Tag Archives: recovery

Secular Spirituality, Atheism, and Recovery

If you’ve been through recovery, I’m wondering – how has your recovery been impacted (positively, negatively?) when the recovery culture dialogue turns to the almighty? It seems to happen a lot, and there’s a lot of faith-based stuff out there. And if that helps you recover, then I’m all for it! Everyone’s recovery will look a little different and be unique to them, and hope can be found in many different forms.

But for nonbelievers, the prevalence of religious language in recovery can present an additional hurdle – I know it did for me. Early in my recovery, before I got into more structured group therapy with a counselor, I was attending Twelve-Step groups that focused on eating disorders/disordered eating. I couldn’t recommend them for everyone, but it was what I needed at the time. I had hit an all-time low, and a friend told me about a group that met less than two miles away from where I lived downtown. I went the very next day, desperate for anything that might assuage the constant misery and physical discomfort I was in.

I honestly thought that I was going to go there, they would tell me what to do, I would do it and I would get better – just like going to the doctor and getting a prescription. I quickly found out that that wasn’t the case. But what I did find was a new perspective and a sense of hope – the people there spoke about their struggles with honesty and clarity, as well as an unexpected humility. One of the things emphasized in all Twelve-Step fellowships is admitting you don’t have control over everything, and as you work through that it can really give you some room to breathe. However, part of that admitting you don’t have control everything (a notion that often clashes with our Western sense of independence and individuality – but I challenge you to sneeze with your eyes open or to prevent the sun from setting) is turning that control over to a “Higher Power.”

Ugh.

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Skin Deep: Eating Disorder Recovery Tattoos

Currently Reading: Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Currently listening: Handwritten by The Gaslight Anthem 

Sometimes beauty is skin deep – like when it comes in the form of beautiful artwork commemorating a commitment to being healthy and happy through the work of recovery. My own recovery tattoo got me thinking – who else out there has some sweet recovery art? I’ll start us off, and then I’m excited to share some of the really great reader submissions that I received!

My Own Recovery Tattoo:
My recovery tattoo was my first tattoo. I got it over the summer of 2005, when I was 22 and had been in recovery for about two years. February of that year, I smashed the scale I had been using in the alley behind my first apartment with a triumphant and cathartic anger (the avatar for my blog, Twitter, etc. is an actual photo of my smashed scale!). The scale had become a physical representation of the otherwise invisible tormentor known as anorexia, an altar upon which my self-worth was constantly debated. I had been making strides in recovery and was doing very well, but I kept coming back to the scale. In February 2005, I hadn’t weighed myself in months. I came across it, and, in a moment of weakness and curiosity, stepped back on it.

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In Remembrance: Reanna’s Story

In my last post about Lobby Day, I mentioned a story shared at the Congressional Briefing by mother Tracy Smith, who’s daughter Reanna died from her eating disorder while waiting for treatment. Tracy has agreed to let me share her testimony here to further spread the truth about the severity and life threatening reality of eating disorders. I’m deeply grateful to Tracy for her courage and willingness to share this story, and hope that others will learn from it. 

Please note that some of the specifics regarding her daughter’s death may be difficult to hear and are rather emotional, and if you are in recovery from an eating disorder, please take care of yourself while reading.

The following speech was given by Tracy Smith on Capitol Hill on April 24, 2012, at a Congressional Briefing held by the Eating Disorders Coalition as testimony to advocate for the passage of the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act.

Tracy Smith testifies on behalf of her daughter.

It has been seventeen months since my baby was taken.

My Family has been devastated by an eating disorder in the worst way possible. On Nov 15, 2010, my Daughter lost her life to an eating disorder. In less than twenty-three months this disease came into our lives and took over my child. Physically, mentally emotionally and in every aspect that you can imagine. Due to misdiagnoses by her pediatrician, lack of education and no coverage for her condition by medical insurance we were alone in the very short battle!

This is Reanna Yvette’s Story.

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The Unlikely Connection Between Punk Rock, Sobriety, and Eating Disorders

Currently Reading: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Suzuki Roshi
Currently Listening: Minor Threat’s Complete Discography

Along with people being surprised that I used to have an eating disorder (“Really? You?”), I also get surprised reactions when I tell people I don’t drink.

“Really? Never?”

Nope. When I was 15, some of my friends started experimenting with drugs and sneaking downtown to parties to drink with older friends. I didn’t share their intrinsic interest in trying these things, but eventually went along and participated a few times because I was starting to feel left out. My lack of interest in substance use often translated into not being invited to hang out, because people knew I didn’t want to be around it.

After a few times giving it a shot, I decided I really had no desire to ever partake in any of it. I didn’t like not feeling like myself, and I didn’t like the way people acted when they were intoxicated. For a little while, this made me feel like an outcast. I think some of my friends felt judged by my decision, which wasn’t intentional but was sort of unavoidable.

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Success & Failure

Currently Reading: The Body Project by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
Currently Listening: On The Impossible Past by The Menzingers

We don’t always reach our goals. Sometimes that’s because they weren’t realistic to begin with (I swear some day I’m going to keep my eyes open while sneezing) and sometimes it’s because things just didn’t work out.

Following my successful half marathon last November, I planned on running the spectacle that is Richmond’s Monument 10k. If you’re from RVA, you know the race well whether you run it or not, because if you aren’t participating in it, the 10k probably ruins any and every attempt to navigate the city until well into the afternoon. Continue reading

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The Great Somewhere Else

So, it’s been awhile since I posted. After the non-stop posts of February, I took a hiatus which ended up being a little longer than I planned. Thanks for your patience!

the past week I was riding along on tour with my friend’s band. I got the whole week off work and we had dates in DC, Philadelphia, and New York City. A number of unexpected problems the day before we left almost prevented us from even leaving town, but we were finally on the road Sunday afternoon and made it in time for the first show. Everything was going fine until the van broke down about 20 miles into Maryland. After a couple hours standing in the heat on an exit ramp and a couple more at a mechanic, there wasn’t any other choice but to try to get back to Richmond. They ended up renting a van to make it to the rest of their tour dates, but with all of the instruments there wasn’t room for non-essential people like myself.

Talk about a buzz kill. I had the whole week off work and didn’t really feel like going in, but I didn’t want to waste vacation time either. I ended up taking a day road tripping to visit a friend, and spent a lot of time with another friend who’s moving cross-country really soon, so it wasn’t a total waste.

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Review: Miss Representation

I finally got to see Miss Representation last night, courtesy of a local event for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Released in late 2011, it’s a film exploring the role of women in our society and what we can do to change the disparities that exist.

It’s easy to hear about such a film and say, “But so much progress has been made!” While this is true, and yes, progress continue to be made, it’s slowed down more than you think. I’m not always one to tout statistics, but some of the figures they’ve researched are quite startling. For example:

  • The average teenager consumes roughly 10 hours, 45 minutes of media per day, between television, movies, the internet, and music, the majority of which is TV watching.
  • Of that media consumed, women own less than 6% of TV stations and roughly 6% of radio stations. The board members of the biggest media companies (such as Viacom, Time Warner, etc) systematically outnumber women by more than 2-1, so most of the media being produced and approved is from rich men.
  • Women make up 51% of our population at present, but are only 17% of Congress (even I was surprised by how low that number is).

Mad yet? You should be.

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Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

Way back in 2004, I made a big decision. I got out of class one night and drove from the city back to my parents’ house with the intention of telling them I had an eating disorder. It was rather spontaneous, although it had been in the back of my mind for months. Having had inconsistent luck with friends when seeking support, I wanted to try and avoid those same pitfalls when speaking with my family.

I had found an article on a website that seemed perfect – it was something I wished I could make everyone read before they tried to talk about eating disorders. I printed it out and stuck it in my backpack, where it stayed for weeks, just in case I needed it. When I finally got home, I handed the print-out to my mother and asked her to read it and to not say anything until she had.

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Review: The Slender Trap by Lauren Lazar Stern

Given that it’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it seems appropriate to be talking about books like The Slender Trap by Art Psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist Lauren Lazar Stern. The Slender Trap is a workbook full of exercises to challenge the reader to think about eating habits and body image in different ways, and could serve as a good companion piece to a treatment program. However, when it comes to resources like this which are more in the “self-help” realm, I caution strongly against trying to rely on a single resource without any guidance from a qualified treatment professional (a sentiment echoed in the book’s introduction).

Lauren Stern offered me a copy to do a write-up with, but first asked me: “Is it OK that it’s geared towards women? It is definitely relevant for men, too, but the writing is directed towards females!” Well, it turns out she was right on both accounts. The topics and ideas in this book are relevant to potentially anyone with an eating disorder, regardless of gender. At the same time, it’s very much a book written and intended for a female audience, which I’ll comment on shortly. I don’t consider my writing to be geared at a particularly male or female audience, so I told her I’d be happy to give my impressions. As far as I’m concerned, anything which promotes and supports recovery is OK with me!

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Reasons For Recovery Blog Series – Part 8

I’m collaborating with some other writers in a blog series for the entire month of February. The theme is simple enough: reasons to recover. Special shout-out to Anne-Sophie over at Fighting Anorexia for starting the conversation that turned into this little project and for doing most of the organizing.

Today’s post comes from writer Benjamin David in the UK (another male contributor – awesome!) Ben writes:

Nothing beautiful has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was paramount to individual circumstance. This illness can plague, tarnish and jade the emotional faculty and instils within sufferers a ubiquitous obsession, infatuation and anxiety that can tarnish almost every element of one’s being. I have spent numerous, mundane hours pensively exploring my mind, recognising my tendencies, frailties and strengths and recognising that despite all the perceived “benefits”…. I wanted freedom. I wanted to be able to have the freedom to make an impartial action, to take an impartial, rational stance. I wanted to be able to sit down without that lingering impulse that is symptomatic of an eating disorder. Tranquillity, peace and serenity cannot be induced with a oscillating and unyielding eating disorder… The road of recovery is a journey of self-discovery. We recognise our values, qualities, desires, strengths and weaknesses. We advance within ourselves, we question the pressures that the inane mass media invoke on us, we question those comments from others about our appearance and we ask ourselves why we deserve freedom. The most striking question that we ask is what it means to be happy and what founds the most impassioned, long lasting and healthy form of happiness?

You can read the full post here.

I really like the inquisitive nature of Ben’s post, because everyone’s experience is going to be different. Before you find the right answers, you must first ask the right questions, and I think we will all have a different question & answer even if we all arrive at the same conclusions. This speaks to the deeply personal nature of recovery – although there is certainly a universality in the experience of an eating disorder (just read the whole blog series from this month, we’ve all hit many of the same themes!), the path that each of us take to recovery is as unique as the individual.

Others can push you along, encourage you, and point you in the right direction, but no one can walk it but you – day by day, meal by meal, one foot in front of the other.

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