This blog post has been simmering within me for … ever, probably. It is a very difficult one to write and requires a great deal of courage on my part in sharing this part of myself with you all. I have certainly written before (see: Bye Bye Sugar: The Not So Sweet Story of Sugar and Me) about my struggles with sugar and addiction, but I feel compelled to go deeper today.
In fact, my very first memory that I know is genuinely my own, and not one that was “told” to me by someone else, is of binge eating at 6 years old. We had just moved back to the States after 4 years in Scotland (my dad was in the military and I was a true “military brat” for most of my childhood), and my mom had put me on a “diet” by giving me these crazy chocolate appetite suppressant things called “Ayds” (horrible name, and, obviously, prior to the explosion of the AIDS crisis in America).
Already at 6 years old, my mom was OBSESSED with my weight and my physical appearance in general. I’ve done enough introspection and therapy through my recovery process to know now that those were HER issues, and really had nothing to do with me, but at 6 years old, I took those comments in very deeply. In fact, they became me. I felt fat and ugly and believed I was fat and ugly at 6 years old (wow … so much more heartbreaking now that my niece is 6 and I cannot even imagine her feeling fat and/or ugly … she is such an example of letting your light shine…), but despite those feelings, I was also obsessed with food. My mom controlled my eating with such a fierce passion that it is almost shocking even in the light of memory. Somehow though, I got hold of that box of Ayds and smuggled it under my shirt into our backyard. I hid under a tree and ate the entire box. FEELINGS OFFICIALLY NUMBED! I’m sure I got so sick. God only knows what was in those things, but what I remember is that during those moments that I was shoveling those chocolate “things” in my mouth, the feelings of not being loved and feelings of being “wrong” were silenced. I felt numb. A compulsive overeater was born.
What is clear to me in hindsight, is that this “numbing” was exactly why I turned to other addictions in my teen years. At some point the food no longer numbed those feelings and I had to step it up a notch.
29 years later, when I began recovery, the feelings I had been numbing for so long came back with a vengeance. I didn’t have the tools or time in recovery at first to find healthy outlets for those feelings (outlets such as this blog, therapy, Crossfit, sharing my feelings with trusted friends, prayer, meditation, etc.,), and so I returned to past numbing techniques: most specifically, compulsive overeating. I have been struggling with breaking my overeating compulsion in this my third year of recovery. I don’t have all the answers yet. I wish that I did. If I did, this would really be a great blog post. As it stands, it’s just a mediocre post.
But, what I do have to share is my story and some of the tools that are helping me thus far to learn to be “okay” with feelings. Meditation is probably the answer, and, as I wrote about in a past post, something that I am working on. Prayer helps too and faith in a POWER GREATER THAN MYSELF, from whom I find constant support and unconditional love.
In addition to prayer and meditation, I read a lot about addiction and compulsive behaviors — behaviors related to food, booze, men, shopping, or whatever, it all stems from the same place for me. That place is the empty place in my soul where that little 6-year-old girl just wanted her mommy to love her and tell her that she was okay exactly as she was. That never happened. I know that my mom loved me in the way that she could, and I have found deep compassion for the frightened girl who my mom was still during those early years. I just need to find that same compassion for myself.
I was watching the Grammy’s not that long ago, and there was a tribute related to victims of domestic abuse. This strong, courageous woman, Brooke Axtell, was on the stage and read something she wrote about her experience in an abusive relationship. Something she said caused me to literally drop to my knees. It was this: “I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship … my compassion was incomplete because it did not include me.“
Holy smokes. I was overwhelmed by emotion (and of course made a “meme” for Instagram … whaaat?) because I knew in the deepest part of my heart, at that very moment, that part of my problem healing from all of my childhood wounds was my inability to have compassion for myself. My mom is the “him” in Brooke’s quote above. And I have found compassion for her. I understood her “story” and the pain she must have been in because she was suffering from mental illness, before mental illness was something that we were having a public dialogue about. I understood the sadness she lived with from a childhood full of abuse and the pain she felt because she did not love herself. I could feel real compassion for my mom for all of this. I still do. And I forgave her for telling me at six years old that I was not good enough. But, I could not feel the same for me.
I am working on that still today. I am working on self compassion.
I am also embracing using the tools that I’ve learned these past 3 years to heal ALL my compulsions, including the compulsive overeating. I am taking it one day at a time. I am getting down to the “causes and conditions” of all my compulsive behavior, and I am practicing prayer and meditation, and continue to strive to do better with those practices.
If you are nodding, and saying, “me too,” while reading this, perhaps you would like this podcast I listened to today: The Bubble Hour, Re-Broadcast: Sister Addictions, Food & Alcohol.
I also cannot recommend highly enough the book “It Was Me All Along,” by Andie Mitchell. It is a beautifully written memoir about recovery from compulsive overeating. I could not put it down.
I am still processing the information I learned today during the podcast, and hope you all find it informative as well.
As always, I would love to hear from you, dear readers. Please feel free to comment below.