I never had to face a total lockdown while I was in active addiction to food and exercise. Right now I’m especially grateful for that every day. However, I have experienced the internal isolation of the addict. I‘m aware that there will be a lot of people out there who are struggling. I want to let you know you’re not alone.
Then: Swinging between anorexia and binge eating
It was a nightmare being stuck in my house when there was food in it. The food would play on my mind until I went and got “just one” of whatever it was. Then I couldn’t stop and would eat and eat. I was constantly worried about people discovering my secret about how much food I could devour in one sitting.
After large binges, I’d spend a few days starving myself to make up for it. I would make excuses why I wasn’t eating - “I feel sick”, “I got up early and ate before you”, “I’ll eat later”.
I was absolutely obsessed about how much exercise I was getting. If I couldn’t do yoga classes, I would panic. I would run, the whole time obsessing about how much weight I would lose and how far I would run the next day. Some days I wouldn’t be able to get myself out the door, and then my self-hatred would grow inside me until I was paralysed by it.
Now: Freedom from addictive eating
As a member of Addictive Eaters Anonymous, I go into the kitchen at mealtimes and make a healthy nutritious meal that satisfies me. My husband has bought extra supplies in for the lockdown and has taken an inventory. No one wonders where food items have gone because I’ve gobbled them down secretly. I can help my children bake and the cake lasts for a few days in the pantry. I go for a walk with my son and daughter, counting teddy bears in windows. We fly a kite and play in the trees. I don’t have to walk fast to burn calories or think about how I am going to get out for some real exercise later. I can be present and enjoy this time as a family.
Then: My addiction to food was ruining my life
Despite longing for children, my husband and I thought we might not be able to have them because of the hormonal effects of my rapid weight gains and losses. In any case, it was obvious that I couldn’t cope emotionally or mentally with the stresses of motherhood. He often complained about how quiet the house was. I felt hopeless because I knew it was me that was preventing this good man from being a wonderful father.
He had lost respect for me because of my behaviour. I was paranoid that he would leave me, which made me incredibly jealous and possessive. He was too loyal to leave or to discuss our situation with anyone else, which made him very isolated. He never said anything, but I could see how deeply unhappy he was.
If I was still in active addiction to food, I wouldn’t be working in stable employment. Despite having good qualifications, working had become too difficult for me. The ups and downs of workplace relationships and the requirement to perform were too much. I had no confidence that I could do what was asked of me and was incapable of interacting with colleagues. I started seeking out casual employment, where people wouldn’t notice my inadequacies.
Now: Able to live a normal (albeit imperfect) life
I won’t try to convince you that I’ve become perfect. I am finding it hard to balance work and parenthood during lockdown. Because I’m now competent in my job, I have been given managerial responsibilities that can be very demanding. I’m having some difficult work conversations during this time, which I would never have been able to do in the past because my fear of not being liked crippled me.
But my daughter wants me to draw a picture with her and she keeps nagging me to stop writing an important email. I yell at her. She storms off and says she doesn’t want to do anything with me anymore. I calmly finish my email to an employee who has behaved inappropriately, then go to her and say, “I’m sorry I got angry. I had a difficult email to write. Let’s finish our drawing.” She jumps up and all is forgiven. We sit together at the table for the next hour between work meetings, creating an abstract art work by tracing around objects we found on our walk before.
My husband and I have an equal and trusting partnership. Of course it is being put to the test at the moment. We’re having to add keeping our children occupied to working and keeping a household running, but so far we are doing fine. We respect each other and do what we can to support each other to keep up our work and non-work commitments.
All of this might sound mundane, but this kind of life is something I couldn’t have dreamed of a decade ago.
Then: Isolated and unable to stop eating addictively
I felt completely alone with what I did with food. It was my secret, and I thought no one else was like me. My mind tortured me relentlessly to eat something. Then when I did, it would torment me with the weight I would gain and how much I would need to exercise to lose weight.
At the same time, I was beginning to see that I had problems other than food. I knew there was something deeply wrong. My mind told me horrible things about myself all day, everyday. I couldn’t keep friendships. An overseas friend sent me a long letter and a parcel full of birthday presents. I couldn’t even bring myself to reply, because I was worried I would let on how terrible things were. I never heard from her again.
Now: Overcoming addictive eating through the Twelve Steps of AEA
When I finally sought a solution, I was amazed that strangers I’d never met would give their time to help me. I couldn’t believe there were other people who ate like me. Even more surprising, in Addictive Eaters Anonymous the people I met weren’t eating that way anymore and could share with me how they became sober from the food.
I’ve been introduced to the Twelve Steps of Addictive Eaters Anonymous. That has given me a way of life that works in the most difficult circumstances. So far, I’ve tried them out on serious health issues, stressful life events, family illnesses and now an international health crisis. They give me a peace of mind I’ve never experienced before. I would always be the person who fell apart in a crisis - now I can carry on calmly.
We obviously can’t meet face-to-face at the moment, but we have regular online meetings of Addictive Eaters Anonymous. Through sharing our experiences, we can support each other through the current challenges. It also means we’re there for new people wherever they are in the world. We are a global fellowship, which means there’s an online meeting that will work for whatever time zone you’re in.
If you relate to any of this, please feel free to join us. If you think Addictive Eaters Anonymous might be for you there are 15 questions on the AEA website for you to ask yourself honestly. Visit Is AEA For You for more information.