Three years ago today I entered recovery for food addiction/binge eating disorder. The first year was like sitting on that proverbial pink cloud. After I got past the withdrawal from sugar and flour, life got easier. I continued to work one on one with my therapist and with my writing practice, and my life was improving day by day. My second year witnessed challenges to that pink oblivion, but I managed to find ways of handling each problem as it came. You can read about my first two years in recovery in my memoir, which is finally on pre-order.
And then the third year….
The third year has been my hardest year yet.
Yes, my third year.
In this year I have struggled the hardest and ended up losing my abstinence. Eventually, before I got back on track, I was bingeing three or four times per day every single day with little respite in between. And yet these were not my darkest days. My worst day in recovery could not compare to my best day not in recovery. And I will tell you why.
My descent into relapse began in a coffee shop when a table full of men undressed me with their eyes. I was at a comfortable weight, and I felt confident in both my appearance and my recovery. And yet this moment completely and totally unnerved me. I was instantly a vulnerable eleven year old girl afraid of being raped. My fat was gone, and I thought, “I have no protection.”
I didn’t binge that day. I didn’t binge the next day. But slowly my portion sizes began to grow. Slowly I started making excuses for why I was having a little of this food and a little of that. When I realized I was in full blown relapse, I thought that my recovery plan had failed. I believed that abstinence did not work, that it, just like so many other ways of eating, had not worked. I turned–once again–to Intuitive Eating. I tried like hell under the guidance of someone trained in IE to make it work. The result: bingeing three and four times a day every single day.
I knew that I had to find my way back to abstinence. I tried and tried and tried, but always something broke my commitment. Eventually, it stuck, and I have now been abstinent again for a long stretch of time.
There was a point in my first year when I could not believe, I simply would not accept, that I would ever relapse. I was feeling too good. I was doing too well. Abstinence was so easy. But it was that over optimism that allowed this relapse too occur. Ironically, today’s reading from One Day at a Time in Al-Anon cautions people in recovery: “I will not let the good make me complacent, nor will I allow the not good to drown me in despair.” And I did both.
Now, on the other side of that relapse, I not only know that it is possible, I know that it is likely. This disease truly is cunning and baffling. It knows no predictable form, nor does it play by any rules. It is all encompassing and forever. Now that I can better see my opponent, I am better at keeping the walls around my heart, mind, and soul strong against it.
But I have also come to see that there are other ways of emboldening my recovery. I just finished reading Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione, who urges people suffering from any kind of spiritual malady to make peace with our demons. I have set upon a journey to do just that, and I plan to share it with all of your in the coming weeks.
Until then, I am celebrating my third year in recovery by burning an effigy of my bathroom scale LIVE on Facebook tonight at 10 pm EST. I hope you will join me in this ritual. Although I said goodbye to my actual bathroom scale many months ago, tonight I am saying goodbye to every nasty, cruel thing it has ever said to me.
Either way, let’s light up this night in celebration of three years of learning and living and growth. See you tonight ready to go!
The Optimistic Addict
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