The Other Programs - Page 2

By Taylor Ellsworth 11/06/12

I avoid Alanon and OA despite knowing I could benefit from them. Apparently I'm waiting to get uncomfortable enough that I'm willing to do something about it.

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Just what I need: another program Photo via

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In the rooms, we talk about the importance of hitting bottom and the necessity of the desperation required to do a thorough self-excavation with the 12 steps. Though I was convinced of my alcoholism by the age of 16, I had to get to a certain point of hopelessness and self-hatred in order to want something better. It happened one morning as I was navigating, sans pants, the maze of 40oz bottles of Old English that littered my dorm room floor: I glanced in the general direction of the mirror, couldn’t bring myself look into my own lifeless eyes and made a split-second decision to ask for help. My alcoholism was such a visceral, all-consuming lifestyle that it felt as if I couldn’t ignore the tornado roaring through my life for even one more day. But the subtle, nearly subconscious obsession with control that defines both my post-bulimia and codependency are unlikely to ever parallel the undeniable, all-consuming chaos of my alcoholism. Rather than tearing my life apart bit by bit, my internal quality of life is dying a slow and painful death by obsession. It’s easy to brush off that pain when I compare it to the kind that my alcoholism caused me when it rendered me jobless, failing out of school and utterly alone. Because I can now easily work, maintain relationships and pass midterms while fostering a plentitude of harsh internal dialogues, it’s as if experiencing incomprehensible demoralization as a consequence of my addiction has become its own prerequisite to recovering from any other compulsions. 

So what if it never gets bad enough that I can’t resist seeking help any longer? What if I can never get through a day without knowing how many calories I’ve consumed? What if I never grow comfortable around my dad as long as he remains loyal to his new family but those feelings never actually result in an estrangement? I’d feel much safer knowing that I was headed towards 30-minute purging sessions with the shower running to hide the choking sounds because at least that would be self-destructive enough to merit an effort at recovery. If I were on the verge of losing my boyfriend over my unquenchable thirst for validation, maybe Al-Anon would be more appealing. Alas, I’m pretty sure he isn’t going anywhere.

Maybe I’ll try the other programs in a few years, when I get bored with AA, the Big Book, and shitty coffee in mildewy, chipped mugs. It’s possible that I won’t make it there, though; that my weirdness with food or inability to play well with others will eventually lead me to vodka Redbulls at Dubstep Tuesdays. I’d like to think that I would foresee such a disaster with time to spare and intuitively duck for cover in the nearest Alano Club, but maybe not. My best guess? The dull aches will remain, ceaselessly throbbing until one day I decide to take the repeated suggestions and experience a fistful of relief. 

Taylor Ellsworth writes from Portland, Oregon. She also wrote about getting fired by a sponsee and managing her eating disorder, among many other topics, for The Fix. Follow her on Twitter here.

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