Recovering from an eating disorder is not rocket science. In fact, it’s more like coal mining. It’s dirty. It’s grungy. It’s laborious. Like all things in life you get out of it what you put into it. Not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort, but those who do sure get a return on their investment.
When it comes to the process of recovery, I think about the “Stages of Change.”
- Pre-contemplation: I don’t have a problem my friends and loved ones say.
- Contemplation: okay, maybe I have a problem, but I’m not yet ready to work on it.
- Preparation: I have a problem, and I’m going to get my ducks in a row to get help.
- Change: I’m workin’ the problem, baby!
- Maintenance: I’m free from my eating disorder, but I’ve got to work that recovery behavior a while longer to keep me safe.
- Relapse prevention: I’m recovered, but I’m going to keep myself safe from falling backward by being mindful of how I got there to begin with.
When I started treatment, I was fully prepared to invest my time, energy, and supports to get there. I had hit my rock bottom. It didn’t matter that I was in graduate school, a father to a very sick child, a husband with a marriage that needed tending, a home owner with a mortgage to cover, and a part-time journalist to make ends meet. I found friends to help with my kid; I had a wife who picked up the slack financially and physically, family to help when we got in a bind, and a community at my synagogue who embraced us fully to keep our spirits up. And all that help was just so I could get to work on my own life. I had to swallow my pride and admit I couldn’t manage living like this anymore. I deserved better. My wife deserved better. My son sure as hell deserved better.
So I say to anyone who comes to our program and says they have too much to do and too many people relying on them to work on their eating disorder, I don’t buy it. If you want to get better, we’ll bend over backwards to help you, and so will anyone who says they love you. I know how hard it is, especially when you’ve probably spent most of your life taking care of others and not yourself.
I curried every favor I could to make time for treatment, and I had debts to pay to many, my wife most of all. But because I put the effort in, and because I was willing to bear down and dig in the dirt, I recovered after 20 years of struggling. And my relationships were stronger because of it. I was stronger because of it.
If you are preparing to make a change, or if you have a child who needs help making that leap from preparation to change, we’re here for you. You just have to do the work.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 443-602-6515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.