Photo by Dan Pupius
It’s your first shot at recovery. Or perhaps it’s your hundredth. Perhaps you’re crawling out of a long relapse, bloated and hungry and tired of lying to yourself. So you create a Recovery Plan, perhaps with bible studies to complete, friends to call, exercises to finish, and books to read. You wake up glittering shining on Day One, committed to Intuitive Eating or Josie Lenore. You’ve reblogged “No Binge August” and written “1 Days Since Purging” on your mirror. You’ve tattooed the eating disorder recovery symbol on your wrist. This time, you won’t mess up. This time, no milk will be split.
Until you do. And milk goes sprawling across the table.
Then you’ve ruined your Perfect Recovery. You’ve messed up again. You tried your hardest, so you must just not be strong enough for recovery. You did your best, so you’re obviously not good enough. You’ve been in your disorder too long, you’re carrying too many scars, this recovery thing is not for you. So you leap back into your disorder. It’s all or nothing. Either you do it perfect, or you don’t do it at all.
Perfect Recovery is just another extension of your disorder. It’s crushing black & white thinking disguised as something wholesome. But it’s not wholesome. It will drag you down just as surely as vomiting, bingeing, and starving. You’re trying to create a Perfect Self with all the right answers for the therapists and for herself – just like your eating disorder is trying to create a Perfect Self with control, beauty, and strength. Both are destructive.
My friend said something crazy last night when I confessed to my perfectionistic ways. He said, “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing messy.”
What? You mean recovery is worth doing up to my elbows in spilled milk? Even if today I binged, yesterday I cut, and my head is a whirlwind of lies? It’s worth it to just keep going? To confess my failures and move on into fresh success, then stumble again, confess again, move on again? To accept my disordered, goofy, clueless, flibbertigibbet self as I really am – broken, needy, and hungry for truth?
It’s only in that place, when I accept that I am desperate, incapable of perfect, that I can give all the Transformation power to Jesus. I can’t transform me. But he can. Jesus sees me down to my core. I can’t fake it for him like I fake it for myself. He knows that I can’t squeeze and bludgeon myself into perfection. He knows that six months out, I’ll still have a rumbling stomach for Perfect, Skinny, and Power. And he takes me anyway.
I’m no longer in control. I’m no longer worshipping my own Perfect Self. I’m where I’m supposed to be, open handed, centered on Jesus, letting go of myself. And that’s when healing happens. That’s when recovery happens. Because I never had the power to make them happen in the first place.
Release perfect. Get sticky. Anything worth doing is worth doing messy.