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Recovery Is…

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Last week I learned about a campaign by Project Heal bringing about awareness of the treatment of eating disorders through photos of recovery from those who have survived and the people who supported them using “#RecoveryIs”. It has been something I have continued to think about and question of myself in the days following.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was 14 and at nearly 30, this has made up more than half of my life. I have been in true recovery, as defined by me, nearly 4 years. And every day I am grateful for this while fighting with every ounce of my being to continue. I think I can speak for those who have been along for the journey, they are just as relieved and grateful.

My starvation nearly took my life several times. Let that marinate for a moment. I nearly starved myself to death more than once. My childhood of pure chaos and trauma was the perfect recipe for me to find a way to disappear, literally.

I wanted to share what recovery is for me. Below is a stream of consciousness. It’s not perfect and that’s entirely the point.


Recovery is both beautiful and brutal—like Glennon Doyle Melton says, “its brutiful”.

Recovery is shattering the rigidity and allowing for flexibility.

Recovery is being all heart, no longer struggling to beat as I once did at 23 beats per minute.

Recovery is understanding the importance and value in vulnerability.

Recovery is feeling rather than numbing.

Recovery is owning my sexuality, unapologetically.

Recovery is allowing others in, finally.

Recovery is knowing that asking for help is nothing short of heroic.

Recovery is acceptance.

Recovery is asking for what I need while offering what I can give.

Recovery is clawing my way out of a very deep, dark hole with no energy hoping I’ll eventually make it to the top; to the light.

Recovery is no longer trying to shove and starve myself into my once ideal ‘size 2’ box.

Recovery is community rather than isolation.

Recovery is being human every second of every day.

Recovery is no longer obsessively working out for hours on end.

Recovery is working out for sanity, peace, and health.

Recovery is not only surviving or living, it is thriving.

Recovery is allowing the wounds to heal.

Recovery is finding the grey in my once black and white, all or nothing, world.

Recovery is fucking hard.

Recovery is owning my story.

Recovery is knowing where I end and where others begin.

Recovery is knowing that the only way to is through.

Recovery takes every ounce of me some days and comes easy others.

Recovery is consoling my younger self rather than leaving her alone at the bottom of the stairs.

Recovery is showing up every damn day.

Recovery is no longer memorizing the calories of every single thing to enter my mouth.

Recovery is the feeling of standing on my two feet, arms wide open, looking up into the sky saying, “ahhhh”.

Recovery is touch.

Recovery is the integration of my whole body.

Recovery is no longer being consumed with shame.

Recovery is always listening to my intuition.

Recovery is no longer requiring my legs to be removed from my body before my burial upon my death. (Yes, this was a true request during my sickest times in preparation for my passing. The justification? There was no way I was going to spend another moment with them that I didn’t have to; they had caused me enough torment).

Recovery is learning to sit still, really still; this once was impossible.

Recovery is giving myself permission.

Recovery is forgiveness.

Recovery is heartbreaking.

Recovery is knowing my body isn’t what needs to change, but rather, society and its expectations.

Recovery is no longer being limited by the identity of my eating disorder; it is redefining myself.

Recovery was creating the family I always needed and desired.

Recovery is being strict with my boundaries knowing this is the single most important part of my recovery.

Recovery is marrying a partner who validates daily that I am worthy of love.

Recovery is still choosing to be sensitive in this harsh world.

Recovery is being honest; real honest with myself and others.

Recovery is no longer silencing my voice; YOU will hear me LOUD & CLEAR.

Recovery is realizing I never had control in the first place.

Recovery is relief.

Recovery is knowing I still have a ways to go while recognizing I have come a long way.


When I made the intentional choice to recover, I made the choice to be me, ALL of me. I would no longer allow myself to hide in shame or pretend. I wouldn’t be anything other than Lily.

For me, recovery is authenticity in its rawest form!


Until next time,


Ps: the last line is what my sign says in the photo. If you feel compelled to add your “Recovery Is” photo please do. Write what your “recovery is” on a piece of white paper, take a photo with it, and share it on social media using #RecoveryIs and #ProjectHeal. Visit their website or their FB page for more information.


headshotAbout the Author:

Dr. Lily A. Zehner, MFT-C is a therapist who specializes in sex, intimacy, and relationships. Her private practice is located in Denver where she helps others reach their fullest relational and sexual potential. To learn more about her and her services, please feel free to take a look around her website.

About the Author