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Faith and Recovery

I rarely blog about religion, but here’s a dilemma a client encountered which those of you who are using faith and prayer to heal yourself may run into. Because dilemmas, aka unresolved internal conflicts, impede recovery, it’s important to identify and work through them all. Although resolution involves a great deal of self-honesty and emotional discomfort, it will free you up to pursue other recovery issues.

Let’s say you believe there is a God and, beyond that, also believe in miracles which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, are defined as “events that appear unexplainable by the laws of nature and so are held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.” By entertaining the possibility of God performing a miracle to cure your eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating—you hold out hope of one day being a “normal” eater and maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight for life. This hope sustains you in the darkest hours of your dysfunctional eating and makes it possible for you to believe that some day your relationship with food will be better than it is today.

Let’s also say you’re working hard on your recovery by reading self-help books, attending therapy regularly, and moving outside your comfort zone to eliminate disregulated eating behaviors which have plagued you for decades. Goal oriented, you’re impatient to get well and to keep plugging away to make it happen.

Here’s the conundrum. On the one hand, you believe that by not doing everything in your power to heal yourself—say, taking anti-depressants for your depression—you’re exhibiting faith in God’s power to heal you through a miracle. By holding back, you believe you’re showing faith in being deserving of God healing you. On the other hand, as a proactive person who wants to take better care of herself and who has the inner drive, insight, and resources to accomplish recovery on your own, you don’t feel quite right waiting around for a miracle which may or may not happen.

Stuck in these kinds of mixed or contradictory feelings, you might not realize that this conflict is at the core of your inability to sustain progress and is a major reason you continue to inch forward, only to return to unhealthy behaviors again and again. That is, honoring your desire to recover, you put effort into healing yourself; then, honoring your faith in and hope for miracles, you undo your work and revert to old eating patterns, waiting for God to intervene. For lasting progress, you will have to resolve this internal conflict.