Every new year there is renewed focus on change. Which brings up the common question; can people really change? In recovery, yes I believe people can change. I changed.
One of my favorite things about pursuing recovery is that I got to start over. Once I went through treatment and my eating disorder wasn’t consuming my identity anymore, I felt like I was left with a blank slate. I had been in my eating disorder for a long time. My safety and my identity were dependent on my appearance, my perfectionism, my rigidity. I remember trying to explain this to my residential therapist using my driver’s license/ID card as an example. I told her “My ID has a face on it and a name, and that’s ME. If what I look like changes that messes everything up”. Of course there were a lot of loop holes to my argument as it was only subject to if my weight changed (not hairstyle, make up, etc.), and the rule only applied to me. Nevertheless, when I was in my eating disorder that was the way my mind worked and it seemed to like a perfectly valid argument. But over time, with a lot of therapy I started to heal and my eating disorder started losing it’s grip. I began to see that my identity was not tied to my appearance or my achievement. Which left me feeling like I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what I enjoyed. I wasn’t even sure what personality characteristics I had outside of my former rigidity and perfectionism. It felt scary to not know who I was. Until my therapist told my I get to choose! I had not considered that. It was the most exciting and freeing thing she could have told me.
When deciding what characteristics I wanted to have I started with what I knew. I knew someone who was generous and I liked that, so I decided to be generous. I knew another person who spoke boldly and I liked that too, so I began to speak boldly. I knew another person who embraced her awkwardness instead of trying to hide it. I admired that because she seemed so strong in that way. So I made it a point to not hide my awkwardness, and instead embrace it. I knew someone who’s faith in Jesus carried her through anxiety and gave her a sense of safety and peace that the world can’t offer. I wanted that too, so I pursued a deeper relationship with Jesus. Those things are still part of who I am today. I have changed.
A new year in recovery means we get to be who we want to be. Breaking away from an eating disorder means we get to start choosing what we want to be like. That’s something worth celebrating. And certainly worth fighting for. I hope this new year brings hope, peace, and patience for those fighting for recovery. Happy New Year!
– Manna Alumni