Thanksgiving came, and Thanksgiving went. I had a plan, and then the plan kind of had me. I had a delightful time in the woods by myself, some intimate time with Mike and his family, and then some distracted mental psychosis around food and emotional hunger and exposure and more.
My plan was to skip appetizers, eat to satisfactory fullness, and move on with my life. My plan was to focus on the people in the room, stay quiet, and honor my recovery. While most of that occurred, it did not occur in perfect order. I had a couple of crackers before dinner. I sampled the crab dip. I had a big ass plate of food, was quite full, and then got another serving of what used to be a forbidden food and is no longer: mac n cheese. And to be honest, it wasn’t even that good. But I had more, and I grabbed some more turkey, and I grabbed some more stuffing.
And it was too much. And then my mind started – I was doing it wrong. I wasn’t honoring myself. I was on the edge of unmanageability and not treating my body well. I nibbled on food as I helped clean up. I wanted to go for a walk and get some fresh air but stayed inside. I did not want dessert – thank God that has been removed from me. I heard the comment about Mike’s brother’s girlfriend being such a foodie and that being so delightful. I felt the pain from hearing what I interpret as “and you are not because you are often so rigid, so planned, so inflexible” which I translated to mean “you are not fun, you are not lovable, you are not worthy”.
And I let it ride. I didn’t say anything, and I didn’t have to. I stopped eating, I stopped nibbling, and I sat. It’s Thanksgiving: the most gluttonous holiday we have. People give their thanks and gratitude and I happily received many texts from people I haven’t heard from in some time and some from those I do regularly, but my life is about practicing daily thanks and gratitude and I didn’t feel indebted or moved to send anyone anything because I already do, every day. I’m not knocking extra thanks on Thanksgiving – it’s better to do it than never at all! But for me it’s about how I live my daily life.
Which is how I let Thanksgiving and my imperfect eating day go. I came home, and in the past would’ve surveyed the pantry and fridge and continued eating. I would’ve eaten the leftovers we brought home – then. I would’ve topped my stomach off with something just because. Just because I am already full and uncomfortable, so why not blow my esteem to bits? Just because I had already fucked up and wasn’t worth anything now, so why not bury the hatchet completely? My neighbor did bring by some lasagna of which I did eat some of and know that it was too much. But just like the old me would’ve eaten all of her gift, I stopped eating and put it away. I didn’t need more food.
And I didn’t need to bury any hatchet. And I didn’t need to reduce my esteem to zero. And I didn’t need to harm myself with food. And I didn’t need to go work it off. And I didn’t need to starve the next day or change my planned meals. And I didn’t need to do anything extra or by force to make the bloating go away faster. And I didn’t need to call everyone I know and make a PSA about how I fucked up “my” perfect plan for Thanksgiving and instead ate a bit too much of what wasn’t all that good. And I didn’t need to reset or to start over or to undo.
I just have to keep going. I just have to continue practicing, acknowledging, empathizing – with myself. I just have to acknowledge that once upon a time, those compulsive eating behaviors served me and protected me. Once upon a time I had to keep eating more because I wasn’t drinking, and I was the only one not. Once upon a time I had to keep eating because I never allowed myself to eat at any other time. Once upon a time I had to keep eating because I didn’t know what my problem was and that there was a solution. Once upon a time I had to keep eating because I had no spiritual common sense as to what was right for me and what that looked like.
But today, I do. Today, I keep going. Today, I don’t have to go all out or come all the way back in. Today, I can eat a little too much, use the extra fuel for training in the gym that was already planned but needing more focus, and drink more water. Today, I can support people that aren’t able to practice yet and who don’t have these tools readily accessible. Today, I can keep my focus on how I’m feeling instead of how I’m looking, although admittedly I didn’t like how I looked on Friday morning and had a tougher day because of it. I like how I look today and it’s Sunday, and in 2 days of not forcing anything harder but drinking some more water, I’ll take that.
It’s OK to feel better when I look better. It’s a reminder of what’s important to me and that I want to keep building what I have. It’s also OK to know that how I eat on a daily basis also works for me and helps me maintain my freedom and my sanity. My version of freedom and my version of sanity. I forget that what I choose to do with my body and my food is for me. I can get very narrow-minded, judgmental and assuming when somebody else doesn’t do what I do, because can’t you see how well this works? I can forget to focus on Alison, and not on anybody else.
And I forget because I get scared and I feel exposed and I still don’t always know how to embrace my own vulnerability. I forget because it wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t have readily accessible tools and I didn’t know what my problem was, and I really didn’t believe that there was a solution for me. It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I didn’t know that it was my responsibility, with the help of an amazing army of all kinds around me, to take care of myself on a daily basis and to hold myself accountable.
Nobody is watching me anymore. Nobody is grading my food. Nobody is serving me meals. Nobody is telling me what choices to make or how to make them. Yes, I have a food plan but no one but me is enforcing it. Yes, I have a written fitness program, but Ryan doesn’t follow me around and enforce my complying with it. Yes, I have chosen to be quite public about my recovery journey, but nobody would know if I never did what I said or said what I did.
Except me. And to me, it matters. It matters a lot. It matters that I take care of myself. It matters that I feel good. It matters that I continue regardless of how I feel. It matters that I can be kind to myself even if it takes a day. It matters how I feel when my head hits the pillow, and how my feet feel when they hit the floor the next day. It matters how I leave a room and how I affect others, because when I am focused on you and focused on my body and my food and how I didn’t do it “right”, I’m not leaving any room better than before I got there. I’m not open and I’m not kind. And I’m not letting you near me.
I had half of a day of an emotional hangover before I realized that’s what it was. I was picking – his food, his habits, his lack of attention I didn’t think he was extending to me. I went from super grateful and of usefulness to others, to super withdrawn, closed and bitter. I mean, bitter. And it took a couple of hours, and a night of sleep, and some introspection and prayer to see this is my disease a couple of days later after trying to rob me of my freedom. This is my disease unhappy that I can thrive without it. This is my disease trying to drag me back down. This is my disease refusing to give up that I can move forward today and be my own friend. This is my disease in total agony that I am closer to someone today than ever before, and that robs me of my power.
And I don’t have to give in anymore. It’s really not that serious (anymore) that my eating didn’t go perfectly. I certainly didn’t destruct and end up in aisle 7 with 3 cakes. I didn’t purge. I didn’t lie. I didn’t hide. I didn’t derail and say fuck it and keep eating. I didn’t withdraw from my life and change anything about the following days.
I kept going. I learned. I got closer to the ground again. I got right sized.
I got recovery. I don’t always process in real time – sometimes it takes a couple of days. And that’s what this is – me processing a couple of days later, after a few conversations and a few long walks and a few sleeps and a few 24 hours of not harming myself or getting in the way.
You can have it too, I promise. Thanks for reading along. I couldn’t do it without you.