The gift of desperation
I have mentioned before that the boundaries I keep around my food are strict. That do not eat sugar, grains or starch, including starchy vegetables. I control my portions exactly. I eat three times a day. No more and no less. And I do it every single day. There are no cheat days, no exceptions. No treats on my birthday. No snacks. No just this once. Not for weddings or funerals, or births. Some people find this extreme. (I used to, but I don’t anymore. After 9 years I think it is perfectly normal to only eat nutritious food in healthy quantities. I understand that it is not the norm, but I no longer think that makes it “extreme.”)
Today, I was on an internet forum for people who have boundaries around their food like I do. And a new person asked how long it took to get it “squeaky clean.” A number of people said that what we do is “squeaky clean” and that if you are not doing it that way, then technically you are not doing it. And the person responded that that was ideal but not possible. Not right away. That it must take time. So how much time?
I have seen enough people get sober to know that it takes how long it takes. Some people take years. Some people get it right away. There is no right or wrong about it.
I believe a lot has to do with a personal journey. I have heard people tell stories about how they had not had sugar for months, and then one day, they walked into a bakery. They could not really remember doing it. One minute they were sober from sugar, the next they were brushing crumbs off their shirt. They couldn’t explain it. And I don’t feel the need to judge that. It sounds horrible to me. Terrifying. Gut wrenching.
But there is something that needles at me in the question “how long does it take?” Because it lacks responsibility.
How long do I get to do what I want and still complain? I mean, I want what I want. But I don’t really want to do any work for it. This is magic, right? One day I will just stop eating too much, right?
How long am I allowed to keep being dishonest? How big does a lie have to be before it’s an actual lie? I just want to tell little lies, of course. Nothing major. Maybe just a little extra protein. It can’t hurt…
How long do I get to ask for help but not follow directions? I understand that this worked for you, but your extreme commitment makes you look pretty pathetic to me. I don’t want to look like that. I just want the results you got.
How long before I can say that I am totally a hopeless case and walk away? When do I get to quit?
When I got sober, I had what people have referred to as “The Gift of Desperation.” I was miserable. I hated myself. I was overwhelmed with pain and shame. I wanted out!
I had to ask myself what I was willing to do to stop letting food and my eating disorders control my life. I had to make bold decisions and take drastic actions. I did not ask what was going to be done for me. – Though so much was done for me! Supportive phone calls. People who were wiling to give their time and energy to address my questions and concerns. People who were willing to give me rules and suggestions. People who were willing to take a commitment from me and hold me to it, with love and generosity. – I asked what I was going to do to help myself.
I followed directions. I made drastic changes. I did things that, at the time, seemed almost sacrilegious. If I had made a meal and realized there was a problem with it that couldn’t be fixed to make it fit in my boundaries (like discovering I used a spice that had sugar in it or realizing I added too much oil and it was all mixed in now), I thew the whole thing away!
I understand that it can be difficult to grasp the kind of integrity I have around food. Especially for someone new. I would bet that the person who asked that question didn’t for a moment think it was about personal responsibility. Who is out in the world talking about personal responsibility? I get that we live in a society that has gradations for lies. That everyone around us wants instant gratification. That weight loss, especially, is a multi-billion dollar industry, based on losing weight with no hassle to the consumer. You won’t feel hungry! Eat all the foods you love! You won’t have to do anything! The pounds will just melt away!
That’s not how what I do works. I recommit to doing it exactly right every day. Three times a day. I take responsibility for what goes in my mouth, and how much, and when. I do extreme things. I have gotten extreme results.