This post was originally published on March 19, 2015.
We all want to be normies. Whatever our addiction, we all have those moments when we see people who can handle their booze/weed/pills/food in moderation, and we long to have been born into someone else’s life or with someone else’s brain. Or maybe we start getting ideas about being able to manage things better this time, and set about convincing ourselves that we never really had a problem.
As someone in recovery for an eating disorder, I have to work around my addiction by consuming the very substance I am powerless over—food—three to five times a day.
Food is everywhere, being consumed by everyone all the time. Normies eating tubs of popcorn at the movies. Normies eating just one donut at work. Normies eating ice cream out of the container. Normies having brunch—two meals at once! Normies eating just a bite of dessert. Normies going back to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Normies sharing an ice cream with their kid.
One day at a time, we food-drunks learn how to have sanity and serenity in bakeries, business meetings and break-ups. Someone else’s plate is none of our business.
But it’s not just the food; there are other things that normies do that can set us spinning in a downward spiral of obsessive thinking. Here are the top five things that most trigger my addiction:
A Fitbit is a cute little rubber bracelet that, on a normie’s wrist, is a tool that helps monitor their sleep, exercise, calorie intake and weight management. It syncs wirelessly with a scale to monitor weight loss and also with apps that can track how many calories you’ve consumed, how many can be consumed based on weight loss goals, and how much more you can eat if you’ve exercised today.
But to me, a Fitbit is a magic bracelet that will make all my body problems magically disappear. Even though my recovery plan specifically does not include calorie counting, weighing myself, or dieting, my diseased mind tells me that it makes sense to buy and use a Fitbit because it’s a new way to obsess about food, exercise and weight loss—nothing like the old pre-program ways! It’s an invention that is different from everything else I’ve tried, and it will make me thin, happy and deserving of love.
Normies go on diets all the time. They maybe want to lose 10 pounds, or get in shape for the summer. Diets are things that normal people do that help them manage their weight.
For someone with an eating disorder, researching diets is like the prescription pill addict just getting a prescription. Listening to normies talk about their diets is the equivalent of an alcoholic smelling their friend’s Chardonnay—inhaling the fragrant notes of caramel, earth and licorice. It’s a gambling addict’s visit to a casino, just to watch someone else throw the dice. For me, hearing about someone else’s diet is like standing at the top of a snow-covered slope, skis on, poles digging into the perfect, soft powder, with all my weight leaning forward; I’m this close to pushing off and tackling that double black diamond—even though I know I can’t ski, and the last time I tried I ended up in a full-body cast. I start thinking about how this time down the mountain, with this diet, it’s going to be different.
3) Losing Weight
Whether it’s a fellow at a meeting enjoying physical recovery, or a partner who slims down because he cut out desserts and fries, watching someone lose weight is incredibly triggering for someone with an eating disorder.
Another person’s success makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong. Whatever food plan I have, whatever recovery I have, my diseased brain tells me it’s not enough. I start wondering about new ways I can manage my weight, and I compare my progress to other people’s progress and it’s not enough. I need to be doing whatever it is that they are doing, I tell myself, and then I’ll be doing it right.
Despite how great it makes me feel, I hate exercise. I avoid it—until I binge on it. I have not found a way to have a healthy relationship with exercise. I suppose the addict mind is always trying to avoid things that are healthy and that make us feel good without the high of our drug of choice.
As an exercise avoider, watching other people going to yoga, hiking before breakfast, or jogging a couple times a week makes me feel like a loser. Hearing people talk about going to the gym triggers my self-loathing.
Maybe this is because addiction is a disease of self—another person’s healthy, sane, self-care is really about me and my inability to do the same.
When a normie hears, “You look great,” it usually makes them feel great. When someone says that to me, I hear, “You must feel really uncomfortable because that outfit doesn’t fit you right, you’re overweight and everyone here is normal-sized and you probably feel out of place so I will compliment you so you feel better about yourself.”
When someone asks a normie if they’ve lost weight, they tend to feel rewarded for their efforts. When I’m asked if I’ve lost some weight, I hear, “Your weight is making everyone uncomfortable, and thank God you’re doing something about it, because we were all talking about how fat you are, and now that you’re losing weight you’ll be more like us, and we’ll accept you and we can like you for real instead of just pretending to like you.”
If you are a sane person, this all sounds crazy. That’s because it is. Addiction is insanity. The addict mind is very complicated and complex and horrible and unkind to the addict.
Depending on how well I’m working my recovery program, I can sit in a bakery, buy ice cream for my kid, and congratulate my friend on her weight loss. I may always wish I were a normie. But if I put my program first, I can feel good in my skin and accept that the things normies do that trigger me are, quite simply, none of my business.
Even when I want to tell a friend that only an idiot would do the watercress soup diet.