My year in recovery

Hey beautiful child of the universe,

It’s hard right now. But I want you to think of where you were a year ago. Back when recovery really began. Back when you had no idea what you were doing.

This is what’s going to happen over the course of one year for you.

In August, you’re going to start graduate school! You’re on your way to becoming a therapist. Everything is going to seem overwhelming, but you are going to meet so many incredible friends in your cohort, and you are going to learn some amazing knowledge about human behavior You are so passionate about this field. This is right where you belong. Oh, and don’t stress too much about the homework and tests…your clients aren’t EVER going to care about your grades. You’re going to kick ass on every single essay, because if you didn’t notice, you were born a writer ūüôā

In September, you’re going to start really processing your emotions in therapy. This is going to be a huge challenge. You’re going to be defensive, and you’re going to minimize what’s going on. You’re going to think she’s judging EVERY SINGLE WORD YOU SAY. You’re going to try and brush off the severity of your disorder, and you’re going to pretend everything is okay. Fortunately, you have an intelligent therapist, and she’s going to read through your watery bullshit. You’re going to look forward to therapy. A lot. So much that you will develop a fear that you’re becoming dependent on it. Too dependent. That’s normal. It happens. Just ride it out.

In October, you’re going to go through a TON of shit with your ex-boyfriend. It’s going to literally wear you down. You will pick daily fights with him. You will take breaks. You will question love, happiness, and security. You will act indecisive, when deep down, you KNOW it’s over. It’s going to hurt to make that decision, but you’re getting close. You’re also going to tell your father about your eating disorder. It’s a scary step, but you are ready to make it. And I’m proud of you for taking that leap!¬†

In November, you end the relationship. It’s abrupt and intense, but you’ve been emotionally checked out of it for months. He’s devastated, but you remain strong. You know you deserve better than his lies and empty promises. You know that you need to work on yourself. It’s going to be difficult to be single after living in the cushion of being someone else’s girlfriend, but this is an identity you need to become comfortable with. You need to learn how to love yourself! You’ll attend an Overeaters Anonymous meeting at the end of the month, because it is a free and local support group for people struggling with eating disorders and your therapist recommended it. You felt awkward and uncomfortable there, but you kept going, because you weren’t sure what else to do.¬†

In December, you’ll begin making out with a lot of dudes. You start going out and drinking heavily. You like the attention, but you end up coming home and feeling empty. You don’t exactly know what dating is, but you’re determined to figure the game out. You end your first semester at school, and it feels great!! Recovery is hard at this point. Everything is new. Every meal is a challenge. You make this blog public and you get a HUGE, overwhelming response of positive feedback. This makes you so happy! Strangers like watching and reading about your journey! You have so many people supporting you.¬†

In January, you decide to abstain from ALL sugar, and it works. For awhile. Then, you slip, and it scares you SO badly. You feel unsure about work. You’re just always¬†busy.¬†You’re very immersed into the OA philosophy and make it a point to adopt the Twelve Steps. You don’t have a sponsor, but you go to the meetings, read the literature, and write frequently. It’s still really hard at this point. You just feel stuck. Meal by meal. Breath by breath.¬†

In February, you make the very emotional and difficult decision to quit a job that you love. You were only there for six months, but you were working two jobs averaging 42 hours a week and attending school full-time. You were busy from essentially 6am-10pm during the week. It was exhaustive. You were afraid of leaving your position. You feared the prospects of free time on your hands. You have been used to compulsive¬†doing for so long that it seems unnatural and foreign to just relax and be. That’s okay. Hang in there! You’re going to be SO relieved that you quit. You reveal your eating disorder with a Facebook post for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and the positive feedback you receive is overwhelming. You are such a little rockstar.¬†

In March, you end a friendship that meant everything to you. You actually planned on living with this girl and thought that you could ignore her alcoholism. You tried sweeping it under the rug until it became too enmeshed in your relationship with her. This was devastating, but it needed to be done. For your recovery and for hers. You start applying to internship sites, and the thought of becoming a¬†real, live¬†therapist terrifies you! So many interviews. You’re going to end up in an incredible agency. Just keep your chin up! You survive a minor house fire! Look at you. Oh, and you find a wonderful sponsor in OA, and she helps you through many dark points. Lucky you! Unfortunately, you slip again REALLY badly towards the end of the month. So badly that you actually end up getting ¬†food poisoning (don’t eat an entire roll of raw cookie dough, friends). This keeps you sick all weekend on a road trip to visit family. You felt hopeless, isolated, and scared. It’s going to be okay. I promise. The light eventually emerges. You need to go through hell first.¬†

In April, you go to Vegas with friends, and it’s a wild weekend of drinking, partying, and all the young fun that comes with spring break. You end up securing a position at your top-choice agency! See how easy that was! The eating disorder fluctuates. You’ve developed a few coping skills, but it’s still tough, and you frequently feel preoccupied and anxious. You wonder when it’s going to feel better…you feel like you’re just waiting very patiently. Your therapist recommends consulting with a psychiatrist, but you decide to wait it out. That’s okay. When you’re ready, you can make that decision.¬†

In May, you struggle. You feel like nothing is working, and it is incredibly painful. You just feel so triggered all the time!! I know it’s hard. You have to go through that agony, though. It’s part of the process, and that is exactly what anyone and everyone will tell you. The end of the month turns around with the conclusion of your first year of graduate school, your birthday, another impromptu trip to Vegas, and a trip to the river with your friend! You speak at an OA meeting and it goes really well! People are very inspired by your story. You start feeling confident in recovery.¬†

In June, you struggle A LOT at the beginning. You feel hopeless. You call it a relapse. You’re fluctuating between starving and bingeing. Your body is constantly hurting. You spend a week caught in this turmoil. You hate everyone. I’m so sorry. You are desperate for help, and yet, you turn away from those who want to give it you. Your eating disorder is STRONG, so strong, but you’ll pull through. I promise. You’ll even cry in therapy! Look at you, expressing that emotion! I You’ll be leaning on people A LOT this month, but that’s all right. You’re allowed. At your lowest of lows, you contact a psychiatrist through your insurance company to make a consultation. He doesn’t give you an official diagnosis, but he puts you on Prozac. You’re willing to try anything at this point, despite the apprehension you have towards medication. Don’t stigmatize yourself. YOU deserve to feel better. You decide to take a break from OA for a variety of reasons: the rigidity, a general dislike in the Twelve Steps addiction philosophy for food, the somber and somewhat depressive atmosphere.

Oh, and you’re randomly going to meet the love of your life in the middle of the month. It’s going to be EPIC!!!

In July, you spend a month head-over-heels with the most amazing guy you’ve ever met. You both understand each other in a way nobody has, and EVERYTHING just feels so great. Hardest class of your program? No big deal. Gotta work? Who cares??Everything is amazing. It’s a month of staying-up-all-night talking, holding hands, spontaneous beach dates, raw and passionate sex, and nonstop laughing. You’re so happy, and you deserve it!!

In August, you’ll wander all around Europe. You won’t do laundry for eighteen days, but you WILL walk thousands of miles, sleep in dozens of hostel beds, interact with people all over the world, see the most beautiful, famous sights, eat food from every culture, and learn what it’s like to navigate this crazy world with just maps and public transportation. It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime, and you’ll GROW so much through this experience! You’ll come home and rejoice with your amazing boyfriend and spend the next week together before starting school.

In September, you’ll start seeing your first clients! Now you’re the therapist! See how far you’ve grown. The eating disorder voice has somewhat returned after a nice long summer vacation and you’ve been slipping into old behaviors, but it’s okay, because you have the tools now. You have the support now. It feels scary, but you can and you will do this.

Recovery has been your number one priority for twelve months, and you’re not about to reverse that now.¬†

Advertisements

Overeaters Anonymous Drop-Out

Dear Bee, 

I walked into my first OA meeting in late November. It was cold. Dark. All women. At my therapist’s (routine) suggestion, I went. And I stayed. Because that’s what everyone kept telling me to do. Keep coming back.¬†I planted my booty in several rooms several times a week for the next six months. I spoke. I wrote. I read. I found a sponsor. I worked Step 1, 2, and 3. I found relief. I found answers. I woke up early. I stayed up late. I put recovery first. Undoubtedly,¬†OA helped me during a very excruciating and painful time in my life.¬†

I no longer attend meetings and have not for the past seven or so weeks. My recovery is stronger than it has ever been. I am in a healthier state of mind than I was before my eating disorder even began. OA taught me great tools, and I gained some wonderful insight and friendships along the way.

I love the philosophy of the Twelve Steps for addiction models, but the structure of OA became too rigid for me. I have a disorder, and I am aware of how it affects me, but I do not have a biological nor psychological addiction to food. I never have. I used food and exercise as a crutch and coping mechanism; in recovery, I have learned how to identify feelings and appropriately manage them. I have learned how to like myself. CBT has done wonders for me in that sense.

I maintained my eating disorder by denying my feelings, settling for people and things that negatively affected my happiness, and fighting for unrelenting control over everything in life. Part of my recovery meant dismantling the rigidity. Only in learning how to equalize all foods and exercise and practicing the method of moderation and intuitive living have I been truly able to make remarkable progress. I stopped the program at Step Four, meaning I did not complete the searching and fearless moral inventory. Why? Because, I realized I needed to stop focusing on my flaws, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. I needed to LET THEM GO.

Recovery has made me insurmountably proud of my past. Every single choice, good or bad, led me to where I am today. And where am I now? Exactly where I want to be. In a state of mind that I never knew I could have. I am not “passively” existing. I am active and excited. I am okay with being busy and okay with relaxing. I love myself and I can give love freely and happily to others. I am Europe-bound, halfway through my graduate program, one month away from working with clients, in love with the most amazing man I’ve ever met, content with family, happy with my body, gratefully employed, and OPTIMISTIC and EXCITED for life.¬†

I am not in denial of my imperfections; I never have been. In fact, I had the opposite problem. I was acutely aware of my vulnerabilities and fears, but I was unwilling and unable to let go of them. I let my mistakes define me. I did not do Step Four because doing so would have just sunk me deeper into my own pity party, and I spent many years celebrating my shame. It is time to move on. 

I am a firm believer in the power of group therapy, but this is not the intent of OA. At times, the program made me feel broken; I was a “compulsive overeater,” and it was literally a chronic disease that can only be managed and not beaten. I was never comfortable identifying myself as a disorder. In school, we are literally forbidden from calling people by their diagnoses. I would never say he’s schizophrenic¬†or¬†she’s bipolar…this pigeonholes individuals into a cluster of symptoms. I am Me. I am not ____, compulsive overeater or bulimic or anorexic…whatever. I am ME.

I do believe I can beat my eating disorder; I have always believed that. From day one. Even during my lowest of lows, I always knew I was going to get better. That faith and optimism in myself has kept me going day in and day out. You can all see my progress and struggles outlined here. I am not just rainbows and sunshine. But I am positive about my life. 

I gained a sense of spirituality from OA, and for that, I am grateful. I absolutely believe in the good karma of the universe, and I adopted that as a sense of Higher Power. However, I do not believe in turning my eating disorder over to the universe. Moreover, I never felt comfortable praying to a force greater than myself. The universe has taken great care of me, and I realize that I can let go and release the stress and preoccupation, but I¬†do have the power to control, stop, and CHOOSE my actions.¬†The serenity prayer is beautiful; I may not be in control of much in this world, but I¬†am in control¬†my eating disorder behaviors. I used to think I was helpless and “out-of-control.” I couldn’t stop a binge to save my life. I couldn’t eat a fear food without freaking out. I couldn’t gain an ounce of weight without hating myself.

I gained some responsibility over myself. I learned just how much my eating disorder was influencing my self-esteem, decision-making abilities, and quality of life. I have choices, and to believe that I am powerless makes me feel helpless and scared. 

Moreover, I struggled with defining abstinence from the first day. What am I supposed to be abstaining from? Compulsive overeating. Well, yes. But that sounds rather black-and-white, which opposes the picture of recovery I tried to color. Abstain from trigger foods? When I did this, I underwent just another extreme diet, because suddenly I couldn’t handle anything¬†that I didn’t deem as safe. Once again, I found myself putting certain foods on a pedestal. I kept labeling “good” and “bad” foods, and, in doing so, I developed even more of an anxiety and fear hierarchy. I was told that I needed to¬†avoid¬†the fears rather than face them.¬†In other words, this was maintaining a self-defeating cycle, one in which I believed my body could not handle certain foods due to their alleged toxicity.¬†

Engaging in an eating disordered behavior is not a failure and perfect recovery is impossible. Slips are inevitable, and I wish OA would take those setbacks more into consideration. I was made to believe that any alteration to my “plan” sent me right back to square one. Indeed,¬†I became caught up in the perfectionistic cycle of counting days and numbers…if I had to be the “best” at an eating disorder, I sure had to be the “best” at recovery as well, right?¬†

I needed to dismantle perfectionism, and, unfortunately, OA made that difficult. The structure felt so black-and-white. Don’t binge. Only eat at these times. Only eat these kinds of foods. No ifs and or buts. I realize OA does not actually endorse such limitations, but most of the fellowship followed relatively strict rules concerning their food intake. My recovery meant¬†breaking the rules¬†instead of making more of them. I was already living with countless rules that I had created for myself. I needed to learn how to listen to my body and intuition, rather than follow another plan. I needed to learn how to ultimately trust myself, which was one of the scariest, but most worthwhile, decisions I ever made.¬†

I am not for or against OA, and I have seen it create miracles for some. I met some wonderful people. I love my sponsor and her advice continues to be invaluable.

At this phase in my recovery, I am in no position to say whether or not I will go back to meetings. For now, however, I like the fluidity of my recovery. I like being able to eat what I want, when I want, and how much I want. I am at a healthy weight with a relatively positive body image. My disorder no longer defines or controls me.

I am not “recovered.” I am not cocky nor ignorant about my recovery process. There is an ebb and flow to this journey, and I have hit many rough patches and dark spots along the way. Food may always be my achilles heel…I know how likely relapse can is! However, I have learned an abundance of healthy coping strategies and I will continue with¬†what works:¬†therapy, writing in this blog, reading, seeking support, and continuously making myself feel good.

The best thing I learned from OA was the message of¬†living life on life’s terms,¬†and that’s exactly what I’m doing: riding this delicious energy called life.

Processing the binge (as much as I don’t want to)

Dear Bee,

Here is my double-edged sword. Too many important people know about our relationship. And they want to know¬†every little detail.¬†They want to know how we interact, what you say to me, how I respond, and what we do when we spend time together. They are¬†so interested.¬†You’re threatened by their inquisitiveness and intrusiveness, and I understand. Together, we were mistrustful of guidance. Together, we were safe. You provided safety from others hurting me, and for so long, I believed in every word you told me.

That’s why I¬†still¬†defend you to this day. That’s why I am¬†still¬†attracted to your facade and ashamed of our bond. I no longer mind telling people about you; I love telling people when I¬†conquer¬†you,¬†but I loathe telling them when you¬†defeat¬†me.¬†The preoccupation may have somewhat faded and the behaviors may have lessened, but you are still strong and intense, and you enjoy to remind me of your ferocity.¬†

The pressure to¬†not mess up my recovery¬†is increasing. I don’t know how¬†not¬†to be a perfectionist with this. I feel like if I need to push myself in order to succeed, and I fear if I become lax on it, I will just spiral back into deep relapse.¬†

None of that is true. Fear is constructed in the mind, and that’s where my perfectionism stems from. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear of not having control. Fear of not being the best. Fear of being average. Fear of losing others’ approval. Fear of losing my own approval.

¬†I feel like I’m frustrating. I feel like my mood swings are too much to handle. I feel like I’m secretive and deceitful. And with recovery? I feel like I keep taking three steps forwards and one big leap backwards. I feel like I know¬†every single damn coping skill¬†in the book, but in those frenzied moods, all that logic and reason leaves me. It seems so common-sense, this recovery process, and yet it continuously baffles me.¬†

I have an amazing sponsor who provides unconditional nurturance and support. I am so grateful for her guidance, but I feel like I am a disappointment when I do not always follow it. I feel like I am bothering her with my venting. Of course, I know this is just in my mind. I simply have issues with asking for help and relying on others. She accepts me for who I am and accepts me for where I am in this process. It doesn’t matter what I do or do not do. I love describing my moments of clarity and optimism, but it’s so hard for me to fess up when I’m struggling.¬†

And goodness, I PAY my therapist for eating disorder treatment. This is her JOB. This will be MY job. It is irrational for me to think I am a burden to her. And yet, I still feel a sense of protectiveness over her and defensiveness over myself. We call these projective processes ¬†transference¬†in the mental health field, but those unconscious themes are its own saga. All I know is that I want to release this shame. I think of all the clients I will be seeing…we are TRAINED to serve their needs. Therapy is for the clients, not for the clinicians. Eating disorders are known to be incredibly difficult to treat; progress is not linear, slips and relapse are to be expected, and dual-diagnosis treatment is common. So, why do I still feel like I am letting her down? She had an eating disorder for almost twenty years…clearly, she knows the pain I’m suffering. Clearly, she knows this process is not easy.¬†

What am I trying to prove to the world? I guess I am just so used to making others proud, and it worries me when I feel like I am not meeting such expectations. 

The most important person in this process, of course, is myself. Am I letting myself down? I don’t know. Times like tonight are rough. Earlier this evening, I half-binged, stopped and spent HOURS coping in the best ways I knew how. But, a half-binge for someone who struggles with compulsive overeating is like a half-buzz for an alcoholic. For the alcoholic mindset, one either abstains or becomes passed-out drunk. It’s just as black-and-white: any in-betweens are anxiety-provoking and uncomfortable; the sensation of just being “buzzed” is far worse and triggering than avoiding the alcohol altogether.

That’s how I get with food. Stopping mid-binge can be insanely hard. It’s triggering. It creates emotional agony. I’ve been able to successfully stop, but nine times out of ten, I need to¬†finish the job.¬†All-or-nothing mentality. I know, I know.¬†

Regardless, I thought I had fully calmed myself down tonight. I thought I could get through it. I tried so, so, SO hard. I acted “as if.” I went through my coping skills. I sought help. I talked about it with brutal and open honesty. I did my best.

We always tell people that as long as they do their best, they did a good enough job. 

Now the challenge is to believe it for myself. 

 I know this journey requires patience and love and nurturance. Knowing and feeling, however, are completely different. Forgiveness of the self is such a challenge, probably because I associate it with enabling myself. As my therapist once said, bingeing is punishment, but beating yourself up afterwards is just torture. 

I am asking to be relieved of this emotional pain, regret, and shame…these are real feelings, and I do not invalidate them, but the path of healing requires accepting the raw experiences for what they are and finding the means to release and let them go.¬†

So Much Gratitude Today.

Dear Bee,

I’m on this recovery high lately. Maybe because it’s summertime and the promise of sunshine, carefree days, and the ocean lingers. Maybe because I always feel inspired after a birthday. I don’t know. I’m just grateful for this clarity and happiness. At the same time, I am trying to monitor that euphoric, overconfident¬†I don’t need any help mentality¬†that tends to creep into my mind when I start feeling successful. Once I start feeling cocky, I start disbelieving the severity of my eating disorder…and that’s when things begin to get slippery. For now, I know I must be diligent. Maybe as recovery progresses, I can afford to become more lax, but as of now, I am determined to continuously move forward.¬†

You are tricky to manage because you can seep into any emotion and conquer it as one of your own. You can take my happiness and deplete it and take my sadness and leverage it.

But, because I am so happy right now, I think it’s important for me to reflect on my gratitudes for the day:

I learned so many amazing new stretches in my Pilates class. Connecting the breath to the body is so powerful. I am continually amazed with the strength and vitality in my body. I can hike mountains; I have run miles after miles; in martial arts, I routinely sparred against men twice my age and twice my size…my physical finesse is superior. It astounds me how I could ever treat my body with disrespect.¬†

This morning, at a meeting, I overheard someone talk about “showing up for life.” I loved this. Because everyday, I can choose to show up. In fact, every moment, I can choose to show up. And by showing up, I leave you at the door. Because living in the present moment and engaging in life cannot coexist with living and engaging in my relationship with you. Not really, anyway. It is simply a facade, an allusion that omits transparency and authenticity.¬†

I spent most of the day with my sponsor and her family, and it was beautiful and amazing. I am so grateful for their love and support throughout my journey. They gave me a belated birthday present and took me out to dinner. It was lovely! She wants me to speak at a meeting next week, and although I’m somewhat ambivalent about agreeing, I probably will. I figured, she’s asking me for a reason. Even though I am not very far in the Twelve Steps program nor do I have any real defined abstinence, I guess I can speak of the strength and hope I have found through recovery. We’ll see how it goes.

I saw the Hangover III with my brother…and it was actually better than I anticipated.¬†

I found out I was able to drop one of my summer classes because I met the prerequisite requirements. YES. Because, I loathed the idea of studying another semester’s worth of statistics and research. Did enough of that as an undergrad.

I realize that the more I continuously immerse myself in love and gratitude (towards both myself and others), the less desirable you become. The less I need to isolate. The less I need to punish myself with food. The less preoccupied I feel with eating. The less black-and-white the world seems. The less control I seek to have. It’s not perfect, and I’m absolutely not following any rulebook, but I know this year is going to be the year where I make the TRUE strides in my recovery.

Over the past few months, I set the foundation and began the footwork, but I was also afraid, apprehensive, and doubtful. Now, I know what recovery takes. I know the tools, the actions, the coping strategies. I have incredible support. I realize recovery involves 1% food and 99% mentality and attitude. My life is changing, and where I once feared that unknown element, I am so ready to embrace it, for the stagnation only kept me sick. 

I want this, and I can get whatever I set my mind to! 

DON’T TELL ME NOT TO FEEL SAD.

Dear Bee,

For this moment, I can accept you. For this moment, I am okay, and I am happy with myself. That’s not to say it has been an easy day. This morning was rough. I resented you. I was tired of dealing with you. I went to an OA meeting, and I basically spent four minutes sharing my frustration and anger over having an eating disorder.¬†

And then, I ate lunch with some people from OA, and felt sickishly overjoyed for being the skinniest one among them. I liked being able to eat without feeling judged, because hey, I was the thin one. I was the healthy one. I was the “sane” one.¬†

That was all you, Bee. That was your logic that my problem must not be real enough. I hate that I feel inferior to people skinnier to me and that I feel superior to those who are not.

My ex-boyfriend has been on my mind all week. I have so many urges to call him. I just want to see what he’s doing. It doesn’t bother me that I miss him, but it does bother me that I feel¬†guilty¬†for missing him. That I feel¬†guilty¬†for feeling lonely, sad, or regretful. That I feel¬†guilty¬†over wanting to know what he’s doing.¬†

Guilt represents an underlying theme that maintains my distorted thinking and distress. People have always invalidated my feelings, which probably instilled this rigid notion that feelings are bad. For example, I told various people about my missing my ex. What were the responses I received?¬†Well, you’re so much better off! Look how far you’ve come! He didn’t deserve you. You’re so much happier now. Don’t be sad!

For two days, nobody could empathize, support, or even acknowledge that my feelings were real. Nobody could just say, that must be rough. It’s okay that you’re sad. Nobody even asked why I thought I might be feeling this way.¬†I was expressing my frustration to my sponsor this morning, and, bless her soul, she put her hand on mine, and said,¬†I’m giving you permission to feel all those things. Your feelings are real. Sit with them. Honor them. They are there for a reason.¬†

This was so refreshing to hear. Someone who was NOT trying to fix me. Someone who was NOT telling me that I was a bad person or “wrong” for feeling those emotions. Later, a good friend told me something similar. She said,¬†it’s normal to feel these things. You don’t have to explain or justify them. People go through this. You don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to talk to him or wanting to miss him. You can’t help how you feel.

I know I developed an eating disorder because I struggled with acceptance. Acceptance of uncomfortable feelings. Acceptance of my whole self. Acceptance of reality and its messy, unpredictable ways. I wanted to control my feelings, control my body, and control the world.

I struggle to accept happiness, because I compare myself to people who are far worse than me. I struggle to accept sadness, because I compare myself to people who are far better off than me. I invalidate my own feelings, and in turn, I experience guilt for having emotions. But, feelings are healthy. Feelings are real. Feelings are ours, and they are spontaneous, beautiful, and meaningful. And yet, I have spent years denying myself of them. I have stuffed them down. I have ran them off. I have starved and binged them. 

I have focused on behaviors. I have focused on thoughts. But I rarely considered my emotions. I hardly think to ask myself, how do I feel right now? Or, what feelings does this bring up for me? 

And now that they are all resurfacing, it can become overwhelming. That’s okay. This is where the growth happens. This is where the realizations and transformations occur.

I thank the universe every single day that I am on the road of recovery, and that, even though I may be young and relatively inexperienced, I am creating a life worth living. 

This afternoon, I was sitting at a coffee shop finishing my last paper of the semester. I struck conversation with the girl sitting next to me. She was also studying, and she lamented on the fact that she¬†had no idea what she was doing with her life.¬†I encounter this often. Most people my age don’t know what they want to do, and even more, I see people¬†of all ages¬†unfulfilled and unsatisfied with their lives. So many of us are just waiting…eternally waiting for something to just click or happen…are we living lives in eternal limbo?¬†

I never want to live that way. I know I am fortunate. I knew I wanted this career path for years, and everyday, I feel more satisfied, rejuvenated, and passionate about it. But, even more so, life is so much greater than our career paths. I don’t ever want to be unsatisfied. I don’t ever want to feel unfulfilled. There are far too many ways to generate that satisfaction and find that fulfillment.

What if we all believed we were meant to be happy, joyous, and free? What if these were nonnegotiable? How would we live then? How would we live without the bondage of fear holding us back? How would we live without the choke-hold of preoccupation and obsession? How would we live in a world absent of our own desires to control?

All I can say is, I know I have a purpose in this world. And I know I’m damn well going to rock the life I have.¬†

the dreaded fearless and searching moral inventory

Dear Bee,

Step Four in any Twelve Steps program asks us to make the infamous¬†fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves.¬†I haven’t gotten this far in my work yet, but I will be reaching it soon. I actually think this is a good exercise for anyone (not just people in these programs) who wants to reexamine their past, own up to any mistakes, and release any of the anxiety they may have about their secrets. We owe it to ourselves to stop holding onto all these grudges and regrets, right?

In my meeting this morning, we did a 15-minute free-write response on the question: Do I really seeing the importance of doing the inventory?

My response (unedited)

 To me, Step Four embodies strength, in that it exclusively focuses on exposing weakness-on unleashing vulnerability. Step Four requires us to break through the shame of our illnesses. It expects us to choose ruthless honesty, and for many of us, this may be the first time we really learn how to tell the truth.

An inventory shows us how the events and decisions made in our past have shaped us into who we are in the present, into the people we are today.

In the very first session I had with my therapist, I told her that nobody really knew about my eating disorder, about my longstanding secret from the world, to which she responded, “secrets keep you sick”, a phrase I have heard many times in these rooms. My secrets are what keep me caught in the preoccupation and insanity. Honesty, on the other hand, allows me to release and let go, to learn and contemplate, to explore potential outcomes for the next time, to discover new solutions. For this reason, an inventory is a tool–a timetable of who we are and what we’ve done, and with that tool, we can work towards becoming who we want to be and what we want to do.

Inventories acknowledge the whole picture- we find new patterns, new ideas ,new framework to embark and continue our recoveries.

What a gift, then, this must be for us- what an inspiring way to heal ourselves- to release the weight off our shoulders, to let go of what we’ve been clutching onto, to find the silver linings in the choices that once haunted us. What a way to reinforce that we are worth the happiness we want, the freedom we seek, and the recovery we need.¬†

I get cocky when I read my writing aloud because I know it moves people. In fact, a guy today told me that I should be publishing this. I just laughed…brushed it off.

I’ve been praised for this skill my entire life, and I don’t discredit my talent. Sometimes, however, I do wonder if this is just another way I desire external validation? I love helping others, sure, but I also like feeling good about myself. And praise feels good!

I mean, I know this blog moves people because I have received extraordinary feedback and the kindest of compliments from my readers. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about the attention. Do I write for the sheer pleasure and joy of it? Absolutely. But, do I also write because I know I’m good at it and people enjoy reading what I have to say? Absolutely.

As my sponsor likes to tell me,¬†every time you speak or write, something is getting through to someone.¬†So knowing that somewhere out there, I”m helping someone else while also satisfying my own selfish need for attention and approval…well I can accept that.

And who knows? Maybe one day I can turn all these letters into some kind of a memoir to show the world what the real up-and-down journey we call recovery looks like. To show that it’s messy, unpredictable, but always, always perfectly imperfect.¬†

Pantless Yoga

Dear Bee,

I never really thought I could ever wrap my head around that crazy, cultish-sounding Anonymous jargon known as Higher Power. But, after a few months of attending these OA meetings, I have.

Sell-out? Maybe. Do I care? Nope.

For me, the definition is simple: The universe will take care of me. And whatever problems I have, they will work themselves out by the natural laws and energies of this universe. I never had much control to begin with and by letting go of that desperate need, I can mature from a life once riddled with fear, anxiety, and preoccupation. 

Even when I’ve lost hope in myself, I’ve never lost hope that somehow everything will work out in the end. John Lennon said it best when he said,¬†Everything will work out in the end. And if it’s doesn’t, it’s not the end.

 And WHO wants to mess around with the Lennon?

So, I understand the whole Higher Power thing now. I really do. It’s just believing that everything will be okay. That I’m being taken care of. That I don’t have to do everything on my own and that I’m not a “failure” for leaning and depending on other people or things.

And for a staunch skeptic, non-religious individual like myself, that must be some kind of miracle. I can just replace God with¬†The Universe.¬†Because, I’ve always believed in the good energy of our world. I’ve always believed in the general karma of spirituality.

Today, I was going to do my Bikram yoga class, but I wasn’t feeling it. I had work in the morning and was just kind of dreading going. I had done yoga yesterday and had an amazing class, but felt I¬†needed¬†to do it today. The reasons are distorted: “I need to exercise.” “I’m wasting money if I don’t use all my classes.” “I’m in the area anyway, so I need to go.”

AKA #compulsiveexerciseprobs (#didireallyjusthashtaginthisblog?). 

I was sitting in my car because I had arrived fairly early. And it was really hot. And I needed to do some homework, but I didn’t have the right textbook with me. So, I was just messing around on my phone (isn’t this a riveting story?). Then, as the start time approached, I pulled out my yoga clothes to get ready. And it was then I noticed that I had packed a black SCARF instead of my my black YOGA PANTS.

Yep. No yoga for me.

I personally have no qualms about doing pantless (or thong-underwear) yoga in 110 degree heat, but I’m not sure if my fellow yogis would be okay with that.¬†

Where this would have IRRITATED the hell out of me before starting recovery and provoked a plethora (honestly, isn’t plethora the coolest word, ever) of negative self-talk (I can’t believe I drove this far; I can’t believe I waited an hour; I can’t believe I’m so stupid to have made this kind of error), this time, I just laughed.¬†

As I was driving home, sure, you told me that I had been somewhat lax on my working out lately. You warned me of the repercussions this missed opportunity would have on my weight. You reminded me that I had barely moved my body at all today.

And how did I react? i just reminded you that working my recovery meant that I’d have to sit with some discomfort (and that includes getting over my anxiety of no longer compulsively exercising). Just like one workout cannot sculpt a body, one missed workout cannot destroy a body. That’s recovery logic. That’s common sense.¬†And yet, I could not understand and accept this reasoning until lately

I had to text my sponsor to tell her this interesting phenomenon. Was this some kind of paranormal sign that I was overdoing my exercise this week? A message that my body was sore and needed rest? A gentle reminder to take it easy?

Or did I just make a ridiculous and very common mistake?

Who knows? At this point, who cares? The point is: I didn’t do yoga. I didn’t freak out. In fact, I was¬†relieved.¬†Relieved because I didn’t feel like doing it anyway. And that’s how I know I’m making strides in my recovery. That’s how I know I’m easing away from my compulsive identity and slowly adopting the¬†living life on life’s terms¬†philosophy everyone raves about.¬†

Yesterday, I spent three hours in an OA meeting. If someone had willingly told me I would spend a Saturday morning surrounded by a bunch of people talking about their food compulsions, pathways to spiritual restoration, and deepest wounds, I would have asked, are these people my clients? Or is this a school assignment? I finished Step Two yesterday and will be sharing it with my sponsor this week. I have been attending meetings daily, sharing, writing, and reading literature. Most importantly, I have not been bingeing. 

Last night, I booked flight tickets for Europe this August. I’ve been dreaming of this forever. One of my best friends and I are going to spend about three weeks bumming around, backpacking, living the young, free spirited life. We fly into Berlin. That’s the only plan we have, and for the first time in my life, I¬†don’t want to plan out anything else.¬†