- What was your experience in using the Twelve Step Program for your eating disorders?
- What was your fear of food like when you were in your disorder?
- How is your life like now that your are recovered?
- Can we talk about your path? You said you had several titles for your eating disorders, where did it start and where do you think it came from?
Food was the only way I fought with my mother. It's where I was in control. It was the only time I said no. I would fall asleep most nights with my head in my plate, because it was a fight. She'd say, “You aren't leaving the table until you eat”, and I would wait and tell her she couldn't force me. My earliest friendships, I became friends with people who had parents who knew how to cook. I remember when I was twelve, I also didn’t have a close connection with my father, who didn’t want to knowledge of his paternity. The one male figure in my life was my mother's brother, who was successful and strong. He provided clothes and food. He was a fabulous uncle, and then he raped me when I was twelve. That changed the trajectory of my relationship with myself, I no longer felt safe, and felt as if there was something inside me that was horribly broken; for my father not to have claimed me, my mother who loved me but was not loving - she couldn't show it in a way that I could relate to. My uncle was the only male role model who loved me so for him to rape me it meant that there is something horribly broken in me at a very core level.
That is how I grew up. That was my belief. Over the years it came out in my inability to be intimate and my inability to let anyone really close to me, I needed to control all the pieces of my life. My life was very out of control, I went to a lot of schools, a lot of moving and my mother with her crazy politics and inability to sit with things, herself. That is how my eating disorder happened. There was a lot that I could not control, and eating was something I could control. I started exercising like crazy. I'm black, so I grew up eating really unhealthy, soul food and really big portions. As I went through puberty my body started to change, and I started to want control over my body. I have two older sisters who were fabulously built, they were 36, 24, 34, 5'8, gorgeous. My mother and my sisters all stopped traffic and I was the runt of the litter.
- When you were young did you know what you were doing? Did you know about these tactics to control food?
- When did you know you had a problem?
When did I know? I came to LA, and was so bat shit crazy, but I was keeping it together. I was working on this article in a woman's magazine, and I'll never forget this, it said, “Bulimia The New Diet”, and it was all about how all these women were becoming bulimic in the quest for a perfect body, and how it was killing them. I did not read it that way. It was like my how to, I was like “Whaaaaa fabulous, I can eat whatever I want!” I tried, and tried, and tried, and eventually threw up, and it was as if I had found the Holy Grail. For the first few months it was fantastic, then it turned on and I had less control, and then I was out of control. Out of control, in pain, suffering, the whole thing. I couldn't stop eating. I couldn't control my eating disorder. I was in trouble, I was in old fashion trouble. I didn't know how to do it, I didn't didn't know (19:36...) and I made every bet with myself. Then I started doing laxatives and started exercising like crazy. A few years into it I saw a TV movie and at the end they mentioned over eaters anonymous, and I thought, “Interesting, I wonder if I should go there?”
Eventually, I went to a meeting, it was a woman’s meeting in West Hollywood, it was a really big meeting, on a Monday night, walked into the room and (I) had an anxiety, not an anxiety attack but was like, “holy shit, holy shit.” I kept thinking that these people are not like me, they don't know what I'm like, if they knew what I was like... I'm different from them. They all drive BMWs and they're are rich, I'm different. I just kept trying to find that thing that separated me so that I did not have to acknowledge. It took me a long time, but eventually I hit bottom, like actual bottom, I was like junky. Throwing up ten times a day, throwing up water, carrots. Whenever I ate I felt feelings, and that was unacceptable to me. I was constantly was being triggered, I constantly had this anxiety about my eating, about my life. I'm not good enough, I'm too good, fear, shame, any of these things that got triggered sent me over the edge. Now, I just don't get triggered anymore. I have been in this program for so long, I know so many people who have stories worse than mine. I'm lovable and (22:00..) about my self. I am completely worthy and have tremendous amount of real self esteem as opposed to false self esteem.
- You mentioned you had anxiety about your first meeting. What was it that made you keep going back?
- Describe your road to recovery?
Four years later I relapsed, somehow, the truth was always in the back of my mind. I would think, “Ehh, I might throw up again, I don't think I will, but I don't know.” After that month of bulimia, I called my best friend, who was not in a program, but she did have a sister who was bulimic. I knew from the moment I relapsed that there was nothing in it for me. I wasn't going to feel calm, I wasn't going to feel better about myself, I wasn't going (to get) the thing I got when I had the information, I knew way too much. I relapsed, it didn't work, and I said enough. I just stopped. It's weird my recovery totally changed. I decided it would be really healing for me to write a book about my experience. I sold a book. I wrote about my experience, and while I was writing the book I thought, “Maybe I should go back to program and see how that is”, so I started going back to program. I felt recovery in a way that I had never felt before. I felt a freedom (I starting eating) french fries, burgers, pizza, pasta. I could eat whatever I want, and it wasn't struggle for me because I didn’t have that hole in me anymore. I didn't have that hole that made me want to eat everything - that made me want to binge. I don't (wouldn't) binge. It didn't even occur to me. My body would tell me I'm full, and I know I wouldn't get emotionally unsatisfied by eating a doughnut. If I want a doughnut, I am going to eat a doughnut cause I want a doughnut, not because I'm trying to get something from it.
- How do you think the program helped you outside the social aspects of it?
I didn't need that, because I am trying as hell, I can be a great victim or be phenomenal, so I didn't need someone who going to be. “Oh that’s okay, you'll get it.” I needed someone who was going to be, “Ha, you really want this? Let me tell you how: thirty meetings, thirty days; sixty meetings, sixty days; ninety meetings...” My program was my life, I was full on in rehab. Sometimes I would go to two meetings a day. I had a close friend Kate, I could call her. I had a hand full of friends that I could call everyday, and we could sleep on each others couch. It was all about the program. Some people had husbands, and families, and had kids, and successful careers. I (felt), “Holy shit! I need to do that!” I wasn't ashamed to know that I didn't know how to do that, I didn't know how to have a healthy relationship. But, I got good! I did the whole thing, I called all my friends when I needed them for support. I wanted to be really honest. I was tired, I was tired of the fact that here I had I spent most of my twenties in the toilet and being a fuck up, because I was afraid to acknowledge I was a human being and not perfect.
- How important is it to find a sponsor, and find the right sponsor?
- It's almost like finding a family of people who can identify what your issues are?
Today, my life looks a million times different. I looked old, I'm not joking you can Google and look at a picture. I was twenty years younger than I looked when I was throwing up. I looked tired and puffy. I shared at a meeting the other day and person came up to me and (I said), “Oh yeah, my kid is in middle school”, and (she said), “I'm sorry, you have a kid in middle school? You're over thirty?”. (I said), “Oh my god I'm over thirty.” I get carded every where, and it's because I really do have a new freedom and new happiness.
But, it's not perfect. I've had tough things happen to me in the last seven years of abstinence, (but) it doesn't cost me my abstinence, it's not a question. I don't want to be the woman who goes out to dinner with people and be like, “I can't have that, and I'm going to have this that way.” You know what? Bring it the way it comes.
The one thing I learned, is when I was cutting out the joy with my food I was also cutting out the joy in my life. When I meet people and they're normal, and they're passionate about food, they're passionate about their life and that's what I want. I learned that that's just an indicator of how you show up for yourself.
- What step resonated with you the most?
I remember going to therapy, and always being very protective of my mother, a single mother raising me, making sure I went to ballet and did the right things for me. But, she wasn't loving and nurturing in the way that I would have needed. She thought that if she was too soft, then the world would eat us up. I knew I had the kind of mother that if I ever told her I was raped, she would have killed my uncle. It was not about her not believing in me. My therapist said, “She did everything she could, but can you except that is wasn't good enough?” That was like blasphemy! But, coming to terms with that, that people can do their best but it's still not (good enough for you) - that was a big part of my recovery. She made me stop taking what people gave me and know what is good enough for me. I get a vote in my life.
- What would you tell some one who is skeptical about the whole religious side of the twelve step program? What would you tell someone who is scared to a meeting, but needs help?
This isn't a program for people that want it, this is a program for people that need it. You have to be willing to walk into a meeting, no one can take you into a meeting, because this is about your recovery. No one can make you try to get you to get help and it's a process. I suggest the program to people and you can drag someone to water, but you can't make them drink. You can only share your experience. I'm recovered, so if you know that about me and want what I have, do it. It worked for me.