4 Secrets That Got Me To Two Years Behavior Free in My Recovery

recovery - image of Brooke Heberling on couch sitting crosslegged with her hands each holding up two fingers, the words "two years behavior free" on the picture

I will never forget this date… It is my recovery anniversary. Two years behavior free.

Two years ago today, at 9:00 a.m, I surrendered myself to my fears of not having control. I lost my “safety net” that was my eating disorder and checked into treatment.

I remember the feeling of heart-breaking anguish as I left my children that morning while they slept in their beds. The 5-hour drive with my husband from Atlanta to Durham, NC was filled with silence that could be cut with a knife. We both were too emotionally and physically drained to speak.

I remember seeing the faces of the women that would soon become my family as I walked in the house. Tears streaked my face as I hugged my husband one last time before he left me (in my brain) to the wolves that were taking away my freedom…

What I didn’t know at the time is that they were going to teach me how to take my freedom back.

Back to today…

Today, I sent a text to our founder, Jessica Flint. I told her that it was my two-year anniversary of being “ED free”.

Her response was perfect. She said that two years is a big deal! Carolyn Costin won’t even train coaches in her program until they hit this mark.

Because, in Jessica’s words,

You’re able to see how far you’ve come. And given how much more love and connection have come into your life – you have no desire to go back.

My response to that was, “AMEN!” It feels so good to be reporting this to you all in the Recovery Warriors community. Because there was a time when I didn’t believe this day would be possible.

Have I stumbled? Yes. Have I wanted to use behaviors? Yep.

But have I also used the skills I learned to help me stay on the straight and narrow path? You bet.

“How?” you ask? How did I resist that run, eat the meal ED was telling me to skip, stare at the toilet and resist when it was calling my name, and swallow the food when I knew it could be easily discarded, avoided, or compensated?

Well, here are 4 tricks that helped me get to this milestone in recovery:

1. Opposite action

Seriously- this skill was my “every-other move” for a while in the beginning of my recovery journey. Every time I felt the need to use a behavior, I did the exact opposite.

If I wanted to skip a snack, I ate one more bite than what was on my meal plan. When I wanted to go on a run or drop and do crunches to numb out, I literally sat my booty on the couch and let the feelings engulf me.

If I wanted Oreos but ED told me to pass on them, I grabbed the bag and a glass of milk (and one for my husband) and we snacked on one of man’s greatest snacks!

Doing these opposite actions over and over again helped me face the fears and rules that were created and cultivated by my eating disorder brain for over 16 years.

2. Exposure

Speaking of fears, my life was ruled by fear for far too long.

While I truly tearing down walls in therapy and group sessions in treatment, I still had to continue to expose myself to the things that I feared when I was on my own in the real world.

I had to continue to expose myself to the things I feared.

Weight gain was a huge one for me… so I cleared out my Instagram and only followed fat activist (@chooselifewarrior, @the_feeding_of_the_fox), HAES (health at every size) dietitians (@sundaesforthesoul) , and fellow ED survivors who are doing amazing work in the community (@nourishandeat, @_nourish_and_flourish, @littlearthlings).

Stepping back from the diet culture and body-obsessed scene I used to immerse myself in allowed me to expose myself to other’s experiences and thoughts behind things I used to fear. The rules and thoughts that I use to be ruled by began to break down with facts, science, and love and appreciation for others.

It was mind blowing and magical at the same time. I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone not only with food rule, but body rules as well.

3. Find your “people”

Some may call them a “tribe”, others may call them their “squad”… I call them my people.

They are my first tier of friends, my family, and my husband that I opened up to from the beginning of my recovery.

And they have been there every step of the way. Some are my best friends who I see weekly and call at the drop of a hat when I need a fact check or to be talked down from a behavior urge. Others are people I connected with online who I have never met in real life – but love as dearly as my family.

Find your people in recovery. The ones who will be your mirror, your shoulder to cry on, and your truth and light when the dark is calling so loudly… your people will be your saviors in your time of weakness. I owe my recovery to mine. (You know who you are!)

4. Get to know the real you

Last but not least, the promise of the “real me” was what pushed me to keep going.

You see, since my eating disorder behaviors began as a young teenager, I never really knew my true self after the age of 15.

I was always manipulating myself to be what I thought others wanted me to be… what I thought I wanted me to be… Yet in that process I lost my identity to my eating disorder behaviors, my perfectionistic expectations, and my approval addiction.

When I was fighting for recovery, I was fighting for the opportunity to get to know the girl that I loved so long ago. The woman that I never allowed myself to know as an adult. I had to re-find the wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, and human being that I could be without the chains of my eating disorder.

What will this day mean for you?

Today is a special day for me. You may have reached this milestone and surpassed it. Or you may be beginning your journey to freedom. Maybe you’re wondering if this is a journey worth taking at all.

All I can say is that it is possible to live a life of freedom. You just have to want it bad enough to fight for it and choose recovery over and over again.

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