I am in an airport in Boise, Idaho. I had the opportunity to speak with various groups of people within this great state. (I also had a chance to eat some of Idaho’s amazing potatoes!) An important topic --- the power of interruption --- arose in most of my presentations. The “power of interruption” actually answers a question posted by someone in response to my last blog entry about what to do after a binge. The article below provides some of my thoughts.
Power of Interruption: Do the next right thing
by Jenni Schaefer
Keep your hands and feet to yourself. Listen when others are speaking. Don’t interrupt! I learned these rules in elementary school.
I do not exactly follow that last rule any more. (Please do not tell Ms. Birmingham, my kindergarten teacher.) In my recovery from anorexia and bulimia, I learned that interruption could actually be a powerful tool. I was taught to interrupt. And I was encouraged to do it often.
When I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I consistently expected my behaviors with food to get better tomorrow without changing anything about today. After relapsing, I would make promises to myself to get back on track tomorrow --- or whenever seemed most convenient. If I happened to relapse on a Thursday, I would frequently wait to do anything about my downfall until Monday. I thought that it made perfectly good sense to take the weekend off and begin fresh with my recovery at the beginning of the week. Keeping with the same thought process, if I relapsed in October, I considered waiting until the New Year to start over again. Of course, I never got better thinking this way, but I kept thinking this way.
One definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think I was insane.
My former therapist, Thom Rutledge, diagnosed my insanity, so he began encouraging me to interrupt on my relapses as soon as possible. He would go on and on about something he called the “power of interruption” and about how he thought this concept could be a turning point in my recovery. Ironically, the women in my therapy support group agreed with him. They all believed specifically that a key to my recovery would be when I could stop any and all purging behaviors following a binge. After I binged, they said that I needed to do the next right thing, which meant not throwing up, not restricting for days, and not overexcerising. Doing the next right thing also meant eating the very next meal after a binge. These tasks seemed utterly impossible to me, so I listened to what seemed like a lot of ranting and raving about the topic for about a year before I gave it a try. I really thought that everyone just wanted to make me fat.
I thought, “They don’t know my eating disorder, and they really don’t know my body.”
A hard-core belief of my disease was that I absolutely had to compensate for a binge by purging. No questions asked. I always knew --- in my own timing --- that I would eventually start over fresh with recovery. No one bought into my way of thinking except for me. Eventually I stopped buying into it, too. Despite my best efforts, my way was not working. Even though I could not fathom changing my relapse pattern, I eventually could not imagine living the way I was living anymore.
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I gradually tried to interrupt my relapses. In the beginning, I felt like someone was ripping out my heart and soul every time that I did not purge after a binge. I thought I was a failure; I was actually a success. While I felt bad on the inside, people told me that I was doing well on the outside.
I hate to admit it, but they were right. A key to my recovery was, in fact, stopping my relapses as soon as possible. In some of my recent presentations and workshops across the country, many people have told me that one of the most helpful ideas I have shared with them about my recovery is the significance of not purging after a binge. For some men and women in recovery from an eating disorder, the most powerful form of interrupting a relapse is breaking a period of overexercising or quitting eating in the middle of a binge.
I have learned from my friends in recovery from other addictions that the power of interruption works for them as well. My friend, Aaron, reminded me of the importance in getting help from others to interrupt our reckless behaviors. Aaron’s attempts to change his behavior with alcohol were unsuccessful until he picked up the phone and asked for help. To break my relapses, I often called someone, sent an email, or attended a support group. When I reached out for support, I learned that I needed to close my mouth and listen quietly --- not interrupt.
I was given accolades in elementary school for following the rules. I was praised in recovery for finally learning how to interrupt and do the next right thing. Strangely enough, in group therapy, sometimes the next right thing was banning together with other women to stomp on top of a Darth Vader mask or even joining hands to rip pillows apart.
So much for keeping your hands and feet to yourself.