In the last few months, my willingness to put down my eating disorder behaviors has increased which allowed me to engage more with therapy and my sponsor. I reached out to my registered dietician who I hadn’t talked to since my relapse started at the beginning of the pandemic.
At the first blush of willingness, I tried to slide into the my old rigidity around my food. I had strict rules before the relapse – no sugar, no flour, no high fat, no deep fried, no eating between planned meals & snacks, always report my food to sponsor ahead of time, update with any changes (but don’t change unless the food is rotten or something!) and weigh & measure the food.
Those are A LOT of rules.
But in tandem with the steps, they had worked for me. Mostly.
Except when I think honestly about it (and all I have to do is look back at this blog), the rules & rigidity didn’t allow room for life. They didn’t allow me to be human and find balance and a healthy relationship with food and my body.
Yes, when I deeply worked the steps and stayed in constant contact with my Higher Power, I was able to (mostly) follow the rules. And yes, they work for thousands of people in OA.
But the slips. But the relapses. For me, they were numerous.
At first, I sought to be content with consistent abstinence (adherence to the food rules & avoiding engaging in my eating disorder behaviors). But that was hard as well because of the numbers.
The numbers, the counting, the comparisons to others who had continuous abstinence. Every slip was demoralizing even if trying my best to focus on consistency and take heart in the fact that I didn’t gain weight and had lost over 150 pounds at that time.
Then I discovered an even more rigid way of working the program (that is when I gave up high fat & fried foods). I had my longest period of continuous abstinence but still had a slip at 10 months.
The day after was awful. So terrible and dark. It was Christmas day and I wasn’t able to enjoy the unwrapping of presents or be present with my family because I was so focused on beating myself up for the binge. For “losing” 10 months of continuous abstinence. So close to a year of continuous abstinence and with one binge, everything was gone. In my mind, I was at zero. I had to start fresh and tear down and build back since I was a loser and had turned to food instead of Higher Power.
Which, of course, isn’t true.
With hard work, I was able to come back to abstinence. Then COVID hit, my routines were disrupted and I never adapted to losing my face to face meetings, yoga and therapy. The in person experience is so vital to me – the exchange of energy that simply can’t happen on Zoom.
So, I relapsed. And hard. The behaviors were worse than ever. One weekend when I was alone at home, I spent the entire week leading up to the weekend deliriously planning all the food and alcohol I was going to consume in private. I was obsessed beyond any reason. As soon as they left, I ran to the car and laid in the food and proceeded to spend the next 10 hours bingeing until I literally passed out. I could barely move the next morning when I woke up to hide the evidence.
Often, I would leave work and hit multiple fast food restaurants on my way home, driving in circles and listening to podcasts and bingeing. Avoiding my problems and turning again and again to food.
When I was finally able to tell my husband about my behaviors recently, he confessed to me that he was afraid I was cheating on him because I was taking so long to get home from work.
I suppose I was. I was cheating on him with my eating disorder.
So here I am now. Willing and feeling so vulnerable and new. I am not eat rigidly, following rules or restricting food ingredients.
Instead, I am working with my professional support team, learning about intuitive eating and how to listen to my body.
It is very anxiety provoking to learn to trust my body. To learn to trust my Higher Power on an even deeper level with my food. To learn that I can, as I did the other day, eat a piece of candy, slowly & mindfully in the presence of my Higher Power, be FULLY SATISIFIED and then not binge.
I feel incredibly grateful to have not been able to sleep the other night. I had heard of Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) from friends in OA but hadn’t looked into it since OA had (for the most part) been working. When I was restless and awake at 2 a.m., I looked at their website and awed when I saw:
“Balance, not abstinence, is our goal.”
It was like being struck by lightning as I had been talking with my OA sponsor and professional support team about staying away from the word abstinence because it is so black & white, all or nothing as well as counting days since I get very obsessed with numbers.
I have started attending EDA meetings, reading the literature (available for FREE on the website) and I am so happy to have found the fellowship as it appears to be exactly what I need at this moment in my journey. I have started to look for a location to start a face to face meeting in my area and spoken to a few people I know who may be interested in the more gentle EDA approach to eating disorder recovery.
I don’t plan to leave OA. I love my friends deeply, it has given me so much and works for thousands of people. Instead, it will be more like dual membership. But I do need my primary fellowship to be one free of talk about day counting & abstinence. I seek balance and trust.
I am learning to walk again, trust myself, trust my Higher Power and I know EDA will be able to support my quest.
I am like my son when he was learning to walk, and he would pull on my skirt, so I would know he needed help.
Which of course I gave him. Hand in hand, he would practicing taking steps then learned to trust himself.
Of course, he would get tired when using these new muscles and need help and comfort which I gave him upon request.
Soon, he would be happily standing again.
In my eating disorder recovery, I am in the same place of learning to trust my body. I once knew how to feed myself and enjoy food without guilt or obsession. With Higher Power, professional help and the support of my fellows, I have hope that I can once again trust that I won’t binge and hurt my body, mind, spirit and relationships with food.
I may fall down, get bruised, cry and need extra support, love and care. And that is ok. If and when that happens, I am NOT at day zero. I’m at a milestone of recovery – learning a lesson from the slip back.