Copyright 2016. 1997. "The Process of Recovery." Cindy J. Bitter
I share with you the very same handout I first handed out decades ago. It's been updated and added to many times throughout the years. It delivers the same simple message of hope it always has.
Click title below to read or download.
Many of us who had eating disorders in the '60's, '70's and into the 1980's never knew or even heard of anyone who actually recovered from an eating disorder. It was as if those who recovered simply disappeared. Back into the folds of life, taking the secrets of recovery with them. No one talked about it. No one hung around long enough nor came back to share the answers, explain the process. None of us knew, really, what life was like during and after recovering from an eating disorder.
The start of life coaching for individuals with eating disorders:
It was the mid-1980's. I was asked to come into my community local hospital's eating disorder program to talk with patients about my experience with eating disorder recovery. It was very rare for a recovering patient to come into a program and talk with patients at that time. What was even rarer? To talk about recovery, the process of recovery.
When I was invited to come talk to patients, it was the first time in my community that a recovered person came into a treatment program setting and openly talked about what this process was/is like for a recovering adult. I shared what it was like to regain and resume life without having had any of the normal developmental milestones or adult life experiences or skills. I wanted to give concrete meaning to this unknown entity in the most honest, sincere manner possible. I didn't want others' to be afraid or confused about "recovery." But more then anything, I wanted to offer hope. To explain the "how." To encourage them to keep working at this thing called recovery. I knew how hard it was to change behaviors after years of illness, to change the way I looked at myself, at food, at eating and at life. It was possible to move forward, get through recovery and to reach this place called "better."
Instead, recovery remained a mysterious word and process that was talked in terms of "getting better" with a focus on the end goal: gaining weight. No one talked about what it was like to go back into life after treatment, during recovery. Nobody really said what it was like to not have an eating disorder after you had an eating disorder. Like what the heck happened after you gained weight? Was life suddenly, magically, all better? That's what I believed. That's what many believed. Everything got better. All at once. Yet the reality of recovery remained a mystery because no one ever stayed around afterwards or talked about it once they left treatment.
We all wanted recovery.
To be better was desired. Yet recovery remained this vague, scarey non-descriptive process.
The unknowness of the very thing we wanted, also made it the most feared.
And the most important aspect we talked about was that "better" didn't mean "all better all at once." Better meant creating your life now in a different way, a healthier way. It meant learning new things, taking steps forward, steps backwards, and then start again. It was an every day practice, experiencing the "how" of being in your life and not use old behaviors to navigate the bumpy parts. To learn how to relate to others, how to care for yourself, how to respond differently to everything you did and experienced in new ways.
Recovering as an adult means going out into the world and learning how to be You, as an adult, in life without the eating disorder.
The patients response to these talks was incredible. They wanted to know more. More about the "how of life." Not the illness. More on how to have a life and not have an eating disorder. I started co-facilitating eating disorder contemplation groups at the treatment program and at the request of the patients, I soon added private life coaching groups in my community And it didn't stop there. After groups, we would go to coffee shops and continue our conversations. Talking, sharing, laughing, and caring. We talked about recovery. We talked about life. It was informal, relaxed, and real.
It was the late 1980's. I was their mentor. Their hope. And soon, their coach.
I have not stopped since.