Measuring progress in terms of days abstinent is a topic on which people in the eating disorder recovery world disagree. Do we count the days since our last binge/purge like they advocate in Alcohol and Narcotics Anonymous? Or do we look for more subjective signs of progress?
The differing opinions stem from the fact that an alcoholic or drug user can definitively say that such and such a date was the last time she used, but someone with an eating disorder can’t exactly. Firstly, we need to use food multiple times daily for our very survival. Secondly, can we really say that second helping of dinner wasn’t a binge? Or that the extra mile we ran wasn’t a purge? Can we really say it was?
Food and exercise behaviors can be pretty subjective. These nuances cause opinions to vary. So I will just give you my view and why it was crucial for me to have a recovery date. This is not truth—it’s just my view. Tracking abstinence was wildly empowering. And abstinence meant I did not throw up my food. I kept it simple.
No purge = no bulimia.
While the purge rule was hard and unbending, I was super gentle with myself as I weaned off binging—if I overate slightly and then stopped, I actually considered it more of a win than if I had just eaten normally. To pull myself off the ledge of a binge took Herculean strength in those days. To just sit with a full stomach and process the incredible anxiety it produced was a victory. I counted it as a massive plume in the cap of my recovery. Measuring progress in terms of days abstinent became an empowering tool. Every May 9th, I am reminded of how far I’ve come. My husband and I celebrate that day like we would a birthday. Actually even more so. I didn’t do anything to be born, but I had to work my ass off to quit bulimia. So you decide. If it serves you, have a recovery date. It will be a moving target at first. I had a handful of dates I thought would be it in the weeks and months leading up to May 9th, but that’s okay. One eventually stuck.
If it triggers you to track hard dates, I still urge you to record your progress. Progress can come in so many packages! Are you obsessing less about food and your body? Are your episodes becoming less frequent or less intense? Are you able to stop what would have previously developed into a binge? Can you just sit with a full stomach and process the feelings? Can you be in environments that used to be massive triggers? Are you more peaceful? Asking these types of question and writing the answers in your recovery journal will be such a beautiful record of your journey. It’s often the small things that point to the colossal progress you are making.
Be proud of yourself and take heart—weaning off behaviors is where the rubber hits the recovery road and where true freedom lies. Be sure to reach out for support during this tenuous stage.
You’ve got this!