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Fighting Anorexia and Alcoholism: Alison's Recovery Story, Part 4


This four-part article series was written exclusively for by Alison Smela. Alison offers more insight into addiction and eating disorder recovery on her blog.

Click here to read Part 1.

In the fall of 2008, after 35 years battling an eating disorder, at the age of 46, I walked through the doors of a treatment center willing to do whatever was suggested.

While filling out the never-ending paperwork, someone rolled a wheelchair up to me which I took to mean I was being taken for an X-ray. I was wrong. They explained based on my present medical state I was identified as requiring “full bed rest” which meant I had to roll around the facility rather than walk around the facility. And since I wasn’t allowed to roll the wheels myself, I had to ask for help to do everything and get everywhere.

Although I was shocked and somewhat confused, I stood up, stepped to the chair and sat down. I had no more fight left in me. I realized if this is what was needed to get my life back; I was willing to do what was asked of me. Based on my track record, everything I had thought best for me hadn’t proved healthy at all.

Taking the First Bite into the Rest of my Life

During those first 24 hours I noticed all the other girls and women were primarily younger; only a few appeared close to my age. While I could have allowed myself to fall victim, validating my fears about relating to others in treatment, I reminded myself of my commitment upon admission. I’d surrendered to the eating disorder struggle the moment I sat in that wheelchair.

Minutes prior to the first meal I put my husband’s picture in my pocket believing that to be my lifeline for support. I wanted to live but couldn’t bring myself to accept what I was being asked to do. With hands shaking, and tears streaming down my face, I picked up my fork and prayed this would be the first bite into the rest of my life. I was right.

Three months later, after much physical change, direct yet productive therapy sessions talking through deeply coveted secrets and fears, and the support from women of all ages who shared their experience, strength and hope with me, I walked out a healthy, grateful woman.

Reminding Myself that I'm a Survivor

I’ve been through incredibly difficult and highly emotional life challenges along my recovery road, yet have not found a sufficient reason to put a drink to my lips or keep the fork from my mouth.

When I’ve found myself feeling lost, alone and struggling to understand why the hell things happen as they do, I remind myself I’m a survivor. I’ve proven this to myself after having overcome two life-threatening addictions and finding the strength to move through overwhelming, chart-topping grief with the unexpected deaths of my father and then, seven months later, my brother without relapsing. I tell myself if I can get through that, perhaps I can face what comes next.

But as is with life, there are no guarantees. While I have proof that I can face whatever comes into my life, all I truly have is today. What tomorrow may bring is yet to be revealed.