I received an email from a woman who is currently reading my book and she asked me the question, “do you think it’s possible to reach recovery on my own?”
It’s a really good question and one that I thought should be discussed in more depth on the blog. I know what the reader means by that, she means is it possible to stop binge eating without dealing with a therapist or a twelve step group, can I just read a book and recover. The simple answer is yes of course. In fact, when you read the rational recovery material, they discuss how every day, active alcoholics put down their drinks and make a choice never to drink again and they don’t. Many people who smoke cigarettes quit cold turkey and never pick up the habit again. So yes, it’s certainly possible. In fact, one would argue that everyone recovers on their own- by their own will and with their own strength.
But you don’t have to. And that’s what you should know. Just because you can recover alone, doesn’t mean that you have to recover alone. Eating disorders thrive in isolation. You do your eating disorder all alone, so when you recover, it’s nice to get out of the shadows of the disorder and have someone their to hold your hand, support you and be there if you need extra support. My friend and colleague Nicole Laby (producer of Erasing Ed, which you should totally see if you can) always says, “eating disorders don’t form in a vacuum and so you shouldn’t have to recover in a vacuum.” What she means by that is that there are a million varying factors that come together to make an eating disorder. There is family, there is society, there are your friends at school, there are traumatic events, there are food manufacturers creating and marketing unhealthy substances that we seem to feel addicted to and use like drugs, all these things come together as a perfect little recipe for a dysfunctional relationship with food. Awesome. So because of this, it is often very comforting to have people around you who are on your side instead of on the eating disorder’s side. These are folks who understand what you are going through and who have been there themselves and want to help you and need support too.
I wrote Reclaiming Yourself to be like a pocket therapist for people who didn’t have the means for psychotherapy. However, in the book, I do suggest finding your own support network, be it a best friend or an online network, or a group. It doesn’t need to be a 12 step group, it can be a group of people you form yourself to just give each other love and support around not bingeing. When you recover all by yourself, you miss out on the accolades and the love that you get from other people who are supporting you. When you recover with support, if you should fall down, you always have someone there with an outreached arm to hold your hand and perhaps pull you up rather than you being left to climb up and out on your own. That being said, there is more than one way to recover. You have to find your recovery style and choose what works for you. I recommend trying several different things, 12 step groups, rational recovery groups (SMART recovery), online support groups, blogs, tumblrs, meditation and mindfulness groups, whatever. There are a billion ways to find help. Or try it alone and see how it goes. You don’t have to make a decision and then stick to it, experiment and figure out what works for you.
What worked best in your recovery?