Two years ago, I went to a wedding, drank 6 glasses of wine, and wouldn’t take off my coat.
Earlier that day, I binge ate 2 boxes of cereal, threw up- and went straight to the gym with my dad.
I ran for 45 minutes- analyzing how many calories I’d likely thrown up and how many I could continue to burn.
It wasn’t enough.
When my dad came over to the treadmill, he signaled he was ready to go and I hopped off and followed him out of the gym.
We chatted in the car that day, giggled about the latest Bachelorette (because, yes, my father watches The Bachelorette), and when we got home I lurked till he was back in his room before I grabbed the keys and yelled out I was going to “run errands.”
My brother, I was later told, watched me pull out of the driveway and went back to my parents room to let them know I still had my tennis shoes on.
30 minutes later, as I ran cemented to the treadmill, I looked up to find my Dad standing there at the gym entrance- his eyes watching me.
Filled with shame, I stared back as he walked discreetly over to my treadmill.
“Linds” he whispered. “C’mon.”
We didn’t talk much that afternoon. I stayed upstairs with a bottle of wine avoiding my family and getting dressed for the wedding.
Anxious because I hadn’t finished running 12 miles, I hated the way I looked in that dress. I hated how much tighter it felt, I hated my thighs, I hated my arms, I hated my stomach and I wore Spanx that sucked in what was already bloated from purging.
At the wedding, I lingered near the bar.
Please take off your coat, my Mom whispered at some point when I’d gone out on the dance floor with my winter coat zipped to the neck.
I’m cold, I lied.
That night, I got absolutely hammered. I spoke with people I don’t remember talking to but have pictures with, I spent the last hour finding ways to sneak the grilled cheese appetizers in my coat pocket to ”eat later,” and I danced with sweat pilfering through my coat because I wouldn’t take it off.
Wine-dazed and dehydrated, someone drove me home that night and as I walked in the door I heard my Dad call me into the living room.
Shit, I sighed drunkenly. I just wanted my bed and the Cheez Its I’d hidden in the bathroom.
As I walked into the living room, I immediately noticed the two empty boxes of cereal on the coffee table.
Lindsey, he said calmly. What happened to the cereal?
Dunno, I slurred, my face reddening.
Lindsey, he said again- softer. Mom and I counted before you got here and we had 6 boxes of cereal and now we have 4.
I stared at him.
Honey, he whispered. We just love you.
Tears welled in my eyes.
We know, he said. Lindsey we know you need help.
I’m sorry, I heard myself whimper. I’m so sorry.
Did you throw it up? He asked.
My mom shook her head. We have to get help, she said. Lindsey you can’t keep living like this. We can’t live like this.
I don’t want to, I mumbled. I just can’t stop.
Let us help, my dad pleaded. Let us get you help.
I nodded. I didn’t care anymore.
I was done.
Two years later- I found myself stepping onto yet another rehab facility yesterday- sitting on the opposite side of a cafeteria table- my hands on a friends face, telling this person that I know where they’ve been, and I know where they are, and I know who they can be when they come out of here and forgive themselves.
Take this, I said- handing over a copy of 1,001 Places To See Before You Die.
Thanks, this person smirked, wearily looking at the cover.
Figure out like 10 legit places you wanna see, I said. And when you’re out we’ll see ’em all.
For sure, I said. And we’ll drink a buncha tonic and tonics and eat a buncha weird shit and be bored in a bunch of pointless museums and you’ll be all like ‘oh yeah- this is what life is all about.’
This person smiled weakly. I hate this place, they mumbled. I hate rules and the loneliness and the structure.
Don’t even, I said- holding up my hand. I couldn’t even pee alone dude. You get to at least drink however much coffee you want and eat bananas whenever you want.
Yeah well, they paused. I also don’t have an addiction to like kid cereal and Ben N Jerrys.
I grinned; squeezed their hand there in the cafeteria.
Christmas in rehab, they sighed. Still dunno know how I ended up here.
Yeah- Been there, done that, I said. but it’s not too bad. You’ll probably just go to an AA meeting.
Fa-la-la-la, they mused.
But hey, I whispered. You get to start over.
You get to start the F over dude; you’re lucky; you get to try life all over again.
They nodded. Well I sure did a piss poor job so far.
You’ll do better this time, I said. It’ll be hard and you’ll fail at it a lot, but you’ll get the hang of all this recovery shit- and you’ll forget the person you are right now ’cause you’ll trust yourself again. At some point you’ll realize you like yourself and you won’t even know it, you’ll just wake up and be like ‘damn, I’m doing okay.’ And that’s a pretty cool feeling.
This person hugged me; I hugged them- and 2 years later, I left this person standing in their “community room” as I drove away in my car. I drove home listening to Christmas music and drinking a Dunkin Donuts Coffee and I reflected on my own wretched night 2 years ago, and felt thankful.
Thankful today for every lady I met in rehab, every letter, note, love, and support. Thankful every day that I didn’t get to shave for 6 weeks and that I chose to write about it publicly, ’cause my life is a more peaceful place because of this experience- and myself a more empathetic human- and that has made all the difference.