I have mentioned before that it’s easy to forget what it was like before I got my eating under control. There is something about the human psyche that allows things to become “normal.” It occurs day to day like this person I am, who is honest and honorable and reliable, is who I have always been. But of course, if I look at it objectively, I was not any of those things. I may have wanted to be that way, and thought that any time I wasn’t, I was justified, but the real deal is that I was regularly dishonest, dishonorable, and unreliable. I acted out of fear, shame, and a misguided sense of self-preservation.
I would learn later, once I was sober from sugar and from acting out my eating disorders, that the best way to preserve one’s self is to take responsibility. But I spent many years trying to pawn responsibility for my mistakes, problems, and failures off on anyone else. It seemed like the best way to be free. But it simply made me feel bad about myself, led to more bad behavior, and more needing to numb myself. In other words, it fed my addiction.
And all of that escapes me in my day to day life. I am not haunted. I do not lie awake at night anymore, worrying about what I did or didn’t do. I don’t lose sleep over anything. It’s a nice perk of integrity.
And then every once in a while, I will get a flashback. Of what it felt like. It’s not intellectual. I think about it intellectually all the time. I write this blog every week. I remember what I did and how I behaved, but I don’t usually experience it. Viscerally.
And then sometimes I do. And it’s terrible. Terrifying. It happened to me a couple of times this week and it was awful. But, then again, not awful.
I don’t know where it comes from. But I am always grateful for it. Once I get my bearings again.
There is a distinction I have. This way I am now, as a person I genuinely like and respect, is the real me. It is who I am supposed to be. And it is my destiny, or my path or however you want to name it. It is more real than the addict in me. But it is not who I am naturally. It is not my default. It is not who I am when I’m not sober. And I have to work to keep sober. I have to work at being the real me. It’s not a romantic notion. But I find that many romantic notions are false. Or at least misleading.
I think that feeling of being healed may be the big problem with addiction. The person you become feels so real. Like you couldn’t ever go back to the way you were. Because now you know. What to do and what not to do. But the fact is that I have met so many people who believed that they had life figured out because they were sober for a while. So they went ahead and tried to be normal and and found that they were not only still addicts, but that going back into active addiction returned them to all of their former bad behavior and horrible feelings. It didn’t matter that they had been sane and well for months or years. They hadn’t learned anything really. At least not anything that helped them keep the sanity they got from staying sober.
So I am grateful to those people who did the research for me. So I didn’t have to do it myself. And I am grateful for those flashback experiences, where I remember what it felt like to be the “natural” me. Because I’d rather feel it for a terrible moment than live it for a terrible lifetime.