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How Joining the Recovery Collective Helped Strengthen My Healthy Self

Written by Leah Livernois


A little bit about myself…


My name is Leah Livernois, and I am from Northern NY, USA. I am currently recovering from binge eating disorder and joined The Recovery Collective, a virtual eating disorder recovery community, back in September 2022. I am passionate about advocating for the acceptance of all bodies, a large part of which has come from being a member of the Collective and attending live calls. My plan is to become an Eating Disorder Coach once I can identify as being recovered for at least two years, so that I can use what I learned in recovery to help others heal as well.


The Importance of Strengthening your Healthy Self


One essential part of my recovery was developing my healthy self. According to 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder, by Carolyn Costin and Gwen Grabb, your healthy self will heal your eating disorder self. Your healthy self, or as I like to think of it, your “soul self,” is the part of you that is grounded, compassionate, loving, accepting, and authentically you. Your eating disorder self is essentially your inner critic and is full of self-doubt. When you have an eating disorder, over time, your eating disorder voice will begin to overpower your healthy self voice. Thus, in recovery, it is incredibly helpful to work on strengthening your healthy self, so you can talk back to your ED. Doing so will, for example, help you understand when it may be trying to sabotage your life, so you don’t believe the lies it tries to tell you.


There are many ways to build up your healthy self, including dialoguing between the two voices. This can be very weird to do conceptually, especially if you have a hard time journaling. I, however, have found another way to strengthen your healthy self: joining a community of people who are all recovering from an eating disorder. In this article, I share the ways in which I have built up my healthy self through my involvement in the Recovery Collective.


Responding to Facebook Posts


The first way I’ve enhanced my healthy self is by responding to posts made by other group members on the community Facebook page.


When another member posts about a problem they are experiencing and asks for advice, I can write a response to them that comes from my healthy self. In the beginning, it’s much easier to come up with a “healthy self” response when you’re helping another person, rather than yourself.


And trust me, I know it can be very scary to comment on a post at all, let alone give advice. But the more you do it, the easier it gets! By doing this, you are enhancing your capacity for compassion, which you can use to transfer to yourself as your healthy self grows.


Attending Live Calls


Another way being a member of The Recovery Collective helps strengthen my healthy self is by simply attending the live sessions. Some of my favorite sessions are the journaling and meditation sessions. We are given a list of prompts for each month, and you can decide to journal about one of the prompts or a different topic that’s on your mind. A lot of the prompts we are given enable us to speak from our healthy selves, and the more time spent thinking or expressing our healthy selves, the stronger they will get.


Another part of the Collective is group coaching, in which the co-founders teach us about some aspects of recovery and allow us to practice so we can internalize what we learned. Many of the topics have to do with strengthening our healthy selves in more or less direct ways, including setting boundaries, goal setting, and learning more about how to spot the ED voice by recognizing cognitive distortions.


The Peer Mentor Sessions have a similar effect as responding to Facebook posts, because in these sessions members of the Collective can come with a problem and ask for advice. Peer Mentors always have great advice to give, and other members can also comment - thus practicing vocalizing their healthy selves in this way.


The Self-Care/Coping Skills sessions are also extremely valuable in strengthening my healthy self, as they helped me develop self-compassion and shift my mindset from one of blaming and shaming myself to one of curiosity and grace for my slip-ups. This has shown me just how powerful self-care can be, as it’s really a mindset rather than any specific activity you are doing. Self-care allows you to be mindful and meet your needs and doing it in the company of others with whom you feel connected is a game-changer!


No (or very limited) Triggers


Additionally, the way the Collective is set up and run encourages us to not vocalize our eating disorder voices in triggering and disrespectful ways, which allows us to put the emphasis on our healthy-self voices. The Recovery Collective is unlike many other online recovery communities, as there is an expectation that all the members be respectful and refrain from asking/making triggering questions or comments by for example avoiding describing disordered behaviours in detail or mentioning numbers. Thus, our healthy selves are even more likely to overpower our eating disorder selves.


Feeling Surrounded by Support


Finally, knowing that I’m not alone in my journey toward healing is extremely helpful in strengthening my healthy self. Just knowing that you have the support and encouragement of others who are in the Collective and trying to build their healthy selves can be enough to motivate you to keep pushing through times when your ED voice is loud. This also adds to accountability, so that you are more likely to follow through with your commitments.

And this goes for all areas of recovery; knowing that you belong and are a part of something bigger can inspire you to make a commitment to healing.


The Big Takeaway


Through joining the Recovery Collective and participating in the calls, I have greatly strengthened my healthy self, which has allowed me to reach the maintenance phase of recovery. I am sure that it will also be invaluable in solidifying my full recovery; and for that I am immensely grateful.


If this blog post caught your attention in any way, I highly encourage you to join the Recovery Collective! I truly believe that the community that Meg and Anne-Claire have built is unlike any other and is exactly what is needed to cultivate your healthy self, so you can reach full recovery as well. The doors are open now until June 1st!


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Curious for more?

  • Read this post on the power of moderated online communities in recovery, written by Gemma Vernon based on her MSc dissertation (psychology).

  • Read this blog post on Project Heal’s blog, written by Anne-Claire, where she explores how the internet can be a friend or a foe in your recovery.


 

Leah Livernois (she/her) is an eating disorder & mental health recovery advocate. She is currently maintaining her recovery from binge eating disorder and is an active member in the Recovery Collective. She loves playing with her pets, Nim (dog), Tails (cat) & Eevee (cat), being in nature, reading mysteries, and creating reels on Instagram (@heal_withleah).

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