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.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Peacefully Present For Today

Often when the New Year rolls around we get excited about what we want to be different this next year. We generally commit to the same goals that inherently we know will make our lives better and bring us closer to being fulfilled. The problem is that as the days and weeks go by we often return back to our patterns and habits. I think perhaps we get distracted by thinking that completing or arriving at our goals is what will bring us contentment. However, must we really wait that long?

I have been reminded this year that it isn’t necessarily the realization of an aspiration that brings us the change in how our life feels but the way we approach it. We all have goals in our lives that are going to take some time, some patience and perhaps some divine blessing. I think the challenge is to think about how we can certainly be committed to our efforts connected to these achievements but also knowing when we need to be still and patient. Rather than longing for things that perhaps aren’t meant for us now we can focus on the present. We can be aware of all the gifts of today. The blessings in our lives now that we are meant to enjoy, be challenged by and perhaps are preparing us for the goals to be reached in the future. Approaching our lives in this way eliminates all the anxiety and stress we create by trying to force life along. It allows us to be more mindful of what is intended for us today, how that is preparing us for tomorrow and allowing us to grow in ways that prime us for when the time comes for all that we desire.


Jen Schurman, MA, LPC, is a therapist at The Awakening Center and leads the Monday Eating Disorder Therapy Group from 6:30-8pm, which currently has openings. Jen can be reached at (773)-929-6262 x 20 for more information regarding this group.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"After All, Tomorrow is Another Day"

Well fiddle-dee-dee! We are well into January at this point which is around the time that people begin to forget all about their New Year's Resolutions and settle back into their comfortable ways. For those of you maintaining, congrats! For those of you faltering and feel like quitting, take a deep breath because “after all, tomorrow is another day.”

I bring in this quote from my favorite literary and movie heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, because for all the less than admirable things she did, she had a good motto going. Devoted to rejuvenating Tara and her family, Scarlett had to make big changes that were not always easy to get on board with or implement. In fact, Scarlett failed a lot. She turned her sisters against her after going after their beau's, turned her community against her by not acting like a proper lady and made unethical business transactions that led to even more problems. Still, Scarlett kept up her devotion to making the changes she needed to to keep her life together.

How does this apply to your potentially faltering resolution? Whatever your new years resolution may have been, Scarlett helps us understand that it is okay if you are ready to abandon it or adjust your resolution. Maybe today is not the right day for you to be attacking it. Just because the calendar showed January 1st does not mean that it is the perfect day for you to resolve to make a change.

Every day is a day to reevaluate and figure out exactly how you can achieve the changes you would like to make and figure out the best plan of attack. If one way is not working, adjust. Listen to yourself and figure out what is the best path for you to take. Not many changes in life have a straight path; that would just make life much to simple, and dare I say kind of monotonous.

Even with all the failure and despite loosing Rhett, Scarlett eventually did achieve her goals by getting herself and Tara back on track. Although I do not suggest her exact methods, I believe her moxie and motivation can definitely be inspiring when feelings of failure arise. Tomorrow is another day and with a little motivation you can achieve the goals you have set for the new year. The path may be rocky, but every day is a perfectly acceptable day to begin your journey or even take a quick break to reevaluate and adjust your goals for change.



Katie Infusino is an undergraduate intern from DePaul University. She co-leads the Tuesday night Drop-In Eating Disorder Support Group.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Staying the Course

I’m always amazed by the dizzying array of self-help books available for almost anything you can think of, but they seem to be promoted with peculiar urgency at the start of the year. I was in a bookstore the other day, and there were tables reserved for books with titles such as:

Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits

Change Your Brain, Change Your Body

The Worry Solution: Using Breakthrough Brain Science to Turn Stress and Anxiety into Confidence and Happiness


Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life

Love For No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love

Lose 10 Pounds in 2 Weeks!

Best You Ever: 365 Ways to be Richer, Happier, Thinner, Smarter, Younger, Sexier, and more Relaxed – Each and Every Day

A pretty optimistic bunch! The common theme, of course, is change: self-improvement – even “transformation” – and the promise of a richer, happier, sexier, and more relaxed life. And they make it sound so simple.

But as we continue the process of looking inward and understanding ourselves more deeply – through meditation, psychotherapy, an exercise program, a yoga practice, etc. – we know that “change” is not often immediate, nor can it be broken down into seven easy steps or two weeks or 365 ways. I know there are books out there that encourage readers to remain mindful, patient with themselves, and to “stay the course” – I only wish such titles were more prominently displayed along with those that promise easy weight loss or sudden confidence.

Real change usually involves some time, experience, setbacks, and a continuous evaluation of behaviors and/or commitment to change. My hope for the New Year is that we allow ourselves time and space to move through our individual processes without frantic expectations or deadlines. Fully and mindfully engaging in the process of change is more rewarding than any “quick fix,” I think.

Luna Sung

Luna is a current intern at The Awakening Center and co-leads a Woman's Body Image group on Tuesday afternoons from 2:30-4pm. She can be reached at (773)929-6262 x 12 for more information.

Friday, January 7, 2011