As humans we choose to label ourselves as a way of creating an identity. We are students, lawyers, nurses, mothers, husbands, sons, daughters, girlfriends, dancers, baseball players, bartenders, and theatre majors. The first question that we are most often asked when we meet someone new is “What do you do?” This social interaction has been discussed lately as a problem because it implies that how we make money is the most important aspect of who we are as a person. I don’t think that is always the motivation. I think it is more innocent. I think it’s simply the easiest way to connect.
We all, in some way, identify with what we spend a large portion of our daily time doing. For many that is their professional or family responsibilities. We can easily assume that the person we are meeting also identifies strongly with what they do all day so we ask about that.
What if our time is spent in another way? What if while we are attending to daily responsibilities our mind is focus somewhere else? What about those with eating disorders or addictions?
For those struggling, much of the day is spent acting on or battling against eating disordered or addictive thinking and behaviors. While most of us wouldn’t answer a dinner party icebreaker with “Oh, I’m anorexic and addicted to prescription drugs. What do you do?” Many people do create a sense of self that is largely based in their disorders, diseases and diagnosis.
This is a huge hurdle in recovery. There is a very real fear of “who will I be without my eating disorder?” To those who have never been in the depths of a disorder or addiction this may not make sense, but to those of us who have been there we know that’s is huge and valid concern. Something that seems to be talked about less, is the tendency for those in recovery to self identify predominantly as people in recovery. The answer to the icebreaker becomes “Hi I am Jane and I’m in recovery from anorexia,” or “I’m weight restored, but am committed to recovery,” or I’m Joe, I’m an addict, clean fifteen years.” Perhaps not at a dinner party, but certainly in recovery groups and peer circles.
While such facts may be true they are simply not who we are. Your eating disorder or addiction does’t make you who you are and neither does your recovery. You are so much more.
On a soul level you are and always will be perfectly uniquely you.
When we create a new life, a life free of eating disorders and addictions we have an opportunity to step into who we truly are. If we place our past diagnosis as the cornerstone of our new foundation we are limiting ourselves. Our experiences with eating disorders and addictions inform our present moment, but they do not define who we are.
I believe in full recovery. I believe that we have a choice in recovery as to how far we want to go. If we want to go all the way then we must be willing to let go of our ties to our diagnoses. This isn’t to say that we take our recovery for granted or pretend we didn’t go through something huge. It is to say that we can allow it be a part of our amazingly multidimensional selves, without it being our defining trait.
Once we become aware of our beliefs we have a choice as to whether we buy into them or not. If we believe that we are limited by our diagnosis we always will be. If we decide that we want to be free we can be. It is a continual process, and a fully human one.
The journey of continual self study is not exclusive to recovery. It is a part of being an ever evolving human.
If full recovery is something you want, try it out. See what happens when you drop the labels.