Alison's Insights

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

I’m Too Smart For This …

I carried a lot of misconception before I distanced myself from a life of addiction.  One of those misconceptions was the idea I that was too smart to still be living with an eating disorder. I mean, seriously … I was 46 years old and still desiring to have a body I was never intended to have.  Regardless, for over 35 years I never stopped doing all I could to make that happen.

Even though I was free from the obsession to drink, I still found myself clinging to the control I believed I had over my body weight, shape and size.  I just couldn’t understand it.  If I was able to find my way out of the living hell of alcoholism, why couldn’t I do the same with anorexia?

No matter how hard I tried to avoid it,  there was a continuous message in my head  saying “C’mon, you know better than this” when I’d step on the scale for the 10th time in one day.  I suppose those specific words were so loud because they were said to me over and over again as a child. I heard things like, “Now Alison, you know better than to do that” or “Alison, you should know better than to say something like that.”

Essentially it was drilled into me at a very young age that somehow I had all the answers for every situation.

So it’s no wonder as I grew older that same kind of messaging would be far more intensified the longer I continued to live with an eating disorder. Day after day I berated myself for not knowing better, the worse it got and the cycle continued.

For years I read all the information I could get my hands on about eating disorders. In all honesty, I did so mostly to look for validation that I wasn’t that bad; that the actions I was taking were minimal in comparison to what others were doing.  In other words, I was in search of justifying my own behavior. I did the exact same thing when I started to question my level of drinking.  I’d always look for someone who was drinking more than me so I could say, “Well, at least I’m not like her/him.”   One might think that’s simply denial, but it’s not, it’s delusion.

All the information gathering I did provided nothing more than having a lot of knowledge about eating disorders and what the recovery process means in general. Truth be told, I suppose anyone who is addicted to something becomes an expert in the specifics.  Unfortunately, what book smarts don’t provide is what it really takes to navigate a personal recovery journey.

We’re all like snowflakes; unique and individual. Therefore it’s not possible theoretical teachings can provide cut and dry answers for someone searching for relief from addiction.

My recovery has proven to be an inside job. Until I was willing to do the hard work and find out what was going on inside my head and heart, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I needed to get intuitively smart, not intellectually smart.

Bottom line, I’ve strung one healthy day into another by relying on practical experience and doing what is suggested by those who have walked in my shoes before me.  None of which is theoretical.

I may be smart in many areas of my life, but I when I’m faced with a difficult situation, instead of turning inward and trying to figure it out on my own, I reach out and ask for help.

I’ve learned it’s so much better for me to not always be that smart.

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