.



I read a brief article tonight about addiction and relapse and recovery.  It’s written by a parent of someone who struggled with addiction.  While the father was discussing his son’s addiction to substance, and while there isn’t a definitive agreement on if eating disorders are an addiction or an illness or an ineffective coping method–but I don’t think the label matters all that much.

Relapse and Recovery.  Two terms that are often each seen in black and white terms.  You are recovered or not.  If you relapse, you are not recovered.  Or you are “in recovery”.  Or, you get asked, “If you were really recovered, why did you relapse?”

I say that I have been fully recovered for ten years. this November it will be my “official” anniversary, which is, of course, an arbitrary time, since I wasn’t sick on one day and better the next.  And yet, I don’t feel fully ‘safe’ in terms of “health” and “illness.”  I know that when I start keeping close tabs on, say, how long I walk each day, I start to track every activity for every day and I start making charts to keep track of my ‘progress.’  So I don’t wear a watch when I walk.  I don’t write down how long I walked or where I walked or on what days I walked or how I felt while walking.  I know my obsessive mind.  So I know  the potential for relapse is still there, and I know I have to be observant.

I don’t see relapse as a failure.  The two years after I made the decision to “fully recover because I don’t do anything half-assed” required two lengthy hospitalizations, each followed by an even longer time in partial.  After the first  cycle, I started slipping.  And kept slipping.  But I am proud of the fact that I was ready to seek treatment without all the drama and cajoling and threats of previous hospitalizations.  In and of itself, that was a huge chunk of progress.

So I like what this article describes.  Failure is not relapse.  Failure is relapsing and then not making any effort to continue  forward movement. Ever.  Even if you relapse and get stuck there awhile, you can still make the decision to try again.  Hell, the first time I tried to play a scale on the piano with both hands at the same time, it was not a success.  It took time and practice.  And even after practice, I would still mess up my scales some days.

Keep trying.  Keep looking forward.  Don’t give up.  There’s no one clinical definition of recovery.  There is no “perfect recovery.”  There is your recovery and your personal journey toward healing.

I, myself, spent so many years comparing myself to others, and always felt like I wasn’t “sick enough.”  I did the same thing early in recovery, and felt I wasn’t recovering “right.”  I recovered in the way and on the terms that were, and remain, best for me.  That’s all anyone can do.


August 18, 2017 Posted by | addictions, bipolar disorder, Body Image, depression, Eating Disorders, guilt, progress, recovery, shame, therapy, treatment | Leave a comment

a beautiful and painful life full of hope and chaos

Scrolling through some posts on my Facebook newsfeed, a highlighted article popped up and caught my eye. The featured quote from the article, written by Jennifer Rollin, MSW,LCSW-C, is: “There is a beautiful life waiting for you on the other side of this eating disorder. Freedom and full recovery from anorexia is possible.”  This quote makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside as well as a little angry.

A Therapist’s Tips for Your Recovery From Anorexia

Let me clear up a few things first:  Rollin spells out some awesome tips for making progress in recovery, and I think anyone struggling at all with an eating disorder should try these tips out, see if they work, and if they do, put them in their toolbox.  She also addresses that individuals with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and that you don’t have to be a certain weight or size to seek help.  And, I love the fact that she uses the phrase “full recovery,” combatting the older saying, “Once an anorexic, always an anorexic.”

So what could possibly make me angry?

Actually, the only thing that irks me is the featured quote.  “A beautiful life is waiting for you on the other side of this eating disorder.”

Ten years into full recovery, I’m still waiting for the beautiful life to appear.  I held onto the idea of a beautiful, better life while in treatment those last two years, and I pictured some amazing bliss for myself but when I slowly slipped through to the other side, to a life without the eating disorder, I thought I had stepped far away from the trail, because that beautiful life I had promised myself wasn’t there.

Living in recovery wasn’t the same as living inside a world designed by Rainbow Bright and My Little Pony, with rainbows and sunshine and soft green grass.  I felt as if I had  landed in exactly the opposite: a sandy desert that somehow also had blinding snowstorms and tornados.  I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong.

If I had “done” recovery the “right” way, surely I would be living a much more peaceful life.

Life is not inherently beautiful.  Life is full of risks and choices and fear and sorrows and shit-storms.  I had tried to escape this part of life with the eating disorder.  I tried to numb it all away and I tried to make it disappear.  Except I also numbed away the rest of what life has to offer: warmth and friendship and love and joy  and contentment.  When I began recovery, I entered into both parts of life: the ups and the downs.

There are parts of life that are beautiful, and I know my life is better this side of the eating disorder.  I respond to all of the shit-storms in a healthier fashion, which means my physical body and my over-filled brain are stronger, and I can weather the storms, even if I’m not the picture of perfect grace.  And when the storms are over, I can now see the sunlight and feel the warmth.  There may still be pain, but there is great happiness at times and contentment at times and acceptance of the present moment at times.

Maybe believing in the perfectly beautiful life helped get me to recovery.  Maybe we need to keep reminding those who struggle that the beautiful life is out there.  I just know that I personally felt disappointed in recovery and I felt that I was at fault and that if I had just tried harder, my beautiful life would have  been mine.

Language is a funny thing, always changing and evolving.  A living, breathing life form.  That is open to interpretations.  That can be misunderstood.  There will never be one perfect way to give voice to our stories,  but that same slippery nature of language still allows us to dream of a beautiful life.



August 1, 2017 Posted by | bipolar disorder, Body Image, Communication, coping, depression, Eating Disorders, faith, guilt, health, identity, recovery, relationships, treatment | Leave a comment