Guest Diary: Living, Not Existing, With My Eating Disorder In Recovery
How my eating disorder began
During my teenage years when this first started, I was obsessed with food. I would spend all of the extra money I had on secret food that I would binge on and then I would purge it all, only to go and do the whole thing over again in a few hours. It was a horrible way to live, constantly going back and forth between feeling starved and overly full and in time I created a very unhealthy relationship with food.It was the center of my world. I would sit in class and think about it. I would lay awake at night and think about it, and it really started to take a toll on my psyche and my body. When I was 17 years old I was sent to my first treatment center for my eating disorder. By this point, I had already started to drink and smoke cigarettes. I remember that my first session in treatment with my parents was on whether or not they would purchase cigarettes for me to smoke while I was in treatment. I, of course, got my way and was allowed to smoke as I convinced them it was the lesser of two evils.
At that time I did not consider myself to be at risk for having a problem with alcohol. I thought I was normal I just had an eating disorder. My relationship to food for the first year post-treatment was fragile but I really wanted to be free of my eating disorder so I tried for a year to do what had been suggested in treatment. The thing is that I started to drink more and more and so in time I wound up right back where I had started. Drinking more,eating more, purging more. I didn’t realize at the time that one fed the other and without sobriety from both I would never be free of the demon that addiction is.
In order to get sober I had to abstain from drugs and alcohol, but when it comes to dealing with my eating disorder the same is not possible. I can’t just stop eating or I’ll die, and so I have had to learn how to manage my food in such that a way that I do not engage in the same acts that I did when I was acting out on my eating disorder.This hasn’t been particularly easy for me during my recovery. I haven’t actively engaged in it since I’ve been sober but lately I have found myself slipping into the gray.
The longer that I have stayed sober the more things have come into my life. I moved back to Virginia in order to be with my children, my family is back in my life, and I have a job that I really love. I am not complaining when I say this, but because of all of these things, I find that I very often get extremely busy during the day and I sometimes skip meals because of this. I know that I am not consciously doing this, but missing meals is a gray area for me because it is important that I adhere to my eating schedule so that I don’t start to purposefully restrict myself.
In one sense doing this is similar to if I just started skipping meetings because I became too busy. The initial skipping is innocent enough, but over time it could lead to a problem, because when anything is placed above my recovery, I know that I risk losing everything.
Finding Balance in Recovery
So what I am really struggling with at this point is finding balance in all of this. How do I balance being a mother, having a job, being sober, and also ensuring that I eat when I am supposed to? It can be overwhelming sometimes and often I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to in order to be healthy.
I also have a gluten free diet, which adds to my balance issue because I can only eat certain foods. I have found recently that this sometimes can feed my restricting tendencies because I am either not eating enough all under the guise of this diet, or that I am not eating because the right food is not available.
The positive thing in all of this is that I am aware today. There was a time in my life when I didn’t really understand what I was up against with my eating disorder or my addiction. I now know what it is that I have to do and have enough self-awareness to realize when I need to be careful.
My relationship to food has also changed, whereas when I was fully engaged in my eating disorder I both loved and hated food, I now look at it as something that I enjoy. I savor the tastes and textures. To me, sobriety has brought the pleasure of simply being present in the moment when I eat. For me eating has to some extent become a practice in meditation when I have the time I have to add that caveat. I no longer struggle with the fears of certain foods that plagued me. I can honestly say that I love fat, I know that my body needs it and it is staple to my health. In the past, I was terrified of it. Sugar for me is a tricky one as I know that it definitely gives me a nice dopamine boost when I eat candy or other high sugar foods this tells me to be cautious and aware of how much I am eating. So I try to stay away from them and stick with fruits or a dark chocolate that does not have a high amount of sugar. Today though I have started to see my relationship with food evolve into something that is healthy and gives me hope!!
Having to deal with an eating disorder on top of also dealing my addiction can sometimes be a lot, but I know that I am not alone in my struggle. There are a lot of other women in recovery who are in the same boat as me. I am not always pleased with having to be so careful with my eating, but I know that the alternative is not really an option. I have seen quite a few women go out because of their eating disorder and I do not want this to be my story. Part of the reason for me writing this was to expose my struggles to the light, with the hope that in doing so they will cease to be struggles and I can get back the balance that I desire in my life.