A year ago today a friend picked me up at Heathrow off an overnight flight from NYC. She helped me lug my bags (including an enormous suitcase) up five flights of stairs to a tiny studio I thought would be my home for just four months – the amount of time I planned to stay in London. Then we went for a dim sum lunch with a friend of hers who had done the same 14-week outpatient treatment program as she did – the same treatment program I had arrived in London to do.
I’ve thought about that day a lot over the past year, always with incredible gratitude. Overnight flights and jetlag can make everything seem gray, and I was scared enough as it was – would this work? What if it didn’t? Seeing friendly faces made all the difference in the state of mind with which I started, and it also kept me from a binge free-fall before I started treatment four days later.
So many things have changed this year – some of which have been so terrifying that if I’d had any idea about them, I might never have come. And yet here I am. After a couple of months of recalibrating, I am closer than ever with the friend who picked me up from Heathrow -- I think she felt a little invaded for awhile, because there I was in a lot of the recovery groups she thought of as hers. The friend of hers became a good enough friend of mine that I spent New Years Eve at her house. But she disappeared about a month later, as people often do when they slip back into old (meaning bingeing) behavior, which I know she has. Despite a lot of effort on my part, I haven’t spoken to her since – she doesn’t reply to whatsapps or calls. Well over half the people I was in treatment with have relapsed. I know I’m lucky, but I also know I work really hard at it. Recovery is not something you ever really can think you’ll always have, I’ve learned – it’s something you get for the day. Some days are much harder than others.
I only realize now in writing this that I don’t remember my last binge – can’t date it, can’t tell you what I ate. The month before I left for London I overate a lot (huge meals, lots of cake), but there weren’t any binges – it was almost enough to make me question if I were doing the right thing. Almost. I had so much to do that month I think I knew I’d never make it onto the plane if I started bingeing, and I knew I had to get on the plane.
I use June 4 as my one-year marker only because the night before I went to a dinner party and drank a lot, which was forbidden while I was in treatment. Plus, I can’t quite remember what I ate. I know I took a cab home, so there wasn’t any post-dinner-party binge.
I had this idea that I wanted to be in London for my one year without a binge, and then the opportunity came up to be in New York and be able to stay in my own apartment, before the new subletter arrives – a pretty narrow window of time. I want to do some clearing out I didn’t have the headspace to do before I left, maybe to drum up some work, and to see people. And yet I was trying to arrange it so I was in London on the 4th.
Then the invitation arrived for a friend’s kid’s first birthday party on June 3, and it seemed like a sign. I have missed a lot of milestones in my friends’ lives while I’ve been here. And I have lived all my life I can remember ruled by this eating disorder, with it dictating where I would go and what I would do. It seemed fitting, at the end of a whole year without bingeing or starving, not to let it rule even how I celebrate its absence.