Why I’m not vegan in recovery

I have been a vegetarian for over two years now and I have loved it! I have no need to eat meat, and I even limit my dairy and egg consumption. It feels great! So why am I not a vegan? I mean, I tried it out for a few months during summer and fall of 2016 after a life-changing road trip around the south. Why couldn’t I stick with it?

The answer for me is recovery.

When you’re at a treatment center like the Ridgeview Institute, this is no being “vegan” in recovery. You’re allowed to be vegetarian, and even gluten free or lactose intolerant… but not vegan. Treatment centers, or more specifically, the dietitians, frown upon veganism as being too restrictive and difficult to accommodate. When I entered treatment for the first time November 2016, I was a vegan. I ate no meat, dairy, eggs, or animal products like honey or gelatin. I begged for about a 3–4 days to stay vegan in recovery but the answer was always “no.”

So, I complied. I began to [begrudgingly] eat products like yogurt, baked goods (with eggs or dairy involved), and even cheese eventually. That last one took me a while though. I think I was able to be compliant because I hadn’t been vegan for very long before I entered treatment. In fact, the primary reason I am vegetarian has to do with my eating disorder. I used that life change as an “innocent” way to restrict food and calorie intake. The ethics came later.

Now, in recovery, I believe strongly that I do not need to consume animals as they are put on this earth to have lives just like the rest of us humans. You wouldn’t eat your cat or dog, so why would you eat a cow or a pig? They are equal. Their lives matter. I would like to eventually find my way back to veganism as my eating habits become more stabilized and normal. For now, though, I have to put myself first and do what’s best for me, even if that means eating cheese on a pizza. For the most part, I substitute my dairy with soy products like soy milk and soy yogurt. I am even planning to try soy coffee creamer soon! I steer clear of most eggs unless they’re hidden in some random baked good. I consume honey sometimes, and that’s okay.

I will happily support all the vegans in my life, and hope that they will support me too. I hope to one day rejoin the vegan community as a full vegan, but this time as a vegan recovered from an eating disorder.