As highlighted in the cyclical nature of the stages of change, recovery is not a linear process nor is it a once-off decision. There may be a defining moment in your life where you step off that ledge, let go of the eating disorder, and grab hold of recovery; however, I have found that the process has required me to choose recovery, over and over and over again. It has not been a single choice and it has not been easy. I am confronted with that choice numerous times each day. When ambivalence creeps back in (and it will), and I am unsure of whether it is worth it, only I can make the decision to continue to press forward (I can tell you that it is definitely worth it, and at some point, you may have to simply trust me on this…but I know I personally had to grapple with the pros and cons time and again).
Speaking of Pros and Cons, some time ago, I gave some serious consideration to the cons of the eating disorder, the pros of recovery, what the eating disorder provided me with, the strings attached to those things, and how I could meet those needs elsewhere or in other ways. I created quite a long list under each of those headings and kept a copy in my journal, in my diary/schedule, on the pinboard beside my bed, and in my phone. When the eating disorder came knocking, as it invariably did, I would pull out those lists and read through them time and again until I was able to act in a way that was consistent with my values and goals as opposed to just blindly following what the eating disorder wanted. Initially, I needed to do this many many times a day. However, the more I engage in life and experience the pros of recovery, and the greater the distance I put between myself and the eating disorder, the less appeal it seems to have. Now when I am tempted to act on a disordered thought, I am able to call to mind rather quickly where I am headed and what I, healthy Sarah, truly want. With each success, comes greater confidence, that I am indeed stronger than the eating disorder.
It is important to remember though, that recovery is NOT a linear process…when I move into a place of expecting this, I become greatly disheartened and discouraged when I find myself once again struggling. Lapses, relapses, challenges are all a part of the journey of growth, healing and recovery. This is looked at in further detail in the next section Lapses and Relapses.