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Day 30/90 – Real Conversations

Day 30 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Having real conversations with my friends.

My friends are awesome.

My friends are awesome.

Even though these are the 90 Days of Awesome, I have had a few rough days lately with a substantial amount of physical and emotional pain at times. I’ve been a little MIA – mainly because I haven’t been suitable for human consumption.

When I have the days like this, I’m lucky to have so many wonderfully supportive friends, especially in the recovery community. When they ask, “How are you?,” they want to a real answer. And we can have real conversations – even if we are doing it over email or online chat – and we’ve been having them lately. I love that I can say that I am sad, angry, irritated, anxious, pissed off for no apparent reason, and none of them try to “fix” me. They also get it when I’m struggling and need keep my life as simple as possible. They know to stay out of my way so I can just focus on one thing at a time unless I ask for help. My friends know that I’ll be there if they need me, but that they have to get on my schedule unless it’s an emergency.

My friends are awesome. I am grateful that we can have real conversations without it being a big deal. On two separate occasions in the last few months, two different friends randomly asked, “How’s your heart?” It’s not something I talk about a lot because there isn’t anything new to say, but I appreciated that they asked.

Sorry is post isn’t more upbeat, but sometimes that’s just how life is. I am on the mend and will bounce back eventually.

In case you missed it: Day 29 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Indie Week Lunch at Fez!

Nobody Knows I Have an Eating Disorder

Warning: This post may be triggering to some people. Please seek help and support if you need it.

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Photo by SLR Jester from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

From the outside, many people would say I’m young, successful, adventurous, and happy. I’m a daring entrepreneur and an outspoken writer. They have no idea that I struggle with an eating disorder.

As a size 4, I’m small but not emaciated. I don’t have the stereotypical eating disorder “look.” Most people don’t know that you don’t have to be severely underweight to have a serious illness that attacks your mind as much as your body.

They don’t understand how hard it is for me to eat. Most of my meals and snacks are carefully planned to keep my calorie count low. They don’t know how often I make a mental list of everything I’ve eaten that day to make sure I haven’t had too much. If I could give up food completely and just wear a calorie patch every day, I would.

They don’t know how I critically examine myself in the mirror, yearning to see more of the bones of my rib cage, shoulder blades, and collarbones. I don’t want to be horribly underweight, just “a little bit thinner.” They don’t know how important it is for me to be able to touch my fingers around my wrists. That tells me I’m still small enough. They don’t know how guilty and disgusting I feel when I’m having a “fat day.”

They don’t know how soothing it feels to devour a carton of ice cream or a big slice of cake, only to have that feeling overtaken by tremendous anxiety and shame – so much that I stick my fingers down my throat until I throw up again and again. There is no moderation in my world.

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Burdened by Shame by John Hain from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I once described my disorder as having a Get Out Of Jail Free card. I can eat whatever I want without worrying about getting fat. (Never mind the toll it could be taking on my internal organs.) It’s like being able to drink and being able to make yourself instantly sober again.

Every day is a struggle for me. My mind is filled with anxiety when it comes to deciding what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop. I constantly deal with the fear that if I start eating I won’t be able to stop, and if I over indulge myself that I’m going to get really fat. And in my mind being fat means I’m undisciplined and possibly out of control, which is ironic because having an eating disorder means I’m out of control when it comes to managing my emotions. So I use food to manage, medicate, and escape my feelings instead.

Having an eating disorder is painful – both physically and emotionally. It is truly an illness; it’s not a diet; it’s not something I do to get attention. On the contrary, it keeps me depressed and isolated from the people I love because my shattered self-esteem tells me no one cares. And intellectually I know that’s not true. But this disease doesn’t care about intellect. I can’t think my way out of it.

Having an eating disorder is a bitch.
And most people have no clue that I have one.

Thoughts about Change

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your year is off to a wonderful start. As I was walking my dog this morning, I thought about how much my life has changed since I’m moved to Phoenix almost 11 years ago. It made me reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned about change and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

Now by Kalyan Kanuri from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Now by Kalyan Kanuri from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Change is a Commitment
When I was in early recovery, I remember people saying, “New playgrounds, new playmates, new play things.” And that’s absolutely true. When you make a change in your life it often requires letting go of people, places, and things from the way your life was. So if your New Year’s resolution is to be healthier, the first step is probably getting the junk food out of your pantry. If you’re going away to college and you want to make over yourself in the process, you shouldn’t bring your old clothes with you because the risk is too great that you will end up back in your old patterns.

I’m working on committing to change right now as I’m writing this post. This morning I force myself to raise my sit/stand desk to work from a standing position and I turned on my dictation software because I think, once I get used to it, it will be easier to write this way.

Sometimes Change is Hard
I’m not going to sugar coat this: sometimes making changes is hard and even scary. It requires doing things differently and being mindful not to slip back into old behaviors. And sometimes there is even grief involved because you’re letting go of how your life used to be.

Every time I move to a new place or a new job, it’s excruciatingly painful for me, even when it’s in my best interests. It takes me a while to settle in and feel comfortable but I know in the big picture it’s for the best so I muddle through, knowing that I’ll be fine in a few weeks.

Sometimes Change is Easy
I’m often a person who will resist change, kicking and screaming, until it’s way too painful not to change, but change doesn’t always have to be hard or painful – especially if you’re ready for it. Sometimes I’m excited for the changes that are to come, like with my minimalism projects. When change comes easily, it often feels more like an adventure, or at least a seamless process.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with acid reflux, and my a doctor gave me the list of dietary recommendations which included giving up high fat, tomato products, not eating within 3 hours of bedtime, and giving up caffeine. I told him I would do everything on the list except give up caffeine. There was no way I was giving up my coffee. Six months later, I still had problems with acid reflux and so I relented. My office mates were so frightened of me my first week off of coffee, but because I was ready to go through the withdrawal, it really wasn’t that bad. I had a mild headache for a week and it took about 3 weeks to stop feeling tired all the time, but then I was fine. (I quit caffeine for probably 2 years, but I only lasted about 2 months into law school before I was back on coffee again.)

Change Requires Risk
No matter how you feel about making a change in your life, it always requires risk – risk of failure, risk of being uncomfortable, etc. When you change behaviors, it may change the way you feel about yourself or possibly the way you view the world. I don’t know about you, but generally for me change is scary and I often resist it just to maintain the familiarity of the status quo, even when the status quo is bad. But one thing I’ve learned is that when I’m afraid of making a change, it usually means I’m making a change for the better and often in a big way. With great risk often comes great rewards.

I’m not really one for making New Year’s resolutions but rather I use the start of a new year to think about how I want to be different or better a year from now.

I wish you happiness and success for 2015. Make it a good one.

SALK Day 129: The Miracle of Recovery

Today’s sponsor is my dear friend who is celebrating 22 years of sobriety this week.  He asked me to write about recovery from addiction.  I’ve had the privilege of knowing a handful of incredible people who are recovering from addictions to various substances.  It is amazing to hear their stories about how their lives used to be and to see them now as functional and successful people.  Most of my friends who have done this needed help from a recovery program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA Big Book

Image via Wikipedia

The transformation that people in recovery can experience is incredible.  One of my friends used to be a prostitute when she was using, and now she’s a nanny for a family with a special needs child.  Another one of my friends used to be a misanthropic drug dealer who sold drugs to college kids to support his habit, and now he’s close to finishing his college degree and has aspirations of going to graduate school.  He’s also one of the most thoughtful and gentle people I’ve ever met.

A few years ago, I invited one of my friends who is in recovery to dinner with my parents.  He is one of the kindest and warm-hearted people you will ever meet and he does not hide the fact that he’s in recovery.  Afterwards, as Mom and I were washing the dishes, she turned to me and asked, “Did he used to be really messed up?”  She couldn’t believe that this wonderful intelligent person that I’m proud to call my friend used to be drunk and/or high on a daily basis.

These are only a handful of the stories of recovery.  Dozens of AA Speaker Tapes of people’s stories of recovery are available for free on iTunes.  These are people who were so full of pain and shame, who had no self-esteem, and were so uncomfortable in their skin that they had a compulsion to medicate their feelings with drugs and alcohol, regardless of the consequences.  It’s amazing that the found the help they needed and stuck with the program to get sober.

And it’s hard work.  I’ve heard that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are simple, but not easy.  They require a willingness to be uncomfortable and to learn to live in a new way where people don’t have the option of self-medicating to escape their discomfort.  It requires being willing to walk through fear and not self-sabotage their potential for success.  The work is worth it, because recovery comes with hope, freedom, and the ability to dream again.

Tonight, I asked my friend who, if all goes according to plan, will be celebrating 22 years of sobriety this week what advice he would give to someone who is contemplating recovery or who is new to the program.  He said, “You’re worth it.  You’re worth giving it a try.  You have nothing else to lose.  Give yourself permission not to self-sabotage.”

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Anonymous.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.