The beginning and the end. From the start to the finish. The gun goes off and the tape breaks. The light flips on and the light flips off. But who says where the beginning is and who sets the starting line. Who decides the ready, the set, and then pulls the trigger? Who gets to flip the light? But maybe more importantly, where exactly is the end, how long is the race, whose holding the tape and what time is lights out?
When did my recovery start? Today I spoke to the student body of the school where I teach. Two and half years ago I gave a chapel. I gave a chapel then about my eating disorder and my desire to end it. I spoke about knowing that God loved me exactly as I was and that I needed to trust him. I. Meant. Every. Word. And then I relapsed. I went back to ED. I got sucked back in. Was that chapel a joke? Was that attempt at recovery a lie? Was I lying to everyone when I said then that I wanted nothing more to do with ED? Was that a false start or a failed finish?
ED’s main agenda is to steal, kill, and destroy. He steals joy. He kills relationships. He destroys hope. Eating disorders feel hopeless. I remember many times, before my first attempt at recovery, before I understood ED’s control over me, I remember wishing I could just run less. I remember wishing I could enjoy lunch out with friends. I remember wondering why other people could eat normal but I couldn’t. I glimpsed logical sense in others, but ED didn’t let me apply that same logic to myself. I felt trapped in my own rules. The only way I knew to feel peace and security was by continuing to follow my rules. I was caught in the vicious cycle that ED creates to maintain control. And that vicious cycle careened out of control down a steep slope with no brakes to stop the crazy cart. The evident paradox speaks the depth of destruction about ED: I felt “in control” adhering to ED’s rules while he kept tapping my cart closer to the edge until my “in control” was flying “out of control” down a mountain. And yet I still hung on to ED.
And now back to the original question – where does recover start? Where is the beginning? Too many people who know ED can’t get off the crazy cart, even after becoming road kill when the cart crashes, even after they’ve sought help, after they’ve promised to never go back, after they’ve tasted freedom and known peace. We go back to ED. So is recovery a joke? Was my first chapel actually a start or just a rest stop? Was my first chapel an outright lie to teenagers I was called to lead by example? And not just them, but my own children, my nieces, my sisters, my friends, my coworkers, my parents. My husband. Did I lie to everyone? Was that really a start to recovery?
Fighting ED is a mix of hope and hopelessness, confusion and clarity, determination and weakness, desire and giving up. Those of us who understand ED also understand the layers of lies we live buried under. Digging out of years of rubble is blistering, mind-numbing work. Uncovering who we are buried deep under ED’s piled up garbage somedays feels useless. Some days we hit an air pocket. Some days we hear the searchers call our name. Other days we feel darkness like a smothering blanket. These days we want to give up, and then we hear rocks move above us and know that the ones we love are working tirelessly to get us out. And hope revives. We begin digging from underneath, praying for a break to the light. Until the voices grow dim and darkness once again stifles that hope. Recovery is shaky ground. If the darkness lasts too long, we forget what love and logic are and sink into the false air pocket ED settles us into.
We think: I can breath here. I’m not bothering anyone. No one is bothering me. My eyes may even be adjusting to the darkness. It’s easier to simply be than to move boulders that only seem to hide another layer of boulders. I am “in control” if I don’t try to change anything.
We think: I wanted to get out, but really, this is just fine. This may be as good as it gets. We’ll see how long I can last here. This is reality. What might be waiting behind the next boulder is a dream. I prefer what I know here and now to what I might find in an unknown future. Even if here and now is dark, stifled, and alone.
ED steals, kills, and destroys. Recovery becomes a dream because the weight of the task buries the hope.
So when is the start of recovery really the start? When is it real? When does taking a stand against ED mean standing on firm ground that won’t collapse, burying me under it? How do I know that firm ground won’t give way in a few months, in a year, in ten? How do I know I won’t go back to hopelessness? How do I know I’m not lying to the world, or to myself? How do I know recovery has truly started this time?
My start was on Monday, November 7, 2016. When I realized I was utterly broken. When I realized I had hit the bottom. When I realized I had nowhere to go but to God. When I realized ED could not save me. When I realized ED wanted to kill me. When I realized that I am not defined by death. When I realized that I am a redeemed child of the King. When I realized that the mess I was buried under was finite because the One who had brought me to brokenness is infinite. When I realized that the ones digging for me needed me to be screaming out to them so they could follow the sound of my voice.
My recovery truly started when I gave up control that had never been mine.
When I realized that God had never let me go, that he would never leave me unrecoverable. When I realized God was holding out his hand to me the whole time. But that he needed me to reach out my arm back to him and say, “I’m done. I can’t do this on my own anymore. I have nowhere left to go but where you take me.” Recovery truly started when I let go of what I had no control over in the first place. I had to let go. And then I could finally start.
My end. My end is where God is. Many will argue with me, many dispute the possibility of a definite end to ED, but I know there is one. I know my recovery has an end because the end is in God. My recovery started when I let go of ED’s lies, and my end will happen because I trust my Savior that it will. He picked me up when I had nothing left to hold on to. I will let go of each boulder, each lie ED buried me under, because I trust that God will unbury me until I’m completely free. I let go at my start, and I have had to let go every day since. Some days are easier than others. But I will blindly hold to the truth of God’s power in recovery because the God who holds me is faithful to complete it. Because in his great love, I am not consumed. His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness. Recovery is a process and it has an end. There is a fully recovered. I know because my God says so. And I trust him. Period.