You Don’t Get Cured

From The West Wing, Season 1, Episode 13 – “Take out the Trash Day”:

KAREN: Is that why you drank and took drugs?

LEO: I drank and took drugs because I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic.

KAREN: How long did it take you to get cured?

LEO: I’m not cured. You don’t get cured. I haven’t had a drink or a pill in six
and a half years, which isn’t to say I won’t have one tomorrow.

KAREN: What would happen if you did?

LEO: I don’t know. But probably a nightmare the likes of which both our fathers
experienced. And me too.

KAREN: So after six and a half years you’re still not allowed to have a drink?

LEO: The problem is, I don’t want a drink, I want ten drinks.

KAREN: Are things that bad?

LEO: No.

KAREN: Then why?

LEO: ‘Cause I’m an alcoholic.

KAREN: I don’t understand.

LEO: I know. It’s okay. Hardly anyone does. It’s very hard to understand.

Thankfully I don’t struggle with alcohol or drug addiction, but I could relate a lot of what Leo says about his struggle with alcoholism and drug addiction to the eating disorder. Even though restricting often starts out for me with “I’ll just miss a couple of exchanges here or there”, or the goal of losing weight just starts with “I only want to lose a couple of pounds”, the problem is I don’t just want to restrict an exchange or lose a pound. What I really want is to lose 10 pounds. The eating disorder is very tricky and I often don’t see that at the outset, but if I take a step back, I can see that just how Leo says that his problem is that he doesn’t just want one drink, he want’s ten drinks, I don’t want to just lose a couple of pounds. I want to just keep losing.

I also liked how he responds to Karen’s question “they why?” with “’cause I’m an alcoholic.” People have often told me things like “I don’t understand why you hang onto the eating disorder, you have so much going for you.” As Leo points out though, it has nothing to do with whether or not things in life are going poorly. Things could be going great, and I will still want to restrict and lose weight because I have an eating disorder. I think the thing is that when life things are going well, I am better able to fight off the eating disorder voice. I am able to remind myself of the things I have going for me, and what I stand to lose if I give into the eating disorder. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still have an eating disorder, and don’t still have to fight that urge everyday. I do think that with time it gets easier, but I know that it will probably never fully go away.

I agree with Leo too that you are never fully cured. I believe in recovery for sure, but I do think it is something one always has to be diligent about. Again, that’s not to say that it doesn’t get better, or that one day I might hardly notice the eating disorder voice. But it is something I will always have to be diligent about, and as Leo points out, continue to resist day by day.

I also agree that hardly anyone understands. Unless you have lived it, it’s really hard to explain to people just how strong that desire is, and how you really are fighting every day to keep it at bay.

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