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3 Keys to Investment in Recovery


By Mia S. Elwood, CISW

I attended an amazing workshop with my fellow Somatic Experiencing practitioners in Arizona on Positive Deviancy. What the heck is that? According to the workshop teacher, Anthony “Twig” Wheeler, positive deviancy means being out of the norm in a successful way (as in when most are not being so successful).

The idea is learning from those individuals, villages, countries, families, etc., that seem to “have it” and know how to be successful and then try to replicate it. Why reinvent the wheel, right? He went on to teach us several factors successful clients seem to have. A major one seemed to be when the client is sufficiently invested in treatment with a level of curiosity and interest in no longer suffering.

I then thought about my own eating disorder recovery and those apparently successful (we can define success in many different ways) individuals/families/patients I’ve had the opportunity to know in some way. What motivated me and others to be positively deviant? As I experienced and observe, eating disorders can be difficult to recover from, but it is very possible and oh so rewarding.

Here are 3 things that motivated me:

1)    A sense of purpose in being recovered. What could I do recovered that I could never do as a “special eating disordered individual”? There is a certain hook into keeping the eating disorder because of the illusion that it makes one special, that somehow without it, I wouldn’t be special anymore. I came to find that I would never be more than a special eating disordered individual. I found that I could be a helper, a wife, a mother, a contributor to the field of recovery. I have found great purpose in this – way beyond what keeping my eating disorder could ever provide.

2)    Connection with important people. The eating disorder divides friendships, marriages, and families. Isolation is preferred as connection to the eating disorder is the only connection allowed. Often people with eating disorders withdraw into the safety of their isolation, as then no one else can hurt them (often those with eating disorders have been hurt or betrayed interpersonally.) I had to risk that people could be trusted and that keeping and building important relationships in my life was much more meaningful and fulfilling than ED. These people had a belief in me that I had not yet had in myself, to help me bridge the gap in taking the risk to recover.

3)    A learned sense of I CAN. Through many failures, I learned to succeed and when I took the leap to recover (I had some evidence of this I CAN in my life and I began to believe that I could succeed) I became a positive deviant. I learned this through repeatedly getting back up (with those important people in my second point above to help pull me up). This was many years in the making and did not happen overnight.

What motivates you in recovery?

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