Why did I recover? What made me so special over others who continue to struggle with their eating disorders? How did I keep on my path of recovery after treatment, while so many of my friends sunk back into the darkness of their disorders? Why me?
These questions incessantly repeated themselves in my mind last year. My critical/ED voice would always chime in and say the reason I was doing well was because I was “never that bad.” As usual, my cruel inner voice beat me over the head with false lies and continued to minimize my illness. I did my best to ignore the annoying voice because I knew I needed and deserved the treatment I went through. But still that simple question always loomed unanswered in the back of my head…
Today, I think I finally know the answer to that question: I am in recovery because I chose it and I did the work to get it. Now this does not mean I paraded into treatment proudly waving my recovery flag ready to surrender my eating disorder. That was hardly the case. I walked into treatment scared, unsure and doubting my decision to enter its doors. I had no idea what treatment or recovery was going to look like. My eating disorder was the only way of life I ever knew. But regardless of how blinding my disorder was I knew the uncertainty of recovery had to be better than the way I was living.
Shortly after my admission, I discovered that the nurses did not administer magic pills to cure my eating disorder. My little white pill cup was filled with medication that would heal my depression, malnourishment, vitamin deficiency, insomnia, reflux and even lovely gastro issues. As it turns out, there is no magic pill for an eating disorder. You actually have to decide you want recovery then work really hard to find it. I took a huge leap of faith and began my work. I knew if I let go and ‘jumped’ then maybe I would find my way out of the darkness and into the light of recovery. I put my life into the safe hands of my phenomenal treatment team. Was I the best patient ever? Hell no. I struggled. I was defiant at times. I constantly minimized my need for being there…but nonetheless, I was there and doing my best. I was not there for my parents. I was not there for my husband. I was honestly there for me and for my ultimate goal to be a healthy mother and role model for my future children.
One cold, rainy day in January 2010, my residential therapist asked me, “What does recovery look like to you?” I sat curled up on the stiff therapy couch and thought hard about the question. After eight weeks in treatment, I was beginning to get small glimpses of what my life might be like in recovery. I turned to her and plainly said, “Recovery would be walking on the beach with my husband without a cover up.” I felt rather silly for giving a deep question such a simple answer, but my therapist did not flinch at my response. She quickly grabbed a blank piece of paper and a pen. She drew a line that forked into two. She said, “This is you and each line represents a choice. You can choose to stand up and walk on the beach without a cover-up or you can choose to lie on the beach, giving in to your disorder and ultimately letting the moment pass you by.” That simple drawing on scrap paper became my Ah-Ha-Oprah-Moment. It clicked. Even though there was not a magic pill to cure my illness, there was the power of choice, which was greater than any pill I could ever take.
Eating disorders and mental illnesses are not choices, but recovery is. It takes courage to admit there is a problem and get help, but it takes pure gut and hard work to heal. I recovered because I chose it for me and I worked damn hard for it. I still work for it. As hard as it is some days, I still wake up and choose to pop my magic pill. And while I may enjoy a beautiful life in recovery, my heart still breaks for my friends who have yet to find this freedom. Every night I say a special prayer for my friends still struggling. I pray that they may one day find the magic pill within each of them and embrace the choice of recovery. I lift each one up and pray they muster the courage and determination to use the skills we learned in treatment. I pray they choose life. I pray they one day feel the freedom in each breath they take. I pray they see the color in life and most of all I pray that one day they see their beautiful reflection staring back at them.
Oh the extraordinary things that could happen if only there was that one magic pill…