Road to recovery exercise

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Brook, my therapist, wants me to work on making my own ‘road to recovery’ this week. She wants me to visualize how the recovery from an eating disorder could be likened to different concepts that a ‘road’ encompasses. My first reaction was: how cliché, a road? Though, I am okay with looking past the tired metaphor if it might provide another way to progress in recovery. It took a bit of brainstorming, but I did come up with my own rendition of what a road to recovery looks like to me.

According to Dictionary.com, the definition of a road is: a long, narrow stretch with a smoothed or paved surface, made for traveling between two or more points; street or highway. The second definition they list is: a way or course. I definitely feel as if the second definition coincides much better with eating disorder recovery than the first. Why? I do not regard recovery from an eating disorder as ‘smooth’ or ‘paved’. I conceive the course to be quite bumpy to say the least. Though, in the same breath, it is a path between two points: bondage and freedom—or as some might refer to the two points as sickness and health.

Before I dive into my rendition of how a recovery can be likened to a road. I’d like to point a few things out. First, to people unaware of the incredible feat it takes to recover from an eating disorder, they might envision a road similar to this one:

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When in fact, to someone who as braved the journey, the road might look something like this:

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Don’t expect a clean, smooth, no-obstacle trip. I have yet to meet someone whose path to recovery was roses and sunshine the whole way through. There will be bumps, potholes, and a lot of uncharted territory to brave.

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A road can have construction, on and off ramps, traffic signals and signs, patrols or policemen, and obstacles; all of which I think can be tied to an aspect of recovery.

Construction, to me, represents the construction of you. Individuals who have lost themselves to their eating disorder start rebuilding themselves piece by piece all along the recovery process. It took Ed awhile to make you his own, it’s going to be a project rediscovering who you are and building yourself stronger than were previously.

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Exit and entrance ramps represent the decisions to either stay on the highway that is recovery or to get off, and find another way (good or bad). Unfortunately, the other route usually ends up being ed, which takes us off of recovery road and into relapse-ville. But it could also be another route of care such as Intensive outpatient treatment, Residential care, or inpatient care. There are multiple avenues—not just one—that can lead a person to freedom from their eating disorder. One avenue may be better for you while another may work better for someone else. Either way, both people get to the same place.

Traffic signals such as stop lights and people who might direct traffic, for me, represent your treatment team. They are the people who check in on you periodically and give you the go-ahead when things are progressing smoothly and re-direct your course if changes need to be made. An example of this would be the common occurrence of meal plans needing to be readjusted throughout the recovery process. A green light may signify to keep proceeding to the plan as directed, while a yellow or red light may indicate that a change may need to be made in order to keep you well. After all, running a red light typically does not result in a good outcome just like following a meal plan that may not be effective or becomes ineffective. Your Physician, psychiatrist, and therapist I feel could also fit similarly into this example.

Traffic signs, on the other-hand I feel serve, as reminders, warnings, and guides. I’ll explain two that I included in my ‘road to recovery’ exercise.

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I feel like the No-U turn symbolizes: don’t turn back. Back is only back to ed, we must keep moving forward as best as we can.

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A stop sign I liken to the reminder to stop all maladaptive behaviors. Also, I feel it represents an opportunity to examine where you are and where you are headed in recovery.

So before I go on and on trying to pair everything pertaining to a road to recovery. I think you get the point from what I posted above. If you feel like it, make your own road. You could even draw it, paint it, sculpt it, or whatever. Sometimes visualizing such an incredible journey helps us to evaluate where we are, where we have been, where we’re going and were we really want to end up.

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard

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