What Makes Recovery “Work”? Part II (The Work You Need to Do)

In last month’s blog post What Makes Recovery “Work?”, I talked about how an effective recovery method or strategy is not defined by its ability to take away your binge urges, but by its ability to help you stop acting on them.  So, when you try an approach to recovery and hope that it will “work,” try not to have the expectation that it will take away your binge urges, but instead that it will help you better manage them and better avoid acting on them.

Last month’s post got me thinking more deeply about this topic, and I decided to write a Part II and a Part III post, addressing different angles of the idea of recovery “working,” as well as the “work” you do in recovery.  Today, in Part II, I want to talk about the work that you personally put in to overcoming binge eating.

If you expect that talking to a therapist or coach, or reading a book, or joining a support group or online program will “work” by taking the urges away, then it can automatically put you in a more passive role, where you may be expecting recovery to just happen–ie: the urges to disappear.  When the urges don’t disappear, it’s possible for you to assume that the therapist, support group, book…etc. didn’t work, without fully considering the work you need to put in to have success.

That’s not to say when recovery doesn’t work, it’s your fault.  Not at all.  There are many factors at play, and different approaches are better suited for different people. But, once you know that no recovery method will make your urges suddenly disappear, you can see clearly that there is work for you to do.

I’m not talking about work in a “nose to the grindstone” or “tough it out” sort of way.  But, when you use recovery methods and resources as ways to help you stop acting on your urges, it automatically puts you in a more empowered, active role in recovery.  You fully realize the work you need to do: avoid acting on every binge urge, until the binge urges stop coming.  When you deeply know that is the work of recovery, your focus can shift to finding and applying what works to help you do that.

No matter what strategy for recovery you are using, you are the only one who can choose (or learn to choose) not to act on binge urges.  Even if you have a lot of support, there will be moments when it’s just you and the urge. Recovery strategies and support can certainly help prepare you for those moments, but during binge urges is when you do the brain-changing work of recovery.

To think of having to avoid acting on every urge to binge may feel overwhelming to you right now, but once you can shift your perspective and achieve some separation from your urges, it will start to feel more natural to avoid acting on them. It won’t always feel comfortable, but even the most meaningful work can be unpleasant at times.

While writing this, I looked up the definition of work, which is this:  “an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”   Not acting on your binge urges day after day definitely fits that description.  It does require mental effort and requires you to stay connected to your higher brain, and it is certainly aimed at a result that you absolutely want:  to be free of binge eating.

At times, it may feel easier not to do the work of dismissing urges.  It sometimes may feel easier to slip back into old habits, just as it often feels easier to get back in bed in the morning instead of going to work at your job or care for your family. But, I’m sure that you rarely get back in bed, because your sense of responsibility is too strong.  The work of your recovery deserves the same sense of responsibility from you.  That doesn’t mean you will do it perfectly, and never slip, but if you keep trying day after day, you will find what works for you.

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Like I mentioned, different methods and strategies work for different people, but if you’d like to try the Brain over Binge approach to help you stop acting on urges, I invite you to get my free eBook: The Brain over Binge Basics. And if you are someone who wants or needs more guidance in recovery, I want to let you know that the Brain over Binge 8-Week Group Course (which includes support from me and Cookie Rosenblum) will be starting on August 21st, and we’d love to have you join us.