There are few things as simultaneously exalting and humbling as visiting my old rehab. Last week, I spent two nights there on a retreat, attending classes and groups just as I did when I was a patient. It’s exalting because I get to be aware how much my life has changed since that time. It’s humbling because I get to see how easily I could be back there, counting my clean time in days instead of years. To remember not only with my mind but with every sense, from the murmur of night conversation to the array of dishes for drying to the knots in my lower back after each class (but oh, such a weak echo of the pain I had then!)
One great privilege of being there is the opportunity to talk with the current residents and answer any questions they have about what it’s like trying to work a program of recovery after leaving treatment. People want to know what I did to stay clean this long, and I try to answer them truthfully. I feel self-conscious about this aspect of being there sometimes, worrying that I will come across as being full of myself or bragging. But if by sharing my experience I can help someone be less hesitant about sponsors or steps or other things that will help them, I want to do that.
In the classes and groups, I get to hear how others are resisting recovery or placing conditions on it, just as I used to do. They are there to keep their spouse, or get their job back. They don’t think alcohol should be off the table because their problem is with other drugs, or their problem is only alcohol and they don’t want to hang out with those drug addicts.
In a discussion about relapse prevention, the counselor asked “What is the greatest threat to your sobriety?” All of the answers had to do with external circumstances or other people. My partner, parents, boss, living situation. It’s what the counselor was fishing for, because the class is about looking at the need to set up a support system for recovery and be aware of potential pitfalls. But I thought it was interesting that my silent responses to the question were all about things inside my head, not outside.
What is the biggest threat to my recovery? I am. No one and nothing else. My character defects are the threat. Resentment, self-pity, despair, unwillingness, dishonesty, enviousness…these and my other internal demons are the only thing that can take me out. No ray of light will stream from heaven and command me to use again; no one will pry my mouth open and pour something in.
What a gift it is to believe this about myself. And what a great opportunity for me to look at my addictive behavior with food and ask myself: why I am having trouble applying the same principle? Why am I letting inconvenience, logistical issues, illness, raging hormones or stress convince me to be half-assed? None of those things has power over me if my attitude is right. No ray of light comes through the clouds and lifts the pen out of my hand to keep me from writing down my food. No imps from the underworld sneak into my kitchen and install space warps into my measuring cups. Yes, it’s hard sometimes. It’s really hard. And?
I would never–ever–judge a fellow compulsive eater for slipping, nor is it my intention to judge myself harshly. Love and respect for myself is my goal, not punishment. Love strong enough to push outside the comfort zone and let my Self speak with fierce conviction: Tertia, you sweet, mad, gloriously flawed child, I love you so much that I’ll never stop calling your name. Now quit fucking around and come back to me.