Letting Go of Addiction Hurts – Recovery and Grief

It’s been about six weeks.  For about six weeks I’ve been trying to say goodbye to Ana.

I just haven’t been able to do it.

And believe me, I’ve really been trying. The fact I’m talking about her AT ALL should indicate that I’m making progress.

I meditated and took notes.  I started paying close attention to how and what and when I was eating.  I started really FEEEEEEEEEEEELING my way through meals, reflecting inward while I ate, connecting to my intuition.  I did skip (delay) a few meals to really think about WHY I like doing it, to understand the depth and width of my issues.

I started a blog post and tried to pour myself into it a few times. Usually when I’m writing the words just come out.  Sometimes it’s work.  This time there was literally NOTHING.  I tried, but I just didn’t know how to even START saying goodbye to her.  I don’t even know WHERE to start.

I don’t know HOW.

If you’ve read previous blog posts I’ve been working through a lot of crap lately.  Finding peace with Little Erin, finding peace with Mia and exercise and being a girl and my mommy tummy.  Finding refuge with The Mister and my kids and Jesus.  I’m less burdened than I’ve ever been.  I’m STRONGER than I’ve ever been.  I’m living my life with FULL DISCLOSURE, there’s not one single thing in my closet that I haven’t drug out into the light and shown to anyone that wants to look.  My vision is clear.  It’s not like I don’t have a support system, or that I don’t know what needs to be done.

I KNOW what needs to be done.  There’s just this one last thing to take care of.


I’m still not able to finish this post for Ana.

The other blog posts I’ve written on tough subjects up to this point have been written in CLOSURE.  When I said goodbye to the binge I really did STOP BINGING.  I said goodbye, and I meant it.  And before you think “OMG you’re so awesome, you must have super strength willpower, you said stop and you just STOPPED,” it wasn’t like that.  It was still hard, but when I finally wrote the blog and said goodbye to Mia I was ready.  I knew it was time, and I was ready for it to happen.  Getting rid of binging was something I’d been working on for YEARS.  LITERALLY YEARS.  By the time I wrote the post and said goodbye, it was a long time coming.  It was TIME.

This one for Ana, though.

In keeping with the way I write, when the blog post for Ana is done and I hit “PUBLISH” I want it to be DONE.  Closed.

Which is kind of the problem.

If I finish the post, I’ll really be saying goodbye.

I realized I don’t WANT to say goodbye.

I recognized this crappy tidbit the other day when I was feeling stressed about work.  When I get stressed I run through items on my mental checklist to try and find the cause.  It didn’t take long.  On my list is “finish the Ana blog.”  On the TOP OF THE LIST is “finish the Ana blog,” and it’s been AT the top for over four weeks now.  As soon as I thought about finishing that blog post I had a minor (major, but I don’t want to admit to that) anxiety attack.  I signed up with Meg’s Summer of Success through WLR and I committed to say goodbye to Ana by August 31.  There was a time limit on my post.  I had to get THROUGH IT by a certain day, and I wanted to hit my goal.

“Come on Erin, quit pussy-footing around and just write the effing post.”

The thought made me sad, then it made me ANGRY.  REALLY, REALLY ANGRY.


In a defiant, hair-tossing, foot-stomping, arm-crossing moment, all the voices in my head at one time said “HRMPFH. I WON’T, AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME. I don’t WANT TO DO IT!”

And I don’t.

I don’t want to say goodbye to Ana.

The last week or so I’ve been more than a little unpleasant to hang out with.  If I’m totally honest, I’ve been bitch-on-wheels.  ANGRY.  And depressed, and crazy, and more angry.  Yelling about stupid things, short fused, hot tempered.  I’ve cried at the drop of a hat no less than sixteen times.  The kids are now so accustomed to the bipolar-skitzo-batshit-crazy-ness I’ve been exhibiting over the past couple weeks, they don’t even look up anymore when I yell, slam something down on the table, then break down in tears.

It’s been a long week.  For me and everyone around me.

Regardless of my reluctance to do it, I did eventually start writing for Ana.  This last five or six days I’ve been writing.  It’s been the least coherent blog post I’ve written so far.  My process has been “shut off brain, move fingers on keyboard.”  I’ve tried to not even go back and proof read, and I don’t know that I will.  It’s too hard.  I can’t pick apart what I’m saying because it’s so personal, and it’s so emotional, and it’s so DEEP.  I’m thinking that if it’s going to be true catharsis it has to be uncensored and unedited.

One thing I did notice, though, is that I don’t just TALK about Ana as though she’s a person.  I really do FEEL like she’s a person.  I have personified anorexic behaviors and that aspect of my personality so deeply and for so long that THE DISORDER has become  …human.  Tangible.  She’s a real person that lives inside of me, just as much as the other voices but MORE SO.  I can see her face.  Her face is MY face, but thinner, and gaunt…  she’s got her own set of feelings and her own mind.  She wants her own things, she feels her own pain.  She wants things and then I want them because of her.

And, through the process of saying goodbye, I have discovered that I love her.

If you ever read about recovery from addiction you’ll see a lot about the role of grief and loss in the process.  Addicts often see their addiction in the way I see Ana, less as a behavior and more as an entity.  The addictive behavior becomes more than just an isolated action, it becomes a lifestyle.  The addiction IS your life, and your life becomes the addiction.  The ritual of it, the process, the situation you create to participate in the behavior.  The addict starts to see themselves AS the behavior.  It becomes a defining characteristic of the addict, like a skin you wear that stands between you and the outside world.  It’s a SHELL.  Protection.  The behavior becomes comfortable, and friendly.  Safe.  The addiction becomes something you trust.  It’s something you RELY ON.  It becomes a possession, a “precious,” something that you hold close to your heart because it possesses you as much as you possess it.

The addiction becomes something that you love.

How easily do you get rid of something that you love?  How WILLINGLY.

In understanding the scope of my less-than-desirable behaviors, I have come to understand that I really do love Ana.  I have come to understand that I am an addict, and I love and worship my addiction as completely and wholly as any person could love anything.

Like any addict, in order to be whole and healed I have to let go.  And I have to say goodbye.

That means sadness.  And loss.

And grief.

And OH. MY. SWEET. MOSES.  I am grieving for my Ana.

In some ways understanding that has made it easier.  “NO WONDER IT’S BEEN SO FUCKING HARD.”  No wonder I’m angry.  And depressed.

Just to give you some idea of what I’ve been feeling and thinking, this is what my last few weeks have been like.  I’ve mentioned it before, but have you ever heard of the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief?

Denial.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Depression.  Acceptance.

“It’s not really a problem anymore.  LOOK AT ME, I’m not super skinny.  I’ll be fine.  I AM FINE.  I’m completely in control, totally fine.  I don’t need anyone to tell me that I’ve got a problem, because I DO NOT have a problem.  It’s not a problem.”




“Okay, how about this.  I’ll eat well for all of my meals as much as I can and I’ll only hang out with Ana when it’s REALLY IMPORTANT.  I’ll exercise more to make up for the food I eat, and I’ll keep working out even when I’m tired from skipping food.  Or I’ll eat a whole lot more small meals instead of big ones, and I’ll just not skip any completely.  It’ll be okay, I’ll just not do it as much.  How about instead of a cheat meal every week I just I skip one.  They get cheat meals, it’s about the same, plus then I won’t be putting junk in my body.  I don’t need to say goodbye ALL the way, just “see you around.”  It’ll be fine, I’ll be careful.


…which kind of leads me to where I am now.

Crying, empty, sad, aching depression.

Oh, and the fear.  Fear that I’ll get fat, fear that I won’t have control of ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.  I’m afraid I’ll try and she’ll come back, or that Ana will leave but MIA will come back.  I could go on for hours about how freaked out this makes me, but I won’t.  I’ve accepted that the fear will just BE THERE.  I’m okay with that.  I can deal with fear.

I have a harder time dealing with grief.

I have the HARDEST time dealing with the unknown.  I don’t like “not knowing.”

For me, and for most anorexics, saying goodbye to Ana means changing EVERYTHING.  It means changing how you eat, what you eat, WHY you eat.  It’s finding why I DON’T eat and dealing with the cause.  It means that I am going to have to be a DIFFERENT PERSON, because the person I am right now and the person I’ve always been has leaned SO HARD on her that I don’t know what I’ll be without her support and the consequential suffering.  I don’t know what I am without her.  I don’t like “not knowing.”

True addicts, when they leave recovery, are not allowed back into their old lives.  They’re expected to make new friends, to find new places to hang out and new hobbies to pursue.  They have to BE SOMEONE NEW in order to avoid relapse.  I can understand that would be hard when you’re recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, but it would be possible.  You don’t need drugs or alcohol to live.  Restructuring your life to avoid the booze and drugs would be possible.

But what about FOOD?  What does RECOVERY look like when you’re an anorexic?  What does RECOVERED look like. How do you restructure to avoid the triggers for Ana?  How do you get rid of the FOOD.

I honestly don’t know how that’s going to work.  I DO NOT LIKE “NOT KNOWING.”

I guess we’ll find out, though, won’t we.  We’ll have to.

We’ll have to figure out a LOT of things.

Saying goodbye to Ana will be just like any other addict saying goodbye to their addiction.  Getting rid of Ana means figuring out a new way of LIVING.  It means figuring out another way of BEING.  And it means finding another way of THINKING.

THAT I can do something about.  That I can take charge of and change.  That I CAN know.

Just like every other step in the journey toward healthy, saying goodbye to Ana starts by changing my mind.

I need to remember that my face and body are the standard of beauty for three small people.  That when they whisper my name and see my face they think of only “Mommy,” and all the wonderful, blessed, blissful things that come with that title.  To them I am never “fat” or “gross” or “disgusting.”  I need to remember that my body brought them into the world and TO THEM I am everything I am supposed to be, folds and wrinkles and bumps and bulges included.

I need to think about the abilities I have inside, to remember that my mind and heart and soul and talents and sense of humor are the important parts of me.  I need to be aware that the world is better because I use those things, not because I managed to be less than 125 pounds.

I need to keep in mind that my body cannot carry me through the next sixty years of life in a productive and commanding and STRONG way if I eat less than I should.  That I can’t be focused on goals that MATTER when I spend precious time trying to fit into a smaller pants size and hating the fat around my middle.

I need to maintain the perspective of WHY I AM HERE and WHERE I AM HEADED.  I need to always remember that fast or slow, we’re in the middle of a face-first, downhill, dirty, degrading slide toward a hole in the ground and not a single one of us will get out ALIVE, or YOUNG, or without blemish or unnecessary weight or perfect skin.

I need to remember that when live long enough to have age spots and moles and wrinkles and flab, WHEN I have those things it will be a BLESSING, not a shame.

Mostly, I need to stop thinking that this is beautiful…

is this beautiful?  i honestly can't tell sometimes...

is this beautiful? i honestly can’t tell sometimes…


…and start instead to see myself as beautiful, even at the size I am now.

is THIS beautiful?  i can't always tell with this one, either.

is THIS beautiful? i can’t always tell with this one, either.

At any size.

I will keep these things in mind, and in the next day or so I will finish my post for Ana.  I will spend my remaining time with her not by abstaining from food, but by remembering the important things.  The things that matter.  I will spend my time reminding myself of all those things I cannot have if Ana stays.

I will finish my blog post, and I will say goodbye.

I don’t know what my life will be like without Ana, without the pain and suffering I have intentionally felt by pursing my relationship with her.  I don’t know what I will look like, or how I will feel.  I don’t know what size or weight I will be.  When things get rough I know I will miss her, and in tough times I don’t know really know how will cope.  What I will DO to cope.

I know I will, though.  I will cope.

I will find a way to cope, and be happy.  I will find a way, because that’s what we do.  We push on.

“Just keep going,” says The Sheriff.

“Just push on.”

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