According to the Transtheoretical (Stages of Change) Model developed by Prochaska and DiClemente, once someone has passed through the active stage of recovery they enter a maintenance phase. As I wrote about in 2009, a big area of focus in this stage is on how to prevent relapse.
But there has to be more to life than just the absence of your eating disorder. Otherwise it’s still controlling you and your life. I encourage people to learn how to live in recovery, to build a life where you’re dealing with the realities of preventing relapse, but also open to new discoveries and growth beyond what you’ve ever imagined for yourself.
The truth is that the stages of change and recovery are fluid, and you will move back and forth between them. Part of the challenge is that life will continue to throw stressors and unpredictable things at you – the difference is that now you’re not using food or eating behaviors to deal with them. That may seem scary, but it’s actually really great.
Imagine just how proud you’ll feel the first time get through a tough time on your own – without the old crutches that you used to use. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it alone, it means you’re reaching out for help in a healthy way, from healthy people, and you’re receiving and using that help.
Living in recovery requires a totally different way of being. At the White Picket Fence Counseling Center, we talk about this with our clients right from the beginning, so they can practice the tools they can tap into later. Otherwise, they may not know how to handle it when, let’s say, people stop noticing or commenting on their new healthy body weight, or when it’s time to replace their mealtime habits of calorie counting or deprivation.
We pride ourselves on equipping our clients with the tools, confidence and self-assurance to be strong in their recovery, and to be aware of potential issues so they can talk about them instead of reaching for old, unhealthy behaviors. We remind them, “This too shall pass,” and it always does!
Life in recovery brings the chance to develop healthy relationships with food, with your body, with yourself, and with others. When you’re using food behaviors, if you have a problem, then automatically you have two problems. In recovery, when you have a problem, you have one problem, and infinite tools and resources to solve it. That is true freedom.
At the White Picket Fence Counseling, we will be continuing our series of Recovery Stories in the Living Room events, where clients share about their journey to recovery. We’re looking for volunteer speakers for this series. Please contact us today if you would you like to share your story. We’ll also be doing some specialized workshops on this topic, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, watch the blog and newsletter for additional articles about tools, resources and relationship guidance for the recovery stage.