When life brings you to your knees, first pray.
Then, get up and conquer that shit.
I don’t remember the exact moment that my eating disorder brought me to my knees. In retrospect, it felt like lots of little moments that built up, over the course of 20 years mind you, that finally brought me to my breaking point. There was a quiet voice inside my head, difficult to hear amongst the angry beast of an illness that roared at a deathly volume. But I heard that quiet voice, and I began to listen: get help. It told me to get help and to get out. Out of my own way, out of the box I was existing in and out of denial, a space I had allowed myself to remain in for far too long.
I am in recovery from anorexia, exercise addiction and binge eating. You name it, and there is a damn well good chance I have injured my body testing, swallowing or tasting it at some point in my life.
I have trudged my way through the shame zone, though it still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I have pushed passed heaps of fear, knowing I will forever be tackling that bastard on this funky life long journey. I even conquered a sense of pride—when I was young, I thought this illness had a sexy allure to it. Before I realized how unhip starvation and malnutrition truly are, the Beast (my preferred name for my eating disorder) had me tight within it’s grip. Alas, I have come to a space of deep gratitude: Gratitude for the people, places and practices that continually help me through and encourage me to see the light.
Maybe yours isn’t an eating disorder. Maybe it’s another form of addiction—or maybe it’s not addiction at all. Whatever obstacle you may be facing, these tips can serve you on your journey through—after all, it is the only way out….
A religious lady I am not, however, I have found prayer to be an essential tool. For me, prayer comes in the form of gratitude lists and simple little chats with my higher power. Even though I was never sure (and I’m still not) that someone was listening, believing in someone and something greater than and outside of myself gave me a sense of strength and peace. It helped me relinquish some of the fight, let go of the reigns just a little bit, allowing “someone” else to take over. Prayer can be a daily ritual that takes on any form you like. Consider it a new habit, a way to start or end your day by both grounding and receiving.
Stuart Smalley, my sisters.
Daily affirmations will help you to retrain your brain to focus on positive thoughts. This is how I began to change the tape inside my head. You ever hear that tape? It’s the one that plays on repeat sending you not-so-pleasant messages in the form of self-judgment and self-esteem suckers. I, you, we have the power to change those messages. The same way I came to believe I wasn’t enough, is the exact same way I slowly—but surely—have come to realize I AM enough, and that I don’t need to fit a certain size, shape, [insert anything here] in order to BE enough. Me as I am: enough. You as YOU are: enough. One of my favorite ways to implement this practice is covering my mirror with positive affirmations in glass-friendly marker. I dare you not to smile when looking in the mirror and seeing “You are an amazing, worthy beauty!” rather than intensely staring at the pint-sized zit that only you have the vision to identify.
I began to do the opposite of what my disorder told me to do. Even though I was terrified of going outside of my comfort zone—which mind you “was so comfortable” that it was itchingly and aggressively uncomfortable—I began to do it anyway. With every small step, came a small reward. I began meeting new people, discovering new things and finding that my disorder got quieter and quieter as the volume of love, intimacy and connection grew and got increasingly louder. The fear is real—you need to face it and say fuck you. I tell no lies: I both succeed and fail at this practice every single day. Fear is the most debilitating disease of all—and yet still, I am writing to tell you that you can do it. Yes, you—reading this right now. Whatever you are struggling to let go of or praying to the Gods to give up or desperate to set yourself free from: it’s possible. It’s probable. You can.
I don’t know where I would be without my dear friend, yoga. I don’t exactly remember how we found one another, and it wasn’t love at first warrior, but slowly we grew together, and continue to grow together. It is a space for me to breathe into my body, recognize it’s true strength, and to feel an incredible sense of beauty. Yoga helps me embrace my entire being; body, mind and soul. On that mat I am able to tap into the best parts of me, that person I long to be off my mat, too. Warning: That internal fire and beads of sweat dripping down your skin are a totally different kind of addiction (a healthy one).
These tips were, and still are, only a part of my process. It took therapy, the most supportive family and friends imaginable and hard work—lots and lots of it—to get over the hump. I see the light: some days it’s dim and on others it shines like the sun. I refuse to let it grow dark. Prayer, positive self-talk, opposite action and yoga have consistently guided me closer and closer to the brightness I so long for and deserve.
While I have not made complete peace with my body (or my relationship with food), I have come to radically accept it. It’s perfectly imperfect and it’s mine. And most excitingly of all, it works. My fucking body works! What a blessing that is, what a gift.
If you’re in it—like right now, you are in the thick of it—trust me sister, trust me: it’s there. Right at the end of that tunnel: the light does exist.