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Posted Sep 07 2008 8:34pm

Last weekend, my family and I had the great thrill of seeing Manny Ramirez’s 500 th homerun. It was, of course, great fun for us because we are Red Sox fans. In addition, as my daughter pointed out, we were seeing history in action. But that 500 th homerun got me thinking about eating disorder recovery. Why?

A homerun record happens the same way recovery does. Step by step. Hit by hit. Swing by swing. It is not an all or nothing process. It does not happen in a day. It is built gradually as each homerun adds onto the run before to mount up to an impressive record. Recovery happens that way too, an accumulation of days with decreased symptom use. A gradual accumulation of healthy coping strategies. It is finally an accumulation of days without symptom use until days add up to years.

Slips occur during recovery, but homerun records don’t require that every homerun was hit in a row. Manny’s current batting average is 0.301. What does that mean? Manny only gets a hit 30% of the time that he comes to bat. That 30% does not only count the times that he gets a homerun. It is the times that he hits the ball and gets on base. It’s the times that he doesn’t strike out or get walked or cause an out. Think about this, Manny built this great record, but he only gets a hit 30% of the time. That means that records don’t require perfection. They don’t require 100%. They require perseverance. They require working at it day after day. It means that you are willing to go back to bat even when you struck out the time before. It means that you stare the possibility of failure down so that you can achieve something wonderful. And that wonderful is not just a homerun record, but hitting the ball and getting to first, or maybe sending that ball out of the park and getting a chance to round the bases to thunderous applause.

Now think about Manny. He goes to bat and knows as he steps up to the plate that 70% of the time he is not going to get a hit. Only 30% of the time will his bat connect with the ball and get him onto base. Do you think that he has these figures in his mind as he stands at the plate? I don’t think he does. From having watched him bat, I saw him stand at that plate and face the pitcher down each and every time. He swung with enough force to potentially turn every ball hit into a homerun. But some of those powerful swings missed completely. And some of them popped the ball up so that it was an out instead of out of the park.

What if Manny approached his hits the way some individuals approach recovery? “Well, I struck out once so I might as well give up on this game.” Or “I got an out so I’m no good at anything.” If that had happened then we wouldn’t have seen his 500 th homerun in that game. Manny’s first time at bat did not yield a homerun nor did his second time. Actually both of those hits led to outs. But each time he came to bat, he approached it as a new chance. “This time could be the homerun record.”


How are you approaching recovery? Each day, do you face it as another potential chance? Each meal? Or once you’ve had a slip do you figure that you’ve failed once so just give up? What negative thoughts are you carrying around each day? Can you let the self-doubt go? Face each moment like Manny at bat? This might get me that much closer to my record. Each small victory can add up to something bigger.

Journal now to look at the thoughts that you carry with you each and every day. Now work to change the negative. Find positive thoughts that you can use to replace them. How about instead of thinking, “I slipped up once, I’m worthless.” You think instead, “Manny got out twice and then hit his 500 th homerun. I got out this time, but next time, I can do it. I can face down ED.”

Each small victory can add up to a record. Each time you’re at bat is a whole new experience. One out does not determine whether you hit a homerun the next time. Unless you let it. You are in control of what thoughts you allow to fill your mind. If negative ones keep ending up there, find some positive ones to replace them. Even if you have to journal again and again and again.

Get out there and write on!

Martha Peaslee Levine, M.D.

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