becoming infinite

always learning. always growing. always lifting heavy things.

when you don’t want to pay it forward.


i mentioned this briefly in a post a few weeks ago, but it’s worth discussing again and more intently.

i have been largely (say…97%) eating disorder behavior free for a little over three years. i still think about body image and how i feel about and respond to my physical self, but as far as actual restricting and/or purging, that has been almost completely eradicated from my life. which is, to say the least, awesome.

yet something i’ve noticed in the general eating disorder community is this notion that if you come out on the other side, it’s practically expected that you will turn around and share your experience with others. that you’ll tell everyone how you did it, and act as some big inspirational figurehead of the Great and Elusive Recovery.

the thing is…i don’t want to. simple as that. the further removed i become from my eating disordered self, the less i want to be a part of the community as a whole.

reading that over, i sound like an asshole. but i’ll try and explain myself.

when i first got out of my renfrew/columbia double bill, i was all about recovery. i followed my meal plan perfectly, i followed my exercise plan perfectly, i religiously attended appointments with my therapist and my nutritionist and my GP. i journaled daily and started scrapbooking and doing jigsaw puzzles to keep my hands and mind busy. and i became obsessed with the idea of helping other people recover.

i called ANAD and had them send me a starter packet for setting up a local support group. i got involved in NEDA Week at my community college. i spoke on panels about body image and women in the media.

and all the while, i was only about 22% actually well myself.

i was using “recovery” as i assumed it to be – perfectly-planned and executed meals and workouts, vocal advocacy and the naive belief that i had any business giving advice – as a substitute for the disorder itself. it was my way of keeping a toe in that world, while also leaning the rest of my body vehemently the other way, proclaiming that i was “totally better” (Skins UK reference? anyone?) and just being an impassioned advocate.

needless to say, i came a hair’s breadth away from landing back in treatment not once but twice in the five years that followed. i played The Game – “i’ll only get as well as i absolutely have to be. that’s recovery enough.”

sorry, charlie. you either do this shit 150% or you don’t make it. go big or go home, so to speak. it took until the spring of 2010 – a full five years after i got out of columbia – to get that through my thick skull.

and now that i have – now that i finally am on my way to “getting it,” to realizing that recovery isn’t perfectly planned and organized like the light blue meal plan sheets my nutritionist used to send me home with each week, that it’s more like a hot mess disaster of estimation and panic and realizing that no, you don’t get to know every ingredient in every food you ever eat and that some days you’ll oversleep and miss the gym or you’ll be sick or maybe you’ll just be fucking tired or maybe even busy doing something like going out with your friends…now that i’m there, i have zero interest in going back. in any capacity.

but if somebody were to ask me “how i did it,” my response would be this: i just did. i stopped blaming other people, stopped blaming society and the media and genetics and my inborn personality traits. i stopped waiting for it to be easy. and i stopped fucking around being half-assed about it. there was no “oh, i’ll just restrict today because i have an audition tomorrow,” or “purging just this one time won’t matter – i’m just really full.” there is a fine line between allowing yourself room to make mistakes – relapse is a part of my story, for sure – and for using the fact that recovery is balls to the wall hard as an excuse to only do it halfway.

and honestly, nobody wants to hear that.

the best way i can show my recovery is by living my life and living it well. i train because i enjoy lifting heavy things and getting stronger; i don’t do it to burn calories or to look a certain way. i eat however i damn well please, knowing that i choose to eat in a way that will support me physically and emotionally (aka will eating a piece of apple pie plus my aunt’s amazing chocolate chip cookies on thanksgiving day help me lift better? probably not. but damn they make me feel good, so i’m going to freaking eat them).

some people thrive in support groups and 12-step programs, and that’s awesome for them. however, i know myself and i know i would not. it wouldn’t be good for me, and i wouldn’t be good for the other people there. so instead, i stick to myself. i celebrate my little victories, and when it’s all said and done, i know i have done recovery – finally – on my own terms.


Author: jenn

impossible to define; indefinitely impossible. maybe i'll add more here later.

4 thoughts on “when you don’t want to pay it forward.

  1. I’ve dated a couple of gentlemen who have been through AA. They have described a similar process – newly recovering folks that experience a burst of energy to help others, which eventually tapers off as time goes on. They’ve told me how people who have been in the program for many, many years (kindly) roll their eyes when they see it happen – in kind of a “I’ve been there” way. I really enjoyed your post, and it sounds to me, that you are doing all the right things.

    • it’s nice to hear that i’m not the only one who has felt this way! a good friend of mine is actually very active in her 12-step program, and for her it has been the cornerstone of her recovery; i went to a meeting with her a few months ago and immediately thought “nope, not for me.” thanks for reading! : )

  2. I think your “pay it forward” for that community has already been done. You blog. You’re reaching out every time you write a post.

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