It is that time of year again. The New Year. And January 2nd is a special day for me. It is my double anniversary. My favorite day besides my biological birthday. My other birthday.
Nine years ago on January 1st, I was hopeless and desperate. And I had been in the death grip of my eating disorders. They were relatively new at the time. I had beed morbidly obese for most of my life at that point, but around 2004/2005, I had started a series of diets and workout regimes. I was going to get control of my body! I was going to lose weight! So I got coaches and trainers and started taking classes and counting calories. And I lost so much weight. But there was something wrong. Seriously wrong. The thinner I got, the crazier I got. I was irrational. I was reckless. And most importantly, I was terrified. And I couldn’t even identify that I was terrified.
Maintaining that new, thinner body was exhausting. And I didn’t understand it at the time, but what had me terrified was the unconscious understanding that I was never going to maintain that body. Because sugar ruled my life.
I have sometimes explained it like this: When I was fat, I was high on sugar. When I was dieting and exercising, I was high on losing weight. But being a certain size for any period of time is not exciting. You cannot get high on staying thin. And I wanted my drug back.
Check that. I wanted my drug back, but I wanted it in this new body. I wanted my drug back without consequences. I wanted to have done the work once so that the work would be done. Once and for all. I wanted to defy the laws of nature.
And I started eating again. Binge eating. Eating constantly. Mostly sugar and grains and starchy things. And I starting exercising in excess. Classes and running. Every day. Twice a day. I went all raw. No fat. Only green juice. And I started taking laxatives. Drinking castor oil. Administering enemas. And I started sticking toothbrushes down my throat.
And I was still gaining weight. And I was insane. Just trying to hold off a little bit longer before I gained back all of the weight and I was 300 lbs again. Before everyone would see it written all over me that I was a shameful, unworthy, unlovable blob. Before the clock struck midnight and I turned back into a pumpkin.
And then around November of 2005, I told the truth. About all of it. And somebody said that I had to start treating myself like an addict.
So I ate myself through the end of the year. No holds barred. It was a sad time for me. A time of self-disgust and resignation. Years later some friends would remind me that they saw me in that time and that I had said point blank, “I can’t stop eating.”
But on January 2, 2006, I met for the first time with a group of people who identified as sugar addicts and compulsive eaters. They had given up sugar, grains and starches, and put boundaries around their eating. And I started to do what they did.
I didn’t really believe it was going to work for me. I didn’t believe anything could work for me. I was utterly hopeless.
But maybe the best thing was for me to be so hopeless. Maybe my desperation was the reason it did work. Because it did. Since that day, I have not eaten sugar. I have kept boundaries around my eating. I have slowly changed the way I think about myself and life.
I am addicted to sugar. And when I was eating sugar, I could not stop. For years now, I have not had sugar in my body. So my body doesn’t crave it. But I could only get to this place with help. I think that’s important. It wasn’t willpower that brought me here. It wasn’t stick–to–itiveness. I don’t have those things around food. What I have is support. And willingness to take suggestions from people who have gone before me. And the opportunity to support others in their journey around food recovery.
A lot of life happens in 9 years. That doesn’t change because you get sober. But for me, no matter what happened – births, deaths, fights, reunions, vacations, vacation debacles, parties and partings – January 2nd is a day of celebration. I get to celebrate 9 years of freedom. That is 9 years of discovering who I really am, and sharing her with the world.
And January 2, 2015 was also the 3 year anniversary of this blog. Another big deal in my life.
Every week, I write a post here about being a woman living with eating disorders. I do it even when I think I have nothing interesting to say. I do it because I said I would. And this blog has been a chance for me to change my life.
I get to put ideas out in the world. I get to bounce them off of reality. I get to raise them up the flag pole and see who salutes. I get to see what gets bigger and more robust. And I get to see what floats away like dust. I believe this blog has sped up the natural pace of change in my life. I could not have made these changes if I were not sober from sugar and compulsive eating. But the writing, and the candid revealing, and the truth telling that have gone on here have made for a dynamic trajectory of growth and maturation in my life that sobriety alone could not have given me.
Anniversaries are about commitment. Nine years ago I made a commitment to myself about my eating. Three years ago I made a commitment to myself about sharing my experiences through writing. Commitments change the direction of one’s life. It is the natural order of things. And I believe that just the act of committing makes me a better person.
So I love January 2nd. It is a day that I celebrate myself. Because years ago, it was the day that I chose to honor myself. Twice. And because I continue to cultivate that honor.