Does Life in Eating Disorder Recovery Get Easier?
**Content warning: This is one person’s story. Everyone will have unique experiences on their path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Sarah Granato has been teaching yoga and meditation for 14 years. She is also a doula, an author, and a mama of two. She has created The Emerge Program to help those who struggle with food, body, and eating disorders. It’s a 21-day online program with mindfulness practices, breathing techniques, mindful movement, guided meditations, writing inspirations, and more.
I struggled with food and body obsession as well as bulimia and anorexia for over two decades. I have been in several treatment facilities. They were all as helpful as I was willing to be helped, which was not very much for quite a while. As the years passed, my desperation grew. “Am I going to live the rest of my life like this?” I wondered. “What kind of life is this?” Fortunately, as that desperation expanded, my willingness did as well.
During my last inpatient treatment experience, I was introduced to a gentle mind/body/breath practice, yoga, and that was the beginning of what would be my recovery journey. I was introduced to the tools I use and teach today. It took many years of practice after being discharged, but today I am free from the obsessions and compulsions. I feel strong in body and mind and live an abundant life.
So here is the question: Does life in recovery get easier?
When I began my recovery journey, life expanded quickly. I made deeper connections in friendships and intimate relationships. Are friendships and relationships easy? Um… no. I began to put myself out there. I tried new things. I took more risks. Is that an easy thing to do?? No, not at all. Eventually in my recovery life, I would get married, have children, move several times. Easy?? No. No. No. All of the above are gifts of my life in recovery, but the bigger life gets, the more challenging it is too. I live a truthful life out of hiding, which, yes, is another gift but now others can judge me or, worse, not like me. Without numbing myself with bingeing and purging, without occupying my mind with obsessive thoughts about food and how to “fix” my body, I have to actually look at life—with all of its struggles, mistakes, obstacles, loss, hurt, fears, and more—and not only look at it, but FEEL it as well.
So, does life in recovery get easier? No… and YES. Yes, because now I have tools.
First, I use the powerful tool of gratitude to focus on my “haves” rather than “have-nots.” There are days where my “haves” list is 3 and my “have-nots” are 300 (or at least it seems), but I keep repeating the 3 until they fill me, and usually the list of haves will grow. “Where your attention goes your energy flows” is one of my favorite sayings, and my morning gratitude practice exemplifies that sentiment. I also use gratitude to value every lesson as a gift. Each time I break down, I come back stronger. Each moment in the dark, the light becomes even brighter.
Secondly, in my life in recovery, I have tools that I never had before. I have tools to remain in the present. I have tools that enhance my awareness. I have tools that calm my mind. I have tools to connect to my body, to ground and center my entire being. When I am at my wits’ end with my girls or when someone is tailgating me on the road or when I’m simply “not getting what I want when I want,” I can pause and shift the energy. I have tools that allow me to live life fully.
When you open up, there’s more to feel, to manage, to experience, to look at—the beautiful and the ugly—but… that is LIFE. I would not change my perfectly imperfect, totally messy life for anything. I wouldn’t trade being a wife and a mother, even though it’s bumpy and real, for anything. I wouldn’t trade putting myself out there and being someone who is trying hard to help others in my work for anything. I would not trade my “learning handstand by 40” or “running a marathon by 50” goals for anything. I would not trade those gifts of my recovery no matter how tough they are at times.
In conclusion, is life easier in recovery? No… AND yes!