Opportunities Abound! Using Your Recovery to Make a Difference

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Opportunities Abound! Using Your Recovery to Make a Difference

Many people report victory from an eating disorder as one of the most significant events in their lifetime. For this reason, recovered individuals may desire to help others who still struggle.

Sharing your story of recovery is a unique way to empower others while solidifying the steps and actions you’ve already taken and continue to take. It is also an effective means to be of service to those who need help. The following examples provide ways to reach out.

Idea #1: Start a Support Group

Why: It’s the perfect opportunity to bring people together to share stories, challenges, and inspiration for recovery.

Where: Support groups can be held in any number of places: at your school or college, at your church or synagogue, or at a local community-gathering place.

When: Keep your weekly time commitment manageable by holding meetings once per week for an hour to an hour and a half.

How: Worried you may not have enough expertise for a larger group? Enlist a trusted other such as a school guidance counselor, a coach, or a community leader to help with group dynamics. Also, encourage participation of others who have recovered. During the meetings, share your experience, strength, and hope by revealing precisely how you recovered and the steps you took—then and today.

Not sure you have the skills or tools to lead a group? The National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD) offers free training for community support-group leaders. Visit: www.anad.org/site/anadweb/section.php?id=409

Additionally, Eating Disorders Anonymous provides information on starting a twelve-step group for eating disorders: www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org

Idea #2: Volunteer with an Eating Disorders Organization

Why: Eating disorder organizations are looking for eager volunteers to make a difference!

Where: These organizations are located across the country.

When: It depends on the organization and the role you are playing. Some require a few hours per week commitment at an office. Others may ask volunteers to write letters in their own time or lead weekly support groups. Opportunities abound.

How: Contact local and national organizations directly and explain that you are seeking a volunteer opportunity in the area of eating disorders. Many of these eating disorder organizations are nonprofit, meaning they depend on volunteers to sustain their mission. Some examples include:

The Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) is looking for citizen lobbyists and individuals to join the Family and Friends Action Network. Visit: www.eatingdisorderscoalition.orgThe National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offers a variety of one time only, seasonal, and/or long-term volunteer and intern opportunities to individuals across the globe: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=448

The National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD) lists a variety of volunteer openings on their website, such as a community resource person, spokesperson, Internet guardian, and advocacy group member:www.anad.org/site/anadweb/section.php?id=4009

Massachusetts Eating Disorders Association (MEDA) is looking for group leaders, speakers, and an office intern. Short-term residency may be required. MEDA has opportunities throughout the year. www.medainc.org/involve/index.asp

Idea #3: Speak to Groups About Your Experience

Why: By sharing what your life used to be like with your eating disorder, explaining the steps and actions you took to reclaim your life, and allowing others to see what your life is like now, you provide strength and hope for recovery.

Where: Venues may include schools, community organizations, health fairs, sports teams, or local clubs. Can’t find a place to share your story? Try reaching out to eating disorder treatment programs and asking to speak to one of their groups.

When: Schedule talks for as often as you wish.

How: Focus not only on your own story, but also on giving an informal talk about eating disorders. Several books and websites offer materials to use in these talks.

Somethingfishy.org is a website dedicated to raising awareness and providing support to people with eating disorders and their loved-ones. It serves as an excellent information source for eating disorders. Another on-line resource is EDReferral.com, an eating disorder referral and information center.

Additionally, the following books offer examples of individuals speaking out about their recovery: Journeys: True Stories of Hope and Recovery From Those Who Have Lived Through an Eating Disorder, by Methodist Eating Disorders Institute and Eating Disorder Survivors Tell Their Stories, by Christina Chiu. Both are available from Amazon.com.

By Maria Frisch
Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Summer 2005 Volume 3, Number 3
©2005 Gürze Books

About the Author

Maria Frisch is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota with a primary research interest in eating disorders. She works at the department of Psychiatry and at Methodist Eating Disorders Institute in Minneapolis.

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