I was struggling today. I didn’t want to use any eating disorder behaviors really. I didn’t have to put off a binge or wait until the obsession to purge subsided. I struggled to get interested in making dinner, or to find anything I desired to eat. But I ate. I didn’t drive out of my way to buy any binge food, nor did I make unhealthy choices while I was grocery shopping. I didn’t feel excited.
I was listening to Sharon Zimbler, CEO of Montecatini Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Southern California on the Recovery Warrior Show. She was discussing her own experience recovering from both substance abuse and an eating disorder. She talked about a turning point when her sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous expressed her belief that if she was utilizing her eating disorder, she wasn’t sober. I have to admit, it was not unlike a punch to the gut hearing these words spoken out loud; to be clear, they have often rolled around in my mind settling like a fog over every recovery milestone. After the initial jolt, I continued to listen with ambivalence. I felt the gravitational pull towards this idea as I typically feel towards any truth in recovery, right alongside an automatic repulsion. Who wants to admit that nearly ten years of sobriety weren’t exactly that? I know that I have much to be grieving, but I’m not really feeling it yet and wonder if or when I’ll be blindsided. And then there are the NEDA website pages exclaiming recovery is nearly impossible without treatment. Again, I experienced completely conflicting ideas. I won’t call them emotions, since I’m feeling rather clinical. I went to an eating disorder treatment center at a time when I really needed it and I gained weight, but left as unwhole as I arrived. Now I have made a decision to stop using eating disorder behaviors after one year of abstinence and one year of mild relapsing. I feel like I’m not sick enough. And that sounded really fucked up, even in my head. So I looked up numbers for professional help near me.
We took our boys to the playground tonight and I watched my fourteen year old on his skateboard attempting tricks and patiently helping his two year old brother ride. I remember so distinctly when he started riding. He wanted to be so good before he ever practiced. He would ask to go home when there were a lot of older kids skating at the park, even when they were generously trying to encourage him and teach him. He wanted to be perfect before anyone saw him. He wanted to be perfect without ever failing. He wanted to hide his imperfections from the world, to practice alone in a closet and reveal his achievement to an audience that would never know he wasn’t always good. He stopped skating. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him on a board, and I don’t know if I ever saw him that happy doing it. He doesn’t care anymore about making mistakes. His desire to learn has outgrown his fear of failure. He does not care to hide himself out of fear that someone might SEE him.
I think I’ll call that number tomorrow.
Challenge for the Day:
Set aside what you think you know about yourself to remain teachable. Today, I set aside some assumptions about myself, at least enough to start researching outside professional help.
Occasionally, I feel like an adult. I’m forty-one. Today, I canceled our satellite internet service. We live in the sticks where internet service is scarce as hens’ teeth. I saw that idiom on the internet and thought it appropriate given the acres of farmland outside my window and the clucking hens scratching in my yard. We decided to get into this contract after we had difficulty uploading photographs for our business using our phones as mobile hot spots. However, Netflix soon became another addiction for me. I would binge on Grace and Frankie until 2 or 3 am knowing my toddlers would be up at 7.
It was hauntingly familiar to me, this compulsion to binge, to numb. I remember after I had left a boyfriend, I was renting a room from a co-worker. Candy was a single, grandmotherly woman who had a bridge club and drank riesling. I would wait for her to go to bed, turn on the food network, and raid the kitchen, gorging until the first sign of daylight. This Netflix binging left me feeling similarly hollow, painfully inadequate, and emotionally and physically drained.
Today, I found that we were utilizing our allotted data in the first week or two of the billing cycle. Although we initially entered this contract to support our business, I knew that my real resistance to canceling the service was the prospect of losing the possibility of watching an entire series in one or two weeks, losing time, mentally blacking out. But today I remembered how dirty I feel after I stay up all night indulging in my need for escape, and I canceled the service. I will save a sizeable chunk of money each month and more significantly, hours upon hours of time to sleep or engage with my children. Today, I decided to opt out of my internet contract and opt into my life.
Challenge for the day:
Submit to one suggestion or recommendation that you have resisted in the past. I wrote positive affirmations on my bathroom mirror. I have always resisted doing positive affirmations. In fact I don’t believe I have ever engaged in an exercise utilizing positive affirmations before today. Today I am willing.
So I went to a meeting today with a friend of mine; I consider us both low bottom drunks. First off, we found the meeting in the book, got to the place, no meeting. There were two men who also showed up, but no keys. So the venue for this particular meeting was a township hall which happened to have picnic tables. It’s nowhere near a safe bet in March In Michigan, but it was relatively warm, and by relatively I mean my teeth were chattering and I couldn’t form my words correctly by the end, but we handled it. So we had a meeting, my low bottom drunk friend, me and these two dudes who were evaluating their relationship with alcohol because they occasionally embarrass themselves. And it occurred to me, I may have overreacted. Ok not about the booze, that’s a done deal, low bottom, lost custody of my kid, worked for years through the guilt and shame, that one’s a wrap. But this food stuff, was it really that bad?
See, as these guys talked, I felt bad for them. It’s a tricky spot to be in when you don’t know if you really have a problem. It’s not as easy to surrender to a new way of life and thoughts. And the I thought, I feel just like them right now. There was a time when my eating disorder had put me in the hospital , a treatment center, out of my mind. I could maybe have conceded then, but I didn’t. And then it went on, not as overtly threatening as the alcohol, it took an insidious back seat. Then the focus was on the alcohol, and it had to be because I was dying. It was always there in the background every single day. But after my last pregnancy, there was that year, that miracle of a year with no eating disorder behavior, no binging, no purging, no obsessive exercising and then poof. As suddenly as it had arrived, the reprieve had vanished, leaving me acutely aware of its value and my loss. But it didn’t go back to the way it was. I’ve been left in this hazy fog, a steady shade of grey. Sometimes I purge, not all the time. Sometimes I run a lot. Sometimes I don’t exercise at all for months. I try a lot of fad diets. Sometimes all I eat is candy and energy drinks. I don’t know where I belong today, but I sat with my girlfriend who is going through a break up and listened to her. I sat with her instead of going to the Dollar General for my fix. I didn’t binge. I didn’t purge. And I ate dinner with my family to celebrate a birthday. So I am going to try to take the advice we gave to the gentlemen in the meeting. I guess I’ll stick around for awhile.
I am trying to get straight with my eating. This is far from the first time. I went to treatment for my eating disorder, primarily Bulimia Nervosa at the time, around 2002 when I was twenty five. I’m 41 now. I have had one year free of eating disordered behaviors following the birth of my third son in 2017. I’m tired. It’s day three, and yesterday I had two slices of pizza for dinner because my 14 year old had a friend spend the night. After chasing after my toddlers all day and driving half an hour to pick him up from his father’s, half an hour back, I was too tired to cook. I had already decided I wasn’t going to purge. I sat with the pizza, two pieces. I debated for over an hour whether I would have another slice or two and inevitably purge. But I waited. It’s the nearly the scariest thing I ever do. Still I sat. I had already decided to start this blog. You see, you’re my ace in the hole, my accountability. I’m tired of the obsession, the lying, the paranoia, the guilt, and the shame. I’m tired of driving miles out of my way to pick up cinnamon candy bears at the few spots I know that carry them. I’m tired of the comments from the cashiers. I’ve done this before. I used to rotate liquor stores so I wouldn’t seem like such a drunk. Now I alternate Dollar Generals and party stores. I’m tired of wasting time thinking, mulling, will I start today, just one more day, one more binge, one more purge, one more diet. When I got sober, I had lost custody of my oldest son. I quit smoking after a year or so because I didn’t get sober so I could die of lung cancer and leave that boy again. And I didn’t get sober so I could waste precious minutes with him, with them, locked in the prison of my mind.
So I’m inviting you to trudge this path with me, mostly because I need you. I’ve already tried this alone. But, maybe we’ll find some hope together, a little sanity, a little bit of freedom. Maybe we can get whole together. I’m tired of day 3 again.