Can We Find Peace With Our Old Demons?

Can We Find Peace With Our Old Demons?

Can we truly overcome our addictions solely by refraining from their control, or is it in finding balance with the things that once dictated our direction when a full recovery is achieved?

I am recovered. I am free from my demons. I am no longer a rag doll to the monsters that once lurked within. But, does that mean I am meant to live the rest of my life in avoidance of the things that once served as my achilles heel? Am I meant to live in fear that I may fall back into the traps that once consumed me? Or am I meant to face these addictions - stare them in the eye - and find balance in the things that once stripped me down to the bone. 

I will never give my demons the satisfaction of knowing they won, and that they still hold an overwhelming power over my mind, body, and soul. I will never allow my addictions to strip away the things in this life that bring me joy, solely out of fear that past triggers will return to the surface. I am confident in my recovery. I am in love with my new life. I am steadfast in my ability to face the fire that burned me, but walk away unharmed. Something I couldn't do in a life with ED.

My illness was firmly rooted in an addiction to compulsive exercise. I abused my privilege to reward my body with movement, and rather punished it for the food I fueled it with. My demons dragged me into that gym every day, held my hand as we walked toward the treadmill, and caged me in for hours until every ounce of fuel in my body was depleted. I would beg these demons to allow me to take a day off, and to let me rest my body. I screamed for help as they relentlessly dragged me back into the gym, day after day after day. My demons wanted to be there, but the tiny scrap of myself that still remained inside was dying to be anywhere but that toxic gym. ED successfully turned something I loved into something I would tremble at the sight of. He turned my passions into fears, and my goals into nightmares. He stripped me of my freedom, and refused to give it back.

My childhood and early high school years were centered around my love for movement - gymnastics, track, yoga, and so many other beautiful ways to reward myself after a long day. These served as my outlet. They were my time to clear my mind, release stress, and most importantly, enjoy myself. These sports and hobbies were not rooted in abuse or addiction, but rather in love and peace. It was when my demons took control that these innocent outlets warped into my most toxic addictions. But my love for balanced physical movement and exercise still remained. It was buried beneath the layers of hate, doubt, and fear, but it was in there. So in my recovery, I needed to fight for that back. I needed to prove to my demons that their power was strong, but my resilience was stronger. 

So here I pose my first question: what does life after recovery look like for you?

I ask you this because I never want my recovery to dictate yours. I never want my decisions to be the reason you attempted to do something that wasn't meant to be a part of your unique journey. For me, exercise was a healthy part of my life prior to my disorder. I loved feeling my muscles work together to launch my body into movement. I loved knowing that my body was capable of incredible things. I prided myself on my ability to build my body up, rather than tear it down. So, if exercise was never a healthy and enjoyable part of your life, then ignore me and continue on with your journey. You are doing great. Also, if you are still in the midst of recovering, or maybe haven't committed to recovery yet, this isn't for you. Save this for a time when you can confidently scream from the mountain tops that you are free from ED. That day will come, but for now, just keep moving forward. 

While working for a full recovery, I knew that exercise was my crutch. If I could hold onto that aspect of this disorder, I would be "safe". I would sit in my nutrition appointments smiling because I knew that I could follow these monstrous meal plans as long as I could spend the rest of my day on the treadmill. But that sick mindset wasn't helping me move away from my demons, it was throwing me back into the deep end of my eating disorder. This part of my illness, my deepest addiction, was the last to go - and it took complete and total abandonment of these addictions to overcome them. I quit working out, cold turkey. Little did I know that the day I was rushed to the hospital would be the last time I would step foot in a gym for months. This is what it took for me to overcome my addiction. I had to prove to myself that I could refrain from exercise, and learn to walk into that gym without ED attached to my hip. I had to cut it out of my mind and stand up against its overwhelmingly strong temptations. I had to prove that I wasn't working out for ED, but for me. It was in these months of rest and nourishment when I rediscovered my love for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Without ED.

So here is my final question, and where I need your feedback: would you like balanced exercise to become a more talked-about part of life after recovery?

In this field, the word exercise is spit on. It is seen as a trigger, and unfortunately this mindset is hard to change in the minds of professionals. I understand this concept and fully support that what's right for one person may be toxic for another, but I am bringing this conversation to the surface because this is what worked so beautifully for me. So here I ask you to tell me what you think...do you truly believe it is possible to achieve balance in exercise once you've reached recovery? And do you think it should be a more open discussion? 

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