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Coping with Lockdown in Recovery from Addictive Eating

Addictive Eaters Anonymous online meetings keep me connected

During this time of lockdown, I am loving attending lots of online meetings from around the world. Listening to members’ stories is a wonderful opportunity to hear recovery. I am extremely grateful to connect with others and listen to their experience, strength, and hope and hear how they have used the program to recover from addictive eating.

I balked when I first heard my sponsor share that she attended four meetings a week. But when she became my sponsor about 18 months later and suggested I attend four meetings a week, I did this willingly. Why? Because I had had enough of my addictive eating and I had become willing to go to any lengths. I had surrendered, and become willing to follow suggestions.

Living well with the 12 Steps while in lockdown free from addictive eating

When I was eating, I was ‘restless, irritable and discontent.’ I was uncomfortable in my own skin and used food to try to escape these feelings, without success. I never felt settled or calm within myself – I was never ‘at peace.’

‘Stay at Home’ was the recent advice of the Australian government; I am following these rules and feeling fortunate that I still have my job and can work from home. This would have been hell on earth if I were eating, not only due to my obsession with food and constant eating but also because I was in the ‘dis-ease’ of addiction. I couldn’t stay in the house, always looking for external entertainment and escape. I just wasn’t happy in my own skin. Even on maternity leave I rarely spent time at home on my own with my daughters. On reflection, I didn’t know how to truly engage and nurture them.

I am so grateful that now I can happily spend time at home and be productive. As a single parent, I have become quite adept at managing the demands of parenting and working full time, although working from home while considering the needs of my girls (aged 10 and 11) brings a whole new level of juggling! Thankfully, working the steps helps me to deal with the whole of my life, not only my addiction to food.

The treatment for addictive eating is also helping me while in lockdown

The treatment for my addictive eating has been a spiritual solution through working the Twelve Steps, doing what my sponsor suggests, having a Higher Power in my life and attending Addictive Eaters Anonymous meetings. As a result of these actions, I have changed, not only physically from being obese to maintaining a normal weight, but I have changed on the inside. This design for living really is an ‘inside job.’ I have a sense of peace that I had never experienced before, and I have gratitude. This change in attitude is helping me to do the right thing and ‘stay at home’ in peace.

When I experience difficulties or negative emotions (frustration, fear, worry, anxiety, impatience, intolerance) as I have experienced in lockdown, I now have a program to put into practice. I pause, breathe and consider what God of my own understanding would have me be in this situation. My behaviour is much better when I am connected to my Higher Power, rather than running on my own self-will. My actions become more aligned with God’s will for me and peace returns.

I watch out for my character defects, ask God to remove them and take action to help others. In lockdown, these include phoning other members in Addictive Eaters Anonymous or my family and friends in the UK. When I was eating I was so selfish, I didn’t consider how to help anyone else, not even my children. Or when I did think I was helping, I was usually just trying to control people. I told myself that, ‘If only they did what I wanted them to do, my life would be just right.’ I blamed everyone around me, particularly my ex-husband. I never thought that the problem was within me and that I needed to change.

Now I have a food plan and eat three times a day between set times. This is in complete contrast to my constant eating before recovery, yet paradoxically I am satiated, which I never experienced when I was eating addictively; I craved food and I was never full. I now know that food would never have filled the ‘hole in my soul.’ I needed treatment for my food addiction and this is the spiritual program I have found in Addictive Eaters Anonymous that I follow today.

Lockdown birthday celebrations - not what I had planned

Last week it was my 50th birthday. I had been planning my celebrations for a few months. Life can get busy, so I decided to have some ‘family time’ by taking the girls on holiday to the Gold Coast. As the weeks drew closer and with the constantly evolving situation with COVID-19, the plans changed.

I dealt with this calmly with the help of God, talking to my sponsor and taking the necessary actions. We had a family meeting and the girls had also come to their own conclusion that it was best to stay home. But my eldest daughter (aged 11) really wanted to plan something for my birthday so we decided to go for a beach walk.

The night before my birthday I received a text from my ex-husband wishing me a ‘Happy Birthday’ and thanking me ‘for all that I do for the girls.’ That was the start of my birthday celebrations, feeling real gratitude for his message.

At 6.35 am on the morning of my birthday I joined the UK/Ireland Zoom meeting. What a wonderful way to start the day, followed by breakfast in bed, courtesy of my daughters. This was a real treat as for nearly three years I have made all my food plan food myself. I connected with my friend in the UK – so grateful for the technology today to enable us to do this. And since the government restrictions were lighter then, I packed lunch and we went for a beautiful walk. We sat on the isolated beach and ate lunch while soaking up the sea air and view.

In the afternoon, the girls made a cake and, while it was cooking, they arranged a surprise scavenger hunt in the house. One of the clues was ‘what do you buy to eat, but don’t eat?’ In my old self, this would have been nothing, I literally ate anything and everything in sight. The answer to the riddle was cutlery, leading me to a clue in the cutlery drawer, followed by another 15 clues until I found my present. But the true gift of the day was spending precious time with the girls. The lesson from this is that we didn’t need to go on holiday to have family time or the thrills of the Gold Coast theme parks to enjoy ourselves.

Before watching the sunset, the girls lit sparklers and candles on the cake and sang happy birthday. Miraculously, I didn’t have to eat the cake, nor did it call to me once. My old self would have devoured it, but today I don’t need food or drink to celebrate.

This wasn’t the birthday I had planned, but it was so special. It was a joyous day and I was free from the obsession of food thanks to my Higher Power and Addictive Eaters Anonymous.

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