Have a Little Faith

We all have faith in something. Don’t believe me? How do you know when you get out of bed in the morning that your feet will hit the ground… and stay there? Because you have faith in gravity, even though some of the most brilliant scientific minds still lack a definite explanation for what gravity is, exactly, and how it works. We just know it exists and have faith it will continue to do its job.

Similarly, when you get in the car and drive to work or school, the moment you turn on to the street, you’re putting your faith in countless other drivers—that they’ll obey stoplights, stay in their designated lanes, and follow the same rules of the road as you.

In the depths of an eating disorder or addiction, “faith,” in a religious or spiritual form may seem empty and lacking, but the person is still putting faith in something. The misplaced faith is in the false promises of the disorder or the substance—that it will bring happiness, success, hope, numbness, significance or relief, that its course is predictable and will lead to a certain outcome.

One suffering from an eating disorder has perhaps seen that faith or belief in other things or people fail to bring satisfaction. Therefore, this individual places all hope in the edicts and commandments of the illness, believing that it can bring about some kind of certainty, control, and order. The individual does, in fact, believe firmly that the way of life inside the illness is the path to their version of freedom and safety. It is this unshakeable faith that keeps the person trapped in a vicious cycle of rules, condemnation, guilt and the pursuit of salvation through behaviors.

And so, the greatest deception of all comes when the voice of the disorder seeks to convince the healthy self that faith in anything, especially the recovery process, is pointless. The first step out of the pit of darkness and into the light is realizing that we do not lack faith. We are people of constant faith. We are just placing our hope and faith in treacherous hands. That realization alone exposes one of the biggest lies the illness embraces and starts a person down a path of discovering a place where they can invest their faith in something that does not lead to destruction, but to healing.

Faith in the healing process looks different for each person, and may or may not involve a higher power or spiritual element. However, one absolutely must settle, decide, choose to have faith that life in recovery is worth the fight, and will be better than life in the illness.

By definition, faith is hope in something one does not know for certain, but yet chooses to have anyway. In the beginning of the recovery journey, it may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. One may not know anyone personally who has struggled and recovered, or may be so encompassed by dark thoughts that envisioning a day when they can step into the sunlight, free from worry and exhaustion is too hard to even conceptualize.

But, even on the darkest days of the recovery journey, faith is not lost, hope is not dead—it is alive in their very soul. It just needs to be re-directed toward something they may not know yet, physically or emotionally, but something they can believe in. Hope can be fostered through treatment, the learning of new skills, reading books and talking to those who have survived and are living a recovered life, doing deep personal exploration of their values and passions. All of these things cultivate a real hope for a life on the other side that will be better, even if they’re not there yet.

Recovery takes a leap of faith into the unknown. It is a trust fall. It is a deliberate choice to place hope in healing, rather than in the slave master that is the disorder or addiction. And perhaps, for one also, it includes believing a loving power has them in its grasp and will shepherd them through. Each spiritual journey of faith is different, but creatures of faith we are, nonetheless.

What are you placing your faith in today?

About Kirsten Haglund

“Since my own recovery, I am passionate about educating and empowering women to get the care they need to live amazing, productive and healthy lives,” said Haglund. “I see the same compassion and desire in the Timberline Knolls team and look forward to being a part of this work of restoring women to health.”

Haglund will continue to work as an advocate for greater awareness of eating disorders and resources for care. Since she won the crown of Miss America 2008, she has spoken on more than 20 college campuses, worked with youth and church groups domestically and abroad, lobbied Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition, and started her own non-profit, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, to raise funds and assist families financially in seeking treatment for eating disorders.

View all posts by Kirsten Haglund