I have never been a person who wanted to re-live or re-create my past, I don’t glorify or blame the past for my present, but part of the recovery process is to review the past and hopefully make amends with things that may still be eating at you (pun intended).
When I first came in to the rooms of Overeaters Anonymous I saw my eating habits, compulsive behavior and food addiction being reflected back to me from other members immediately, but what I didn’t see reflected back to me was a story similar to my own. I heard a lot of painful stories of childhood neglect and abuse, and I could hear and see the depression and self-hatred members were still battling every day. What I did not hear were stories of happy childhoods and people who had always possessed a healthy dose of self-esteem…why was I compulsive eater if I didn’t have a tragic past or was void of self-worth?
So, I’ll tell you about my past for two reasons, first it allows me to write it down (out of the head and on to the page) and secondly it could possibly be of some service to others trying to recover from food addiction and compulsive overeating…perhaps someone like me.
This post is a bit lengthy, but there are pics and what else do you have to do 😉
– In the beginning
My parents had been happily married for nine years when I was born, I have two older sisters who were born 11 1/2 months apart – I arrived 6 1/2 years later, we were a middle-class family, and our large extended family was very southern, but not redneck!
– A happy little girl
My mother had to go to work when I was just over a year old and I went into daycare. I was chronically sick until I left daycare, which was just before I started kindergarten. My parents divorced when I was four years old, my father had been frequently absent (off “finding himself”) for a couple of years before my mother finally filed for divorce. But, all in all, everyone describes me as a happy and funny little girl.
What I realize now is that learning to reward myself with food started during those sick years, because food was used to soothe and cheer up a sick little girl…that little girl would forever think food was love, joy, and the perfect part of every day.
I have no memories of my parents being married or being negatively effected by the divorce, my sisters and I all belong to the “Thank God our parents got divorced” club, it’s not an exclusive club, wanna join?
– Here’s looking at you kid
After the divorce, we were the “Fantastic Four”! We had an all female household, even our pets, and I truly have only happy memories. I am the baby of the family and I have always been very close to my mother, my oldest sister was very much like a second mother, and my middle sister provided me with my sibling battle stories. My mother handled being a working mother pretty perfectly; we were loved, protected, and her first priority. My mother is the biggest influence on my life; she taught me to be strong, independent, loving, respectful, and she laughs at all of my jokes and most of my sarcastic jabs!
We saw my dad during the Christmas, spring and summer breaks from school, and most our time together was spent doing fun things, I do not remember any significant parental moments.
The January before my 11th birthday my oldest sister got married and left home (my father had caused drama in hopes she would not get married…he did not attend the wedding, and cut all ties to his daughters, I wouldn’t see him again until I was 19), on my 11th birthday my grandfather passed away (he had been the only constant and steady male role model in my life), and a couple of months later I had my first interactive experience with a boy (an experience that was positive, negative, and ultimately confusing).
My 11th year was full of big emotional moments, I would only realize the effect of this year after working my program, and the biggest epiphany came to me almost immediately. My sister had stored the top-tier of her wedding cake in our freezer (to be eaten on their first anniversary). At some point, I started coming home everyday from school and running my fingers around the frozen cake to eat the icing, eventually the cake was covered in strange streaks of threadbare icing. When the epiphany came to me I knew it was the first time I had been compulsive with food, the shame and guilt would stay with me for a very long time. I called my sister and explained what I had done with the cake immediately, her response was “the cake did look weird, but it was also freezer-burned, we took one bite and threw it away…I never thought about the cake again.”
My 11th year was full of substantial emotions, but I didn’t feel any of them, I went numb and found my bliss in the icing of someone else’s frozen wedding cake. Numb emotions, compulsive overeating, and obsessing over sweets were now in full effect!
– School daze
I was a typical teenager; I was an OK student (I rarely did homework, but always aced the tests, so I usually ended up with B/C grades), I was not the prom queen but popular enough, I liked boys but I wasn’t boy crazy, I was social and talkative, I loved Madonna and the 10,000 Maniacs, and even though I packed on weight each year, my self-esteem was always good and I was never bullied.
My mother and I moved to a new town when I finished my freshman year, and I started a brand new high school with no friends. I had only my school work to keep me busy, and quickly realized how much I missed being social (it was always my favorite aspect of school). I managed to ditch class A LOT and still somehow maintain my grades, but eventually it became a huge issue, I was going to fail my sophomore year due to my absenteeism. I was offered an accelerated program, one that would cram all high school requirements into six months, I accepted the offer and graduated at the top of my class! I was almost 17 and I had to figure out what was next, college was strongly suggested by all my teachers, but I wanted life to start now and I had to find what was going to make me happy, after working for a few months, I signed up for cosmetology school. At 18, in the same month all of my friends were graduating from high school, I was a licensed cosmetologist with a full-time job at my first salon.
During these years, my friends were still in my hometown and I saw them once a month, but I made no new friends, just acquaintances. I spent time with my mother, my oldest sister or alone, and I was happy. It doesn’t matter if I was or was not happy, because either way I would have never known it, numb people don’t feel any intense emotions, especially when their thoughts are consumed by their next addictive fix, for me that was food, the sweeter – the better!
– Let’s work and play
For the next 15+ years my life was about my career, my friends, my family – especially being an Auntie, partying, traveling, and doing whatever I wanted. I found a company to work for that allowed me to do the two things I love, be creative and lead a team to success, I had several close friends and a slew of acquaintances, I partied and enjoyed life but never in excess, since drinking and drugs were never my thing, I traveled and enjoyed the money I was making, and last but not least, I LOVED being an Auntie, I enjoyed every moment and although I never heard my biological clock ticking, the time I spent with them filled my “motherly” side up!
I had a fabulous gay roommate for about 7 years and we were as thick as thieves, in a lot of ways he was my significant other during that time, he was very sweet to me, but overtime he would also become very exhausting, I matured and moved forward, he did not…eventually we would become just acquaintances, we never had a “falling out”, we just drifted apart. This friendship probably kept me from wanting a substantial romantic relationship, I was having my cake and eating it too (literally!), I could be independent and still have someone to rely on…we were Will & Grace!
My career thrived and I couldn’t have asked for more, every goal I set for myself and my salon was achieved, and it was easily my first priority, other than my family. Being a stylist fed my social and creative side, and being a manager allowed me to make the analytical and rational side very happy…my left and right brain thinking are definitely equal!
I worked nights and weekends for a long time, and my cravings and bad habits only got worse. I would finish my long days of work plopped on a sofa watching TV and enjoying my quick and fattening food, because who has time to prep and prepare when you are so busy working and being fabulous, and hey you’ve accomplished your day – you deserve to reward yourself…my weight continued to creep up and up and UP!
– There is something missing
Everything in my life was going well and I had no idea I was missing anything, other than a size 10 wardrobe! I had received a huge promotion and for the first time in almost 20 years, I was working a normal work schedule. One day, thanks to my new schedule, a man came into my life and I realized this was something I wanted, I had been missing the cherry on top of my sundae! The relationship didn’t last long, but it did make me realize I wanted something more in my life.
I started online dating (it last less than 2 months) and I was bombarded with responses, of course after I weeded out the weirdos and creepers, I was left with a much smaller group to pick and choose from and of all of those choices, only two made it past the casual dating stage and in to relationships.
I flirted and dated, and had a total blasty blast! I learned so much about myself, what I would and would not accept, and although my independence and personality could bring “all the boys to the yard” – when it came to long-term commitments, not so much.
During this time my weight dropped a bit, I was so busy working and socializing, I didn’t have as much time to numb-out and spend quality time with Ben & Jerry, thankfully they were not available to date me! HA!!!
– True love and OA
I was busy living and loving, when I abruptly left my job of 11 years, although it was done in the heat of the moment and when I was overcome by disappointment – I have never regretted leaving. I started with a new company, one with a lot of flexibility and very little accountability, and continued on merry way, it was the perfect job for someone with a busy social life. I was keeping myself busy by juggling two relationships…my theory is and has always been, until a serious commitment is made in a romantic relationship “all is fair in love” – why limit your options, if no one has made the declaration of love and commitment.
Then BAM! A man entered my life in the most unexpected way, and my life was forever changed. We started talking one day and we’ve never stopped. It has been the best relationship of my life and the most difficult, because when I really fell in love and was being truly loved in return, compromise and patience had to play a major role. For the first time in my life when the going got tough, I didn’t want to say “fuck it all!” and split, I actually loved someone enough to stick around and do the work!
We have been together since 2008, and now we are happily married, well most days 🙂
I did start to put on weight again, I guess you can call it the “happy weight” couples tend to gain together (I think I gained the weight for both of us), but I had gotten older and for the first time in my life the excess weight was physically starting to effect me; frequent back pain, sluggish energy, and blood pressure creeping just over the norm.
My compulsive eating was at an all-time high and I was feeling very defeated, because I had always promised myself that I would never reach 40 STILL battling my weight, I was now 43 and at my heaviest weight.
Then I walked into my first OA room, took a white chip of surrender that very first day, and life started to change!
If you read this entire post, thank you for sticking with me, now let’s get back to the present!
If you were looking for more dish about my parents and the effect they may have had on my food addiction and compulsive eating, I am sorry to disappoint you, although the decisions and choices they made would effect me emotionally, remember I went numb a long time ago and no one forced those cookies in to my mouth. We cannot blame our parents for everything, our parents are fallible human beings and they are bound to fuck us up, but as far as my parents were concerned, it was never intentional or malicious, it just was.