Which Character is the Star of Your Recovery?

cast of characters
I recently learned about the “cast of characters,” and it’s been tremendously helpful in many areas of my life. In recovery and beyond, this concept might help you stay focused on your goals and be aware of your inner saboteur.

Your own cast is very unique to you. There can be as many characters as you can find. There may be your recovery-minded character, who encourages you to follow your meal plan, be honest with your treatment team and ask for support when you need it. You may have a self-care character, who nudges you to take a hot bath after a long day, treat yourself to some new music or go out dancing with friends.

Your eating disorder character comes next. This character tells you to use behaviors that your recovery-minded character doesn’t support. A self-punishing character may accompany this ED role by criticizing you and making you feel helpless, hopeless, undeserving or unloveable.

Just as you can have many or few characters, their role in your life can be similarly variable. You may not hear from your ED or self-punishing characters for months, and then there they are, front and center, trying to steal the show. You may not be able to muster up your self-care character without help from a friend or therapist, who can support you as you find what works for you. These characters will flow in and out of your life, just as they’d appear, disappear and reappear in a movie.

So how can this help you in your recovery?

By recognizing your characters, particularly those that will harm you, you create some space for your other characters to speak up.

By recognizing that “my eating disorder voice wants me to restrict at dinner,” you allow for a conversation with your healthy voice. Recovery-minded you can respond to your ED character. “Restricting will not help me reach my health and wellness goals. Restricting is not in my best interest.”

You may also probe deeper. Your recovery-minded character might ask why your ED character wants you to restrict. Perhaps this is where your self-punishing character comes in, and where your self-care character can follow. If self-punishment says “You should restrict because you had dessert last night,” self-care can say, “Dessert was a treat. You were out with friends, having a good time. You should nourish your body today. You should not punish yourself for a fun night.”

As you come to know your characters, it might be helpful to write about them – what time of the day or week they typically emerge, how you feel before and after they appear, and what specifically these characters say to you. That way, in moments of stress, you can more easily pinpoint which voices are dominating your internal conversation.

By identifying and getting to know these unique characters, you can begin to confront your eating disorder. You can begin to untangle it and his team of self-punishing bullies from the happy, and healthy you, so it ultimately loses its power.

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