Surrender

sur·ren·der verb \sə-ˈren-dər\

  • : to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc., because you know that you will not win or succeed
  • : to give the control or use of (something) to someone else
  • : to allow something (such as a habit or desire) to influence or control you

         I used to hate the word surrender. It sounded like giving up, waving the white flag, losing myself and my voice. And yet when I look at these 3 definitions in the context of eating disorder/addiction recovery, I get curious. Hmmmm, well the first one certainly applies to the willingness required to begin recovery: you have to be willing to stop repeating the same battle, again and again and again. As they say in 12-step Program, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” The second definition is tougher, especially for people recovering from eating disorders…give up CONTROL to SOMEONE ELSE? But isn’t the problem feeling OUT of control, not feeling empowered, and/or early childhood wounds around someone else not helping regulate our food and feelings from a place of INTERNAL locus of control? This is where the third definition of surrender is, I think, actually an accurate description of an eating disorder or addiction: To allow a habit or desire to control you. Because when you get right town to it, when you are deep in it, IN the food (or whatever your “drug” or behavior of choose is) you know you are not in control and the “habit” has started to control YOU.

    Surrender and the Body

         One of my early eating disorder recovery mentors, someone who was much further along in their recovery when I was in my first year of exploring what-the-heck-surrender-had-to-do-with-recovery, said:

         “The size of your body is not your business.”

    “WHAT? I said. What do you mean?

         She repeated herself. “The size of your body is not your business.”

    I told her “if that’s recovery, I can’t do it.”

    She said “there isn’t anything you need to do here. Surrender is an internal process, not an external event.”

         On some deep level, I knew she was right. I knew it in the core of my being. My mind still fought it, but my heart; my gut knew it to be true. I’d love to say “And then everything changed and I became a licensed Psychologist helping everyone else recover the next day. The End.” But that’s not how growth and recovery work. I then continued to solidify my recovery for the next few years, went back to school to earn my master’s degree, began working professionally in recovery, then earned my doctorate degree, continued working professionally in recovery, etc etc… I tell my clients it is not a linear process, it is not a fast process, it is not an external process, and it is not an event. It is a slow transformation of willingness wrestling with willfulness and softening into surrender, again and again.

    How pregnancy is a good (literal) metaphor for surrender

         Pregnancy is a good metaphor for what it is like to find willingness and surrender in the body. When a woman is pregnant, there are all kinds of things she needs to be aware of and make choices about due to her growing a tiny being inside her body. Soft cheese, wine, even salami can cause miscarriage or a lifetime of harm if not avoided or eaten properly. Many medications are questionable in their safety, and, if a woman is diabetic, she has to be even more cautious about what, how and when she eats during pregnancy. These choices, along with the long list of bodily and emotional experiences that come with carrying a child for 9 months (breast tenderness, constipation, gas, nausea, bloating, fatigue, aches, mood swings, urinary incontinence) require a pregnant woman to surrender her own control and familiar experience of her body and feelings in the service of something else (her child). She actively chooses loving limits in her food choices (the right balance between bingeing and restricting) and she lets go of needing to control the size and shape of her body in the service of surrendering to something greater. This is similar in recovery from an eating disorder.

    I often have clients recovering from eating disorders ask me:

    “But what does that mean in terms of how many cookies I eat?”

         I tell them they need to find their own right answers that are the exact right balance of not restricting while not over indulging/bingeing. Unfortunately or fortunately, there is no list of “off-limits” foods like there is during pregnancy. However, finding the right loving limits in surrender in eating disorder recovery is similar to motherhood in that it is like working with a toddler. Power struggling will get you nowhere. You may win a few battles, but the war will continue to wage. Surrender is a flow and it is a willingness to continue to connect emotionally with yourself in the parts of you that weren’t met as a child. Eating cookies for lunch or never eating cookies aren’t what surrender is about. Asking questions such as “what do I really nRuby-Slipperseed right now?”  and “what is in the best service of my recovery?” are.

     It’s not always an easy journey. It can be like Dorothy traveling the road to Oz. There are many lions, tigers, and bears along the way. And Oz isn’t really the destination. And you are always already home. But you still need to go on the journey to discover that. Then you will actually believe and trust in your body whatever the size or shape that there’s no place like home.

2 responses

  1. Reblogged this on ambivalence girl and commented:
    This post so deserves reblogging and is where I want to be in my mind. Thank You Recovery Mama

    1. Thanks Ambivalence girl! You wanting to be there says you are on the way. So glad it helped verbalize it for you!

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