It’s the holidays, folks, and self-care is essential, even more essential than usual. Yesterday, a member of my 12-step group said this time of year calls for Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and sometimes, Plan D. I doubted this claim, but I listened with respect, employing the 12-step mantra, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
You see, my work right now is to avoid planning, to stay open to the unknown and go with the flow. As someone who’s anorexic in nature, this is the real challenge. In my mind, planning equals rigidity and rigidity equals relapse. But perhaps there’s a way to let planning serve me, in a way that is not rigid.
Let’s back up for a moment: Last month, after going on a date with someone whom I learned had an eating disorder of their own, I entered a recovery crisis.
I’ve been unsure of how to maintain my wellbeing in a healthy, constructive way. I miss the group support I got in treatment but I know I can’t put myself in a room full of eating disorders. I even tried a free support group at an eating disorder treatment center in the city, but it merely reminded of my old unhealthy thoughts.
After several breakdowns and mounds of research, I found a solution: daily 12-Step Recovery meetings to maintain my emotional sobriety. After all, my eating disorder only flairs up when my emotional well-being is threatened.
Although it’s been a while, 12-Step is not new for me. I attended my first meeting on June 1 while in New York doing O Negative. It was a women’s meeting with a lesbian focus, and it was huge, at least 40 women in attendance. The following Sunday I attended a smaller meeting at Grace Episcopal Church, which happens to be my favorite spot in the city. The feeling in the room was magical, so I “kept coming back.”
I returned twice that summer, but stopped when I entered crunch time for O Negative. Then, while home in New Orleans for the month of August, I attended a single meeting in my neighborhood. Thus, in total, between June and September, I attended 5 meetings. I planned to keep going when I returned to New York come fall, but as they say, life (or college) got in the way.
But no longer. My little “episode” last month reminded me that Recovery is the priority. Recovery comes first.
I live across the street from an arts center that hosts a 12-Step literature meeting every morning, Monday through Friday, at 9 AM. On Friday November 2, I gave it a try, and found how I’ve been missing out. It was instantly clear that this is a space of love, understanding, and healing. It’s a place to blow off steam, to hear and be heard without judgement.
I fell in love with the space as if it were a person, and for the past three weeks, I’ve gone every day. That is, until today; my groove has been interrupted by a whirlwind trip to Boston with two peers. We shipped out from Penn Station last night at 7 and will return tomorrow at midnight.
The idea of missing meetings made me sick to my stomach, and the turbulent train ride didn’t help. I felt unsafe without the support and security of my daily meetings, and I feared the lack of freedom that comes with traveling in a group. I truly did not know how I was going to take care of myself.
Lo and behold, I needed a plan.
The beauty of 12-Step is that it’s a fellowship; there are meetings in every state. According to the Massachusetts website, Boston has two meetings on Tuesdays: one at 10:30 at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, and one at 12 noon at the Paulist Center, which appears to be a church. There I had it: my Plan A. I would break from my group and attend both meetings for the sake of my own sanity.
I climbed in bed after midnight and watched the first half of “Cam,” a new Netflix original about a cam-girl whose channel is hacked by a doppelgänger/imposter. At half past one, I closed the screen, set an alarm for 9:40, and went to bed. At 10 AM I grabbed a granola bar and hopped in an Uber, Plan A in motion. But when I reached my destination the building was dark. I tried all four entrances to no avail. I called the building’s number but got no answer. Cold from the rain and the forty-degree weather, I concluded they were closed for the holidays.
What to do, what to do? Return to my group? Or redirect and craft a Plan B? The former would alter my mission; the latter would support it. I’d planned to “be in meetings” from 10:30-1, which in really means “work my recovery.” Just because the meetings are cancelled doesn’t mean I can’t work my program. After all, I have my journal with me, my higher power’s by my side, and there’s always a nearby coffee shop.
I whipped out Google Maps and searched for the nearest coffee shop, then walked 5 minutes to Cafe Nero, a spacious Italian-style cafe with a long brick wall on one side, where I now sit writing this entry. Plan B, I’ve decided, is communion with my higher power through writing and meditation. And here’s Plan C, writing on my blog! I didn’t think I’d make it here until after Thanksgiving, so this is a happy surprise.
Best part of this morning? Finding balance between planning and spontaneity. I bit the bullet and made a plan, which I thought meant surrendering my values of freedom and flexibility, but when my plan fell through, these values proved to still be there, and I got to practice going with the flow.
Perhaps planning doesn’t equal rigidity, any more than freedom equals anarchy. Perhaps you can practice both at the same time. Perhaps as human we crave healthy doses of both structure and surprise. What a revelation! This is a Turkey Day Miracle if I do say so myself. So is my commitment to my recovery. I didn’t lose my sense of self to the people I was traveling with; I stated my needs and stuck to them.
Thanksgiving may still be 2 days away, but this is cause for celebration. It’s never too early for thanks.
In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not resonate with everyone; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.