In honor of September’s National Recovery Month and its theme, “Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community,” I wanted to take a moment and highlight just how amazing and truly inspiring it is to witness persons and their families recovering from eating disorders. I remember working in a hospital for eating disorders and being astounded that these individuals would fly across the country, battling snow and ice and travel delays, many times in desperate states physically and mentally, to engage in what I believed was one of the most difficult things a human can do: recover in the environment that they struggle with the most, food and the body.
Unlike a person with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, we can’t just remove the problem substance. Persons with eating disorders have to learn how to develop a healthy relationship with food and their body. And that trigger is with them all day long, every day. Think about it. From the lens of addiction recovery, what we need to do for eating disorder recovery would be like taking the alcohol use disordered person, walking them into a bar, setting them down with a drink, and saying it’s time to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol.
To me, it was always astounding to see how many persons were willing to walk into the gauntlet of treatment, which includes three meals and three snacks, monitored bathroom breaks, minimal exercise, therapy all day long, and a milieu full of other persons with eating disorders. What courage they have! The strength one has to muster to do this gives me goosebumps! Not to mention what we know about temperament and the natural harm avoidance that is present in many with eating disorders. I think their courage speaks to something in their hearts, a belief deep down that they deserve a different life, even if that part is really small at first or isn’t used to having a voice or a seat at the table.
I am deeply grateful to all those I have helped navigate their massive undertakings of eating disorder recovery. I am also deeply grateful to all the families who assisted their loved ones in doing this work, oftentimes while navigating their own recovery journeys too. And finally, I am deeply grateful to be part of a community here in Denver, and virtually across the world, in which we hold hope and compassion for those recovering, at whatever pace they need to go -- because, you see, these heroes are really some of the strongest people you will ever meet. Hand to heart to my heroes in eating disorder recovery. Happy National Recovery Month to all!
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Bonnie Brennan shares thoughts, inspiration, skills and resources for recovery