I am a food addict. Most people would have a hard time believing this by looking at me. I don’t look the part that many people would associate with a food addict. I have also been in food recovery for a long time. I have learned in my almost 40 years of life that there is ALWAYS something going on below the surface. So be careful about judging a book by its cover because external perceptions can be deceiving.
Although addiction is starting to be more understood and accepted for what it is, a great deal of misconception still exists. I am often not taken seriously when I describe my food addiction to lay people and medical professionals alike! I really struggle to accept the strong level of ignorance that continues to pervade much of the health care community.
My food addiction is the same as the alcoholic’s. The alcoholic can’t control their drinking just like I, the food addict, can’t control my eating. Yes, there may be periods of time that both of us can go “on the wagon”. But believe me it is generally not pretty as we are white knuckling it all the way. The drying out period can be excruciating as the mental obsession and physical cravings torment the addict. To read more about this, check out the Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
This is Where I am Right Now
I have been awake since 2:30 am when I woke up and immediately started thinking about food. My first thought focused on the brownies in the kitchen that my kids made for the first day of school. My mind told me that one little brownie wouldn’t hurt. It would taste so good and then I would go right back to bed. Sounds reasonable, one brownie, enjoy it, good to go. Except that’s not my story. I am not able to do that like most people can.
Because I am a food addict and no amounts of certain foods will ever be enough. I am incapable of having just one brownie. Believe me, it’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I can’t! When I consume certain foods, my body develops an allergy (adverse reaction) that triggers uncontrollable cravings. Once the allergy is triggered, I won’t stop eating until I am physically sick or the food is gone. And even if the food is gone, there is no guarantee that I will stop there. There are plenty of stores open 24 hours. And more times than I can count I have gone to one of them at all hours in a frenzy to get my drug(s) of choice.
This past weekend after almost 2 years of abstaining from my alcoholic foods, I relapsed. It started off small and then morphed into eating pretty much every fatty, sugary food I could get my hands on. I hadn’t eaten desserts in almost 5 years and just like that, I was off and running.
So today I sit here, 5 days after eating more brownies and cookies than I can count, grinding through the withdrawal. My body is screaming for more sugar. I want my sugar high back, living in the real world is excruciating. There is a war going on inside of me and I am holding on by a thread.
So Why Did I Eat the Food?
This is the question that people agonize over; why does the addict goes back to their substance or compulsive behavior? There can be so many legitimate answers. It is helpful to have a basic understanding of what makes the addict tick. But it is possible to drive one’s self crazy trying to figure out the exact answers to this question. I have identified many things that contributed to my relapse.
However, it all comes back to the fact that I am a food addict and I have a disease. A cunning, baffling and powerful disease that I will never be cured from no matter how long I am recovered. I have a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease. My disease wants me to believe that at some point in my life I will be able to eat like a normal eater. I have fallen for the lies so many times. The bottom line is that I have distortion around food and can’t use myself as my own consultant.
If I don’t work my recovery program daily, the disease slowly starts to take over. First spiritually, then emotionally and at last physically. This is when the binge happens. The Big Book of AA page 85 states, “that we have a daily reprieve from the disease so long as we stay in fit SPIRITUAL condition“. It all starts with my relationship with God. I need to keep growing closer to God. I also need constant reminders about the exact nature of my disease. These things are a must for me to maintain my recovery.
How it Works for Me
For most people eating a cookie is not a problem, but for me it is a big problem. First of all, its never just one cookie with me. After the first bite, I start to feel the affects; the warm, tingly, euphoric feeling that overtakes me as soon I ingest something with sugar or flour. I am quickly transported to a different place in my food drunken state. I’m immediately craving and plotting for more. I now have a one-track mind. I have no control.
Please hear me when I say, I am not judging those who drink or eat desserts. That is the furthest thing from my goal here! I know many people who can drink socially and eat moderately without any problems and that is wonderful. But for better or for worse, I’m not one of them. And I know there are MANY others out in the world who struggle as I do. So God has called me to share my life experiences to help others.
Maybe it’s not you who identifies with my story, but maybe it’s someone you know who could be helped either directly or indirectly because you are reading this right now. My aim is always to glorify God and help others and myself in the process.
I also have to proactively practice not judging and condemning myself. Being gentle and compassionate with myself is something I am really working on. I have a disease that I didn’t ask for and didn’t get because I am defective. I just have it. Relapse happens sometimes. I can choose to learn from it and move forward. The alternative is to heap condemnation on myself that will just push me deeper into the disease.
So Why Does the Addict Use?
Contrary to popular belief, addicts don’t use because they are weak-willed, malicious, foolish people. Most addicts are intelligent, passionate, sensitive and strong. However they suffer from an insidious disease trying to kill them. Their disease distorts their reality. Denial is a huge part of addiction. Most addicts never recognize they have a problem, therefore never bringing them to help and healing.
So what about me?
Why, after 2 years of very clean abstinence and 5 years since eating sweets, would I hover over the dessert table and eat until I was sick?
Don’t I know better? This certainly isn’t my first rodeo.
The thing is that knowing better doesn’t always translate into doing better and self-knowledge is no match for addiction.
There are many things that led up to and contributed to my binge. The bottom line is emotions built up inside of me without proper release. I stopped working my 12-step recovery program in the way that I need to and therefore lost a clear connection with God. Food became my god as I sought solace and comfort there.
One Month Later
It is now almost one month since that binge. I have been back on my eating plan and abstinent for several weeks. I am reconnecting with God, myself and others. I am learning, growing and unfolding as God’s kid. He is picking me up and I am feeling His presence as I draw close to Him (James 4:8).
A friend of mine describes her closeness with Jesus as grabbing his collar and pulling her face close to his. That is an image that I have been keeping with me. I find myself grabbing my own collar during worship at church. With one fist clutching his collar and one arm around his neck, Jesus is walking with me through each moment cheek to cheek.
Keep showing up Wholeness Warrior, the world needs more of us! Much love 💜