Sometimes clients will ask me if I believe full eating disorder recovery is possible. This is such an understandable question given how difficult recovery is and, for some clients, how long they have been struggling. It’s not uncommon for eating disorder treatment to last years, and sometimes include repeated periods of being in a higher level of care.
Even with all those challenges, my answer to whether full eating disorder recovery is possible is YES.
I believe that because I’ve lived it myself and seen others recover too. And all of us questioned whether it was possible. It felt too hard at times. It was too messy, and we slipped up a lot. And it took much longer than we thought it should, much longer than we wanted it to.
Friend, I promise that is just the reality of eating disorder recovery and none of those things is evidence that you can’t do it.
What about “recovered” versus “recovering”?
There is some debate in the eating disorder community about whether people can be fully recovered without intentional maintenance or whether it is more like always being in recovery… that is, having to intentionally maintain being free of the eating disorder. Many alcoholics describe themselves as being in recovery, even years after they have stopped drinking. It implies a sense of fragility to recovery, as if losing that recovery is always a near possibility. I’ve found this thinking to be common in the 12-step communities.
I personally believe that full recovery without having to intentionally maintain it is possible. That is my experience and the experience of many others I’ve seen. However, I would never minimize the experiences of those who describe themselves in a state of recovery. I certainly have no right to tell them they are wrong. Yet I can’t help but wonder if those people just have settled for a state of qausi-recovery (a topic I wrote about here). It’s possible that they haven’t fully healed their relationship with food and their bodies, even though they are free of actual eating disorder behaviors. In the alcohol recovery world, that’s called being a dry drunk.
I have found qausi-recovery to be a very common experience for many people with eating disorders, so if that’s where you find yourself, you’re completely normal in that regard too. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed or can’t do it, it just means there are still some things to work on, things that still need healing. I was in qausi-recovery for 8 years so I know about that in-between place quite well. But against all odds, here I am, now completely recovered.
You can have full recovery too. Just don’t give up.
I’m Cherie Miller, MS, LPC, founder of Food Freedom Therapy™. I offer counseling for chronic dieting as well eating disorder therapy for Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, OSFED, ARFID, and other eating disorder issues. Contact me here or follow me on Instagram or Facebook.