I have never been an alcoholic, so add a few grains of salt to this post, but over the past year I have thought a lot about how recovery from alcoholism and anorexia have many similarities and one huge difference.
I watch the CBS sitcom, Mom, starring Allison Janney and Anna Faris. Quick plug: this show is unbelievably clever and no one talks about it! Alison and Anna are amazing together.
A mom (Janney) and daughter (Faris) are both recovering alcoholics. The show follows their very complicated relationship, as well as their journeys in sobriety, and currently centers on the circle of female friendship they have with a few other alcoholics. They tackle challenging issues in a hilarious way, and cause you to adore them endearingly as you relate to their heart-wrenching recovery successes and failures.
Through this show, I feel like I’ve become part of their circle. I feel like I’ve been in recovery as one of the ladies. Their triumphs, their flops, all feel too familiar.
How Anorexia and Alcoholism Recovery are Similar – Trying to do the following on a daily basis that requires more energy than you believe you have at any given moment:
- Ignoring the voice of the enemy
- Overcoming a very powerful addiction
- Forgiving yourself
- Seeing yourself accurately
- Time…it takes so much time…
- Getting back up after you fall down
- Daring to let other people in after deep isolation
- Mending broken relationships
- Believing you can beat it
- Figuring out who you are without it
But there’s one massive difference between anorexia and alcoholism recovery:
There’s no cold turkey in anorexia recovery. I have to eat.
The goal for alcoholics is sobriety. No alcohol. Zero. You keep track of your sobriety by how many days you’ve gone without alcohol. They even give you a little chip for it. While NOT easy in any manner, it is simple, straightforward, black & white.
The goal for anorexia recovery (by my standards, based on more than a year of treatment and personal research) is intuitive eating. In case you don’t go to the link, there are 10 principles of IE and an intuitive eater is a person who “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honors hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.”
Um. That’s not simple, straightforward, or black & white.
Every day, I have to wake up and figure out eating. What do I eat. How much do I eat. Once I start, when do I stop eating. How often do I eat. All day I ask myself these questions. Ana answers them. I answer them. Someone wins, and I do that thing.
Last week, after Scarlet the Scale told me a high point weight that I haven’t seen since I was 6 months post-partum, Ana and I agreed that she could drive for a while. Thus, the starving I mentioned in my last post. I made a decision on Sunday evening and it didn’t come up again until Saturday when I was faced with other people.
Here’s the thing. When I let Ana drive, it’s easier. She makes the decisions and I just go along.
When I try to fight her, I’m exhausted.
All morning, I can’t eat breakfast. I know I’ll eat more later. If I eat breakfast, I’ll binge all day. Oh but I should eat breakfast because that’s what intuitive eating is. My dietitian says to eat breakfast. What should I eat for breakfast? A bowl of cereal? That sounds like a lot. What about a banana? But if I’m going to eat that many calories, I want it to taste better than a banana. Oh forget it, I won’t eat breakfast.
And so on. All day. Every day. Wondering. Changing my mind. Regretting. Guilty, Disappointed. Angry. Determined. Disappointed. Doubtful. Tired.
I wish this recovery just involved going cold turkey. But in this case, cold turkey IS the actual problem. Where’s my 30 day chip for…wait, what am I supposed to be doing again? Do I get a 30 day chip for eating? Not eating? Eating “healthy”? What does that mean?
Herein lies the problem of anorexia recovery. What do I do again?