When I first started surfing at the beginning of hurricane season in the year 2001, I was blown away by how similar it was to recovery (and blown away by the strong hurricane winds).
As I began getting to know the beach, each surf session became more familiar as I accepted the ever changing tides, and how the bottom of the ocean affected the way the waves broke that day. Usually there’s a dip in the floor of the ocean that is close to shore that creates a spot for the waves to break – perfect place to catch a wave right? So very wrong… I soon learned after eating sand too many times!
This is where surfing relates to recovery. I paddle out and then a wave curls itself over me, sending me into somersaults under water. I feel like a sock in the washer machine on spin cycle. In those moments, all I am doing is trying to stop spinning and rolling, and make my way up to the surface, so that I can gasp some air into my lungs…so that I can BREATHE!
Because I am persistent in “catching a wave” , it isn’t long before I catch my breath, find my board, and go at it again; only to be clobbered by waves repeatedly. This is what ED (the eating disorder) can feel like. It can leave you feeling hopeless at your attempts to recovering. It can have you feeling like you can’t move anywhere and that you will never be able to breathe for more than just a few moments. It can leave you wondering, why do I even keep trying?
The answer will be found when you don’t give up and you keep going! Because FINALLY, you will get to the “outside”, past the whitewater waves breaking, and you will get to a calm place where you can sit for a moment, regain some strength until you feel strong enough to go at it again. You can paddle into the waves hoping you will get your balance and stay on top of the water, and ride the wave into the shore.
Too many times, you may feel as though you are going straight back to being clobbered by waves, but soon, something happens and you catch a wave and you find yourself STANDING UP!!! This is like the moment in recovery where you finally find some freedom. Where you have a moment of defeating ED and see a glimpse of life where you are YOU again. Yes, you’ll have to keep fighting the waves. Yes, you’ll have to keep practicing standing up on your surfboard – but soon, you’ll be standing on your surfboard all the time!
Like I said, when I first started surfing, I saw how similar to recovery it was. Last year, we had some good waves and I got up a few times at the beginning of the session, but then I began to struggle and couldn’t get up again. I stood near the shore with the waves lapping against my shins holding my board on top of my head trying to analyze what I was doing wrong. Maybe I was trying to take too many waves and I needed to be more patient and wait for the right one? Maybe I was just getting tired and needed a break?
When I went back out again and kept falling off my board every time I tried. I finally took a time out and sat on the shore to think about what I could do differently, since I was only exhausting myself by doing what it is I was. After watching the surfers from the shore, I realized that maybe I needed to try becoming one with the wave instead of trying to control how the waves move (because that is impossible) and begin learning to follow its’ direction.
Needless to say, I didn’t really catch many more waves that day, but my self reflection of “fighting against the waves” hit me later that night. It meant many things to me. And it may mean something to you too. Do you have a vision of what recovery is “supposed” to look like? Does this vision look similar to your own vision of recovery?
Just like I was trying to “fight the waves” instead of “riding them” are there still things from your eating disorder that you won’t let go of and surrender to? Maybe these are things that are being suggested by your therapist and treatment team? Maybe these are things they know can challenge you in your recovery to help you move forward, but your ED is telling you to “fight” these suggestions, instead of “riding” along with them?
Take a moment to sit on the shore and think about what you may be feeling you are ”fighting” against. Practice listening to your heart see if it scares you to listen to it? Remember that the way are you “fighting the waves”, instead of ” going with the waves” that are being suggested to you by those who love and support you, it will lead you in the recovery direction, you are meant to go to!
What is one thing you are “fighting” recovery on? I encourage you to practice “riding” the wave of recovery instead : )
As Always, Be YOU,