My partner and I have broken up in the past. Our first breakup rocked me, shocked me, literally skinned me and hung me up to dry. I was working a hefty corporate job at the time, typing between tears and writing weepy poetry in between calls. I would lie in bed, my entire body feeling like a cramp, unbelieving that this whole break was actually happening. Stunned at how much I loved the man and paralyzed at the thought of losing him forever. The wild thing is that I didn’t realize how deep my love for him was until two weeks into the break up. I was shocked at the heartbreak, not because we did it, but because it even came. During that time, I stopped drinking— funny enough, while it took me until this year to fully commit to my sobriety, putting the drink down has always been the first thing I have done during times of great heartbreak or great stress. If I’m gonna get over this shit quick, I’m gonna just feel it all out now, I say. I ate better, I woke up earlier, I cried my eyes out for hours on end, but I took walks, I wrote poetry, I got mad, I was alive. I was alive falling in love with him all over again realizing I had completely missed out on him for the better part of two years. I was mending. Until the decaying raccoon came. Read More
I thought my rock bottom would look like it once did— over a toilet, missing yet another get together, a bleeding throat, topped off with a pack of cigarettes. It’s hard to believe that that’s what my reality looked a mere five years ago. So I’m back in a complicated relationship with another addiction and so I thought— I have to get something great out of ten years of bulimia. Wisdom. An open third eye. A resurrection. And I did, a bit. But I misheard the voice for a while. The tiny little whisper that let me know that alcohol could lead to the same path. I wrote about it. I was open about it. Real cute on the whole matter. “I haven’t hit rock bottom yet, but I know I could, so this is all preventative!”
I thought rock bottom would look like lots of missed phones calls from my closest friends, waking up in strange beds, wrecking my relationship, calling home to cry to my estranged brother at 4AM in the morning. I thought rock bottom would mean showing up to the Writers’ Room with two bottles of champagne in my belly, looking forward to the third when we let out. So I thought I just hadn’t. Hit rock bottom, that is. I don’t do that. So I must still be fine. This is fine! I’m fine. Totally in control.
I don’t have to hit rock bottom this time. Bulimia is a specific addiction. No one in my life supported it, I knew it was ugly, I knew I was being wrecked, there was no room to welcome someone into it, and I certainly didn’t engage in it with anyone but myself. My body as I knew it and as I wanted it to be didn’t stand a chance against it. My daily habit of throwing up until I scraped my throat tender, followed by a full pack of cigarettes to smoke up its bloody patches would have me gone in no time. Listen, those heart palpitations… I knew. I made excuses to not show, skipped big events to not be shown, and always replaced the food I ate in time, should I have purged something that wasn’t mine. But let’s be clear about it: this addiction was not supported. It wasn’t cool. It didn’t bring me close to anyone. It’s not what we engaged in at a birthday party.
I hit many rock bottoms. I was in rehab. I scared my family. I went back to it. I caved. I shared purging secrets. I locked down boarding school bathrooms. I fired therapists who threatened to “tell on me.” And then I stopped. And it took ten years. Ten out of twenty one is almost half and stopping meant learning how to walk, how to grow through puberty all over again, how to be seen, and how to say I can, all over again and without my buddy. What I’m saying now is that with a ten year addiction and a four year recovery under my belt, at twenty-four, I find Alcohol incredibly confusing. I don’t go on benders, I don’t hide, I don’t skip events to not be seen, I don’t replace bottles I’ve drank, and I don’t do it alone. And I haven’t. I don’t even handle it that well. Two glasses of wine and I’m feeling it. I wake up feeling it. Maybe throwing up during your most formative years does that to a body. But alcohol confuses me because I’m starting to recognize its trigger, the small cravings, the relief at its sight, the tiny voice. And yet its applauded. If I don’t do it, the room shifts. The hefty drinkers are uncomfortable. It’s a shame if it isn’t done. But in my my rock bottom memory I know that this is how it starts. Ten more years and it’s another version of purging a ten pound meal, followed by a pack of cigarettes. And yet, if I know, why has it been so scary to make the decision?
I threw up for ten years. The history of my bulimia is one I’ve chosen to be very open about: as the daughter of two Doctors, my eating disorders- along with the bouts of depression that run in our blood- have never been dismissed or brushed aside. I’m keenly aware of how rare that is. Period. But I’m mostly aware of how rare that is in a Latino household. So I’m loud about recovery. I open my doors, invite people to sit on my couch and give space to those who feel comfortable and safe enough to sit back and let something other than food out. Throwing up for ten years is a story I share, a narrative I tell, a one woman show I’ve produced.
However, I choose my words wisely when I speak of exactly how I found my way to recovery. I’m very careful when I disclose the exact method that pushed me out of my toilet and into my life. Because after ten years of gastric fluid eating away at my esophagus and going through toothbrushes like most people go through Q-Tips, the tip was incredibly simple. Insultingly simple. After hundreds of books read on the topic and years of therapy, I got my hands on the one book that didn’t hold mine back. The narrative went something like this, “You’re an addict. You’ve trained your body to deal with any emotion with this addiction. That’s all it is.” Cold in my tracks, I tell you. Don’t get me wrong. I’m therapy’s Number One Fan. I wish everyone would go. I’ve helped as many friends shop for the right person to heal them through life as I have for myself. But therapy isn’t enough. When it comes to Eating Disorders, we ask young men and women (and sometimes not so young) to understand of themselves what most people won’t even begin to question in a lifetime. We’re telling young men and women that they must get to the bottom of their Daddy, Mommy, Brother, Body, and Drive issues before then can ever quit their 120 Hour ED work week. This method simply takes all power away. It tells people that their entire life set up- with or without them- is the reason why they’re like this to begin with. For me, thinking of my eating disorder as an addiction led to freedom. I began to realize that whatever made me throw up for the first time ten years ago was not what was driving me to the toilet every day. I was an addict. And I could kick an addiction. Kicking is active. I’m a director, I like active. For the first time, I could diminish that voice to know that it was my addiction talking, not my Father, not my Brother, and certainly not Me, Sister. Not me.