I just read a blog from my friend Thom Rutledge, noted eating disorder and addiction therapist, on the topic of “Eating Disorders: Recovered or Recovering?” It was his usual insightful work and I don’t think I can top it. I just want to comment on it. First let me share his point.
Both “recovered” and “in recovery” are fine. It really is just a matter of semantics. It’s not the words you choose; it is what you mean by the words.
He gives an example that if you say being “in recovery” means you are in a “constant, never-ending battle with your eating disorder,” then likely you are still stuck in your disorder. If, however, being “in recovery” means you are taking each moment as an opportunity to learn and grow and improve yourself and your life, then that is a great description.
Similarly, if being “recovered” means you are absolutely sure you will never have an eating disorder behavior or thought again, then you are in denial or possibly deluded. As Thom writes, “Confidence is a good thing, but being over-confident is a dangerous thing.” But if being “recovered” means you are free of your poisonous eating disorder thoughts or behaviors, then that’s a good thing.
Here’s what I would add to it. Does that mean you won’t miss meals from time to time, or overeat eat here and there, or have negative body talk flit across your brain now and then? We’re all human! And that’s a good thing too.
In my own experience, I’ve vacillated between saying I’m recovered or in recovery. But to me the reality is my eating disorder has no sway over me anymore. I do everything I said in the last paragraph. Most adults I’ve worked with say they have the same experience. Anecdotal evidence from practitioners who work with adults with eating disorders and those few scientists who study adults report the same thing.
Does that mean we are forever doomed to potential relapse? Nah. I don’t subscribe to the concept of doomed. Each moment where an ED thought or behavior comes up is a chance to learn and grow. That’s being recovered or in-recovery. Because they both mean I’m living my life, not my disorder.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS - Founder and CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.