Doing Recovery

Early last year, I was doing recovery well. I was moving in non-punishing ways. I was drinking my water, and eating balanced meals. I wasn’t binge-eating. You know what else I wasn’t doing? Anything else.

I’m not kidding. I had no dates with friends. I went to ballet class a couple times a week, and therapy once a week, and to my co-op preschool work day, and that was it. I wrote a little here, trying to be OMG so recovered you guys! I didn’t really watch TV. I didn’t go to the movies. I didn’t read much. I ate my balanced meals and did my balanced movement and drank my water and didn’t binge.

I didn’t go to events or gatherings, so I wouldn’t have to think about not binge-eating while I was there. On the few occasions when I felt like I had no choice but to attend, I didn’t engage with the food at all. I sat at the end of a long table with nothing but a bottle of water while everyone around me laughed over heaping plates of potluck decadence. At home, I weighed every chip. I weighed every lettuce leaf. Because accidentally binge-eating lettuce was a thing I thought I needed to worry about.

That, my friends, is not “being in recovery” from binge-eating disorder. That is “doing” recovery. That’s an eating disordered horse of a different color.

I was doing recovery so hard, that I sort of lost sight of the actual recovery part. And I think I knew that—I could see it, just below the surface of my “recovery”—but my body was inching closer to dominant-paradigm-shaped, and I wasn’t binge-eating. I felt pretty good about myself.

And then I tried to add life back in.

I went to dance events. I had lunch with friends. I went on vacation, first with my girlfriends from college, and then for an anniversary weekend with my partner. I realized (unconsciously at first) that I didn’t want control. I wanted connection. But when I let go of control, I opened up to the fact that I didn’t know how to balance caring for my body and caring for my spirit. Once again, food was black and white. I could have the joy of friendship and connection, or I could have the control of “well, at least I’m not binge-eating.”

I chose friendship and connection. And for a time, that also meant choosing binge-eating.

I’ve done this dance before. If I clicked around in my own writing, I’d probably find a variation of this same choreography. Hold recovery so tightly you crush it. Let it go by hurling it to the ground, smashing it. Either way, it ends up in pieces.

My brilliant friend and yoga teacher, Autumn, often encourages her classes to set an intention but to “hold it loosely.”

Don’t crush it, and don’t toss it away.

It’s taking me a lot of snail’s-pace self-honesty and hard work to untangle connection with others from self-harm with food. Balance doesn’t look how I think “should” look. But it’s where I am now, with food, with friends, and with living: holding my own growth in cupped hands.

This is being in recovery.

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