As I sit here at 2:30 am on a Friday night, a little tipsy after a fun-filled night of beer and “pub grub” with my friends, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be in recovery, and how this is how life is supposed to be. How life is supposed to be filled with belly laughs, smiles, spontaneous adventures, and FUN! Beer is FUN, ladies and gentlemen! Seriously, I feel like if, at inpatient, they switched out the Ensure in our NG tubes with beer, just for a day, many eating disorders could be cured, or at least a lot easier to get through! Because, face it: Alcohol is fun, and it eases the perfectionist/OCD thinking, ya know what I mean?! Plus, it is just fun to get a little tipsy now and then — not drunk off your face, but just giggly. Good, old-fashioned, clean fun. (Actually on second thought, that whole NG beer tube thing is a horrible, horrible idea. Kind of 😉 )
But I digress. Beer and I have quite the history. Let’s just say our Facebook Relationship Status would be “It’s Complicated.” Back in high school when I was in my eating disorder, perfection was my measuring stick. My Lie was that in order to have worth, or in order to be worthy of love, I had to be perfect. So naturally, this extended to all areas of my life. At this same time, all my friends started drinking alcohol. But being the perfectionist I was, there was no way in hell that I was going to drink a beer underage, let alone consume the calories in beer and get fat. No way, Josè. Not this girl. I was going to be perfect. Unattainable. Unstained. Beer was beneath me. (I’m literally SMH in disgust at my former self right now). Anyway, since all the social activities now involved beer and partying, I felt so isolated and outcast. And with the eating disorder starting to take hold, I began to withdraw.
Part of me often wonders what would have happened if I would have just had a f#cking beer like everybody else in high school. Would I have developed anorexia? Would I still be struggling with thoughts of inadequacy today? What would have happened if I would have just decided not to get straight A’s and relaxed the whole, “perfection thing?” I know that’s not really something that you can just turn off, like “Oh hey, let me just flip the perfection switch to the ‘Off’ position.” Because I know that was inside of me whether I wanted it to be or not.
But if I just had a damn beer. Seriously. Because with the beer came the friends. With the beer came the engagement and interaction with others, and the acceptance of my friends. I was never judging my friends for drinking. Quite the contrary. But I think they felt that I was, or that I thought I was better than them because I didn’t drink. And if I’m being really brutally honest with myself, I probably did give off a bit of that air: “Thou filthy drink shalt not pass my porcelain lips.” But I just couldn’t do it. The perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow myself to “drink with the masses.”
I would go to my friends’ parties only to be greeted by my friends in their bras and jeans, playing strip pool, while others had sex in the back room. That may sound outrageous, but that was the culture at my public high school. Parents need to remember that this isn’t “Mayberry” in the 1950’s. Today’s teens are from the post-Clinton scandal. They “go hard.” But anyway, being in that scene, I felt like an outsider. That wasn’t me. And so, I stopped going to those parties, withdrew from my friends, and eventually my eating disorder became the only friend I needed. And ED was a stage-five clinger. He was my best friend. The only one I needed. And in time, the only one I wanted.
But back to the beer. If I could go back in time and say one thing to my pre-ED self, it would be this: “Just have a damn beer. It’ll be okay.”
Now, to be clear, I am not condoning underage drinking. And I don’t mean, “Have a beer and have sex and play strip pool like everybody else.” No. What I mean is, “Just relax. Don’t be so uptight.” (Boy, do I sound like a peer pressure/bullying stereotype or what?!) But in all seriousness, having a beer to fit in socially isn’t going to make the sky fall. Break the rules a little. You don’t have to be perfect.
So tonight, as I sit here with beer in my tummy, I rejoice in the victory of recovery. I revel in just how blessed I am to have supportive friends in my life that love me, and want to share a drink with me. I think about the grave significance this silly beverage has had on my life. And I think about journey that I’ve been on, and how, with this beer tonight, it has come full circle.
“Just have a damn beer.”