Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Becoming THAT Woman

Before recovery, I would seek out articles and quizzes about alcoholism and eating disorders.  One might think I’d be looking to better understand how serious they are, and if left untreated, could be life-threatening.

But that’s not at all why I read them.  I read them to find validation.

I’d kept looking for a loophole, a single sentence or a slight reference confirming I wasn’t “that bad.” I searched for some level of proof my drinking and eating behaviors were not as bad as THAT woman in the article, or as defined as problematic once the quiz was tallied.

I’d actually feel justified to continue on the way I was simply knowing there were other women who drank more than I did or regarded food less importantly than I did.

I read how they hit their proverbial bottom and think to myself, “Thank goodness I’m not THAT bad.”

I sat in judgment, validating my own behavior.

In other words, I was comparing and contrasting, looking for the differences, not the similarities.  I didn’t want to see myself as the woman in the article, so I sought any evidence validating I was not.

Yet it was only a matter of time until I became THAT woman.  I turned around and there I was, completely baffled as to how it happened. I was ashamed, feeling terrified of what others would think and, perhaps more importantly, what they already thought.

Could it be they were already looking at me thinking, “Well, at least I’m not THAT bad.”

Yes it could … and it did.

My God!  How could I have let this happen to me?  How could one evening’s drink become drinking morning, noon and night?  How was it I went from skipping lunch every so often to eating hardly anything at all?

But that’s exactly what happened.  It was a slow, gradual process which never seemed “that bad” until my life became critical mass.

It was then I started desperately searching for similarities in someone else.  I needed to grasp some hope there were others whose life was once like mine and were now free from it.  I couldn’t face being THAT woman for the rest of my life … whatever was left of it.

And then I found them.  They held open the door which led me to the fellowship of recovery.  It was there where I heard women, now free from addiction, share their own experience going from where I was to a life well lived.   They helped me see the similarities of their stories to mine, not the differences.

It was then I realized, if they could go from being THAT woman to being a woman who had the kind of life I wanted, maybe there was hope for me too.

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