A sense of belonging


I wasn't born with an 'off' switch where food was concerned. My eating from a very early age was abnormal. I wasn't interested in the games at children's parties and couldn't wait until the food was served. I would often steal money from Mum's purse to buy lollies and liked to stay at home when the family went for Sunday drives so I could eat while they were away.

Many nights were spent sneaking down to the kitchen to raid the biscuit tins. I was adept at silently lifting the lid off without making a sound, taking a couple of pieces of baking and then going back to bed. This would occur several times in a night, until I realised Mum would notice how much had gone missing. I would then rearrange the baking to cover the gaps.

As a consequence of my eating, I was overweight as a child and obese as an adult. From my early teens, I wanted to wake up in the morning and be slim. I held on to the belief that if only I was a normal size I wouldn't want to eat all the time.

Growing up, I felt like a square peg in a round hole and also felt like I wasn't born with the instruction manual for life. Everything baffled me - like how did you make friends, how did you get a boyfriend or what type of work did I want to do when I left school?

I left school with University Entrance accredited and went to work in a bakery. My resolution not to eat the food lasted about a day. Eventually, I could barely move in my work smock due to the weight gain and would need a bigger size each year.

No one ever saw me eat, as I couldn't eat the amounts that I needed in front of people. It was all done in secret and I would often say I only needed to look at food to put weight on. Unfortunately, there was more than looking going on. I was either eating or thinking about what I was going to eat next. Someone said to me that if I just didn't eat so much I wouldn't be so big. Of course I knew this, but when I started eating I couldn't stop. I remember feeling like a drug addict, but with food.

I visited my GP and told her that I couldn't stop eating all the time. When she suggested that I find a hobby, I knew that she couldn't help me. Over the years, I had tried to help myself by going to diet clubs and reading self-help books and felt that I just needed to try harder.

Along with my eating was how I felt as a person. Crippled by shame and guilt, I hated myself and everyone else. Fear, anxiety and self-consciousness consumed me. At the end of my eating I could barely go out the door or answer the telephone.

I found the fellowship after losing weight and getting to a normal size. People were commenting how wonderful I looked and that I must feel so much better, but I still wanted to eat all the time and being a normal size hadn't fixed that.

For the first time in my life I saw people at the meeting who were just like me. I thought I was the only one in the world who ate the way I did. Here were a whole roomful of people that I identified with and I immediately felt at home. They shared what it was like, what happened and what it was like now and I could tell they led happy and purposeful lives. No longer were they obsessed with food, and they had a sense of peace and serenity, which I was attracted to.

Through AEA's 12-step programme of recovery, my life is vastly different. Today there is life between meals. The crippling sensitivity, self-consciousness, hopelessness, despair, loneliness and depression have been removed. I'm grateful to be sober today by the grace of God - I couldn't stop myself eating and I know that I'm beyond human aid. I have a sense of belonging and feel connected to the world around me.