By: Florence Taglight The word habit often follows good or bad. A habit is rarely just a habit, a thing that one does. Whether biting ones nails, or getting up early – they are respectively bad or good.
One definition of a habit defines the word as something ‘’hard to give up’’ in recovery this is the piece of the sentence that strikes me most. For we have to turn a habit that part of us (our eating disorder) perceives as negative – such as eating, into a habit that we intrinsically know is positive. Then comes the very blurry line that so often seems to flicker across my mind when food, recovery ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are concerned. Should we simply go from one habit that is hard to break – to another that is just as hard. Or should we skip out the commitment to either and realise that we are merely doing what we know is right – it is not a habit – but an effortful action.
In my behaviours I had what I know and knew at the time were very bad habits. They controlled more than just my body, my mind and my thoughts too and putting a stop to them was a lot harder than it was to put a stop to chewing my sleeves – which was accomplished by cutting off the cuffs if I did, or my friend stopping biting her nails due to the toxic tasting oil she applied to them meticulously.
The issue is, alike with the chewing of my sleeves – I had no idea I was doing it, until months later, it looked as though a little mouse lived in my drawers and would nibble at the cotton whilst I slept. It wasn’t until my friend went to paint her nails, that she realised she had little to paint due to the proportion of skin to nail ratio.
Step one in habit breaking is therefore, realising it, which often takes another to point it out, hence why for so long, so many of us, suffer in silence, unaware of our own detrimental habit.
I guess that means step 2 is breaking the habit – but is that simply the same as reversing the habit and creating a new tendency and regular practice. Alike with most things, there is no one answer, for some it’s a yes, for others a no. Personally for me, for a while it was a yes. I had to consciously flip my habit from top to bottom and left to right, because unlike my sleeve cuffs – I cant just cut the food off. Nor could I paint over them with toxic oils that said in some sense I did both these things to the voices in my head. Suffocated them with toxic oils and cut them off – if you are reading this thinking, 'Wow that a bit extreme,' trust me its not. They deserve it.
For a long time, I knew that this ‘’good’’ habit, that which I intrinsically knew was right, but despite this had to force myself to do/not do through conscious efforts, and support from those around me was a habit I could not afford to break.
I don't know why it is but it seems that bad habits are far easier to get into to – after weeks of neat cuffs and pink nails - one chew of the sleeve or bite of the cuticle and you're straight back to no-nails-Nancy. It is infuriating really. So that’s why for me – it was about flipping the habit on its head and upside down. I had to be habituated to doing what I knew I was meant to – a.k.a the opposite of my bad habit. Which for some, I understand is just as detrimental due to obsessive actions and addictive tendencies. But for me it was the necessary survival technique, until I could have cuffs again without feeling the urge to nibble at the cotton when no one was around to tell me not too.
About the Author: Florence is a dog loving, coffee drinking, Ellen Degeneres obsessed, glitter fiend with a passion for using my experience with anorexia and recovery to help others see that there is a way out - and that dogs, coffee and Ellen Degeneres can help - well they helped me. Follow me more on @florencetag and @projectheal_uk.