Read this essay in a magazine while going on my happy run. (Yes, the magazine was neatly tucked into a “New Yorker”– we know this about me :P.) It is written by a young, recovering alcoholic. I wanted to post an excerpt. Real voices are always the most harrowing. And inspiring.
Here’s Adrienne Edenburn-MacQueen:
“Now I’m a college student again. There are other 24-year-old sophomores, but mostly they are veterans back from Iraq, or single parents of small children, or exchange students getting degrees in a completely foreign tongue. This can make me feel inadequate, that I’m behind in life, but we all have obstacles. And I don’t ever lie about my circumstances. I could dwell on the years I lost or the people I’ve hurt, and sometimes I do. I know how proud my father is, and I’m embarrassed that not drinking is the best thing I’ve given him. But then I remind myself that I escaped from a hell that very few people ever come back from. I wasted five years of my life drinking; some people waste them all. So from here on out, I’ve decided that every misstep is mine. Every bad joke belongs to me. My addiction is still here and always will be, but it will never have the control it once did, because it is so small in comparison to the rest of me.
And so I go, crying and laughing and spilling shit along the way. I thought in quitting, I would gain perspective, maybe achieve enlightenment. I thought I could find the god I have desperately searched for. I never did. That could have been a crushing blow, but I found something else, something wonderful and blasphemous. I realized I get to wake up every morning, happy or not. Lots of people don’t get that. Who am I to complain that I can’t have Chambord for breakfast?” (Source)
I guess I felt the urge to post this, after noticing a pattern at my IOP work. It is not uncommon for us as a staff to formally (and agreeably) discharge clients who still claim their ED identities and even feel attached to symptom management as a realistic end-point. I wonder: Is this a problem? Do we simply accept this as an achievable step-down point and say that this ‘is what it is?’
I don’t know.
In my own life it has been different. It certainly has not been linear. And, it certainly has not been without drama. Nor, without set-backs. But, when I recognized that I had transfused my food behaviors into “an emotional solution to manage feelings of intolerable helplessness” and mood negotiation (or mind-Yahtzee!), I became much more empowered and able to decouple my reality and my reaction to it. There was food and there was feeling. Still, I had to work damn hard at feeling everything. Mourning things. Laughing at things. Loving things. Letting all of these come into my life. With relish. (Or, chocolate :P.) That was my shit-show. (Source)
And, it has been so amazing. To really let myself cry. Balls-out weep. To really be held. To laugh loudly and audaciously. To grow up.
And, I’m just getting started…
But, if one must continue to contextualize oneself through the past, if our brave girls are compelled to hold tight to their ED identity, I only hope that they can see their struggles or ED identity like Adrienne does her journey when she says: “it is so small in comparison to the rest of me.”
We are not just our stories. Our self-narration (flagellation?!). We are not just what has happened. We are a-changin’. This I truly believe.