I have lived in New Zealand for the last twelve years, after being born and raised in Somerset, England. My parents ran a playgroup in our house for much of my childhood and I made close friends there, but I still felt isolated and different to everyone else.
I always loved food. We were able to help ourselves from the cupboards at home when I was young, with no restrictions. I believe a normal eater would just eat until they were full, but I could not stop. I put extra food in Mum's shopping basket and would gorge on leftovers at night with my friends. My friend’s dad owned a pub and when the half-eaten plates came back, I would pick chips off them, chatting as I did so, to my friends' astonished faces.
From as far back as I can remember, I felt irritated and impatient with people. I would interrupt and correct the teachers at school and have furious rows with my family, then later tell them I loved them. I lived in a fantasy world. My favourite times at school would be writing stories and acting. My emotions were a rollercoaster, up and down. Food made me feel better, soothing all the anxiety. I never realised how dependent I was on food, until it got much worse.
At the age of thirteen, I discovered alcohol and drugs, which prompted a very rapid spiral into addiction. My schoolwork suffered as I truanted from school. I became very promiscuous and ended up in very dangerous places. I stole from my parents and attempted suicide. This was all part of the same disease of addiction. The obsession with food was always there. Even when my mouth was too dry to eat from drugs, I fantasised about eating afterward and would binge later.
As a teenager, I became overweight, but couldn’t stop eating, so I was pleased when the alcohol made me vomit and the food was gone. Several of my friends confided they were bulimic and I secretly felt jealous. I now know this was the disease in me wanting to be thin.
I always thought a fresh start would help me ‘get it together’ and so moved constantly across the country, always ending up in a similar mess as before. The final move was to New Zealand. I came into Alcoholics Anonymous in Wellington and then in Christchurch. Many around me became happy, but my eating got worse. I was eating my flatmates’ children’s food and kept having to beg the Work & Income Department for extra money because of my binges.
One day I asked a lady to be my AA sponsor. She told me her story and she said she would go to all-you-can-eat buffets and couldn’t stop. I looked down at the sandwich and chocolate cake in front of me. It suddenly seemed so obvious! My stomach felt like it had been hollowed out and I wanted to cry, but at the same time knew I was not alone.
I started going to meetings and have been going ever since. At the start I felt like I ‘wasn’t as bad’, as my drink and drug history was worse. But more eating was the ultimate convincer. Finding myself huddled by the River Avon, cramming pudding into my mouth in the dark, I knew I had a problem.
I wouldn’t be here today without amazing sponsorship, the fellowship and my Higher Power. I know today my problem is an addiction to food but there is a solution in the Twelve Steps. My life is completely different. I don’t have the obsession to eat - one day at a time. I have been working in the same company for five years and am seen as a reliable member of the team. When there is a problem in any part of my life, I face up to it and there is always a solution. I pay my rent and bills, have a relationship with my family and I am doing my amends. I don’t have to run away any more because this programme has shown me how to live an honest life - better than in my wildest dreams.