Healing and recovery are often viewed as synonymous when we talk about eating disorders and addictions. It is sometimes believed that once you are recovered, you are also healed from the cause of the underlying issue. I wanted to shed light on this topic as this type of thinking can be false, and cause a regression back into addiction or ED. Co-morbidity rates between addictions and eating disorders are high and as I’m not certain we will ever get the numbers right, I am choosing not to quote any statistics here. However, given that there is a connection between ED and addiction, I find this to be an especially important topic to broach. For the purposes of clarity, I speak about recovery and healing as two separate categories.
So let us look at recovery, which is viewed as a road – a continuum if you will, rather than a clear destination. People can remain in recovery throughout their entire lives, meaning they continue to struggle on and off, or they view themselves as being in recovery, meaning they are practising abstinence. Recovery can also be viewed as a process of change, through which one works towards wellness, safety in life, building healthy relationships with people, food or substances, and most importantly developing a healthy relationship with oneself and the body.
Healing is also a journey, as it takes time to understand, explore, unpack, address, process, change patterns and finally integrate a new truth. It is about challenging the beliefs of the past. I believe that healing is a gentle process of working towards overcoming the mental, emotional and physical effects of the trauma that caused the eating disorder or addiction to develop.
Both recovery and healing are vital in overcoming addictions and eating disorders. Recovery and healing are intertwined and need each other. One can be recovered, and still have a lot of healing yet to do. As an example, for a healthy relationship to exist between the body and the self, the very reason behind why this relationship was interrupted or didn’t develop needs to be explored and healed. This can happen through various modalities, such as psychotherapy, group work and yoga, but it most definitely requires a deep look within the self. Healing often becomes overlooked once symptoms have stabilized, as some people can believe there is no more work to be done in therapy or treatment past the goals of weight, abstinence or harm reduction. This is why a regression can occur, as the struggle within and the underlying trauma have not been fully addressed. Again, healing is a process and I really want to stress this; it takes time and occurs in stages and it can be a life long process for some. I do, however, believe that it is helpful to be engaged in it throughout recovery, according to each individual’s level of readiness.
I do want to add that strengthening resolve, bolstering resilience and fostering a greater sense of grounding and mindfulness are integral to healing. No one should be asked to delve deep into the distress within unless they are adequately prepared to do so. Healing is not about ripping open the past. It is about opening the door a bit, perhaps leaving it ajar and peeking in with the help and support we need in order to look at what is left there. To see what continues to be so triggering and make those monsters less scary. To loosen the grip of the past and truly move forward towards the life you deserve.