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March 31, 2015

Confronting Fear Food in Recovery

This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences on their own path to recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptom use. Please use your own discretion. And speak with your therapist when needed.

By Clare Harmon, a former Emily Program client, and woman in recovery

When people ask me about my recovery, I always say that it is, above all else, a practice. It’s the application of skills I learned in treatment, daily reflection, forgiveness, and grace. Of course, everyone’s journey to, in, and through recovery is unique; I’m honored to be given the opportunity to articulate a bit of my own.

Over at my blog, I recently wrote about my acceptance of my most-feared fear food. It was something that I never thought I would be able to stomach—conceptually, literally, figuratively—but with the help of an amazing support network and the skill-set I learned in intensive programming, I did. And it felt great, completely empowering to so purposefully reaffirm my recovery.

The meal in question was, all things considered, surprisingly easeful: my dinner companion offered unflinching support while I maintained a most powerful mantra. Protein is protein. My body knows what to do with it regardless of where it comes from. Protein is protein. Protein is protein. My body knows what to do with it. Repeat. Reflect. Discuss. It reminded me of those meals in the basement of the Como building so defined by distraction-as-coping, reflection, and support.

The whole experience was thrilling: what joy to feel once again a proactive recovery practice! In confronting this fear food that I had for so long pushed aside, I reaffirmed my commitment to recovery, to trying new things, and to honoring my body’s cues. However, behind the exhilaration, my eating disorder lurked, waiting to dilute my potent recovery-focused intentions. Symptoms in various manifestations appeared. My eating disorder was pissed. How dare I practice recovery?! How dare I de-vilify an entire food group!? How dare I be well?!

It was the final affront that really energized my recovery brain. I thought, “I never, ever want to go back to the way things were because life in recovery, life in wellness, is really, really rich.” My response to the aforenoted affirmation was to reflect on my symptom use. In turn, I forgave myself, I planned my skills to facilitate a graceful move out of symptom use, into recovery practice.

It’s daily repetition, this business of recovery. I learned a lot from my recent experience but what I’m most proud of, what I’ll return to in similar situations, is the knowledge that I possess and am able to apply various coping skills. I have demonstrated to myself that I am able to not only maintain and reclaim my recovery but also affirm it. The next time I’m confronted with a fear food, I know what to do and I have the courage and grace to do it.

A little more about Clare:

Clare will speak at our St. Paul, MN Recovery Night. She is the author of two books of poetry, The Thingbody (Instar Books, 2015) and If Wishes Were Horses the Poor Would Ride (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming 2016). If you are in the area, please join us to hear Clare speak from 6:30-8 PM on Tuesday, April 14 at 2265 Como Avenue, St. Paul, MN.

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