I am a recovering bulimic.
Once you have been an addict, it is never wise to call yourself an "ex", because the moment you start thinking you have conquered all your impulses, life begins to dole out situations where your self control is no match for your former self. I spent seven years binging and purging, hating the necessity of food in my life. When Grant and I got together, his immense love put my own feet back under me and with the new self confidence that comes from being unconditionally loved, I began to evolve from someone who hated food to someone who actually began enjoying it.
When I look back at photographs from the years when I was binging and purging and obsessively studying my body in the mirror, I can't miss the painfully out of control look in my eyes that is the hallmark of an addict. I wore clothes that draped me and my insecurities in loose fabric. And food, unlike alcohol or drugs or sex or cigarettes, isn't an addiction that you can quit cold turkey as a first step. Addictions to food require small doses of your drug multiple times a day in order to continue living.
I enjoyed several years of being free of my eating disorder demons. Grant loved my body and I loved being in control of how I looked. I ran 4 days a week, ate a strict vegetarian diet, and dropped three sizes just by starting to wear clothes that actually fit me. Just when I had almost stopped thinking about my old demons all together, those life situations that test your self control started looking back at me from the full length mirror I found at a consignment shop and hung in our bedroom. I was post partum times two, in my mid-30's, surrounded by full fat yogurt, whole milk, cheese, and drawers full of clothes that I grabbed from the rack at Target while we sailed by in our cart on the way to the diaper aisle. The hallmark card life of a parent with young children.
I was out of sleep, out of control, and out of hours in the day. Very few daily decisions were centered around taking care of myself. I found myself fantasizing about being that nursing mother that blushes and says "I don't know...the pounds just FLEW off while I was nursing. Everything shrunk but my boobs!". I knew it wouldn't be me, but I didn't know how else I was going to lose the weight.
Some things didn't change. Grant still loved my body and I was still wearing clothes that fit me...just bigger clothes. For a while I was on friendly terms with my post partum body and could see very clearly the two gorgeous reasons for my new, larger and softer, physique. Then Knox turned two and I started noticing that there were mothers around me who were back in their jeans. Back running half marathons. Back to "normal".
And I felt panicked. Fear that once again I was in the remedial class. That everyone else had figured it out but me. That my friendly attitude toward my body was actually just laziness in disguise. I needed to be back in control. The mirror became my enemy again and I couldn't see anything reflected back to me but a girl who didn't love herself enough. The funny thing about eating disorders is that very little of the real issue is fat vs thin. It is the need for control manifested by the "right" body size, which is always smaller. The addict's fix is getting rid of calories, or enjoying the feeling of hunger gnawing at your stomach. Those were my drugs.
But I have been in recovery for almost 11 years now. I am no longer the single woman in my own apartment with a bathroom I can lock myself in and throw up until I feel back in control. I am loved and I love unconditionally. I am also a Mama of two young children, one of whom is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She has long brown hair and deep blue eyes and long legs and a quick, impish smile and a laugh that you would do anything to hear again. She loves dancing to music videos and playing soccer and has just mastered the monkey bars. She likes to make biscuits and snap green beans and make orange juice popsicles. She will read library books on the couch for hours and doesn't like "any open places" left on her pieces of paper when she is painting.
And she has absolutely no idea what size she is supposed to be. Food is fun and exciting and at least four bites need to be eaten before she can have dessert. She chooses her clothes based on pattern and color only. Clothes too big are rolled up and clothes too small are unbuttoned. She is confident and her priorities are spot on. The last thing I want to do is mess with that balance. I want to learn from it.
I have too many things I need to control in a day to spend time on my bulimia demons. I have friends who know about my addiction and a husband who asks me every once in a while how I'm doing. I am not defined by my demons, nor do I forget about them. I respect them and do what needs to be done in order to keep them from slinking their way back into my self identify.
I have a daughter who eats at my table now.