One of my favorite parts of recovery is suddenly remembering embarrassing shit I used to do when I was drinking, and then dramatically clapping my hands together in a prayer pose and jerking my head skyward to thank heaven I don’t do it anymore. Sometimes, I even cry tears of joy.
The feeling of relief really does hit that deep. 🙏🏻
Unfortunately, there are also moments when comparing “Old Me” to “New Me” steals joy, rather than inspires it (see above TR quote.)
Those moments almost always have to do with my body and level of fitness.
“You really let yourself go,” I’ll think to myself as I hold a yoga pose, head bent over one of my legs and eyes pointing straight at my upper thigh. My mind will flash back to my CrossFit days, and I’ll start thinking how much slower and softer and lazier I’ve become. The old inner critic starts whispering: Who I am now is not enough…
I have to stop myself at those times and do a mental health reality check, because that rabbit hole of self-flagellation runs straight into the center of my soul, and if I keep on tunneling, I will eventually disappear into “The Disease.”
Eating disorders were my gateway drug to alcoholism, and I can’t write a recovery story without acknowledging the power of both addictions.
I’ve heard that to recover, you have to first admit powerlessness. I’ve also heard recovery described as “taking your power back.” I’m learning to value myself less for the physical strength I once displayed in the gym, or in the mirror, and more for the inner strength I’ve earned by wrestling my demons into submission.
This week, in the “WTF is Success?!” course I’ve been telling you about, we were asked to find two photos from our past that we saw as snapshots of success. So, two separate moments in our lives, preferably several years apart, when we felt successful.
I immediately thought of my blue two-piece pic.
Of course I did! This is the pic I repeatedly trotted out to brag — “I’m in the best shape of my life at age 40! Woo hoo!” — then later used to torture myself — “I gained weight and don’t look like that anymore! Boo hoo!”
It was the North Star by which I gauged my personal success for three tumultuous years.
The girl in that photo DID feel successful, based solely on the strength of her appearance. Believe me when I tell you, though, she was very, very empty inside.
She was the one doing all that embarrassing shit I hinted at earlier, in a vain attempt to fill the emptiness. She was sliding quickly toward a “rock bottom” crash. And she was in such denial that she genuinely thought, “As long as I’m skinny, I’m OK.”
I love that girl. I forgive her. And I’m SO FUCKING GLAD she finally started to get her shit together!!
As I was going back into the deep, dark pit that is my 2018 Instagram feed (also featured: the death of my journalism career) to retrieve that photo, I thought of an idea. What if my second “success” moment was…whatever I look like now in the same bathing suit?
I’m three years older, almost 21 months sober, living an honest life, giving myself a much-needed break on the diet and exercise obsessions that controlled me for so long, and while I’m far from achieving “total consciousness,” I’m much happier than I ever was back then.
I can honestly say I’m much happier than I even thought possible back then, because the only time I thought I was happy in my poor, lost-soul mid-to-late 30s was when I was drunk. And even then, it only lasted about an hour before I descended into madness.
So, anyway, I found the suit in the bottom of a drawer, and this is me today.
Fifteen pounds heavier, ladies and gentleman, and the thing still fits! My husband’s comment: “See? Quit complaining! You look the same!”
Living with an addict gets annoying…who knew?!? 🤷🏼♀️
I look at today’s picture and feel successful, both because of what I see on the surface and because of what I know lies beneath. That’s a woman who tries to take care of herself, but doesn’t punish herself with rigid, restrictive, unforgiving routines. That’s a relatively healthy, reasonably fit woman who truly enjoys her active lifestyle.
That’s also a woman with the tools to stop and re-center herself when that demon critic pops up and says “but you used to be…” and “this is not good enough…” or, “a drink would be really great for numbing all these feelings right now…”
These days, I’m — let’s drop the third-person, shall we? — no longer so empty that I feel the need to compromise my values to feel alive. And make no mistake: I compromised everything in the throes of active addiction.
What you see on the outside now is a reflection of real growth within (progress, not perfection!) So, while I have to honor my hubby’s well-meaning comment, comparing “Blue Two-Piece 2018” to “New Me, Today,” I think both of us can agree:
Thank heaven I have changed. 🙏🏻