Monday, June 9, 2014

Exercising Restraint

It's hard to say what exactly went wrong in the time leading up to my October 20 suicide attempt, but I think it's safe to conclude that the causes feeding in to that awful eventuality went back many years. Take your pick: homosexuality, brain disease, childhood abuse, financial desperation, and then an embarrassing and pervasive failure to launch in the face of the worst economy since the Great Depression. It was a perfect storm. A time bomb.

But one of the things for which I bore responsibility was an intemperance that grew more pronounced as I drew closer to death. In college I was an infrequent if enthusiastic drinker, but after graduation a couple of drinks every few months became a couple almost every night. In the despair that followed my suicide attempt, my lack of restraint only grew: I drank to numb the pain, and when drinking wasn't enough I turned to boatloads of bad food to warm my heart. The results were predictable but stinging: an abysmal performance at a friend's party that effectively ended our acquaintance and a weight gain of forty pounds that, in the space of a few months, destroyed my once-admirable physique.

I've always been the pretty one, the skinny one who from early adolescence attracted male attention. To suddenly not have that was disorienting and disheartening. But I brought it on myself.

As I found my professional bearings, embarking on a stable career path, I decided to reevaluate some other parts of my life as well. That is why, shortly after my twenty-sixth birthday in April, I decided to give up drinking for a full calendar year. I'm not tee-totaling for life, but it seemed to me a good idea to put the brakes on a habit that was causing me to act in a way I found unsatisfactory.

Two months in, the most surprising thing about this endeavor has been how easy it is. I occasionally find I'd like to have a drink when out with friends, but there's been no real temptation to break my vow. I haven't had to fight myself. The lack of struggle has been a refreshing reminder that maybe I didn't have as much of a problem as I imagined.

Much less sanguine has been my relationship with food. I love to eat, and I eat to feel better. It's an unhealthy relationship that has had a major detrimental effect on my appearance and self-esteem, but today, after six months of attempting and failing, I made the same kind of solemn commitment to stop overeating that I made to stop drinking. For a full year (with a select few cheat days built in), BB is on a diet. And it's awful. Today is Day #1 and I'm so hungry that I could eat my right hand, but I've lost two pounds since this morning. By June 9, 2015, I'll be back to my college weight. That's an amazing thought.

So here's to restraint, direction, temperance, and discipline. They've been absent from my life for far too long, and I'm so happy to welcome them back again.