Recently I was able to listen to a podcast featuring Thom Rutledge. For those unfamiliar with his work, as I was before listening to the podcast, he is a psychotherapist and author best known for his work with eating disorders and other addictive behaviors. His podcast got me thinking about the importance of words. As someone who enjoys writing, I often wonder what my words really convey to those reading them (and hopefully there are people reading them). Certain words express more than just their meaning; they express emotions, movements, or cause change. Surely everyone in America can tell you who spoke the words “I have a dream” and how those words inspired millions of people to consider their own thoughts and actions, and work towards changing not only themselves, but a nation. Now, I’m not comparing Thom to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; I am merely using his speech as an example of how powerful words can be. At any rate, I’ve been thinking a lot about the words Thom used in his podcast; especially as to how it relates to recovery.
“It [recovery] is not just about recovering from an illness; it is recovering who I really am” Thom Rutledge
What a concept. It is always, always stressed that we must recover from our disease; that we must stop using ED behaviors. Not only do we believe that we will be magically recovered when the illness no longer exhibits in our daily lives, but those around us are on that misguided idea as well. Everything revolves around ED; what we eat, what we wear, where we go, who we befriend, who we trust, how we act…everything. Our lives become ED and any semblance of the human being we used to be disappears. We forget who we are, what we like, and anything else not related to the ED. Unfortunately, too many of us keep ED in our lives because we simply do not know who we are without it. It becomes easier to keep and be ED than it is to take the time to work towards recovery.
Thom acknowledges that recovery is a two-fold process. The first half, of course, is “recovery from what’s toxic in our lives” (Thom Rutledge quote, not me). This includes thoughts, behaviors, actions and anything else that prevent us from being who God intended us to be. The second half is “recovery of who we really are; our authentic selves” (again, Thom, not Rhea). With the behaviors gone, we have no choice but to be ourselves. Thom likens it to an excavation, as we are digging ourselves out of ED and discovering who we are underneath all those behaviors. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. In fact, recovery isn’t negative. What could possibly be negative about finding out what makes you happy, doing things you enjoy, finding friends that value you as the imperfect human being that you are and enjoying food as food alone? For so long we’ve told ourselves we don’t deserve those things. However, recovery, both sides of it, teaches us that we do deserve it. Truthfully, we deserve more!
“Recovery, to me, means possessing the courage to let go of old, ineffective patterns of thoughts and behaviors; and a willingness to start fresh” Thom Rutledge
The first half of this quote reminds us that recovery takes a remarkable amount of courage on our part. All too often, we do not acknowledge our own strength. To let go of everything we know, even if it is killing us, is frightening and yet incredibly brave. We have identified that our disease is not working in our lives, but have held on to it because of some fear, real or imagined, of letting go. Recovery is about gaining the courage to let go of that fear to become who we really are…to do whatever we want to do, go wherever we want to go and be whoever we want to be…all of it without ED. But first, we have to take the initial courageous step of letting go.
The second half of the quote reminds us to have grace with ourselves. Thom stresses that there is no perfect recovery; there never has been, there never will be and you are not the exception. It will be chaotic, you will make mistakes, and it will not happen overnight. By having grace with yourself, you are able to forgive yourself for unhealthy choices made during recovery and you are able to thoroughly examine your mistakes to learn from them. I am a firm believer in learning from our mistakes. When I was a child, I stuck a key in a light socket. OK, mistake, yes. BUT, I learned. Would I have learned that we don’t put keys in light sockets eventually? Yes. But that personal mistake taught me faster and helped me to better believe that the two don’t mix. The important thing is that I learned. I had grace with my 5-year-old self. I learned. I moved on. The same is still true. With recovery, we are bound to have missteps; but we must learn to reflect on those missteps and apply that new knowledge towards moving forward in our recovery.
Ok, so, to sum up a long, winding entry…I just want to leave you with two things. 1) You, yes you, CAN recover. You can recover from the disease and you can recover who you are. 2) Have grace with yourself when you make (consciously or unconsciously) unhealthy choices during recovery.
“Being well takes guts and its hard work and nobody does it perfect, but you can do it” Thom Rutledge
*all quotes in this entry are my transcriptions from Thom’s podcast and may differ slightly from his exact words. Apologies to Thom, if by some chance he sees this, if quotes are slightly off or were misinterpreted.*