The eating disorder, or any addiction for that matter, is much more than a psychological or physical reliance on behavior or substances; it’s a physical, emotional and spiritual issue that puts blinders on our perspective, corrodes our value systems, and compromises our ability to prioritize normally. It literally takes over our life slowly and begins to damage every part of our being.
Over time, the eating disorder (or addiction) becomes our most important priority. And in order to continue fueling its demanding and ravenous needs, we must sacrifice other important aspects of our lives.
As I looked back on recovery and though about the damage it has done, I’ve realize that, like any other addiction, the eating disorder had affected everything in my life that was meaningful. I’m so thankful that I am recovered and that the eating disorder no longer has the control over any aspect of my life.
Ed (and addiction) is a thief, and these seven things are its most common targets:
Watching someone suffer from an eating disorder or addiction can be both heart wrenching and infuriating. Although no one wants to isolate someone they love, our behaviors and mentality during active addiction often force family and friends to want to walk away. Our refusal for help and the want to engage in unhealthy behaviors makes for the worst combination. Ed quickly steals our most cherished relationships.
Whether it’s performing well at work, honing our talents or continuing to learn, things that once made us feel successful are replaced by the eating disorder. The eating disorder is very good at stealing our passions and diminishing the quality of our efforts. It makes us feel like we aren’t good at anything and we will never be worthy. This is a lie.
Possibly the most important commodity in life, our time is forever fleeting. Every minute, day or decade that we sacrifice to the eating disorder becomes stolen time we’ll never get back.
Aside from the life-shortening, physical consequences of our destructive behaviors, being active in our eating disorder also steals the quality, purpose and value of our time. I never realized how much time was lost until I was far in recovery and actually productive with my time and enjoying things. I was so wrapped up and consumed in the rituals of the eating disorder and I didn’t have any real time to actually live!
Addiction rewires the pleasure centers of our brain. Whether it’s a sunset, a child playing, or a good friend’s contagious laugh, we slowly become unappreciative to the meaningful moments in our lives. Experiencing the world through a veil of the eating disorder makes seeing or feeling things we once loved increasingly more difficult. The eating disorder makes us lose meaning in what is important in life.
Whether it’s through religion, nature, philosophy, art or anything else, spirituality is an important aspect of our human experience. The eating disorder quickly steals our wonder and peace; it destroys our ability to dream. In the deepest of my eating disorder, trying to dig myself out, I realized that I was drawn so far from my faith that I didn’t know who I was anymore. This may have been the most detrimental loss for a period of time. Everything loses meaning when you lose your faith. Finding my faith and my relationship with God again is what saved my life. There is a reason why Alcoholics Anonymous has a focus on a higher power.
Once we lose our loved ones, our ambition, our gratitude and our spirit, happiness becomes harder and harder to hold onto.The eating disorder promises us happiness, but simply supplements our discontent with short-term escapes. It continues to raise the bar on us as we continue to strive for what is promised. As we work harder for the happiness, it seems to get farther and farther away. As we begin to lose our happiness, it also becomes easier to steal our hope.
Once addiction steals everything else, the only remaining thing to steal is our hope. From recommitting to future goals, to mending our broken relationships, the hope of regaining our lives is continually taken as we remain in active in the eating disorder. To regain hope, we must first recognize the culprit that has taken everything away. Not everyone experiences addiction the same, but the disease is predictable in terms of what it steals from us. The eating disorder and addiction is a thief of our time, our minds, our hearts and our relationships. After taking everything else, addiction also tries to steal the hope of our recovery. These are the points in recovery when you want to give up, turn and run or feel like you can’t go on anymore. I saw a pattern in my recovery when I frequently said, “I need to take a break from all of this.” What that really meant was that I was beaten down, tired of fighting, and worn out from the loss of hope for being fully recovered. However, quality treatment programs offer millions of individuals hope when there seems to be none. I was very lucky enough to have a treatment team that recognized those statements and didn’t allow me to “take a break” from appointments. I think when we journey in recovery, this is one of the firs things we get back. Once we begin to regain our hope of recovery, we can also begin to recover the other stolen parts of our lives.
The good thing is, these things can be given back. Although we can never get back the time that was lost in the eating disorder or addiction, we can spend time building new relationships, memories and successes. Once we decided we want a healthy life (and it is possible) we can immediately have hope as we enter treatment to begin the journey toward finding our self. As we find success in recovery we learn to value gratitude and see the little things in life, feel true happiness, regain our sense of spirituality and everything comes back around, full-circle. Although we momentarily lose some things, through recovery we learn valuable lessons and become stronger for it.