Meant To Be Broken
“I am not eating that," I said adamantly to my dinner club group. We were sitting at a popular Russian restaurant in town tossing around food suggestions from the menu, when Sandie enthusiastically suggested the braised rabbit.
"We can get other stuff too," my friend Heather said, reacting to my distain, and continued on with suggestions she thought I might like.
Part of me wanted the group to push me. To ignore my rabbit denial and coerce me into trying it. They, of course, never would, but they had also never had to. The group had heard it all before, my initial refusal, my nose wrinkling up in a "that's disgusting "way when food that made me uncomfortable was selected. Yet, every time I consumed what was brought to the table.
It was my rule.
I love rules. There is a security in knowing there are expectations and, being a firstborn, competitive perfectionist, I will strive to meet if not exceed them. It is why anorexia and I worked so well together.
I can only eat eight hundred calories a day. Done.
I must run ten miles today. No problem, I’ll do twelve.
Breakfast cannot be later than 8 AM. It will be ready by 7AM.
The scale cannot go above one hundred pounds. I'll stick to ninety-nine, just to be safe.
And although it is that rigid rule-bound thinking that got me into my plight, I found that it also helped to get me out. And Dinner Club is a significant one.
When the idea of Dinner Club was created, I was four months into treatment, and no one in
the group had a clue I was wrestling with and in treatment for, anorexia. I desperately wanted to be a part of this "club" as I loved spending time with these four ladies. Women I had initially met through tennis and soon formed a close friendship with off the court. The plan was, every month, we would try a top-rated restaurant in the Portland area. Choosing only those with rave reviews, delicious farm-to-table ingredients, and creative menus. To get the most from each experience, we would get small plates and share. I was excited at the thought of it. But, I was petrified at the actual doing of it.
"I'll just order my own thing, right? I said to my therapist Kirsten when I proudly told her I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone by agreeing to be part of Dinner Club.
"What is more important here?" Kirsten said, making a point more then asking a question, "the food or being part of the tribe?"
After years of feeling different, freakish, and isolated, I decided being a part of a tribe was worth the discomfort of facing down my fear of food. But I was afraid when our first dinner club night arrived, I would not be able to follow through. Fearful, I would cave and order my own meal. Something safe. And worst of all, I was afraid they would not invite me back.
So I made a rule. On Dinner Club outings, I would eat or at least try whatever was ordered. No excuses and no exceptions. Once a month for two years, I focused on following my new rule and breaking my old ones. Conquering fried chicken, I ventured into lamb, daring a bite of quail and chanced a brisket taco. With trepidation, I choked down octopus waffles, and with joy, I devoured date cake (the best dessert ever!).
For two years, as I became more rooted in recovery, Dinner Club outings became easier. More natural. I found myself thinking less about the food and more about being with a fantastic group of women, until the rabbit. I was pissed that night when we left the Russian restaurant, and I had not tried it. I broke my rule, but more importantly, having been out of treatment for eight months, I feared I might be getting complacent and falling back onto my old habits.
But I see now that the dinner outing was significant. By refusing the rabbit, I wasn't at risk of a setback. On the contrary, I was on the brink of a breakthrough.