I love donuts. I really do. And I want to share with you a little taste - a pretty "sweet" one - of how the Lord has blessed me with them, beyond the cute sprinkles, the rich chocolate, the irresistibly tempting, soft, cake-y dough. I recently shared this with a follower, and I figured that if He has now strengthened me enough to a) realize it, b) embrace it, and c) share it with one person, why not share it with the rest of you? Maybe the idea of the Lord using donuts to pull me a few steps further along in the lengthy process that is recovery sounds silly, but maybe such an aesthetically whimsical, light-hearted treat holds much more "umph" to it than what meets the eye (and/or the stomach).
My third year of college stands only a month's length away, but this story begins at the halfway-mark of my first year. San Luis Obispo boasts one of the most unique, lively, esteemed donut places I've ever known - SLO Donut Company (SLO Do Co.). During my first few weeks at Cal Poly, I'd heard talk of this beloved shop, with everyone raving about it's Nutella-filled "pillow" donuts, it's study-friendly atmosphere, and even it's open-mic nights. All of that sounded, well, great to me, but donuts were nowhere near my eating-disorder-dominated grocery list. Reserved and rather anti-social, I rested in my thankfulness that none of the few people I'd befriended had invited me there... yet.
Around mid-April, when I'd finally grasped hold of the bible study and, within that, group of Christ-following girls God had waiting for me just outside my comfort zone, we all went to our church's women's retreat for a weekend. After a long drive home, much-needed showers and dinner, one of us insisted on a late-night donut-run to SLO Do Co.
Her: "Haley, you've never been to SLO Do Co.?!"
Me, internally battling a sickening combination of anxiety + fear + innocent desire to fit-in: "No, I don't know, I guess I've just never gone?" UGH nonononononono please no. How do I do this?! Rejecting this invitation could seriously change their opinion of me. It could reveal some of my eating disorder. It could be the last invitation from them... I feared.
Too scared to risk losing or damaging or even just simply changing in the slightest bit this blessing of a friendship, I suppressed my anxious thoughts as best I could and went with them. So many of my rules shot around in my mind - no food after 9 PM, especially not sweets + absolutely nothing deep-fried + as little refined-sugar possible - and the 15 minutes it took to drive there and stand line before we reached the counter seemed to take hours. My heart was actually beating at a much faster pace than what it should've been (and I'm known by my doctors for my slow, characteristically athletic heart-beat). I hated it. No - not the entire night, not the friendship, not SLO Do Co. or even the sweet, luring aroma of fresh donuts filling the air - but rather the painful, confusing war waging between my mind and heart.
Have you ever tried to display a comfortable, cheerful smile while making sure your friends don't know what stomach-twisting disease is taking over your body while trying to mathematically/aesthetically calculate which of the several donuts was the healthiest? It's practically impossible. Well, maybe it's not, because I did something along those lines. My friends might've noticed my discomfort, but I haven't opened up about this to them or anyone else really, only to that one follower (I hope, if you're reading this, that you know who you are). Finally, I ordered a maple old-fashioned donut. My reasoning? 1) It seemed to be the smallest, 2) it had no sugary toppings, and 3) it's maple frosting made me hope that it was made with less refined sugar than the others.
We walked away, donut bags in hand, and I guess I thought that maybe resorting to the familiar comfort of @hungryhaley would calm my nerves.
Me: "Wait - guys! Let's take a picture!" *everyone sets up their donut on the counter*
I snapped the picture in two seconds, and then it was time to eat. First bite... second bite... Okay, this is actually AMAZING... I thought to myself, and when I actually verbalized it, I felt this destructive internal war cease. For the first time in years, I felt actual, genuine h a p p i n e s s, actual, genuine p e a c e as I took bite after bite of a treat that broke all those restricting rules - a late-night, deep-fried, sugary donut. That's not where the story ends, though. There's more. However, I do encourage you pause here - take a 5-10 minute intermission to enjoy a treat. A donut.. maybe? :)
Let's pick back up in my second year at Cal Poly. I became vegan in October, which meant no more late-night runs (not actually a "run", just to clarify) to SLO Do Co. Several other cafes in SLO bake vegan treats, but I still released a big sigh of relief at first, knowing I wouldn't encounter a night like my first visit to SLO Do Co. Buuuuuut I couldn't sigh for too long, because rumors of vegan donuts coming soon to SLO's favorite donut shop filled the air and again sped up my heart beat to a rate beyond what could be considered normal and healthy.
Friends: "Aaahhhhhh Haley! You can finally come with us again to SLO Do Co. - they have vegan donuts! Have you tried them?"
Ugh. Whyyyyyyy. was my initial response (internally, of course).
At this point, I'd posted twice (initially in June 2015 and then, in more detail, in February 2016) already about my eating disorder, but neither post gave donuts as much well-deserved credit as this one does. My point being that, yes, I'd reached a pretty solid platform in my recovery, but God continues faithfully to hold my hand as He pulls me through more and more high's and low's of recovery. Of freedom.
About two or three months passed between SLO Do Co.'s release of its first vegan donut and my first time biting into one. It was Mother's Day weekend and my mom, along with her college roommate who just so happens to be my former roommate's (and now very close friend's) mom. Funny, huh? Anyway, our moms came up to visit and treated us all to a lovely dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant. The dessert-location hung in the air, to be decided, while we savored our pasta and bread. Caught up the joy of quality mother-daughter time, I didn't hesitate to agree with my friend's suggestion for vegan donuts from SLO Do Co. for dessert. And about thirty minutes later, I was diving face-first into a cookies n' cream vegan donut - absolutely no second-thoughts, no regrets. Maybe I was just having a really good night, or maybe I was actually really craving and enjoying a donut, my first one in a long time. Whatever it was, I'm grateful it allowed me that magical moment with my first ever vegan donut :)
Alright, and now we're here - August 2016. I'm SLO Do Co.'s newest employee and it is my favorite-est job ever. Ever. Because I know you're probably wondering: yes, I do have access to as many donuts, no cost included, as my heart desires while I'm working, as well as half-off when I'm not on the clock. Such a perk brings different reactions from different people who ask - some practically drool immediately, and some admit how "dangerous" that would be for them. For me, the former is more applicable, buuuuuut the latter has more significance. During one of my first few shifts (I work at night, usually, when those conquered by late-night munchies and innocent sweet-tooth cravings wander into the shop), I was taking my break, just scarfing down my salad, while simultaneously having a mini photoshoot with the special Georgia Peach vegan donut the baker had just set out earlier that day...
I've had enough treats today. I'm saving this for tomorrow. I shouldn't eat it right now, this late at night, after the two apple-pie croissants I ate earlier, I disciplined myself.
Oh, and for additional context, this is all around the time I posted here about my lingering ED struggles. Keep that in mind...
So, I'm eating my salad, taking pictures of this sweet, beautiful, tiny little donut, and before I knew it, I was staring at the last bite. How had I devoured this so quickly, seconds after I promised myself I'd save it? Guilt took over and, for a solid thirty minutes, it consumed my thoughts. It violently pushed out of my mind any potential enjoyment of this tiny little donut. After about six months free of such harsh self-criticism, I didn't know how to handle these thoughts. I felt tears forming behind my eyes, but I suppressed them as best I could, knowing I'd have to return from my break in a few minutes. What happened next, I can't explain, but this verse in Romans 8 can perfectly...
The Holy Spirit took control, transforming my thoughts from destructive and discouraging to uplifting and confident - thoughts I could not have formed on my own, had the Holy Spirit not intervened and... saved me :) saved me again, oh-so-graciously.
Donuts - treats that stirred up unbelievable fear and anxiety in me a year ago - are now something between a dessert and a snack. The sugary aroma of donuts in the fryer that once intimidated me now brings me such childlike excitement. That big pink box - the one I see students carrying around campus for their friends/classmates, or parents holding just above the reach of their eager children - of which I'd never dare to reach inside sat in my back seat, stocked full of SLO Do Co.'s finest creations, as I drove home yesterday. After dinner last night, you'd better believe I was the first to open that box, slice each donut into bite-size pieces for everyone to taste, and happily, fearlessly, confidently save the equivalent of, I don't know, probably 1-2 full donuts for no one but myself :) not a crumb left behind, and not a pinch of guilt in sight.
A month ago, I was desperately searching for a job. Of course, SLO Do Co. was a top choice of mine, a job I'd dreamed of for months, but I had no idea that part of God's plan in placing me on staff here was intended to pull me further along in recovery.
Grateful. Grateful for everything encompassed in this story - everything from the vicious eating disorder to the scrumptious vegan donuts I've eaten more of in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life. And YES, God used donuts to help pull me from the darkened place that is an ED into the light of freedom, self-love, and the innocent, light-hearted deliciousness that is a donut :)