By OA Member, Jul 4 2017 04:33PM
My earliest childhood memories are of me eating food in secret. Up until the age of 23, when I came into recovery, I went to great lengths to steal money from my family, friends and neighbours to buy food. No matter whose kitchen I was in and at any opportunity I had to be alone, I would raid the cupboards and the fridge. I had huge embarrassment about the way I ate as I recognised that others didn’t eat the same way. I never knew how much food was enough and during the times that I would eat with other people, I can remember feeling mortified if comments were made about the volume of food I had served myself. Whenever I had finished a meal, I would wait in anticipation for the next. I often overate until I threw up and on weekdays, before school started, I’d buy food from the store and hide it in the gym cupboard. This was my secret hideout and I would lock myself in there during break time to have my supply. My packed lunch would’ve been eaten daily before school even began. Growing up, I found it difficult to form friendships and relationships with people. I would make up stories, tell lies often and never felt comfortable in my own skin. Eating food was a way of escaping from feeling so socially awkward.
My eating got progressively worse over time. The quantities became greater and my obsession with food and how I could get my fix was constant. I hated the physical effects of gaining weight and became obsessed with exercise. I lost weight and I loved the attention it brought from others. I felt like I had discovered the meaning to my life and all I needed to do was get and stay thin. My thoughts and actions revolved around not putting on weight and so extreme dieting, exercise and the introduction of laxatives became a part of my daily living. I was very moody and gave a lot of grief to others, particularly to my family if they got in my way of what I was trying to achieve. This way of living was very difficult to maintain as I had a constant craving to want to eat. Sooner or later, I would find that I couldn’t stop eating again and all the weight I’d lost would go back on. It was despairing. I had no idea that the problem was within me and centred in my mind. I started drinking alcohol and taking pills and the obsession I had for these substances was instant. I believe I was an alcoholic before ever picking up a drink. All I needed was the substance of alcohol to set me off.
Through a number of circumstances, I was introduced to Overeaters Anonymous. I got great relief because there I found people who I could identify with and they openly shared (without shame or guilt) about what their eating had been like for them. I was amazed how they could live and be free from the constant calling to want to eat. I recognised that, for me, I had the disease of addiction and my whole life I had swapped one substance for another. It made sense to me that I needed to put down every drug (food, alcohol and pills) to have a chance at a sober life. I asked a woman to sponsor me and to show me how to work the 12 steps with the help of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had to set aside what I thought I knew about getting well and that my best efforts had brought me to a place of complete physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy. The power of choice with food was gone for me, I had no idea what to eat, how much to eat, what foods were right for me to eat or what time I should eat. I started on a weighed and measured food plan to provide nourishment and energy for my body. I became open to the idea of a Higher Power and began to get a sense that I was being taken care of, the more I took action with the 12 steps and accepted I need help with all areas of my life. Today, the compulsion and obsession for food, diet, weight and exercise has been lifted. I have the peace of mind I always wanted and I continue to see this in others too. For my own recovery, it is imperative for me to share my story with others and pass on what I have been given. I’m truly grateful that there is a solution and that the members of Overeaters Anonymous continue to be there for me.