Sunday, February 12, 2012

Opportunity Knocking

The opportunity is there. No, not there, there implies that there is potential for opportunity or that the opportunity was there at some point, but that it's now passed. If the opportunity were there, something would be different at this moment than last night, or this morning, or at any point throughout this entire day. The opportunity is not there, the opportunity is in fact, here. The opportunity has been here since yesterday afternoon. Me, all alone in the house, drawers full of knives, a freezer full of binge food, and a wallet with enough money in it to make the wildest fantasies of the disorder come true one final time. But why?

Why would I choose to take all that I've worked so hard to attain and risk throwing it all away at the first opportunity that presents itself? This isn't the first opportunity that has presented itself. I know that. It's not as if I haven't been home alone with all of the opportunity in the world to engage in behaviors any number of times since I've lived here. This however, is the first opportunity I've had to stir things up without the comfort and solidity of the program to run back to at the end of the weekend. This opportunity is different because this environment is so much less controlled than it was before. I have no one to slap me on the wrist and encourage me to do better next time. This opportunity is open-ended and the knowledge that I know I would never get caught and never admit to anyone who could actually help me that I had slipped is exactly why this opportunity is not going to be taken. I hope.

The opportunity is still alive as I write this, and perhaps that's the exact reason that I'm writing it at all. Like a rusty razor blade putting a few moments of fresh air between myself and my next cut, perhaps these words will put enough space between myself and my urges and my craving for instant gratification that my family will get home and the opportunity will have finally passed. Opportunity for something to happen does not mean that it's going to happen, though an eating disorder is nothing if not opportunistic and there was certainly a time not so many months ago when an opportunity such as this would have been used to its absolute fullest simply because it existed. No need for deeper thought into what sort of emotional turmoil the need for instant gratification and numbing of the anxieties of the world stemmed from, the chance to engage would have been recognized and it would have been taken without a second thought. I've had more than a second thought about it this weekend. I want it. I can almost hear my name being called from the freezer in the garage where two half-gallons of my favorite flavor lie in wait, but somehow, amazingly, I'm sitting here writing this, aware of the discomfort and of the emotions that these urges seem to be a response to, rather than wrist-deep in the carton, momentarily blissful and numb to the world. I should be proud, but I'm too uncomfortable to be feeling that just yet. I'm still not out of the woods. Opportunity is still knocking.

Why is that flavor even in the house? Why would I do that to myself? What am I trying to prove? It wasn't necessarily my intention to make it home with the stuff and I probably should have just thrown it away on my way home so as not to tempt myself. But I saw that as just hiding from the truth, running away from reality, and giving power to the voices inside me that constantly yell that I can't. I can't run forever and if I don't have the self-control to sit in my house alone with something that I enjoy eating sitting in the freezer with out things developing into a disaster, then who am I kidding? Why am I even bothering with this charade? I brought it home to prove a point to myself and because apparently I love to play with fire and I love to be uncomfortable and I love to battle with my own thoughts and on some level, parts of me were hoping that I would make full use of the opportunity in front of me if I put one of the necessary components for a binge that much closer to the urges. What do I expect to do with it though? I know that I can't, at this point, hope to open that carton and have a normal serving of the stuff. Am I just going to let it sit in the freezer and allow the urges to build and the volume of the voice to increase to the point that I collapse under the pressure and give into the urges? What am I really doing here, what are my true motives? Am I really trying to prove how far I have come in recovery, or am I already giving into the urges and simply prolonging the inevitable at this point.

It's like a safety net for the disorder. The knowledge that my favorite binge food is sitting in the freezer at the end of the hall is like keeping the opportunity to engage in my back pocket for a rainy day. It's a terrible idea. I'm fighting it now, but on some level, part of me is hoping for some sort of emotional obstacle will present itself so that the disorder can chime in and remind me that I have the perfect opportunity to take an old coping mechanism down of the shelf, dust it off and take it for a spin. It's dangerous, and it's incredibly comforting in the same breathe.

But it's not about the ice cream being in the freezer, it's about the urge to do something bad with it and even more importantly, it's about where that urge is coming from. If the urge didn't exist, that ice cream could sit in the freezer as long as it wanted and just like any other normal person, I could enjoy a bowl when I felt inclined to do so without risking a landslide of impulsive behaviors that could signal the beginning of all of the hard work I've put in over the last few months flying straight out the window and me landing back in square one. It's about the urge, about the need to numb out, or to cry out in a way that I know no one will ever hear.

Why do I find the urges so strong these last few days, this last week, in fact? Envy. Envy is a big part of it, or so it seems. I see the people that I have become so close to in this process of recovery every few days and I talk to most of them quite often. They are my friends. Many of them know more about me than most of the people I have regarded as my friends in the past and when I need them, part of me knows on some level that they would be there for me if only I could ever reach my hand out for help. I am in a strange place, with no familiar faces, no connections and no history to build a life upon. It's exciting on the one hand, but it also means that at this point, the people that I know are the people that I met in the hospital. This is a double edged sword. These people are going through the same struggles that I am and so they are invaluable as support and it's comforting to know that I have friends who can understand some of the craziness that swims around through my head. However, there's danger in this situation as well, as I'm coming to find out.

I compare myself to my friends. I compare myself to strangers. I compare myself to everyone I encounter. I compare myself to people and I find myself in envy of the things I feel that they have that I do not, or of the things that they do not have that I feel I have too much of, as the case may be here. I'm struggling through this process of reintegrating back into a more or less normal life where I can manage the stress and anxiety of the everyday and the commonplace without relying on self destructive coping mechanisms and methods of communication. My friends are going through the same struggles and not all of them are finding that they are able to resist the persistent and persuasive voice of the eating disorder as the stress of life trickles back into their worlds. This struggle is incredibly difficult and not a day goes by that I don't want to run straight back into the familiar arms of my disorder and apologize for ever having been foolish enough to try to leave it's side. When I see the people around me struggling and engaging in the behaviors of their disorders, I feel many things. I feel sad for them, I feel sorry that there is not more that I could do to help them, I feel angry at their disorders for being so evil and so persuasive, I feel helpless, I begin to feel hopeless about my own chances of resisting these urges, and quite unexpectedly, I feel incredibly envious.

I feel guilty even writing that. Guilty, and worried that it will be read by my friends and interpreted in a negative way, that it will be taken personally. Stop, please, before you go to that place in your mind and know that I completely understand that you are not choosing necessarily to do the things that you do and I certainly know that you're not intending for them to have any negative effect on me. Remember, what you do cannot make anyone, including me, feel anything. I'm internalizing certain things and interpreting them in certain ways and having certain feelings in response to those interpretations and I'm just stating my observations here. That's all.

I don't feel envious. My disorder feels envious. It tells me that it's not fair that they get to engage, that they get to lose weight, and to feel those moments of mind numbing bliss during a binge, and that I don't. It's asking me, why not? What's stopping you from restricting? What's stopping you from binging and then inevitably purging? What's stopping you from showing the world that you're still sick too, in the form of some shiny new cuts? What's stopping you? The answer, I guess, is that nothing in my environment is stopping me but for the first time, I'm somehow stopping myself. There's more foresight now. I recognize that part of me is envious and that part of me really wants the instant gratification of a binge or of a cut, but for the first time, there is another part of me that is able to remember the panic, the guilt, and the shame that immediately follows these behaviors and that has managed to keep me on track even though I feel like I'm back in middle school, watching the kids who dressed in black, wore eyeliner, listened to explicit music, and refused to talk to adults, get all of the attention while the sick little boy inside me was buried under good grades and perfect attendance.

Am I doing the same thing now? Am I burying the cries of the sick boy when I should be allowing him to be heard fully for the first time? Should I really be doing as well as I am right now? Am I doing too well? Am I fighting so hard against these urges that everyone will once again forget that I was not well? Am I setting myself up to cry out in some way a few years down the road once again? Sometimes, I really feel as though I want to just say and do half the things that are really on my mind and see if somehow by getting it out of my system, maybe I can be free of it. I don't know if the belief that perhaps letting things run their course is part of eventually recovering is a belief created by the parts of me that want me to be sick or if it's a belief created by the parts of me that want me to get better but realistically doubt if it's ever going to happen.

It's been mentioned to me twice recently. This idea that I'm conveniently falling into the role of sick boy and that getting better means that I won't have this to fall back on any longer, that if I commit to recovery, I won't have this ace up my sleeve any time I feel as though I need to give up and take a break from life. I can't fully agree that I have been playing the sick boy card to the fullest. If anything, I've spent most of my life running from and trying to deny or ignore it's existence entirely. It seems to me that if it were so convenient to play the sick boy, people would have had some idea that I was indeed sick before I up and disappeared one day. It seems to me that if I really wanted people to have some idea of what was going on and wanted to reap the benefits of living off the system while my emotional distress was sorted out, I probably wouldn't have gone to such great lengths to hide my behaviors and cuts for so many years. It seems to me that I would have been using my sickness as a crutch for as long as I've struggled with it rather than surrounding myself with a world where my success depended upon my ability to contain it. I can't agree with the notion that I've conveniently played into the role of the sick boy. If anything, I would have to say that I have always recognized that this boy existed within me but my envy of the kids who seemed to move through life without this sick little voice inside them has kept me from listening to him for most of my life.

I ignored him so long and so effectively that his voice was eventually lost and the voice of the disorder first, and later the voice of the cutter would come to speak for this sick little child that has always lived within me. These voices have blown things out of proportion though, like a peaceful protest turned violent after years of being ignored by an oppressive government. Perhaps this really is about listening to the sick boy. The hard part though, is distinguishing whose voice is whose at this point and realizing that a cry out by the cutter or the disorder is probably in some way an amplified response to the needs of the child inside having been somehow ignored. I know it sounds crazy to say, but the voices of the disorder and the cutter are actually the voices of truth, somehow distorted out of control. They needn't be listened to any longer, but ignoring them would not be wise as they are present when something needs to be said and when a need burns within me that needs acknowledgement.

The opportunity has come and gone. The family is home. I feel a false sense of safety and security, knowing on some level that my recovery and my struggles are so separate from their world that their presence alone does not truly eliminate the opportunity to engage. I'm happy to realize though, that at this point, I am not so desperate to experience whatever those behaviors have to offer me that I am willing to put the extra thought into keeping my actions hidden while the family is around. And that thought, though it is not the most solid of things to stand upon, should keep me grounded until the next true opportunity presents itself...

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