Thursday, January 27, 2011

Filling Your Recovery Toolbox

We turn to our toolboxes when we need to work on a broken piece of furniture or other household item, but what do we turn to when we need to work on ourselves? In an excerpt from her recently finished and upcoming book Imagine Being at Peace, founder of The Awakening Center Amy Grabowski shares with us tools to add to your recovery toolbox so that when you need to work on you, you are prepared.

….Now it is time to fill our Recovery Toolbox with the resources, skills and tools necessary to handle whatever Life dishes out. Why? Because Life is not going to always cooperate! When I was in my eating disorder, I believed that it was only because I was weak or defective that things happened to me. I thought that if I was perfect then Life would be perfect and I would never have any problems. Huh?! Yeah, right!

In the beginning of therapy I will ask a new client to tell me what she sees when she imagines being recovered. It often sounds like a fairy tale: “When I am recovered, I’ll always eat normally. I’ll be thin and happy. People will like me. Everything will work out in my life.” I feel like the mean Ogre when I tell them, “That sounds really nice and I hate to burst your bubble, but… Sometimes life throws a truckload of lemons at us, and you can only drink so much lemonade! Everything will not always work out. Not everyone will like you and you are not always going to be happy.”

Before they get discouraged and flee from my office, I go on to explain, “Its normal for people to have thoughts, feelings and reactions. You are going to continue to have thoughts, feelings and reactions; many of these will be pleasant. But some of them will be uncomfortable. The difference will be that you will have many very effective tools in your Recovery Toolbox to take care of this discomfort. Therefore, you will not need to turn to your Eating Disorder every time Life does not cooperate.”

Life doesn’t always cooperate for anyone. We are all humans living in a human world. There are thousands of things in Life that we just don’t have control over. And when something goes wrong, it could just be that it’s your turn for Life to dish it out on you. Life is an ‘Equal Opportunity Disher-Outer.’

When we are Self-led, when we have a driver on our bus, then we can use our resources, skills and tools to steer around most of what Life throws at us. Hmmm, here’s a thought, maybe there’s that bumper sticker on the back of our bus, you know the one that says “S--t Happens!”

When we sacrificed our Self and lost the driver on our bus, Life began to feel uncontrollable. We discovered that food, eating, purging, starving, or exercise gave us a feeling of control, mastery, competence, comfort, or just a way to numb out. Our Eating Disorder became our only tool for coping and feeling in control of Life. As I said in Chapter 4, “When your only tool is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails.”

There are three reasons why our Eating Disorder became our only tool. First, we never learned some basic tools because our family couldn’t teach us what they didn’t know. For example, if there were no role models who could teach you how to speak up for yourself, then you learned to “shut up and put up.”

Secondly, if you continually only use the same tool on the top of a toolbox, after a while you forget how to use any other tools. For example, if you numb out anger with a binge you forget how to speak up when something bothers you.

Third, our family or society may have taught us some tools that don’t work very well. For example, a common but dysfunctional tool among eating disordered clients is ‘Mind Reading’ – not telling others what you feel, because, if they loved you, they would just ‘know’ what is bothering you.

Even though I say the Eating Disorder is our only tool, actually we have lots of tools. When a friend comes to you for help, you are compassionate, reassuring, validating, and can think creatively to solve her problem – and many, many, many other tools. But you don’t use these tools for yourself. Many clients have a Young Part who feels she doesn’t deserve to be treated in a warm and caring way. We need to become aware of the young Parts and work to change her Core Beliefs. Then it will be more natural to use these tools for ourselves…..

Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

Amy will be leading a workshop this Sunday, January 30, 2011 on filling your recovery toolbox. Although this popular workshop is already full Amy can be contacted at (773)-929-6262 x 11 for more information and future dates of this workshop.

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