An excerpt from Lucie Waldman’s book, The Jots of Becoming: A journey of hope and recovery. Available on Amazon in Kindle and print editions.
This was written in anticipation of Chanukah, but its themes can apply more universally in recovery. The holidays, no matter what religion, are an extraordinarily difficult time for me and for most people with Eating Disorders because it often comes with changes in scheduling in treatment, different foods, and seeing different family members. All in all, it’s a lot of change.
For me, anything changing leads to strong ED urges to cope with the uncertainty because in the moment a certain misery feels better than a miserable uncertainty. I am writing this to remind everyone during the holidays to turn back to the meaning of the holiday and try to appreciate it for all that it is.
For starters, here is a little background on the holiday I choose to celebrate: Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of the oil lasting eight days when it was only supposed to last one. However, it’s more than just that. It’s the celebration of a ragtag army called the Maccabees defeating the oppressive King who was restricting their religious freedom. I could practically write an entire essay about using Chanukah as a metaphor that like the king, the ED restricts my freedom. However, I am going to choose to focus on the miracle aspect of it because Chanukah in of itself should be a celebratory holiday. It’s the celebration of the underdog coming out on top as well as the oil. I feel sometimes like I was the underdog who came out on top of my Eating Disorder, so I am going to give you eight miracles to consider that recovery has given me so far.
First of all, I know the opinion of recovery being a miracle could come across as slightly controversial, but to me, it definitely feels like a miracle that I am in the place I am now. As someone who went through periods of hopelessness and times when I felt like giving up so choosing recovery and getting here is the biggest gift to me.
- The body’s resilience: My ED has put my body through so much hell and it is still functioning–meaning my heart is still beating and I can perform the functions I need to in my life. I definitely think that is the top one to celebrate. That no matter what my body kept fighting. I acknowledge though that the body can only be taken so far, which is why to me not being 1 in 5 who die of an ED is something I’m grateful for every day.
- Getting to enjoy Chanukah foods aka getting closer to food freedom: Starting to get closer to food freedom and away from the food rules that have restrained me for so long is such a miracle in and of itself. However, I can acknowledge all the hard work I put into it to get myself more free just in time for Chanukah when there are so many good (but challenging) foods to enjoy that I have not let myself have in years. I mean latkes and sufganiyot, am I right? I am so happy I get to enjoy them without a voice screaming at me this year.
- Reconnection: My Eating Disorder damaged a ton of relationships and opportunities whether it be friends, family, college, etc. The miracle, however, is that I was able to rebuild a lot of relationships that I thought were damaged forever. I learned that nothing is truly broken, and I am so grateful to have friends who were able to see that I was acting that way because of my ED. This also goes to show that I am way too hard on myself, but nonetheless, it is still a miracle to me that I have reconnected with so many people and now have the most amazing friends.
- Having an exceptional treatment team: Although I have officially come to terms with the fact that my treatment team can’t recover for me, I could not have gotten this far without all the treatment providers that have made a difference in my life. Especially now, I am grateful to have the most amazing supportive, validating people on my team who have also been there to challenge me. I have never had a complete team like this outpatient, so the fact that everything lined up for me is a miracle.
- A sudden surge of motivation: The day I realized I deserved better than my Eating Disorder to me is a miracle. It doesn’t matter how many years it took to me or how much treatment I thought I “wasted” by not believing recovery was worth it, all that matters is I got there. I realized my ED is only temporary happiness that only led to years of misery and life did not have to be that way. The realization that I could change my own life through recovery is such a miracle to me.
- My motivation lasting: When I got the surge of motivation in residential, I thought it was just because I was in a structured environment, and I had surges of motivation in the past that were always fleeting so I couldn’t trust that this time was any different. I couldn’t trust myself yet. I realized though through opposite action and really working through motivation, that it could last. Here I am a few months out of treatment, and I am still pursuing recovery which I have never done before. Commitment is extremely difficult for me, so it is definitely a miracle that I have committed to this process. Like the Hanukkah miracle, I thought I only had enough to last a few weeks and it’s lasted months.
- Flexibility: Rigid thinking and black-and-white thinking has only fueled my Eating Disorder and kept me from moving closer to freedom. I was always told to ‘be flexible’ and I didn’t understand how to. Until I started challenging it. It is a miracle I can do things like listen to my body or have a dessert because I want to without causing a snowball effect. This flexibility is allowing me to travel because I know not everything has to go perfectly and I have been grateful to be taught my skills and applied them in ways that I never imagined I could.
- Meaningful relationships from treatment: Whether it was the staff or other clients, it was a miracle the stars aligned at the right time, so I got placed with the people I did. I believe everything happens for a reason and that reason led to me meeting people who gave me hope, challenged me, and were there for through all the tears of early recovery. I have been warned of how treatment relationships can go awry, so it is a miracle to me that I have the treatment friends that I have who couldn’t be more supportive. It is a miracle the ones I’m in touch with have all stayed in recovery and I am grateful for their journeys as well.
As the dreidel said, a “great miracle happened there” and I am definitely celebrating that this season. Recovery is a gift and a miracle, and I am truly embracing it this season. I can acknowledge how much work I’ve put in while saying a lot of forces were at work to get me to the place I am today. It was a miracle I decided to commit. It was a miracle I had an amazing therapist when I did. To me having a change of heart is definitely something to celebrate over latkes and sufganiyot because what better way to celebrate a journey with an exposure? As I learned from the Maccabees, you have to constantly fight a battle to win the war and don’t give up my dreams for freedom.