Feeling Feelings and Recovering from Addiction

The other night, under the stars, after a boy here kissed me, he said to me that I make him so happy because I’m so alive. He said I’m so alive, and so many people in the world aren’t.

If he only knew me six months ago.

But he didn’t. He knows me now. And he’s right. I am so alive.

Now, that doesn’t mean life has been all sunshine and rainbows this month. I’m alive because I’m feeling shit. And feeling shit is a new concept.

When we have an addiction, it’s normally something that most of us turn to in order not to feel the sadness, the hurt, the anxiety, the depression, the void within us. We use our drug of choice – whether it be sex, food, alcohol, you name it – to fill the void. Whatever that void may be for us as individuals, we use our drug of choice so that we don’t have to feel it.

When we start recovering from addiction, we start to feel the sadness, the hurt, the anxiety, the depression. It’s just there, and we have to sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it. We can’t really run from it. Because we’re aware now of what we were using the food, the alcohol, the cigarettes, or the drugs to do. To fill the void. And like I said before, once we’re aware, we can never become unaware again.

So here I am, feeling all the ups and all the downs. As my fellow Pennsylvania-born-but-moved-to-New-York-to-chase-opportunity friend Matthew says, our highs are higher here and our lows are lower here and that is what makes us more alive.

So here in Hawaii, I’m more alive than I’ve ever been.

But dude, it takes a little while to get used to.

For instance, I have to look in the mirror every day and accept that I haven’t lost any weight here. It seems that my body is holding on to all that it can because it’s probably terrified that I’ll go back to starving it tomorrow. I have to look in the mirror and feel the disappointment, the disgust, the anger at myself for destroying my body for so many years. Can’t run from those feelings.

I have to see men at breakfast that look like ex-boyfriends and accept that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I have to talk to them and sit with them and feel the hurt, the sadness, the memories that I thought I had erased long ago. Can’t run from those feelings.

And most of all, I have to accept that I cannot go back to New York at my current weight and book work.

That’s the most profound realization I’ve had to date.

Like, one of those wet face, sobbing, can’t breathe, rocking back and forth on a Hawaiian cliff realizations.

And I can’t run from it. I have to sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it.

With the talents that I possess, and what I am known for with the directors I’ve worked with, and the theatres I’ve worked at, I need to look like a completely different person to continue on my own career path. The career path that I’ve worked so hard to create.

I mean, what a devastating reality to face.

All this time I’ve been taking life by the reigns and steering my way out of this horrible disorder that’s run my life for years. And I’m living life and I’m getting laid and I’m taking yoga and I’m making people laugh and I’m tap dancing under the stars next to a bonfire and I’m not thinking about my next meal all the time.

And that’s so great and so baller and I wish that for everyone.

But I’m also, still, not good enough for the career that I’ve worked so hard to chisel my way into.

What the fuck am I supposed to do?

You know, it’s great that “strong is the new skinny” and “healthy is more important than the scale” but that doesn’t apply to all of us.

I’m not saying that women my weight don’t make it in the performing arts. But for what I do – for the dancing and character work and the abilities that I possess – my current body is not appropriate.

So amidst all of this “let’s change the world and sharing is caring” stuff that I’ve been writing to you, let me just vent one second here.

Because after all, I started this blog to talk about what no one was talking about. Eating disorders in the entertainment world.

I have been starving myself for a purpose for years. Okay? I have been skipping dinner for four days in a row for years so that I can go into a dance call looking skinny and then move on to binging all fucking weekend afterwards.

I get so frustrated here when people tell me that “this might just be your natural body weight” and “at least you are so strong” and “a body is just an encasing for the soul” and blah blah blah blah blah blah……..

They’re totally right. They’re totally right. Except…

All I can think is, “Yea! That is true for you! And that’s great! But that doesn’t apply to me! And a lot of other people in my business!”

It seems my body is sitting at this 165 pound weight right now and its just fucking SITTING there.

I haven’t lost ANY weight since I’m here.

I’ve been eating organic food and minimal meat, I haven’t binged, I barely drink, and I either dance or do yoga or work my tail off cleaning shit every day and my clothes fit exactly the same. My stomach still jiggles when I walk. My thighs are still cellulite-central.

I’m probably the healthiest I’ve been in eight years.

But still. What the fuck.

My mom thinks that my body is sort of holding on to all the weight because it doesn’t know what I’m going to do to it next. I’ve treated it so badly for so long that I think it’s so mad at me. So, so mad at me.

She’s right, I’m sure.

BUT IT STILL SUCKS.

Like, it still sucks. It SUCKS.

And I don’t know what will happen next. Which is confusing. Which is overwhelming. Which is hard to explain. All feelings that I feel here every day.

I’ve spent hours of my life submitting witty emails with my headshot and resume to directors I’ve auditioned for multiple times in order to get appointments so that I know how much time I have to lose the weight I put on last week. I’ve set up agent meetings in advance – enough time to go carb-free four days in a row so that I am thin enough to wear a slinky dress at Actor’s Connection.

And I’ve been waiting for years to be skinny to live my life.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ohhhhhhkay. Wait for it. That right there, that’s the key. Waiting for years to be skinny to live my life.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow down. That there. That’s the ticket.

Yea, basically that’s the ticket. I’m actually NOT going to wait to be skinny to live my life anymore. Sorry.

Because you know what? I can’t go home to my city and audition like this and book the work that I do best. But I’m not in my city right now. And I’m not auditioning right now. And I have time to figure out what I will do if I don’t lose any weight before I return. And I have time, to live my LIFE here in Hawaii.

So amidst all the very low lows, I will continue to enjoy the extreme highs.

Kissing under the stars.

Swimming naked at the pool in broad daylight.

Making music with brilliant, bold, ballsy people.

Uncontrollable laughter when Matthew and I are thinking something snarky at the same time over our gluten-free lasagna.

Hearing someone else’s story that is more horrifying than mine and seeing the smile on their face as they talk about overcoming larger obstacles in life than you and I could ever dream of.

Pure magic. Pure joy. Pure happy.

I’m living here.

I’m not dyin’ over here. There’s just a lot of FEELINGS happening.

So basically, it’s just…all happening.

My friend Joel says that this place is a great place to “introduce you to all your shit.”

What he means by that is, all the things you thought you let go of years ago – all the ex-boyfriends you thought you were over, all the issues you thought you had completely wiped away – have really just been tucked in a secret drawer all this time. And when you come to the big island of Hawaii to find peace and to love yourself, you have to open the secret drawer and let all that shit out, in order to find the key to the love and the peace.

And yea, it totally sucks.

Because I no longer smoke cigarettes or binge-eat to hide those feelings. I no longer have any sort of addiction to fill the void. I have to feel.

I have to feel.

But what I’ve learned is, the beauty of life and being alive is that we get to feel all these things.

Some of them are SOOOOOO HARD.

Pain. Sorrow. Grief. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Frustration. Anger.

So much anger at men from my past. Anger at myself for lying to myself, and people, all these years.

But I also get to feel joy. And unstoppable laughter. And overwhelming love. And courage. And I don’t know what the feeling is called for when you feel like a bad-ass – but that feeling too. I get to feel that TOO!

Yea, I’m living in paradise. Yea, I’m fucking living…in paradise.

But like Joel says, paradise is the place where you will be reunited with your shit.

So now what?

I don’t know you guys.

I just don’t know.

Well, that’s a lie.

I know some things.

I’ve learned some things, while living here in paradise.

I know that even on the darkest day – on the deepest, saddest day when I talk about my third date with Stallion where he gave me an Italian lesson and I laughed so hard I spit beer on the bar and how in love with him I was and how not in love with me he was, when I am crying and my heart literally hurts – that I still feel better sitting and feeling that feeling, than the feeling I used to feel after binging.

Because the binging would put that feeling off, and numb it for a bit.

But I’d still eventually feel it. And so in addition to the deep, dark, sad feeling, I was also fat, sick, and disgusted with myself for eating an entire order of Cinnastix and half a jar of peanut butter with a sleeve of Ritz Crackers.

This whole blog post is about the feelings that I used binging to hide and cover up, that are coming up NOW. It’s kind of a miracle. It IS something to be thankful for! Ten years of therapy in one month. And counting. Now, in Hawaii, the feelings are just chillin’ with me, and the ocean, and the sea turtles, and the fresh pineapple. Just coming up to the surface like the dolphins coming up for air.

And I’m so happy to tell you that I sort of feel, in a way, that every time an old feeling surfaces, that I, too, am coming up for air.

I think that the other day, on Secret Secret beach, with my friend Matthew, with the waves crashing around us while we sat in a tide pool made completely by lava…that I finally let Stallion go.

If you know anything about me, you’ll be nodding with tears in your eyes as much as I am nodding with tears in my eyes as I type this.

Jeez, I have goosebumps. Legit goosebumps.

I think I have finally let go of that man who made me laugh so hard, who had the sexiest smile, and who wasn’t emotionally available to be in a realationship with someone who loves as hard as I do. I think I have accepted that our time together was wonderful and he came along at a dark time in my life and he brought light into it for 8 months and it ran it’s course and I would never be in Hawaii had he not broken my heart and given me so much time alone to binge and hit rock bottom and finally reach out for help and be diagnosed and start living again.

I have allowed myself to feel the heartbreak and really accept it for what it is, and let it go.

I have goosebumps just thinking about the way I’ve finally been able to think through and process the way the Peruvian chef I dated in 2008 and 2009 treated me like an object. You know how I did that? There’s a volunteer here who looks, and sounds, exactly like the chef – who we shall call…The Little One. And when this volunteer was assigned to train with me in Housekeeping, I couldn’t even look at him. I didn’t want to answer his questions because I didn’t want to hear his fucking voice. I wanted to slap him across the face and go home from work that day. And when I brought it up to my English friend Robyn later that night at dinner, she laughed at me and said “yea, that’s the best thing that can happen to you here.” She’s laughing because she knows. Apparently that happens a lot here. Exes popping up in the form of someone else and you have to just fuckin’ deal with it. And I guess I’m dealing. This dude, this dude here who looks like The Little One, is so fucking sweet and quiet and asks me how I am every day. And it took my boss saying to me, “Amanda, you still have to work with him. He’s not your ex-boyfriend. I had the same thing happen to me when I first got here. And he was put here for you to be able to accept that you aren’t over that situation and it’s time to face whatever demon is still living in there.”

And it sucks so badddddddddd.

But she’s right. Everyone’s right. I’m being re-introduced to my shit and I’m feeling it. And then, after I feel it so intensely and sit with it and accept it, not only am I not hungry, but I feel a little lighter.

Sure, it would be nice if the scale would fucking REFLECT THAT, every now and then… But regardless, baby steps.

Babbbbby fucking steps.

Look, I don’t know what will happen with my career. I actually do not know if my body will ever reflect all the physical activity and healthy food I’m eating.

But I guess the thing I’m learning to focus on is loving what I have regardless of how it looks. The rolls, the cellulite, the flab, the jiggles. My humor, my grace, my courage, my humility.

At least I’m alive.

The beautiful thing is, I’ve only been here for a month. My return to New York is months away, maybe longer, and when the day comes to return, I’ll have to take it in stride and re-evaluate what I can do in this tough, tough industry that I strangely still love so much even though it’s put me through highs and lows that can’t be explained by words.

Because there might be days where I walked out of a 42nd Street call knowing that I was too big to book the job. But there’s also days when I performed for an entire audience of volunteers, at this weight, here in Hawaii, who cheered me on while I tap dance improv’d for my life. And the joy that comes along with moments like that, are enough to hold me over until I figure out where I fit into this business while still continuing to live a healthy life not controlled by addiction and disorder.

So yea, I still cry, you guys. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Hawaii or you’re in Antarctica – when you have a realization about a broken heart or an overwhelming obstacle in the career you love, you’re still gonna be heartbroken and your’e still gonna cry.

But I’ve also learned that being alive is such a gift. And I would never want to go back to the way things were. “Cuz I’m a free bitch, baby”, and I wouldn’t trade in any of the pain, or the sad memories, or the profound yet sometimes devastating realizations, for the world. I would rather feel shit for the rest of my life than ever use anything to numb it again.

So the only lesson I can offer you this week, is that it’s okay. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to really sit with it and breathe it in and…feel it.

And if you face the pain head on, and really feel it, instead of doing something to escape it, you’ll be the most alive you’ve ever been in all your years of living.

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