Recovered vs. In Recovery: Either Way, I’m Living Authentically
This is one person's story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.
By Maia Polson, a woman in recovery
The debate over being “recovered” versus “in recovery” from an eating disorder is one that I have not participated in for quite some time. I reached a point in my own recovery where I felt comfortable with describing myself as recovered. I also decided then that the only person I needed to define that word for was myself. The debate became irrelevant to me, since I believe that every person’s definition should be one that works for him or her, regardless of what other people might think.
For me, at that time, “recovered” seemed to fit. It meant that I was living my life in an authentic way. My eating disorder was a part of my past, not present. I didn’t need to put energy into saying “no” to the thoughts and behaviors on a daily basis. I finally had time to put my energy toward rediscovering my identity and speaking my own truth, not the eating disorder’s.
Recently, however, I went through an emotionally turbulent period of life, and it uprooted me from my solid foundation in recovery. Old thoughts and urges started creeping back in, and I found myself in a negative mindset I hadn’t experienced in a long time. The word “recovered” no longer felt right for me to use, so I changed my language. I am once again a woman “in recovery:” I make an active decision to say “no” to my eating disorder on a regular basis, and to say “yes” to my recovery and my life. I focus more intently on practicing self-care, surrounding myself with my support people, and cultivating a loving relationship with my authentic self—body, mind, and soul.
So, have I relapsed? Have I “failed” at being recovered? Have I taken a step backward in my journey? Certainly not! Having old thoughts and behaviors pop up along the way is normal in recovery. It is not a failure but a signal to me that I need more self-care and more reflection on what needs of mine are not being met. My eating disorder is something I once used to soothe myself in uncomfortable situations. Right now, it just takes more work to find other ways to cope with discomfort and stress.
Changing my language around my recovery temporarily does not mean the eating disorder has won. In fact, it means the very opposite; it means I am once again becoming more active against my eating disorder in order to protect my recovery, health, and overall happiness. And that’s what I think this whole recovery process is all about. No matter what stage of recovery I am in right now, I truly believe that moving toward my new beginning will ultimately lead beyond “recovered” and on to being simply me.
In the end, the language we all use to describe our journeys doesn’t matter, because being “recovered” is not the end goal. The “end goal” of recovery is to create a beginning for ourselves; to build a foundation from which we can nurture our authentic selves, discover who we are without our eating disorders, and step freely into the lives we create for ourselves.