I woke up this morning feeling emotionally hung over -- a term alcoholics sometimes use to describe that black monster feeling that can come when you’ve behaved badly, even without booze. You can quit drinking instantly, but you don’t stop being an asshole overnight.
In sobriety, I am a feelings detective, so I trace the ickiness back to last night’s dinner, when I almost willfully disconnected from my body in favor of shoving pizza down my throat. It was a fuck it moment, a rebellion against my weeks of careful, mindful consideration of my body’s hunger signals.
It’s cool -- I’m not going to undo a decade of compulsive eating that easily, and my new plan involves compassion for myself. I try to look at my body, with all its melty, jiggling strangeness and remember that it is a product of years of abusing myself through calorie restriction, binges and purges, and yo-yo dieting. It’s been through so much; it doesn’t deserve my hatred as well.
I used to feel a lot of shame about my pre-sobriety life -- I did bad things, like all addicts. But I try to remember that I was doing what I knew how to do to survive, utilizing the tools that I had then, which unfortunately were things like seduction and manipulation and lying and compartmentalization and of course, obliterating myself with drugs and alcohol.
Now I have new tools, even though I am still not always sure how to use them, clutch them awkwardly like a toddler with his fist around a spoon.
That's where the feelings detective comes in. I want to behave in a self-destructive manner, so I think, what has happened to me in the last few days that could have triggered this?
I remember a pre-dinner phone call. Redacted Family Member is missing for the second time in two weeks. RDF is a drug addict, so it’s not surprising. The whirlwhind of rehabs, detoxes and halfway houses started a few years ago and the whole cycle has sped up exponentially until now it feels like RDF is hurtling meteorically through the clean up-tow the line-relapse cycle. He’ll be clean for 3 days, 4, before tearing into another weeks-long self-destructive streak. Locks have been changed. I have visions of grisly, botched break-in scenes, not from RDF as much as one of his scumbag friends.
I tell everyone to be careful, which is, of course, a mostly hollow talisman against true disaster. People rarely get murdered because they just weren't being careful enough.
It seems obvious now that this conversation, this situation, gave me capital-F Feelings. But that's in retrospect -- in the moment, I can't see the feelings forest for the acting-out trees. When something bad happens, I still expect to be able to note it and move forward. Lingering effects seem somehow unfair. This is 3-and-a-half years into sobriety.
Progress is slow but also startling viewed in full; as people in my therapy group keep reminding me, I'm a freaking mom now. And engaged! And have a great job! Who could have foreseen it all when I had my unwashed bobble head craned over a fat line 90 percent of my waking hours?
I have come a long way, a millimeter at a time.
The scale! I'm sorry I'm so scattered this morning -- this is how I write when I'm a little bit depressed. I finally put it outside in a free pile along with all the books I've read recently. I love watching passersby browse from the window and guessing what they'll take.
I put the scale out in a rush like you have to when you know you'll lose the will to soon. It went fast and now I have no idea how much to hate myself.
So I don't. Or I start to, but then I gently push the impulse away, like a to-do list thought during meditation. I replace it with an apology to my body for eating more than I needed and making it uncomfortable. I try to practice compassion toward myself for not being able to cope with uncomfortable feelings without the comfort of food today. I think about all the times in the past few weeks I have pushed away half-full plates where I once would have stretched my hunger to fit its capacity, like a goldfish growing to the size of its bowl.
I see a photo of myself snapped at a party in which I look like a normal, pretty girl and understand that my brain is lying to me when it tells me I am a bloated, misshapen ogre, hard to look at.
And I move a millimeter forward.
@msemilymccombs is doing her best on Twitter.