Last week, I finished reading the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. After the death of her mother and trying to overcome a heroin addiction, the author walked the Pacific Crest Trail . At one point, soon after she started hiking, she was nearly run down by a Texas longhorn bull. Whereupon she wrote this The thing about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the thing that was so profound to me that summer--and yet also, like most things, so very simple--was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. How there was no escape or denial. No numbing it down with a martini or covering it up with a roll in the hay. As I clung to the chaparral that day, attempting to patch up my bleeding finger, terrified by every sound that the bull was coming back, I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. The bull, I acknowledged grimly, could be in either direction, since I hadn't seen where he'd run once I closed my eyes. I could only choose between the bull that would take me back and the bull that would take me forward.
And so I walked on.
It reminded me a lot about recovery and relapse. Pain and suffering is in both directions. It's unavoidable. The question I had to learn to ask myself is did I want the pain and suffering that would take me back towards the ED or the pain and suffering that would move me forwards in recovery. I didn't always feel I had a choice. Or I thought that I really wanted to go back, that the pain and suffering was fun or at least what I wanted.
What I can see now is that an eating disorder was never the direction in which I wanted to steer my life. I want to write, to make things with yarn, to ride my bike, to be a friend and kitty mom. I need to let those things guide my decisions rather than the lure of an eating disorder. It sounds cheesy, but working on my values in life (you can download a values card here ...I also really enjoyed the book) has helped me make better decisions and change from figuring out what would make me feel better in the moment to what I really wanted out of life.