Radical Acceptance

If you know me, you know that I ask A LOT of questions. If you’re my family, you clearly remember the time I asked as a child “what’s a bush?” So, in the first two sentences of this post we’ve established that I ask a lot of questions, especially stupid ones. Okay, that’s it for today, hope you learned something about eating disorders and Jesus!!

But actually, the fact that I ask a lot of questions is very relevant to my recovery. I have to understand the “why” behind things. That’s part of the reason I’m an English major- I like to be able to explore why things are the way they are. It’s hard for me to be motivated for or understand something if I don’t understand all the details about it. It’s the same way in recovery for me. I need to be able to understand why I do and feel the things I do. While the process of understanding the “why” behind an emotion or behavior is important in recovery, I have been getting too stuck in the “why” of things lately.

Sometimes looking back at the “why” behind my eating disorder makes me so angry at myself. Sometimes it makes me angry at other people (a rather uncomfortable emotion for me.) Sometimes I just can’t totally understand it. I start asking myself “what if” questions. I can’t fully understand why my body responded to my behaviors the way it did, why I didn’t want to get help sooner, why I get so anxious over so many things, why certain situations affected me the way they did, etc. And this has been so frustrating for me.

One of my therapists has been challenging me to use a dialectical behavioral therapy skill known as “radical acceptance” in these situations. Radical acceptance entails accepting the present moment as it is and moving forward rather than trying to change reality. This skill is also used in acceptance and commitment therapy, a kind of therapy that has been really helpful to me. Both of these therapies (with the help of my therapists!) have helped me learn to accept the present moment I’m in, even if I don’t like it and wish it were different. It challenges me to stop questioning the why of the situation and try to move forward with the next best step in recovery. Honestly, this is still really hard for me to do, especially at this stage of recovery when so many things remind me of being in my eating disorder and make me ask “what if.”

As I have worked on this concept of radical acceptance in recovery, I have been thinking about how I have seen my unwillingness to accept things in other areas of my life. No matter how many times I have been told that God loves me or a person tells me they love me, it is SO hard for me to accept that it is true and I do not have to do or be more perfect to be worthy of that love. I have always viewed myself as being just a few metaphorical steps behind the rest of the world and thus needing to “catch up” in order to be loved.

One of the most powerful moments for me at Selah House occurred when one of the RCs (recovery care specialists- they are AMAZING!) made me challenge these beliefs in a very tangible way. This RC had me stand in front of a mirror with her and look myself in the eyes, and she then had me repeat truths after her about myself. These included phrases such as “Peggy is loved,” “Peggy has a purpose,” “Peggy is authentic,” etc. At the end of this, she looked at me and said, Peggy, you belong.” I immediately started crying. To me, these words meant that I was worthy of love and acceptance. That I could stop striving and just be. In this moment, I accepted for one of the first times that these words could be true.

I still don’t always believe these words and other truths about who I am in Christ, but I am working on it. I am learning that really the entire salvation process requires radical acceptance. I will never understand why God loves me or lavishes His grace and mercy on me because these things cannot be understood logically- grace does not make sense by worldly standards. However, I can work on accepting the love and grace I have already been given by God and others rather than always trying to be enough by myself or feeling that my past sins are bigger than God’s grace. In the same way that I need to accept my past and where I am now in order to move forward in recovery, I need to accept God’s grace and love in order to fully LIVE.

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