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Inspiration

Getting Back Up: Thoughts on Recovering from Eating Disorders and Addiction

Walk-Step-Feet-Sand

Whether you’re fighting an addiction, wrestling an eating disorder or trying to kick a bad habit, you’ve probably had the same question:

How long will this take?

Ten years ago I decided to beat my eating disorder. Cold bathroom floor against my knees, I realized my “quest for beauty” was destroying me, as I tried and tried to cleanse the guilt away by emptying my stomach. But I couldn’t do it. And I hated myself for that.

Starving myself, followed by ravaging binge eating, followed by guilt. So much guilt I could suffocate in it.

And that’s when I decided: I want out. I want to beat this. I don’t want to live like this anymore.

“Recovery.” That’s what they call it. I didn’t know if it was really possible, if I could really be free, but I had to try.

Just one question: How long would it take?

When I spent weeks and months getting a little bit better, then worse, then better, then worse, I started losing hope. When months turned into years, recovery felt impossible, and I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t I beat this thing?

I didn’t know about a little word called “relapse,” which is part of the recovery process. With the risk of oversimplifying this word, “relapse” basically means that making a mistake or falling back down is normal. You’re not going to recover on day one. Or even week one.

In fact, recovery is a lot like learning how to walk. When a baby takes its first wobbling steps, what does it do next? Fall. Every time. And no one says, “You stupid baby; I can’t believe you fell!” In fact, everyone who saw the baby’s first steps starts cheering: “You did it! Want to try again?”

Because falling and learning how to get back up is part of learning how to walk.

Can you imagine if that’s how we treated ourselves? What if, instead of beating myself up with guilt and frustration, I’d celebrated? “I took the first step! Yeah, I fell, but the important thing is, by God’s grace, I had the courage and strength to get up and take a step.”

One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 24:16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again….” I’ve always thought the unrighteous would fall, but in Proverbs 24:16, it’s the righteous person who falls.

What does falling mean? For me, it was having a day when I particularly hated the girl in the mirror after several days of starting to like her. Or when I sunk back into old eating habits for a couple weeks. Or when I let frustration consume me.

In looking back, I’ve found that recovery is NOT about never making a mistake; it’s not about perfection. The key is that every time you fall, you get back up.

So here’s what I try to do now when I fall:

  • Celebrate how many steps I took that time.
  • Debrief myself by asking, “What did I learn that helped me walk so far that time?”
  • Update my mentors and accountability partners.
  • And then get back up to start walking again.

Recovery takes different amounts of time for different people, and for me, it took seven years. As I write this article, it is 10 years post-bathroom floor, and I finally like my body. I no longer drown in that starve-and-binge cycle, or the guilt that comes with it. There’s always room for improvement, but I’ll continue to grow stronger and healthier for the rest of my life.

All I have to do is keep getting back up.

—Tiffany Dawn

Image: Lightstock | Prixel Creative

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6 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by MiekeGrace on June 25, 2016 at 01:42

    So thankful for your words!
    I have an eating disorder the opposite way around which is also a fruit of the evil spirit. (Galatians 5)
    I have fought this for a long time and the fight is really not over. There are so many ups and downs. Even if I realized that God is my only key to become free from my eating disorder.

    Your article encouraged me because I am at my lowest right now.

    Greetings and Blessings from Good Old Germany! 🙂

    • TiffanyDawn

      Posted by TiffanyDawn on August 18, 2016 at 13:51

      Oh I’m so glad to hear this encouraged you and met you at your lowest point! Keep going and never give up — you got this!! And look for all you can learn along the journey. 🙂 <3, Tiffany

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by karabara123 on April 22, 2015 at 20:24

    THANK YOU for this. Recovery is a long process, but very rewarding. I needed a reminder of that. I’ve been dealing with an addiction and I’ve fallen a lot lately. I just need to get back up and keep trying. 🙂

    • TiffanyDawn

      Posted by TiffanyDawn on June 12, 2015 at 12:50

      Oh, I hear you! Recovery feels like it takes forever, but you’re right — it is extremely rewarding, and worth it! Keep going, girl; you got this! 🙂

  3. Celby

    Posted by Celby on April 21, 2015 at 15:24

    I really liked this article!