I was building everything up to this one tiny moment in the expanse of moments, my therapy appointment. It was the first time in 18 years that I was seeking help specifically for my eating disorder. I have not sought treatment since I was released from residential in 2001. So I recently became ready. I honestly could not tell you why, but I am willing to do work and to let go.
To be clear, I have done a lot of work between 2001 and now. I worked on getting good and drunk for a long long time, and then I lost custody of my beautiful boy in 2008. In 2009 I entered a residential substance abuse treatment center, and I have been sober since. Subsequently, I worked intensively with a therapist on the guilt and shame I experienced surrounding my child, my failure to provide a safe home for him, and his absence. The guilt and the shame came in waves of emotions that were at once startling, paralyzing, painful, and welcome. In the beginning I welcomed these waves as a form of punishment, even torture. I’ve come to welcome them as evidence of my love for my child and my humanity.
Throughout my sobriety, I have had a few false starts at seeking recovery from my eating disorder. But in the end I always clutched tighter to it, holding on with all the certainty that to let go would be to fracture into billions of pieces, too small to put back together, dispersing, eternally homeless.
The last few years have been a crazy time. I’ve given birth to two more boys, 17 months apart. They are three and two. My second was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 6 months. I battled and survived postpartum depression after my third. Perhaps because of all of this, maybe I was too busy, maybe because my hormones were crazy, maybe because my body was not my own, somehow, after my 3rd child was born, I had a year’s long reprieve from any eating disorder behaviors and thoughts that I can remember.
This last year, however, it’s been creeping in. Slowly. Sometimes in nearly imperceptible ways. But I recognized it immediately for I have known it well and long. And though it’s been hanging around this past year, I am no longer welcoming its intoxicating presence, it’s promises of, disappearing, oblivion.
This brings me back to the moment I’ve been waiting for since I made the decision to recover. The appointment. The two hundred and twenty five dollar, fifty minute appointment in a non descript office building, the kind with miles of aging, berber carpet, a key to the restroom down the hall. The suite of the therapist with its forced appearance of “serenity”, Buddhist symbols, and an assortment of herbal teas. The intake questions, all the same, the story, my story, my non story of no abuse or trauma, just my maladaptive coping mechanisms and me on the ugly couch in another shitty office building.
And I realized. The power to recover does not lie within the walls of a suite in an office building in Lansing or Grand Rapids or even in Chicago. I will not find recovery in the thoughts and words of the next therapist or the next sponsor. Recovery: regaining possession of something stolen or lost. This is between me and my eating disorder. It is only within this body and this mind, this heart and this fear-riddled soul, that I will find peace, and I will know freedom.