Monday. Weigh-in at my nutritionist’s after a three-week hiatus. Three weeks ago, I managed to gain a pound. In the grand scheme of things—the murder and torture of dissidents and civilians in Syria, the chest-beating, caveman assault on women’s contraceptive freedom here at home, the plague of grim, unrelenting poverty that continues right in my own small town—sixteen ounces might not seem like anything at all. But it was hard fought, particularly when coupled with my ongoing issues related to post-parasite nutrient malabsorption and painful gut problems after eating most anything. But I ate in spite of all that, and pulled off my tiny victory. As a result, I was given back the gift of yoga classes. Remember? My contract with Dr. B.. Ongoing, incremental weight gain = yoga classes 2x a week. Failure to gain weight ≠ yoga.For three weeks, I’ve been blissfully practicing my asanas, allowing myself to settle into the poses, stretching and reaching, breathing and holding, shaking and balancing, feeling alternately powerful (plank! downward dog! plank! downward dog! plank—hold, hold, hold! lower into push up, then upward facing dog, then back to child’s pose…) and alternately vulnerable with something as simple as Vrksasana, Tree Pose, my niggling nemesis, a mere one-legged balance that somehow manages to throw me off balance in class. Performance anxiety. In the kitchen by myself stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce? No problem. I can hold it for thirty minutes. But in class, surrounded by fellow yoginis, my old perfectionism rears its pretty, little, ugly head. But I digress. For three weeks, I’ve had three hours a week devoted to inhabiting my body without the usual Mobius strip of self-criticism eating away at me (pun intended).
But for some reason, Monday’s weigh-in sent me into a panic. There was NO WAY I could guarantee that I going to make weight and I wanted a guarantee because I NEEDED to keep MY YOGA. (Notice a repetition here? I, I, I. Not exactly the language of recovery.) IT stepped right back in with ITs manipulations and had the perfect plan: Lie. Cheat. Do what you need to do to get what you want. After all, it’s only a pound or two that you need to add. It’s not like you’re back to purging or (really) restricting or drinking or cutting.I listened. Because I really, really, really needed to continue to go to yoga class. I NEEDED yoga.
In my closet, I’d been hiding a pair of soft, purple hand weights for just such a desperate, crazy emergency. (Planning ahead—already setting up the possibility for relapse? Still holding on to my eating disordered thinking? Not yet ready to give all of it up for recovery?) Each weighs in at 1 ½ pounds. Perfect. I took off my boots, knowing I’d have to take them off for weigh-in, and slipped each one in a sock. Nope, that wouldn’t work. I looked like I had goiters on my ankles. Slipped one in each cup of my bra. Bingo! Suddenly I actually had my pre-anorexia boobs back! And really, was it truly cheating? I knew plenty of women inpatient who’d had boob implants, big ones that must have weighed that much on each side, and they got to count that as part of their overall weight, so why couldn’t I just claim insta-boob job? I slipped the weights out, to be re-inserted after my AA Women’s group meeting which was before my appointment with my nutritionist.So, off I went to AA, revved up, happy with my for-sure deception because it would insure that I would get what I wanted. I walked into my meeting, to a roomful of recovering alcoholic women and sat down and listened as How It Works and The 12 Steps and The Promises were read:
“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. We admitted we were powerless…that our life had become unmanageable…that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity…made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves…continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it…We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.”Words which have meant so much to me these past twelve months. Words which have changed my life. Words that emphasize the importance of “rigorous honesty”; of yielding to this program of recovery; of taking an inventory of myself and not merely admitting to myself when I’m veering off track, but letting those in my circle know, too; of actually using my new and true self-awareness to do the next right thing.
Which is what I did, with great reluctance. I outed myself at the meeting. Even spoke first when the chairwoman asked if anyone had any topic for discussion. “I’m Kerry,” I said, “and I’m an alcoholic, and I need to talk about honesty because I’m standing on the precipice of making a really bad decision, and even though it has to do with my Eating Disorder, I know how things work in my life, and one bad, dishonest action in one area will eventually cause the landslide of guilt and recrimination and impact all the other areas, and if I lie about gaining weight, then who’s to say I won’t lie about taking a drink? And I need to make my recovery in all areas honest and true, and I need to keep my integrity. So this is what I was going to do right after this meeting. In my car, in the well between my seats, I have this pair of purple hand weights…”I knew if I told these women what I had planned, there would be no possible way that I could ever carry out that plan in the following hour. I didn’t want to be a liar and a cheat and a manipulator. I didn’t want to feel the shame and the guilt. I didn’t want to deal with the unending complications of propping up my house of cards because of course, for weigh-in the following week, in order to keep yoga once again, I’d have to gain weight on top of the purple, hand-weights, so what would I do? Rocks in the underwear? Water load? It wouldn’t stop, and quickly, so quickly, I’d spiral back into the black hole of ITs death grip.
After leaving the meeting, I tossed the hand weights into the nearest garbage can. No thought, no “what if I really really need them at some future point?” Just the next right, immediate action.And here is the perfect ending: as it turns out, I had no need for the almost lie, no need to almost cheat the system, no need to almost jeopardize my recovery. I gained an honest pound on my own by sticking to my recovery plan. Yoga is still mine.
But as I write that—still mine—I notice how stupidly acquisitive it sounds. Want, want, want, need, need, need. Herein is the biggest threat to my recovery. Not the purple hand weights. Not even the almost-slip, or the almost-lie. But confusing Wants with Needs. I learned about Maslow’s basic hierarchy back in my High School Psychology class. I want the new Kindle Fire because my plain old Kindle just isn’t bling enough. I need to eat oatmeal made with soymilk and walnuts and craisins because my body needs to gain weight because I am underweight and I need to learn to yield control in order to recover.
I want yoga. I need integrity.