Living in recovery from any addiction can be challenging. Once you get past the early months and settle in to living your life with better habits, it can be difficult to keep up the momentum and not fall back into your old ways of being. After all, they worked for you for a long time–or so it seemed.
The hard part of living in recovery for most of us, then, is getting to know who we are without the food. What makes us happy? What makes us sad? What do we like to do? What do we not like to do?
For sure, these are questions that most people ask of themselves over their lifetimes, but it feels almost surreal at whatever age recovery begins to figure out that we have little idea of who we are.
In the past few years that I have been in recovery, I have encountered my true Self over and over again. It turns out that I like being alone, something I never could have imagined to be true while I was still using food to fill voids for loneliness, boredom, unhappiness, and so on. I love sitting in a warm bubble bath with some quiet music and just listening to my own heart beat.
Another thing I learned: I don’t like hairspray or other hair products. This might seem trivial, but I was spending a fortune each year on chemicals to make my hair look perfect. Even the “softest” of hairsprays made my hair sticky and untouchable. Now, I brush and go and spend quite a bit of time every single day running my fingers through it and letting wind rush in my car windows and whip my long hair all over my head.
And, it turns out that I love to smell like lavender. I love the oil. I love to put it on in the morning and in the evening. I love the earthy, sweet smell it creates on my skin. Commercially produced perfumes make me sick and give me a headache. They always have, but I thought that to be accepted and liked I needed expensive perfume.
There are many more things about me that I have uncovered since I eliminated sugars and flours from my life, but the most profound change I have made is listening to my own voice. I have read in many sources that active addicts have trouble making decisions, and I think that has to do with an inability to hear ourselves think. The roar of addiction drowns out our inner voices.
When I first heard my own voice, I was startled. I had been in recovery for about six weeks when I weighed in and noticed that I had lost about ten pounds. My food addiction piped up,
“Hey, that is great, but you know, if you cut calories and worked out more, you would lose even faster. You could fit into that cute red dress again. Your husband would think you were hot–finally. Your friends would extoll your beauty. Your–“
And right there, I cut it off. Shut it up. MY voice spoke up affirmatively,
“Recovery is not about weight loss. Recovery is about sanity. Dieting is an addictive behavior. Focusing on weight is a sick line of thinking.”
I smiled and shouted, “Yes!” I heard for the first time since childhood my own true voice loud, clear, and loving.
Recently, someone close to me criticized my weight, asserting that my recovery must not be going well if I hadn’t achieved my goal weight. When I tried to explain to him that I was no longer after a goal weight and that my recovery was stronger than ever, he challenged me. I listened, and slowly, the voice of addiction came pounding back.
“He is right. You are in denial. Tomorrow, you will go on a diet. Back to 1200 calories a day. No more of this–“
And MY voice stopped it. My own strong, beautiful voice spoke up with a sureness I can rarely recall:
“Stop it. You have come so far. You have beaten the odds. You have overcome the dark shadows of bingeing. You have stopped getting high on sugar and flour. You have eliminated physical ailments. Stop doubting yourself.”
I did. I stopped. It took a few agonizing minutes, but I righted myself. I dug down in to my power and stayed there, hanging on until the last doubt passed.
I am grateful for that voice. I am grateful for getting stronger every single day. I am grateful for my own kindness to myself even when others are not so kind. I am grateful for a regular meditation practice that allows me to get closer to my true Self and to my Higher Power, or Source.
Most of all, I am grateful to be out of the influence of food so that I could HEAR my own beautiful voice above the din of a disease that is still with me but no longer owns me.
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