Monday, July 25, 2011

The Next Right Thing

I have been reading parts of the book Goodbye Ed, Hello Me recently. I love both of Jenni Schaefer's books. They have been a staple (a must have) throughout my recovery! My copies of both of her books are highlighted, underlined, written in, folded down pages for chapters I especially like... they are worn & broken in!

I love the way she writes and expresses things, I love that the chapters are short and simple, and I love that there is a chapter for so many of the obstacles that we need to face, overcome, and heal from as we are on our journey to recovery. And they are books that you can read over and over, as different parts will speak to you louder than others depending on where you are in your recovery. 

Last night, I was reading the chapter "The Next Right Thing." She actually has a chapter about this subject in both of her books. This is something that was vital for me to learn in my recovery, and it still is something that I am working on being better at. It's one of the ways I try to live my life. I try not to beat myself up when I make a mistake or I slip, and I also try not to use it as an "excuse" to keep going in whatever behavior I am engaging in. Like thinking... "Well, I started such and such behavior so... I might as well finish it." None of us in recovery are perfect, but that's okay. The goal is progress, NOT perfection. And the important thing to learn is that when you do slip - you don't have to keep going! You can do the next right thing. 

In "Life Without Ed" she talks about doing the next right thing in our recovery. And then in "Goodbye Ed, Hello Me" she expands this and talks about learning how to do the next right thing - not just in recovery - but in all aspects of our lives. And one quote that I really like is "If I relapsed, I learned that I needed to get back on track NOW, not later."
"Ed blindsided me. After several months of following my food plan with no binging and purging, yesterday, Ed came on strong with wanting me to binge. The situation was perfect for him. I was extremely hungry. I was at a place where I had frequently binged before. And I was bored. So, Ed took the opportunity to say, "Jenni, I know exactly what to do here. It will be fun - for old times sake." Before I even knew it was happening, Ed had me. I was in the middle of a binge. Then, Ed really jumped in stronger. He said, "Well, I guess you're back with me now. And you actually thought you were 'recovered.' Of course, tomorrow you are going to have to starve all day long in order to make up for this binge. Then, you'll need to restrict all week."

"No," I said to myself. "I will not go back there." The day after the binge, I refused to go back to Ed. Just one night with him reminded me of how miserable I was with him - how trapped I was. Instead I followed the advice that someone gave a girl in group therapy not long ago after she had relapsed. The advice was, "Do the next right thing." For that girl, the next right thing was to go home after group and eat dinner. For me, the next right thing was to eat breakfast.

Eating breakfast would be a huge violation of Ed's rules. He says, "If you eat breakfast, you won't be able to fit into that dress to wear to the baby shower today. If you eat breakfast, forget about ever wearing those jeans that you just bought. If you eat breakfast, you're going to have to work out extra hard this week. If you eat breakfast, you're a failure." I'll admit it. At the time, I almost agreed with Ed. He was very convincing. But even if I agreed with Ed, I could still disobey him, which is what I did.

Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman trophy winner throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast."

excerpt from "Life Without Ed" by Jenni Shaefer


  1. "The next right thing" is a very empowering statement! I love the message in your post that if you slip in recovery, this doesn't mean you have to keep slipping. Thank-you for sharing this Jenn. xo

  2. I try and embrace this ideal as much as possible and find that with practice it makes it easier...I like to focus on what needs doing, to. It tends to ease anxiety.
    Like...if I am pre-occupied with food after dinner I focus on one thing at a time. Clean up dishes. Now walk the dog. Get into my PJs.