“One-year postscript to You Robbed the Right Girl”
Today is the one-year anniversary form the day my soccer team bought me a brand new computer. With one exception, it is also the longest I have gone without throwing up in 11 years. 5 years ago, I enjoyed a 3 month reprieve during which I truly believed myself to be free and clear and cured. I was wrong– I was far from cured and it was far from over. Of the 4,000 days in this decade-plus of addiction, I probably have passed 3000 of them with one, or two, or three, or a dozen violent acts of purging somewhere between waking and sleeping. For most of this time, a week without vomiting was a heroic and rare occasion. For much of the time, a day without it was impossibly hard. For a long stretch, every meal contained a sacrifice to the toilet and all that was digested was what had been absorbed before I got rid of it and what remained after the mighty tide took the rest away. I was not well.
I have always hated this disease, have always known it was wrong. From the very beginning, I confided to friends and sought therapy and fought against it. But it was deceptively strong and I found I couldn’t control it so eventually I gave in to it. It demanded a lot from me: I lied, I stole, I wasted money and time, I lost my self-respect to keep my addiction alive. For as much as I gave to enable it, it is nothing compared to how much I have given to overcome it. I took medication and years of therapy. I went to rehab. I ended my marriage. I went to rehab again. I quit my job and walked 700 miles alone through the wilderness. I moved to Detroit. I went to rehab again. I got in a relationship. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and flew a kite on the summit to symbolize my recovery. I ended a relationship. I got into a new relationship. I ended that. I got back with my old boyfriend. I broke up with him again. Each of these things played out in a concert of reading, writing, medication, hypnosis, self-intervention and public confession; each of these and in whole or in part was an effort to get well, to overcome my demon, to save my life.
One year ago, at some miserable point along that cycle, I took a routine trip to CVS to buy food for a binge. Returning to my car with a carton of Moose Tracks, a box Cinnamon Toast Cruch and a gallon of milk no more than 3 minutes after I had left it, I encountered a scene that rocked my entire world: broken glass, broken window, missing computer. The platform for all of my writing, the home for all my photos, the means for all my income– gone in a moment. And for what? a $9.00 8,000 calorie high that was destroying my body.
I gave the bag of food to a homeless man outside the store and got in my car. As I shut the door, broken glass rained down on me and I screamed the loudest I’ve ever screamed. I lost my mind.
One week later, my intramural soccer team presented me with a gift beyond kindness– a new computer. They knew nothing of the circumstances behind its theft other than that I had violated the age-old Detroit truth that you’re asking for trouble if you leave valuables in your car. I could not have felt more grateful, I could not have felt less deserving.
Returning from the team dinner when it was given to me, I went home and wrote down the story of what had happened in a story “You Robbed the Right Girl.” I figured the computer was lucky because turned out to be the most-read piece I have ever written. Everything in it was true but it wasn’t the whole story. Some part of it was missing and some part of me was still not “right.”
I wish I could say that the aching humility thrust me into a place of well-being, but I still suffered for most of the past year. I tried to repay my friends’ kindness by making good use of the computer: writing honestly, writing well, working hard, working for others. Inspired by the simple power of pooling together money for someone in need, I turned the tables and organized to raise money for Detroit families at risk of losing their homes to tax foreclosure.
Finally, this past winter, something in me thawed. I have begun what for me is an unprecedented streak of stability, sanity and abstinence from my fucking addiction that continues to this day.
It feels good to know that, one year later, I will not be making that shameful trek to CVS or some gas station or grocery store to snatch a high to feed the insatiable parasite that took so much for so long. I’m glad to know that I have started to treat myself with some shred of the same kindness that my friends showed me, and I’m proud that I am at least a few steps closer to being someone who deserves it.