Secret eating isolated me from people and life before I found recovery in Addictive Eaters Anonymous
It was a great mystery to my family how I became overweight. Never, in a million years, would it have occurred to my mother that I was eating things that she didn’t know about. That was the story of my life as addictive eating manifested in me from a young age. I stole food from our pantry and money out of my mother’s purse so I could buy food and store it in my drawers until night time when I could eat in peace. Gradually the secret eating started showing on my body, this mysterious weight. As no one else ate like me, it became obvious to me from a young age that I was very different from my family and other people. When I went to children’s birthday parties, I would stand at the table eating the food while all the other children eventually went off to play. I did not understand why, when there was still food on the table, and kept eating until someone told me not to. Unlike me, my brother and parents seemed to be satisfied after a meal and not still thinking about eating. But it didn’t matter if I just had a massive meal. I would still want more food and I could see that was very different from everyone I knew.
Friends and other people were not a major part of my life because food was the most important thing. The point of family outings for me was stopping for ice cream. Without doing that, I wasn’t interested in going. If friends’ activities didn’t involve food, I wasn’t interested in joining them. If I had a little bit of money, I would deliberately start an argument with the friend I walked home with because I wanted to buy lollies after school, and there was no way that I was going to share them with her. Looking back, it is amazing how I put food above everything else.
As a teenager, I hated myself and wanted somebody else’s body
My weight was a big focus and eventually led to me joining a weight-loss club. Still, even though everyone in the group was there for the same reason of wanting to lose weight, I felt like I was different, a feeling of being on the outside that I always had. People spoke about eating a little thing off their plan. But I knew that if I had an extra piece of bread, a chocolate biscuit, or even an extra apple, I would not be able to stop. I had to stick to my plan completely, perfectly rigidly, as one bite would set me off. Nobody at the weight loss club said anything like that, making me feel like I was born different from everyone in the world.
My weight was a red herring as I spent my whole eating career focused on my body and never got around to looking at my thinking. Like an alcoholic who still has a problem even when not drunk, my weight was just one of the symptoms of my problem. At the time, however, I did not realize there was anything wrong with my thinking or how I behaved, and it is only in looking back that I can see how obvious it was that the problem centered in my mind, and is why I ate. Some addictive eaters work out that there is a problem with their thinking and try different things to help that, but I didn’t. Going to a weight-loss club was the only thing I tried and I was not looking for a solution because I did not think there was one. I thought I had to accept being this way all my life. Despite getting worse and the fear around that, I thought I would have to stagger through life as best I could until I became old and could be left on my own. I fantasized about being old, eating what I wanted and everyone leaving me to it.
Identifying with other addictive eaters was the key to my recovery
I believe the disease of addictive eating manifested in me at a young age and it progressed very quickly. When I was 19, I read about a 12-Step fellowship for food in an Australian magazine. I was lucky to find the solution very early on, although I hadn’t tried a lot of things. Deep down, I knew that I was beyond human aid and that the other addictive eaters I heard seemed to be exactly like me. They ate like me and they thought about food all the time like me. Never before had I come across anyone in my life who was like me. It was an enormous relief to listen and relate to their stories. I didn’t understand anything about the solution, the program of recovery, but it was the identification with other addictive eaters that kept me coming back.
I quickly learned that I needed to put my recovery first because my life depended on it. I knew that if I went back to eating addictively, I would lose the life that I was gaining. Food could take over everything once again, as it had done all my growing-up years. So I knew my sobriety from food and other substances had to come first and gradually, by putting recovery first, everything else just started fitting into place. It didn’t all happen at once. It is a daily program and the days add up, over time, as my life evolved into what it is today. But always the program had to come first and then everything else came along behind.
I never could have imagined the life that I have today
I definitely hoped to lose weight as that was still my main focus, but I had no awareness of the freedom from food, the mental freedom, that was possible. When I started to get serious about the program, I completely abandoned myself to it with 110 percent effort. Because I ate all the time or thought about food all the time, I couldn’t just have a little solution. A meeting once a week would not work for me. My food addiction was a massive problem and I needed a powerful solution. Throwing myself into it, I went to a tremendous amount of meetings and talked to other addictive eaters on the phone a lot. I needed as much contact as possible trying to help others, to pass on what I had learned, and spending time connecting with a Higher Power, the Power greater than myself that gives me the strength not to eat addictively. Recovery became my life. But as the years have gone by, even though I still need to do all those things, I do them in a much less intense way. I believe I am a nicer person to live with and my life has opened up. I have had my own family, three children, and now a grandchild. I have a wonderfully full life as a result of my recovery. I’m just so grateful that I kept coming back.