It can be intimidating for newcomers entering recovery groups online or face-to-face. Not only is the talk overwhelming (3-0-1, abstinence, let go and let God), but understanding what recovery looks like day in and day out can be deceiving and dispiriting.

People who have been in the program awhile often say things like:

“Weighing and measuring my food has worked for me for 21 years!”

“I haven’t eaten sugar in seven years.”

“I gave up processed foods nine years ago, and I have never looked back.”

What this implies (though erroneous) is that their recovery is perfect. Newcomers might think that these well-meaning members have not had a bad day since they gave up trigger foods. Newcomers might think that abstinence is a magic bullet. That once achieved, the hard work is over.

Indeed, I strongly believe that very little progress can be made if a food addict is still using food. It stands to reason that it is extremely difficult to make good decisions while still under the influence of mind-altering substances. In fact, I could not even understand the disease until I kicked those chemicals masquerading as food out of my body, mind, and soul.

The problem, however, is that when we speak about our recovery in absolutes, it can overwhelm newcomers into thinking that there has been no slips, no slides, no “dry drunkenness.” In other words, even with abstinence, the illness remains.

We all have bad days. We all have days in which we obsess about a food or foods. We all have days in which we find ourselves engaging in behaviors that are not in line with recovery. While it is true that many long-timers have not touched a single crumb of addictive foods, it should not be assumed that every day of recovery since then has been without challenge or fault.

There is no question that life is better with abstinence, but we must remember that no one is perfect. No recovery is perfect.

If you slip, pick yourself back up right then and there. Do not linger. Do not allow one poor choice in thought or deed to lead to another. But also, do not believe for a moment that there is any such thing as perfect recovery. Nonetheless, one thing is certain: a day lived in imperfect recovery is far better than any day before recovery began.

My next entry will focus on the difference between being in recovery and living in recovery. Stay tuned.


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