“Your path is your character defining itself more and more everyday, like a photograph coming into focus.” ~ Jodie Foster
This past February marked the 3 year anniversary of the last time I covertly stuck my head inside a toilet and threw up on purpose. It was the last time I solemnly cleaned the crime scene afterward, washed my hands, gulped water, and avoided eye contact in the mirror in front of me.
It was the last time I wanted to be anyone but myself.
The date came and went, without fanfare. It passed without poetry, or a wordy missive from me. Outwardly, it was just another day in a continuing string of regular days. But on the inside, if truth be told (and it shall), I beamed a truckload of pure happiness beams. I felt the way a person should feel when any specific milestone is achieved, and I let the celebratory feeling wash over me in quiet profundity. Adding another whole year (a rung on my ladder) reinforced my simple, daily goal, which is to live without the chaos of my eating disorder in tow. It’s difficult to understand the emotional extent of this feeling unless you, too, have actively let go of your own life-choking demons, or climbed a similarly challenging hill.
I’ve written extensively about my personal progression toward uncovering my truth, which is essentially, my character. Those of you who thoughtfully read my essays on the subject of achieving inner peace via the dismissal of self-sabotage are beyond kind in your encouragement. To a large degree, your open support of my cathartic writing is why I’m able to live “clean and sober,” without the hot mess of my inner drunken friend, bulimia, along for the ride.
Resisting the urge to binge and purge hasn’t been easy. And it hasn’t been without pain. It’s work and always will be. For example, there are certain foods that act like a Siren’s call when my emotions run amok: frosting, pasta, ice cream, pizza. Foods I love with all my senses. Foods that won’t leave me the fuck alone. Resisting is wholly uncomfortable. It requires a zen-like focus to recall the ways these types of foods and my specific, ritualistic behaviors, though instantly gratifying, cause immediate remorse (and sadness, and defeat, and shame). Succumbing to the engagement of that old, vicious cycle would be like sucker-punching my self-esteem squarely in the face.
Bulimia was always the easy way out for me. It allowed me to quickly rectify the sin of my binge. It was infinitely easier than exercising my way out of the calorie hole I dug for myself, or carrying around the regret of my reckless lack of control. Now, instead of choosing the easy way out of my pain, I sit with it. And make no mistake, simply sitting with emotional pain and the urge to “use” is the single toughest part of continued recovery for any type of addict.
Something I’ve discovered, though, (and it’s been positively delightful) is that there are, indeed, other ways for me to purge.
I purge my words. I write incessantly. The moment I have an idea, I whip out my phone and type it into the “notes” app, where it safely remains until I’m ready to let it grow roots. Knowing that it’s not lost or forgotten amid my other daily distractions is vital. Purging my words and ideas feeds my need to “get them out” of my system.
I purge my stuff, by constantly cleaning out a closet or two, paring down as much as possible to mere essentials, and the items I truly love. Ridding myself of useless stuff feels like therapy. And in recognition of how good it feels to be free of unnecessary things and the emotional attachments that go with them, I actively work to stop myself from buying what I don’t need. Over-buying feeds my need to consume. The less I consume, the less I must expel, and the happier I feel inside (go figure).
I purge complications, by keeping my life as simple as possible. I used to add problematic variables to my daily routine. This type of behavior created stress and inevitably stirred negative emotions that had me turning to my old coping strategy: enter the villain, Bulimia, stage left. These days I know I can’t add extra stress (or drama!) to the mix, or it may send me spinning. Meditation and yoga are the perfect antidote on complicated days.
I purge the idea of perfection. I try as often as possible to halt my need to be perfect, and feel perfect, and look perfect in order to fully enjoy my life. A great example of this is putting an end to the yearly (unnecessary!) swimsuit purchase. My grandmother wore the same swimsuit summer to summer for 15 years, at least. Why? Because she knew that the swimming was more important than the suit. Life never demands perfection. It simply wants us to show up and participate. It only requires that we be awake.
I purge negativity. I don’t hide my feelings anymore, or stuff them down with food. Hoarding negativity creates bitter piles of emotion that overflow into other parts my life. They chip away at my resolve. Jealousy, grudges, resentment, judgement, and anger will always work overtime to resurrect my eating disorder. But if I actively purge those piles from my system as they rise (and they always do), I create more space for authentic joy and peace.
As I purge the life-sapping muck that keeps me stuck, my path to honest purpose slowly comes into focus, and my character is increasingly defined.
Each moment added to my recovery brings me closer to my truest self.
February, 2017 indeed came and went. It was my 3 year anniversary of “clean and sober” living without relapse. That’s 1,095 days without a binge or a purge, but honestly, who’s counting?
It came and went without a party, without a proud declaration, and without a card. It was a regular day, secretly marked by my own humble, loving, “good job” pat on the back.
That, and a truckload of happiness beams.
*In sharing this personal piece of myself, I wish to bring hope to those who are struggling.