The Metamorphosis of Recovery

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Humans have long been fascinated by our little winged friend, the butterfly. The Greeks even gave their Goddess of the Soul, Psyche, butterfly wings to symbolize her beauty and grace. We remain drawn to them not just because of their bright wings and delicate lightness, but because of their metamorphosis that truly captures our hearts.

The journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly enthralls us because it reminds us of our own growth, rebirth, and actualization story.

Knowing butterflies have to go through the hard work of transformation to become the fullest expression of themselves can provide us solace as we shed our own outgrown skin and emerge into fuller versions of ourselves.

Using the butterfly’s journey as a metaphor for our own healing path allows us to see things from a different perspective.

Often, we get so caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves because of the disorder, addiction, or illness we face. When I tell someone I am in recovery the response I get is usually apologetic. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it does reinforce the “I am broken” story, and implies that I must need “fixing.”

Aside from the plot of a very famous children’s book, I can’t imagine a scenario where a caterpillar would tell someone that she is on her way to becoming a butterfly, only to be offered an apologetic reply. Yet the two journeys are remarkably similar.

We spend the first part of our lives consuming the world around us; then we must take time to go inward and digest all that we have learned, then finally emerge in our own unique brilliance.

During the cocoon phase of the butterfly’s life cycle, she actually turns to liquid before forming her final winged shape. This fact feels especially similar to the process of eating disorder recovery.

In order to become the most expansive version of ourselves, we must first become liquid by letting go of everything we thought we were.

The caterpillar can’t remain attached to staying small if she is to fulfill her life’s purpose of becoming bigger and brighter.

Even though butterflies must turn to mush before they reach maturity, scientists have discovered that they may actually retain some memory from their earthbound days.

This means that each cycle’s important lessons remain intact throughout the metamorphosis, resulting in a wiser and more aware organism. What they learn along the way to adulthood is what ensures their success.

In fact, the length of struggle out of the cocoon is directly linked to the strength of the butterfly’s wings and the resilience of her being.

Rather than thinking of ourselves as being in recovery from eating disorders, let’s practice referring to our rebirths as the miraculous process of nature they are. We are becoming butterflies and no, it’s not always easy.

But, the measure of recovery is not “the fix,” but the lessons we learn along the way.The insights we gain by turning inward and finding out how to use the struggles of our journey, enables us to move closer towards our destiny.

In the same vein, a return to old pathways is not a failure of character as the language of relapse implies.

Rather, it adds to the growth you undergo and depth of character you create.

By being thankful for the extra work assigned to us, and trusting our final destination is freedom, our transformation journeys will quicken, and we will become the vast, magnificent creatures we are meant to be.