You’d think I would have enough experience admitting failure to be totally comfortable with it by now. It’s easier than it used to be–and the failures I need to admit are often not as severe as they used to be–but I still don’t enjoy it.
Yesterday I mustered up the courage to go to the weekly meeting of the support group for the weight loss program I did. I had missed two weeks, and knew that my weight was up considerably as a result of my disordered eating during this latest episode. I dreaded revealing this, and dreaded sitting through the group, which is composed of and facilitated by people who don’t share any of my other issues. I sometimes feel self-conscious when I talk about my recovery and my mental health, but they are so intertwined with the food issues that there’s no way around it.
To live with food issues is to ride shifting waves of success and failure. To be an addict in general can require admitting to having a problem in the first place, or admitting a relapse once, or admitting a thousand relapses a thousand times. To live with a mental health condition can require admitting lapses in meds, lapses in self-care, or many other imperfections.
In each of these cases, the admission has to come before the turning. It has to come and it has to get to a deep enough level for internal change to happen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said “I need help” and then proceeded to continue the same behavior or ignore offers.
Sitting in the group, I hoped that I had reached the right point for a turning. Not the first turning, or the last, but this turning; a turning I need to stay on the path I need right now. I admitted that I need to eliminate some foods that have been triggering my cravings, and hoped I would have the willingness to do this.
When I need help with an episode, or support during an attempt to change my behavior, it’s really hard for me to ask. As an addict, I hesitate to give any impression of asking for sympathy because I don’t think I will get it. I also feel that someone will see the turning I am attempting as pointless or trivial because there have been so many others. “Oh, she’s on another diet.” “Oh, there she goes on an exercise kick again.” “Oh, she cleaned the kitchen. Isn’t that cute. I give it two days.”
But it isn’t cute, and it isn’t trivial. My life is made up of turnings. Big ones, little ones, and medium ones. Huge ones like the last time I went to rehab, and tiny ones like when I chose my breakfast wisely this morning. This aspect of the human condition is magnified in cases like mine, perhaps, but we do all share it. Everyone in this world is in the process of screwing up or repairing some aspect, big or small, of their life.
Anyone who is waiting for me to “get it” and arrive at a consistent way of living–never again to fall or fail–will be waiting a very long time indeed. I remind myself of this so that I’ll learn to let go of my desire for the approval of someone like this. Letting go of that longing isn’t easy; I would very much like anyone I admire to admire me too.
Some of the bravest moments I’ve ever seen have involved addicts standing in front of their peers and admitting that after months, years or decades of recovery they have relapsed. In some cases, they also admit that it happened a while ago and they have been lying and pretending about it since then. This admission often heralds a new and deeper stage in their recovery, or a new approach to it.
I hope the turnings I make during this stage of my life are teaching me and making me more willing to do what is necessary to keep growing. I write about them because I want to be a little bit brave too, and because I never, ever want my readers to think I’ve got this. Or that I think I’ve got this.