Jake is probably in his mid-50s, in the process of getting divorced, and has two teenage kids; a son and a daughter. He also volunteers once a week at a recovery course for people with addictions. He himself took the course some years ago and says he found it immensely helpful in helping him beat his addiction (of which I don't know any details), and has now gone back to help others in a similar situation. Jake's probably one of my closest "friends" at work, despite the age gap, and I've also spoken to him briefly about self-harm after he spotted the scars on my wrist one day and asked me about it, as he was struggling to understand why his daughter was doing the same thing.
Anyway, today we were musing over addictions of various kinds, and I thought some of his insights were quite applicable to both EDs and self-harm. I don't currently qualify for an ED, though I'm not yet ready to completely close the door on all the behaviours I learned when I did, but I am trying really hard to close the door on self-harm. So I'm posting some of Jake's comments here as much as a reminder for myself as anything else, but perhaps they'll be helpful to some of you, too.
- Statistically, people who recover from an addiction almost invariably fall prey to another one soon afterwards, unless they consciously identify what it was that the addiction was giving them (control, escape, protection from vulnerability etc.) and find a healthy way to fill those needs or address the issues driving them.
- Addicts tend, either consciously or sub-consciously, to view their addiction as a "friend"; a never-failing source of comfort who's always available to buoy us up when times are tough. Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the personification of Ana and Mia; all over these blogs I read phrases like "Ana will always be there for me", "Mia welcomes me back with open arms", "Ana is my secret saviour". I'm not pointing any fingers here - I think and write in exactly this sort of language myself sometimes. But if ever you want to escape an addiction, be it an ED, or self-harm, or negative self-talk, or anything else, you have to let go of this perception and realise than the addiction exists for one purpose alone - to destroy you and take down as many relationships, opportunities, and successes as it can on your way down. However good it may make you feel in the short term, your addiction is not your friend. Ever.
- If you want to recover from an addiction, it often helps to see things in black and white. Write two lists, one for all the good things in your life, and one for all the bad. Then mark which things in each list have been caused or enabled by your addiction, and which have been jeopardised, compromised, or destroyed. Write a third list of things that you dream of for yourself, in terms of relationships, career aspirations, hobbies, travel, etc, and mark which of these will be more difficult to attain if you keep up your addiction.