I didn’t think I had a problem with food. I just needed to get my life together. I was a recent college graduate and uncertain about my future. Once I made my dreams come true and conquered my segment of society, I’d be fine. Food didn’t have anything to do with it. All it did was steal away the mental energy I should have been using to find a new job and memorise important information.
Meanwhile my family and friends kept mentioning that I was losing weight. I ate until I was full. Wasn’t that enough? Sure, sometimes I would skip a meal if I was too anxious or eat less if I hadn’t used much energy that day. All that was beside the point. I was fine, or I would be if I could get my ‘career’ in order and get the annoying comments about my weight to stop. Didn’t they know it’s rude to comment on someone else’s weight?
I kept living as I thought was best - volunteering about 10 hrs per week, taking classes, attending church, and working. I kept eating how I thought was best too. But the comments got worse - your teeth will deteriorate, you’ll develop agoraphobia, I can feel your ribs when I hug you, and the most compelling … “you are hurting your mom. She’s really upset and she asked me to talk to you.”
I went home that night and thought: “I am hurting you? You want me to eat more? I’ll show you!” and I spent the night entrenched in a kitchen cupboard eating in fierce anger. Afterwards I recoiled in shame. I concealed myself in my room feeling the weight of guilt and shame for vengeful over-consumption and the lack of control.
The bingeing began, and I could no longer eat how I wanted. I would try to skip a meal, but I was haunted by the thought and feeling of getting to stuff myself. I entered a cycle of restriction, then bingeing. No matter what I was doing, I couldn’t control my eating and that scared me. Soon I started to ask myself, if I can't even eat right, how will I ever be able to live well or to achieve?
One day, I sat in the chair in the dentist’s office as my hygienist cleaned my teeth. Vanity and Divine Inspiration led me to ask her “how do my teeth look? My parents are concerned that they are becoming see-through because I’m losing weight”. My hygienist was a member of this Twelve Step program. She gently told me they were fine for now, but she had noticed my weight change. She said that she compulsively ate, but started going to meetings most days of the week and was doing better. She invited me to attend one of her meetings and put out her business card. I took it to be polite. Just another person who thinks they understand my weight, I thought.
The lack of control of my eating, the inability to leave my house and get to work, and the inner pain of not living up to my expectations or moral code led me to more restricting and binges. After one particular binge and the pervasive guilt and shame, I called my dental hygienist (from my bathroom floor) and attended my first meeting that week.
I didn’t think I was like them with food – I wasn’t that bad. But they were seeking God and they told stories of how they helped other people. I liked that and wanted to be like them. Forget about the food.
As I started to attend meetings, I learned the words to describe my problem. Through the non-ego-threatening stories of others, I learned to acknowledge that I acted like food was the solution to all my problems. I had distorted thinking about food - I tied it to my self-worth, and believed it was a god that would make my life better if I only worshipped it and used it appropriately.
Reading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous brought me so much relief. I could identify with the feelings and thinking patterns that are described, even though I have never been addicted to alcohol. I knew the solution was there. How could I get it?
I continued to attend meetings faithfully, but kept eating erratically. That was enough to convince me that I didn’t have to deny my problem with food anymore. It was ok to admit my inability to run my life and control my eating by my own ideas. In fact, there was freedom when I did.
Instead, a Higher Power could help me and I learned to trust It. At first, I relied heavily on the Fellowship to be my Higher Power. In the morning, members told me the Truth, helping me muster enough courage to leave the house and go to work. In the evening, members talked to me on the phone and empowered me to walk into the house, past the kitchen and into the next good action. Later I transferred that reliance onto my sponsor, trusting her like a god, and following how she said to eat and behave. I started to believe that her God was helping her to not addictively eat and was directing her on how to help me do the same. Finally, I have learned to trust that God myself. I can connect with Him when I do what the Twelve Steps outline. He gives me Power and safety from my old ways of eating and thinking. He can give me a career and, more importantly, He can help me live a life of purpose. I find that here in Addictive Eaters Anonymous.
I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, but after almost two years of attending meetings and working with a sponsor, I read a description of anorexia nervosa and could admit that I showed all the symptoms. I don’t have to live that way anymore.
I choose to live this new way of life every day. For me, it’s important to make that commitment and follow it with action. When I do, I am free from guilt, shame, and the obsession to try and control food. I can align my ambition with God’s and I have the Power to be me – a free and sober addictive eater.