On tonight's episode of "This Emotional Life," a recovering alcoholic shared his story, and the importance of the fellowship he found in Alcoholics Anonymous. Although I can definitely relate to the benefits of fellowship--just look at this blog!--it was another comment by this man that struck me as just so wise.
"There's no cure for alcoholism," he said, "but there is a solution. And that is to stay sober."
It's rare that you can combine realism and hope in a sweeping statement about addiction or any other mental illness, but this completely captures my views on recovery from an eating disorder: there's no cure, but there is a solution. That solution is to keep eating, to maintain an appropriate weight (whatever weight your DNA prefers), to stop binge eating and purging, and to reach out for support when these behaviors start to sound even slightly more appealing.
The other truth is that the solution to alcoholism or ED isn't like the solution to a math problem. You do the math, scribble in the margins, and there you have it. The Answer. You may get it right, you may get it wrong, but you can move on to the next problem. The solution to these mental health issues isn't something you can check off on a to-do list. You have to put it on every to-do list you write, every single day, for the rest of your life. And that is overwhelming to contemplate. Massively, majorly overwhelming. So much so that calling it a singular solution seems kind of ludicrous. It's more like that there are millions of solutions, solutions that you have to find and choose every single day.
Frankly, I prefer the math class type of solution.
To some extent, the "solution" seems obvious. Want to not be a drug addict? Stop getting high! Want to not be depressed? Stop being sad! Want to not be anorexic? Stop starving yourself! How did we not think of this sooner?!? I knew for years that if I wanted to recover from my eating disorder that I had to eat and gain weight. I knew that the weight I was maintaining wasn't conducive to health. But I had two major questions to answer: how do I get better, and how do I stay better? The "solution" isn't so much eating; it's figuring out what I need to do in order to keep eating, even when that's the last thing I want to do. The "solution" doesn't mean never wanting to lose weight again, or always approaching every meal with gusto. It just means that you approach every meal.
I'd love for there to be a cure for eating disorders, but I'm not exactly holding my breath. There is just too much that we don't know. But we do have a solution, and that might just be enough.