I knew I was a food addict and I had to come back to Addictive Eaters Anonymous to find recovery

Many years ago, when I first heard sober members sharing, I had no problem believing I was an addictive eater. The food really had me. I knew that when I started to eat, I could not stop and when I tried to eat normally, I just could not do it. I was very overweight. Just a few months before my first meeting, I remember saying to my mother that I needed something more. I didn’t need any more diets. I knew everything there was to know about diets. That was not the problem, although I was not sure what the problem was exactly.


I was addicted to food and difficult to live with


I am not sure if my husband ever saw my behaviours around food, such as grazing all the time or keeping food hidden. I had a lot of tricks for hiding food. While he saw me gaining weight, he was unaware of the extent of my bingeing. It got to the point where he wasn't sure what he was going to face when he came home in the evening. I could be organized and efficient when looking after our children and running the household. But I could be very withdrawn and moody. I see now that I was not pleasant to be around. At the time I would have said this was his fault because of something I thought he had said or done. Sick of my erratic behaviour and mood swings, he said he was going to leave. That thought frightened me because I had always wanted to be a good mother and wife. But I just thought he was exaggerating because I couldn’t really admit that I was difficult to live with.


Thankfully, I identified with other addictive eaters from that very first meeting. I remember somebody saying to me, after the meeting, I know what's wrong. You've got radio stations in your head. I looked at that person and thought, oh my gosh, they all know. So I had no problem admitting I was addicted to food as it was obvious that I could not stop eating. Somehow, at that time, I lost weight and became a normal size. I identified with addiction and some of the behaviours in myself. What I was not so sure about was whether I had a messy and unmanageable life. Drinking alcohol went along with my eating. Once I started, I could not stop.


I was pretending to be in recovery and put up a good front


Looking back now, I wanted to have a little addiction problem and to control everything else. I don't believe I ever surrendered any part of my life, except perhaps the food. I didn't know I was doing that at the time. In hindsight, I think I was only slightly surrendered. I thought I was doing fine because I was skilled at showing a good front. I was pretending to be in recovery. If I was ever asked, I would never say I was in the fellowship. I was somebody who sat on the periphery. I wanted to pretend and I wanted to show that I had it all together. That was quite a hard shell to break.


The disease of addiction, however, was progressing in me anyway. I continued to go to meetings over the years, but not regularly. All the time, I had the attitude of “Oh, well, it's only this little addiction problem.”


My life became more difficult and unbearable


Two or three years prior to coming back into the fellowship, I realized that if I wanted to get well, like other people I knew in AEA, then I would have to come back. I just put that thought away and tried not to think about it but the message I had heard at that very first meeting never left me. As my eating got worse again and my life became more difficult and unbearable, my attitude gradually changed.


I had begun to use exercise as a way to control my weight and spent a lot of time biking every day. The year before I came back, I started bingeing again and doing crazy things. For example, I decided to go on an all-raw diet, because I had some stomach problems. I felt that I was very justified in doing this because it was helping my digestive problems. Of course, the digestive problems were in fact due to my addictive eating.


Someone in the fellowship talks about how it didn't matter what they ate. It could be a carrot or a cream bun. I identify with that. Even though the raw food diet was healthy, it was still part of my addiction. Whatever I ate, the compulsion would start up and then I was bingeing or grazing again.


I just needed to come back and be in meetings of Addictive Eaters Anonymous


By the time I returned to Christchurch, my marriage had ended. The idea in my head was that I would return to the fellowship when I got back to Christchurch. I honestly don’t know what got me to the point of needing help. I just thought “I have to go back” and I knew that when I did come back, I had to be willing to be open-minded and be prepared to take direction. After a couple of meetings, I was still thinking that it wasn't bad enough. The commitment came just from going to meetings, identifying with the stories and admitting I was a mess.


At the time, I was unable to articulate how I felt or what was going on. I just really needed to be at Addictive Eaters Anonymous meetings. Looking back, I see there was a surrender. I was willing to listen to directions. I was willing to change my behaviour. I was willing to work the steps.


Today I go to meetings because I love to and because I need to hear the solution frequently.

While I still tend to hold on to things that I should be discussing with another person, these days I am willing and trust recovery will happen, as long as I stay in AEA and keep working the 12 Steps.


The problem with the food has been removed and today I eat on my food plan. It is no longer difficult to work the steps. I am not pushing to work the steps harder as they are more a part of my life these days. I remember being told very early on, to “keep doing what you are doing and it will happen, you will do them”, and that has been my experience.


Being in recovery from food addiction encompasses my whole life


I no longer see addiction to food as being a small problem. Being an addict encompasses my whole life. By the time I came back to AEA, I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't read things or make sense of them. I found it difficult to articulate, I had no sense of who I was, what I was doing, or even where I was meant to be. I didn't realize I was not functioning or how small my life had become. It was a relief to come back because then I knew what I needed to do. I went to meetings each night, I tried to work the steps, I rang my sponsor every day. All those little things have built up so now I have a life in recovery. I'm very grateful. In meetings, I hear that we become the person we were meant to be, and I find that idea to be lovely.


Coming to believe in a loving concept of a Higher Power was a big change for me. I do not have a judgemental God today. I am much more open to spiritual practices of prayer and meditation that we do in the programme. Meditation has been something that I have done because everybody else did it, so I just did it too. I can't say that I have noticed a huge difference because I meditate but I have noticed a huge difference because I am back. I don't actually know what my God looks like; I just know that my God does care and that is enough for me.


For anyone who is new, I would say “Come along to an Addictive Eaters Anonymous meeting”. If you identify, just keep coming. It is as simple as that really. For anyone who hasn’t come for a while and is struggling, come back. By coming back to AEA I have found recovery from food addiction.



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