Sunday, January 11, 2015

Don't waste your chance...

L. Donovan

My name is Linda and I am 50 years old.  I have been married for almost 25 years, I am a registered nurse by training, graduating from Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in Cincinnati, Ohio and I have a bachelors in Business Administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College.  I have worked in a health care organization since college graduation and presently work as a Database Coordinator.  My husband and I own a home, we have a cat and we take trips to exotic countries, such as Peru, Iceland and Greenland.  I enjoy spending time with family and friends, bicycling with the Louisville Bike Club, hiking, and going shopping.  I am your normal, average woman, but I had a secret for over 20 years of my life.    

I had an eating disorder. 

There is no specific date or time that I can say I became bulimic or anorexia and there is no specific time or date that I can say I “stopped” my eating disorder.  But I can say that I will forever be in recovery as I am an addict.  I have lived my life, but I cannot say that I really “enjoyed” the 20 or so years of my life that I spent either with my head in the toilet or not eating at all?  Probably at the age of 20 I walked into the revolving door of wanting to “find myself” and getting stuck into that “career” of eating disordered people.  I have hit as high as 195 pounds in my life and I have hit as low as 90 pounds.

Every day of my life I am constantly reminded of how powerful the forces of this disease are, and how it is not worth nor it was ever worth wasting my life for the concept of “thinness”.   Today, to our relatively skewed American eye, I look healthy and seem very fit for “someone my age”.  But I wish that my body knew that.  I have medication that assists me to go to the bathroom because I took up to 25 laxatives a day for over 20 years.    I have problems with my joints because I have over-exercised and my body did not have enough nutrition.  I have an irregular heartbeat and a decreased bone density, I have an ulcer, my intestine is two times the size of what a normal persons intestine is, my teeth have chipped and my gums have receded.   But mostly my reproductive system is useless.  I could never have children because I had no body fat and did not menstruate.  And without body fat your body cannot produce the estrogen needed to reproduce.  All of this may seem trivial to you today, but when your friends’ children are having children, you wish that you were a part of their conversation.

So who is the “perfect candidate” for this terrible, debilitating disease?  Actually anyone because 1 out of every 4 college aged woman has an eating disorder.  And every 1 out of 3 people have a “phobia” of being fat.  In the back of my mind I have understood thinness as a term for “control” or maybe the term for respect and being appreciated.  I always felt that people would “like me” if I were thin.  Not just guys, but girls too.  I always felt that people would talk down and about me if I wore a size greater than a 2.  I had to be “perfect”.  Heaven forbid if I could go out with my friends and eat French fries as I could gain a pound. 
An eating disorder, while still an addiction, is also a way of coping and avoiding the pain of every day life.  It is a method to hide the pain or anger of your everyday emotions that you struggle with daily.  And once you become so obsessed with your war with food and you, then your addiction kicks in.  Addictions, also called “disruptive life styles” become deeply engrained in the individual and are very difficult to change or modify.  Sometimes the person may not recognize that a problem exists and it may come to the attention of someone else.  Or the person may recognize that they have an addiction, but do not want to face it and find it easier to go through the process of denial.  That was me to the “T”.  I can honestly say that this is what I missed out on the most in life is doing something spontaneously.  So if you have that chance, please don’t give it up to regret it later.  Being “thin” is not worth losing friendships or companionships.

Anorexia, or basically starving oneself, has many different symptoms such as the person has lost a great deal of weight in a short period of time and yet continues to diet, although they are already bone-thin.    They are continuously dissatisfied with their appearance, always claiming to feel fat.  Anorexics can develop anemia and it can lead to menstrual irregularities and to infertility. They become obsessive about exercising, and mainly appear depressed much of the time.   They develop dry skin, sallow complexion, and puffy eyes with very dark circles under them.  Unfortunately anorexia can lead to low blood pressure, slow pulse, or low body temperature.  Basically, the body is about to shut down.  It can also lead to growth of a fine white hair (lanugo) on the body.   Extremely low weights can lead to failure of vital organs, such as your liver to function, your heart to beat normally and your kidneys may shut down.  And, sometimes, it can lead to death. People with anorexia literally starve themselves.  They just do not take in enough calories. 

Bulimia or the desire to continuously purge after eating, can lead to a variety of serious health problems. The Bulimic individual eats large amounts of food over a short period of time and then forces vomiting and/or uses Syrup of Ipecac to stimulate vomiting, laxatives to produce diarrhea and diuretics to produce excessive urination.  The bulimic disappears into the bathroom for long periods of time to induce vomiting, eats enormous amounts of food at one sitting, but does not gain weight, exercises often but does not lose weight and can even gain weight from the large quantities of sugars and fats that remain in the body.  They have swollen neck glands, scars on the back of their hands from forced vomiting, and the bile from vomiting creates the teeth to crack and/or fall out and like an anorexic they appear depressed much of the time.   Chronic vomiting can lead to bleeding in the throat and to rupture of the esophagus.  Uses of syrup of ipecac or laxatives are extremely dangerous and can lead to major damage to the nervous system or to the heart.  The heart can become erratic and can cause a heart attack.  Chest pain is very prevalent in bulimics, but it can be a result of intestinal problems or a possible heart attack.  And if you are in denial it makes it that much harder.    And again like an anorexia, death is pretty final. This disorder may go undetected because the victim’s weight can be at times normal or even somewhat overweight.

If you feel that you have an eating disorder, you need to recognize that fact and speak to someone immediately.  Whether it is your physician, your counselor, your parents, your friend or your friend’s friend, you must attempt to get help right away.

Once again, my view of myself is an ongoing struggle and process.  I struggle with my weight everyday.  I have lived my life, while not really enjoying every day.  Do not let this happen to you.  Remember, you have been placed on this earth for only one chance and do not waste that opportunity by starving yourself to get approval or to hide a problem.

It's not always what you think...

M. Gazzara

    My eating disorder story comes from the perspective of an athlete. I am also a male. Although my anorexia was minor and short lived, lasting only 6 months, I learned a lot from the experience. I learned how anorexia can spiral deeper until it consumes one’s life. Luckily for me, I was able to catch it before it got very bad. I also struggled with bouts of binge eating in the time following the anorexia. I’d like to help others who are unknowingly beginning an eating disorder, have been struggling for a while, who are recovering, and who are thinking about starting one.
    As a long distance runner in my freshman year of college, I had the drive to become the best on my team. During a week off from running in November, I decided to cut out junk food, a seemingly harmless and healthy decision. From that came some weight loss. With the weight loss came the idea that I could be faster, so I began to cut out more food groups (like meat, cheese, etc.) Calories became my focus, and despite running an average of 10 miles a day, I strived to eat no more than 2000 calories. This calorie intake may seem high, but compared to my training and what I used to eat, it was very low. As my food intake dropped, my weight went from an already lean 135 pounds (at 5’5) to just around 115. i went from healthy and lean to alarmingly skinny in a short time period.
    When I was later recovered, I was able to look back and notice signs of an eating disorder I was missing at the time. First were common signs of dieting and caloric restriction, such as feeling cold, having no energy, and no sex drive. I had no motivations, desires, and tried my best to avoid being social. I can remember not wanting to stand up if I was seated in a car and the car ride was over. Eventually, even worse signs began. I became very depressed. I would begin looking at pictures of food online, I would read menus online, I would smell food in the house that I couldn’t let myself eat. I would eat the core of apples, and the shells of peanuts, since they were empty calories but bulk to fill me up.
    The weight loss was misleading at first, because unfortunately, I ran faster in the first month. My performance then greatly suffered due to the energy drop, and I didn’t run well again until I recovered. Luckily for me, I was able to stop the disorder before it got really bad. My immediate family and doctor were able to help me realize the problem early on.
    Binge eating is common to those who restrict for a long time. Since the body craves food, there can be endless cycles of restriction and binges, which often lead to negative emotions and more desires to restrict (which isn’t good! The reason people binge is because the body needs the calories). In my case, when I was recovered, I binge ate often, especially the summer after I started eating normally again. It’s common to want to binge, and once the restriction stops, the binging will stop as well. The body craves nutrients and energy it was missing during the period of deprivation.
    Now, more than four years later, I have a healthy relationship with food. I eat enough to fuel my body, and show my body that food is coming every day. There are many positives that come from overcoming an eating disorder. Physically, you feel good and energetic, you feel warm more often, you have a sex drive, a clear mind, and a motivational outlook on life. Mentally, you can allow yourself to enjoy food that gives you life and fuels your body. You can go eat with friends and family without depriving yourself of the joys everyone else is enjoying. It’s amazing how when you give your body what it needs, everything else seems to be more enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Interview - Laura F.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Laura F.

  • When did you decide to come out of the refrigerator about your eating disorder?
I am out in every way possible, I'm out as a lesbian, as a recovering alcoholic, my bulimia, compulsive over eating, drug addiction, about my cigarette smoking.  It’s a part of my story. People are like, “What?!”  They have a large disbelief that this was what my life was like.

(It started) out of the womb, literally. I come from years of severe child abuse and when I was born, the youngest of eight, my father was full blown terrorizing the family. My mom was completely overwhelmed and completely depressed having this crazy husband. Her only coping mechanism was to put food in my mouth, so I just took to it. I started compulsively over eating right as a child, because by the time I was in Kindergarten I was really fat. By the time I was in 4th grade I was in an obesity clinic, I weighed what I weigh today at 48, - 120 pounds. The doctor said, “We're going to have to put you on a diet.” I was completely a wreck because I couldn't stop eating, and a diet scared the hell out of me. On the drive home drive home from the clinic all I was thinking of was how can I get my next food. When I got home I just stared shoving food in my mouth. I really thought that I was defective, I thought there was no hope. I was scared to be alive, hated myself, could not stop obsessing about food, or thinking about when I was going to eat next.

In 7th grade, my father did some crazy stuff.  He tried to kill one of my sisters. We were taken out of our house and went to foster homes. From the time that I was in 7th grade to the time when I was 17,  I was in foster care, in Long Island New York. That whole time I was a wreck. I was coping with food and with alcohol. The alcoholism started in 7th grade. I took to beer and started drinking and was out of control. I hung out with all the wrong crowds. I was having a good time you could say, but I was dying inside. I was tortured by the fact that I was fat and made fun of, even though I hung out with the ‘cool’ kids - smoking, drinking doing drugs and partying. I just tried to hide the fact that I hated myself for being fat, by hanging out with the cool kids.

Moving ahead, by the time I got to California and got into college... I thought that if I left New York it would save my soul. I had relatives that moved to California for just a year, so I came out here and moved in with them. My drinking and drug habits got a thousand times worse. My cousin gave me a gift, in retrospect, they threatened to throw me out on the street if I didn't go to college. I managed to get myself into college, and that's when things got really out of control in terms of my addiction. By the time I was 24 I was walking to a bridge to kill myself. I was constantly talking in therapy about suicide and how I was going to kill myself.  There was no way out. Nobody ever suggested a 12-step program, and when I think about all those years in therapy… but when I was working at a bar in San Francisco, there was one woman that came in and it was love at first sight.  It was a gay bar. I was drunker than a skunk, high on everything plus... and she came to meet me. I call her my angel.  She is really responsible for me getting sober. I mean I had to take the action, but when I met her everything started to change. I knew I was sick but I thought I was a hopeless case.  When I met Stephanie, I thought, “Oh my God, this gorgeous, fantastic, absolutely wonderful woman can love this fat, ugly, drunk…there has got to be some hope here.” I didn't get what she saw in me. She would say things to me like, “I totally see your light and love, and don't see anything else. I think you're beautiful and wonderful. Yeah, you have a drinking problem, but...”

So it was actually our falling for each other that took me away from the bridge, and towards meetings. I was planning my suicide in my mind, what am I going to do, how am I going to do it, what's the note I am going to leave. It was all being planned and plotted. I remember that one of the things I used to do when I was in therapy was tell the therapist how much I hated my father, and how much he ruined my life, and how his abuse ruined everything. You know: victim, victim, victim. It was all real,  He did abuse us, and he was crazy, and told me everyday I should have never been born, but I was living my life as a victim and I couldn’t get any feeling of, “I'm okay.” It was all dark, dark, dark.

I remember having this thought, “If I kill myself that bastard will really win.” At that time in my immature thinking it was so cut and dry, he had all ready won so much because I was miserable. But if I kill myself he will really have won. That was one of the things that turned me around from killing myself. I am not going to let him kill me.

With that I got a really clear message that my life mission was to heal, so you can help other people heal. I didn't know what the hell that meant at the time, but I knew it was my path and the thing that pushed my ass into a meeting. The big part of the story is that I was really lucky that the first meeting I ever went to the whole thing was on the third tradition, which says that the only requirement for membership is to be willing. If I don't have to do anything accept get my ass here, I can do that.

So I started going to meetings, and went to a meeting that really changed everything where a woman spoke about, “If not now, when?” I literally had an earthquake in my body.  It was the moment where everything changed, I thought “Oh my God!”

  • So you had no skepticism about meetings? You just fell right in?
No, I felt like I was home. Once I really got into the program I was doing two meetings a day, every day, for five years. I was no nonsense. No matter where I was in the world there was a meeting. By my second year of sobriety, I did this crazy thing and went to Europe for a year. I thought, “What the hell?”  I did meetings in Israel and Europe and everywhere, and every day or as much as I could get to them.  It really carried me.
  • How long have you been abstinent?
I lost a hundred pounds from 24 to 25, and I am 48, and I never gained that hundred pounds back. In the 24 years it's been since I lost the weight I still had cravings for food. In the first ten years I was addicted to diet pills for a while and had a little bulimia with the laxatives. But I can honestly tell you in the last ten years, my relationship with food and the scale and my body, there is no charge.
  • Is there any one of the steps that particularly resonated with you?
Well, the forth step is the one that no one really wants to do, but it's the most powerful for me. You have got to let go of the crap that's holding you back.
  • There is a lot of skepticism about the spiritual side of the program. A lot of people thinks it's cult-ish or religious. Who is your higher power and what would you say to someone to get those assumptions out of the way for them?
I'd say, take what you like from the meetings and leave the rest behind. It’s not right for everyone. I have had people say to me that they have tried a 12-step program but they couldn't deal with the God stuff. I ask them, “What is it about the God stuff that scares you or you feel resistant to it?” Because, there is something deeper that people aren't willing to look at.  It’s not to say that religion hasn't corrupted people’s minds and made them afraid to think. If you feel good, if you feel connected, if you feel community that’s what it’s about.  If people feel peace for believing in a higher power, believing in God, why would you judge that?

When I started going to meetings, people would say, “Think of God as a light bulb, a piece of paper, a door.” Anything you want to think about. You don't have to think of God as a man in the sky with a  beard or whatever. That was really comforting to me. God can be anything and God is everything. If it's the word that feel scary, then you don't have to use that word. You could refer to universe, or heaven, or spirit, or light bulb. Make up your own.  I use the word God, I love the word God and totally love God.

  • How important is sponsorship in the program?
It's crucial. It's really important - to have a sponsor, to be a sponsor, because in giving we receive. We learn so much about ourselves from doing it and serving someone who is still suffering, lifting them up and inspiring them. It works for both people.
  • What would you say to the younger version of you to get yourself into the program?
There is nothing wrong with you. The reason I became a coach is because I see people as naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. They have all the answers inside of them and it's just a matter of getting away from all the crap and all of the belief system that has covered up the truth. What I would say to somebody is that, “You are loved as all that you are, and if you become willing to get involved and really willing to get help there is a whole universe of people out there to support you.” In isolation we wilt and in communication we thrive. If anyone is suffering and trying to do it alone, it's not going to happen.
  • What is “One Pinky” and how did you start it?
One Pinky is a community for women online who are suffering from eating disorders, and I created my own 12 week course called “Body and it's Mastery.” It deals with all kinds of exercises and tools for women to go very deep in their process of overcoming pain and suffering. It was inspired by the coaching I was doing with women one on one.  I really believe in the power of community and the power of group. How One Pinky came to be was when I was 220 pounds and hating my body, I was 24, and I was talking to a women and she was talking about how much she hated her body and she was tall and thin. I said, “I'm fat and ugly you're tall and thin, this doesn't make any sense that you hate your body.” We both looked at each other and we got it. It had nothing to do with our outside, it had all to do with our inside. So she and I made a pinky promise to love our bodies for what they did not what they looked like. Year after year we would reconnect and say things like, “Are you appreciating your thigh for what it does and not what it looks like?” That was part of my healing, this whole process with this women named Mary who also worked the 12-steps.

It all started with one pinky, and that's how I grew to love my body!” Self-acceptance is key. We cannot change anything if we are at war. If we are at war with our bodies we are just going to continue to suffer. If we can accept it as it is, then we can open up space to make change and welcome people in. War doesn't help anything or anybody.

Interview - Meryl B.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Meryl B.

  • What's your history with eating disorders and when did you know you needed help?
I didn't know until recently that I suffer from binge eating disorder. I knew I liked to eat a lot. I was never full. I was just eating, and eating, and eating, and then I would curl up in the fetal position, because I had such stomach pain. Then I would take some Pepto Bismol and then eat some more.

My eating was always sneak eating, and I think it started at age 4. At age 4, I was really connected to  my Dad and he started traveling for work. He would leave on Monday and come back on Friday. When I started expressing feelings to my mom that I was sad she would say either, “Oh honey, don't be sad he'll bring you a present”, or, “Have a cookie and you won't be sad.” So I think I started using food and at very young age to find comfort.

I didn't even know I had a problem with weight until I was 8 or 10. There was a picture that I took with my friend where we were both sitting in a chair, and when my parents saw that picture, I think it was my Dad that said, “Oh look at Sharron, look at her cute shape.” And when I looked and saw the difference I thought, “Oh my God! Look at the size of my thighs!” I wasn't conscious about it until that age.

At around 11 or 12 my parents started taking me to a diet doctor, and I don't know what he gave me, but I started getting a shot once a week. I remember my Grandmother saying, “She's too young!” And my parents saying “No, we have to help her! Just look at the family, she doesn't fit in (physically).”  I would lose weight with all these different things, but I'd never keep it off.

The sneak eating continued to the point where when I was 16 and had a car I would drive myself to the mall, go in to the candy store and buy white chocolate, put it my purse and then look around to see if anyone was watching me. If no one was watching me I would eat a piece of chocolate. My husband travels for work, I would go to the grocery store bakery counter and say, “My husband likes this and that.” Of course, he was out of town and I would go home and eat it all. But I had to make sure that if I was carrying extra weight people had to at least think I was on a diet, so I had to always appear to be the good girl.

  • Did your husband suspect your eating habits at all?

No, I don't think so. I wouldn't eat anything fattening in front of anybody, I was the perfect dieter. When we were dating and would go to a restaurant I would have a little salad, but ahead of time I would eat something and when I got home I would eat something. I was the perfect dieter in public.

When I got into a 12-step program when I was 29, one of the things I decided early on is that I would do three meals a day, nothing in between, one day at a time, which meant to me that I could eat anything in a meal. I knew that it would be a real giant step to eat something fattening in front of somebody. The first time I did it I remember where I was sitting, what restaurant I was at, I don't know who I was with, and I ordered a sundae after my meal. As I started to eat it I was so uncomfortable, I couldn't enjoy it at all. It felt like I was masturbating in public. It was such a private, secret activity, and doing in front of somebody took all the joy out of it.

  • What made you go to a 12-step meeting?

When I was in 5th grade I saw a show on TV that was about an alcoholic that was in desperate shape and found a 12-step. At that time, in my mind I thought, “I wish there was a place like that for me, because once I start eating I can't stop.” Fast forward to when I am 29 and I am thinking of going back to Diet Workshop or Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time and a friend of mine says to me, “I went to this meeting last night...” I was like, “Ah! There really is a place like that!”

  • What was your first meeting like?

It was terrible, terrible! I was raised Jewish and walk into a church… Not only was I raised Jewish, but (raised) that other people are trying to convert me. So my first meeting I went with a friend, we walked into this church with pictures of Jesus on the walls, and crosses, and I am really closed in. People were very friendly and welcoming. I hated when they said God, because I didn't believe in God, or at least I didn't want to, which is another whole story... I was afraid of God. Any time they said God I either rolled my eyes or snickered. They were talking about feeling and I thought, “Oh my God I can't believe they're talking about this stuff.” I judged them. (For example someone would say) “I was so mad I wanted to smack my kid.” So I would judge them for being a horrible parent. In my family we didn’t have many feelings, we were either happy or we were sad. If we were sad it better be for a real good reason, not because you lost a contest but that someone had died or for some real tragic reason. So I was totally devoid of feelings, in fact I used food to keep the feelings down. If feelings started coming up, I would have shame that I had a feeling so I would eat even more food. In these meetings when they would talk about feelings I thought, “Oh my God! What's wrong with these people?” Totally judgmental.

Two things kept me coming back. The first was an honorable reason, which was I saw people who had lost weight and were keeping it off, and I didn't see that anywhere else. The second reason was that I am a Soap Opera junkie, going to these meetings felt like I was going to my own personal Soap Opera every week. The following week I had to go back to see if Angie told her mother she was a lesbian? Did John ever go out with Jenna? I had to find out what was happening! (laughing) But at least it was something that kept me coming back!

  • You had mentioned God, and a lot people are put off by that aspect in 12-step meetings. What made you change your mind?

There are two things that happened... I am a really good rule follower.  I realize now I wasn't so diligent, but I was doing the best of my ability at the time.  I made time in my own calendar to go the library and work on step four and I open up the step four guide that I have and it says to list your positive aspects as well as the negative, and I closed the book because I knew damn well that I didn't have positives.

I had a large moment of introspection and I took out a yellow highlighter and on top of a piece of paper I wrote “minus” “plus”. In the minus column I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I was so blinded to anything good about me, all I could see was big nasty faults. What the guide said at the end is, “If you are having trouble with this step it is the previous step you need to work on.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, how am I going to turn my world and life over to God, as I understood God, because I am agnostic?”

After two years in the program, I go to an LA Intensive Retreat, and a speaker gets up and says, “I was born Jewish.” I thought, “Ah ha, I am going to listen to this guy, because he is not going to try and convert me.” He said, “God loves me no matter what, I don't have to do anything to win God's love.” I thought, “Ah, I don't have to be good all the time!”

This is why I said I was agnostic, because my concept of God was the punishing God, you know like Santa Claus, he knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. God was keeping track of all these little bad's.  My huge fear and biggest anxiety is that since I had all these bad's, one day I would get my punishment. Everyday I would wake up thinking today is the day. I lived with such terrible torment.

It was a huge relief when this man said, “I am Jewish and God loves me no matter what.” It started to change my belief in what the possibility of God could be. I did not have the lightening bolt experience, it was more like the soaker hose you put in your garden over night, it just drips and by morning it's saturated. That's what happened for me. Once I became open it started coming in little by little. I would go back to the meetings and talk about higher power, and after a long time I’d say - God.

  • Is God your higher power?

Yes, God is my higher power. My God is a loving God (even if I'm not perfect.) I would not have been able to say that in the beginning years of those meetings. I'm not perfect, but I know that.

  • What would you tell someone you know has a problem, but is skeptical of going to a meeting?
You'll find in a meeting is support and acceptance. The people there will love you until you learn to love yourself. For me, it became my family of choice and a place where I belonged. A lot of people are turned off my many different parts of it. Some people are turned off by the powerlessness over anything, others are turned off by the religion, but it's not religion it's spirituality. Keep an open mind.  If you don't like your first meeting go to a different meeting the second time. Go to several meetings before you make a decision whether or not the program is for you.
  • How would you say the 12-steps and the group setting is a great form of healing for your disease?

One of the things I loved about the meetings right from the beginning was that there was no fee, they just passed the basket. When I did go to therapy as result of being in the program, very often I thought to my self, “The only reason I'm coming here is that there is someone here who will listen to me.” It would have been a burden on my 12-step friends if I had spent the whole 50 minutes talking about myself, but I could do that in therapy. When person goes into treatment it gives them a fast start on their process, but to continue on I really recommend meetings.   Go to 12-step meetings if it resonates with you.

  • Do you think the program is a forever thing or do you think you can recover and be done with it?

I started going to meetings in 1975. In 1977 was my turning point when I could allow God into my life. (After that,) I started leading meetings, and starting meetings, and sharing (at) meetings. I became pretty much a big shot, speaking a regional conventions and everything.

When I moved in 1995 I never felt connected to the meetings I went to, so I'll go to a meeting once in a while now.  I continue to live it, everyday.  I do the 3rd step prayer over and over again. It's my favorite - get me out of the way, let me do your will. I review my day at the end of every day. I continue using the steps, an adaptation of the steps in my own life, but I don't go back to meetings.

  • How important is sponsorship?

Very important, because I don't think anybody can do this alone. What we did alone is what got us in the mess we were in when we walked through those doors. A lot of times the first person you pick may not be the person that is right for you. The first person I picked, both of us were new, we didn't know about not picking someone a different gender than you.  I picked a man because I thought he would be a tough policeman for me, and it didn't work for very long.

It's a way of evolving a relationship so that you have someone who is there as your support person, and to share their own experience, strength, and hope. Sometimes what would happen for me is that I would surpass them, and we could continue being friends, but the sponsoring part wouldn't work anymore.

I think sponsoring is a beautiful thing, because it's peer counseling. The challenge is... I was a terrible sponsor at first, terrible... the challenge is, “You want to do it, okay then this is how you do it. Follow A, B, and C.”  They wouldn't listen to me and I'd tell them they should probably find another sponsor. When I evolved I'd tell them, “This is what worked and I would recommend it A, B, and C.” If they didn't do it then I'd say, “ If that didn't work, let's take a look at what didn't work and how we can change it for you.” I was so controlling at first, and that’s why not all sponsorship relationships are perfect. They need to evolve, and grow.  Get rid of the person that's not working for you as your sponsor.

When I got to the second step and the prayer says, “God takes all of me the good and the bad”, I went, “Do you really mean this?”  The other thing that was really important were the promises, which don't happened until you've finished working step nine. You'll know how the path is useful, and you'll know serenity and peace. I loved the promises.  Those kept me going on hard days.

  • Do you think the 12-steps are applicable to all struggles outside of the ones they are usually associated with?
Absolutely. After I finished writing my first book I wrote a title for another book called The 12 Steps For Everybody. I absolutely agree with that. I have a friend who was in treatment in the '90s for cocaine, and we talk about how the world would be such a different place if people followed the twelve steps. No one would do it though because they are so hard.  Unless nothing else is working in your life  that’s the only reason you turn to something like this. It's simple to follow, but it certainly isn't easy. I like the slogan “Easy does it”, but I also like the slogan, “Easy doesn't do it.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Interview - Stephanie C.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Stephanie C.

  • What was your experience in using the Twelve Step Program for your eating disorders?
I usually out my self as a big Twelve Step girl, on Saturday morning I was speaking at a meeting. I owe my recovery to the twelve steps. I'm recovered from bulimia, anorexia, exercise bulimia, orthorexia, laxatives, I've got a whole list. But I am completely recovered from all of it, but I do identify as a compulsive over eater because that is how I gauge my relationship with food in my life. I don't really have problem with food anymore, I'm a gourmet cook, I love eating, I go from a size two to a size four. I am extremely functional, I can eat anything and everything, but not all at once, not every day.  I know fear of food.

  • What was your fear of food like when you were in your disorder?
I would take one bite and then be exercising for six hours, or running, or taking laxatives, and throwing up. I had a complete fear of food, because it was the one thing in my life that I could control. If I could control my food, I could control my life and life would be okay. I couldn't be in intimate relationships, I was completely emotionally unavailable, the list is long.   I did it all. My life was ruled by food and body obsession. I've never been over weight, it's not my body type, but I had body dysmorphic disorder, so I saw my body differently than others. When I start phases where I'm like, “I have go to get back in shape”, my husband is like, “You are crazy.” But I'm not, because I know what it is to really be in shape. But I'll go three or four months without working out and it doesn’t phase me, I have to be in the mood. Sometimes I'm like, god damn it, I need to get in shape and I get in shape. After twenty-five years of exercising my body is very malleable, so I'll bounce back. But for me being not being in shape, no normal person would recognize that by looking at me.

  • How is your life like now that your are recovered?
My life is just huge today! I've got a husband, a career as a gourmet cook.  I have two step children and a biological child, tons of friends.  I have healthy, long term friendships with all my friends.  I volunteer a lot with different organizations and with my kids school. I'm just very present in my life.  My life is full. If I could get knocked up and get pregnant three more times I'd be all over it. I'm not afraid of anything like losing my body, I just like being in my life.

  • 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?
My feeling is that I had hunger in the world and my hunger became about food. It did not become about drugs, or alcohol, or sex. My hunger was identified by my relationship with food. I grew up with a mother whose only obsession was with education,books and knowledge. She grew up in a non-nurturing environment, spent a lot of time in a Catholic Foster home, Catholic Orphanage's. She believed taking care of us was with books not food.   My mother ate to live she didn't live to eat. Food was not a pleasurable experience for her it was just something she had to do in order to fulfill her obligation of motherhood and she was a single mother. She didn't know how to cook. My family members are terrified to go up against my mother.  She's a political activist, she's really strong, she's like Angela Davis you just don't fight with her, it's not worth it.

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?
No, I didn't know, I had no clue. Bulimia was something that wasn't talked about, or anorexia. And I certainly would not have stared it in the face.

  • When did you know you had a problem?
I moved to LA, because that was another thing that I thought was really fabulous about my disease, I did a lot of geographic's I was like, “Oh, I'm uncomfortable, I should move, I should change jobs, I should change boyfriends, I change friends.” I was a constant changer. I kept thinking that if I could fix my outsides than my insides would feel better.

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?
There was no where else in my life that I could hear what I heard and be honest. I would leave the meeting and have the biggest binge. Then I would move, I moved to New York, London, Vermont, I just kept moving, and I would go to meetings. But it was only in LA that I found this level of recovery.  You would leave a meeting in LA and not feel alone.  People would be like, “Hey you want to go out with us? You want to do this? Hey, you want to hang out? 

  • Describe your road to recovery?
Let me tell you it was a long damn road.  I was in therapy, I had a great therapist who I still go back to occasionally. That and a great sponsor. I grew up straight atheist, no spiritual anything. I'm the only black girl I know who doesn't believe in God. I thought, God is for weak people. I started going to church, this was like twenty-three years ago, and after ten years I just felt like I didn't need it. I felt burned out on the meetings, on programs, on hearing people talk about their fucking eating disorders.  Enough all ready. Because I didn't have one anymore. I did not recognize one anymore. 
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 worked it. I found a sponsor, I found a community. People who came in with me were all ready to get abstinent. I found sponsor, and I'll say that bulimic people take bulimic sponsors, and anorexic people will take anorexic sponsors.  That is just how it works. Well, I picked a compulsive eater sponsor, and she had a lot of time in AA, which is not my issue at all. But she was in six programs, and she looked like a spark plug, she didn't look anything like my dream. (It wasn't like) I want what she has cause she's a size two and we went out together and she had a burger. This woman had a level of commitment to her recovery, and I thought, “That is what I want, I want that!” She was tough, it was tough love. I did not go for the fluffy. I went with the, “You know what? If you want to work with me, you are going to stop throwing up, you're going to stop playing around and get through this, and you're going to start working this program. You're going to get control and you're going to stop, and that's that.” That was fantastic for me, because I'm hard headed. I don’t want someone who's going to cosign my lack of commitment. 

 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?
You have to have a sponsor. I was with a sponsor and in a year I did two twelve step programs.  I got another sponsor - a super successful writer, and her story was very similar to mine. She was in about three programs, but she was also hardcore and she was very pretty, really successful, and really bad ass. I wanted that. She was not playing around with her abstinence, because for her it was life or death. She is now, twenty or thirty years later, my best friend. She is like my sister, we go on vacations together with our kids, I’ve worked for her and worked with her.  We are very close. And I have other friends like that from recovery.

  • It's almost like finding a family of people who can identify what your issues are?
Yeah, and I have to say I worked the program, it was like I was paying for it. I (said) “I going to get everything I can out of this.” I was so tired of myself. I was tired of ending relationships, and dumping boyfriends, and dating unavailable men, because I was deeply unavailable. I was just tired of my patterns.

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?
Being powerless -  over food, over my husband, my children, powerless over my career, powerless over my control issue. I'm powerless.  I'm completely powerless.  I'm a strong, black girl, and the idea that I am powerless... I can't get my head around that. I come from the super woman myth, black women are super women, we can raise our kids alone.  I have a child who has a great committed father, a great committed step father. I have a healthy relationship with my ex-husband. I don't really like him that much, but that's the consequence. You do it so your child has a good relationship with both parents and doesn't feel any pressure. My relationships aren't all about me any more, and it's not just because I have a kid, it's because I get sick of my self (acting that way). I kind of want my life to revolve around me. At the same time I have amazing boundaries, I don't do anything I don't want to do. That's probably the thing that's best and worst about me.  You have to want to be recovered more than anything else.  You have to want your life to be bigger than food, and recognize your fear, anxiety, issues, how they get triggered, and how you deal with that trigger. That's all.  You have to learn how to identify... “Oh my god, I feel shame.  I feel less than.  I thought I was the only person in the whole world who felt like this.  Understanding that you are not - that's it. 

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?
Okay, the God thing. Here is something great that I picked up from one of my first meetings. There was a man at the meeting who was an anorexic, and he didn't get the God thing. His sponsor said, “You don't have to believe in God to be abstinent, (but) what do you believe in?” And he said (and this was twenty years ago) that he believed in Michael Jordan, because when Michael Jordan gets to the basket he's going to make the shot. The sponsor said, “Okay, than your higher power is Michael Jordan.  Your higher power looks like Michael Jordan and acts like Michael Jordan, and that's it.” You don't have to believe in God, you have to believe in a power greater than yourself. No where in the program does it say you have to believe in God. There are people whose higher power is nature, the trees.  I've heard all of it. As someone who comes from the non God thing, I'm a big believer in God at this point in my life. I find it very comforting, and it helps me to know that I don't have to be in control of my whole life, which means I don't have to be in control of your life. That's fantastic for me. But I understand people having a  problem with God. You don't have to believe in God to believe in a higher power.

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.

Interview - Nancy H.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Nancy H.:

  • What's your history with eating disorders and how are you working with your daughter to spread the word?
I was not aware of them (eating disorders) until she dropped so much weight.  Looking back at my own history there was something going on, but I'm not sure what it was. Not anorexia, but I was always on a diet in high school. I never threw up, but there was something. I remember the day after I got married, when I got out of the shower my husband said, “I didn't realize your legs were so big.” Well that did it, and I maintained an underweight weight for years. I weighed myself every day, and made make sure I weighed myself after I went to the bathroom and showered, and made sure my hair was clean and dry. I was little OCD about the whole thing.

  • Now, I have developed a website. It's called Hannah is working on it with me and our goal is to get the word out, so people will be more aware. A lot of people with eating disorders are not aware they have one, like me.
I didn't know what to call it, but I do remember a certain point where things were really falling apart around me. My marriage was falling apart, my parents were both dying, Hannah was sick.  I remember not wanting to eat, at all, and I was losing too much weight. I was down to 106 and I was 5'5. I thought, “This is not good. 109 is is okay, but 106 is too little.” I remember trying to have some candy bars, and they just tasted like paper. My taste was gone but I still had some control in my head, I wasn't totally gone. It was truly an emotionally eating thing.  Having a great body is not the issue. It's a side show, but it's really not the problem.  I do think that we are all a little preoccupied with our weight and what we eat.

I talk to mothers, trying to help them understand that it has nothing to do with food, and no sooner when I finish that and ask for questions and they'll say, “How can I make sure my daughter doesn't have a an eating disorder?” I explain, “You need to talk to her and find out what's going on, it's not about food.”  Mothers will say,  “But she doesn't want to eat!” It's not about food, you need to talk to your children and listen to them.  

  • Did you remember a time where you felt that you hit rock bottom? Something that triggered you into disordered eating?
It kind of all came at once. I had trouble in my marriage all the way through. My husband had an affair, I knew it was going on and he wouldn't come clean. That was the same time that Hannah was finally down (?), which was the same time my parents were getting sick.

I remember that we had made a plan that my parents would help us with $20,000 and his parents would help us with $20,000 and we would do $20,000. My Dad could just never remember to get it, and he really wanted to do it. One day I spent an hour and half driving around the city for a bank and we finally got there, and he came out with a $20 bill. I thought, “Oh crap...” It was really hard. He couldn't get it, he couldn't remember, process.

  • How were you led to recovery?
I found my own (recovery) in Hannah.  I went to see Hannah (in treatment) every week.  When she had reached that level that she could eat out, I had to eat too. I couldn't restrict in front of her, I knew that would be bad.  It was my love for her that I had to get out of whatever I was in. As I recovered, crossroads started to happen.  She would get to the other side and so would I. I saw her determination, and of course I was determined that she was going to be well.

When I decided to get well I'd be showing her how to get well, and I'd be helping my other kids. As much as it was great to love her and want to help her, I needed to be committed to draining my brain of all that other junk that was in there. (I needed) to start living an authentic life the way I knew I should be living.   I needed to start doing what I felt inside was right thing to do. If the marriage fell apart, it fell apart, but I'd be saving myself and my kids in the long run.

  • You have a younger daughter. Do you think it helped to see what you and Hannah have gone through, and to avoid that path?
Absolutely. She is the healthiest one of all my kids. She is able to express herself... and Hannah as well, She is doing great too! 

  • What is the mission and goal of your website as well as working with Hannah?
Our goal is to be supportive.  My goal is to help the supporting arch, the supporting members of those with eating disorders like roommates, family and parents.

Most people, and I don't mean this insensitively, really don't understand eating disorders.  They don't appreciate the disparity of the disorder and how many parts of this persons life it has affected. When you are (dealing with) that many parts and that many people, it's naturally going to take a while to get over. They don't come out and say they want a magic pill, but that's kind of what they want, something that's quick and easy like a cold to get over.  My goal is to help them see that's okay not to be perfectly recovered in three months, and it's okay not to be perfect in three months and to help them figure out what needs to change in order to recover.

  • When you talk about what “gets you through” a lot of people refer to a higher power, whatever that may be. Is there a higher power for you?
Absolutely. It's God for me, which the twelve steps believe in, they may call it a lot of different things, but when you boil it all down it's about letting some body else take the burden for you.

This road doesn't have to be gone down alone. You'll have less success if you go it alone. Part of the issue is that the eating disordered person has become so isolated because they think no body else understands, no body else can feel the pain, and that's just a bunch of rubbish. There are people that care. There are people the do understand, more than they would ever imagine. Whatever it takes to get well is worth getting well, because there is a great life waiting for them to be had.

Interview - Nadine P.

Healing through the community support of group meetings, the twelve-steps, therapy and treatment centers.

Nadine P.:
  • How did you know that you had an eating disorder and when did you know you needed help?
I struggled with it (eating disorders) since I was 12 years old. When I was in my teenage years I had no idea what was wrong with me, I just knew I couldn't manage my eating. I was binging everyday.

I would wake up every morning hoping that this day would be the day that I would have no more problems. By midday, or 3:00 or 4:00, I would consume everything in the house, and I'd have this huge massive binge, and by the end of the night I would be consumed with all the negative feelings: guilt, hopelessness, how could this happen? It was a cycle that would happen every single day. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what.

Finally when I was about 18 or 19 years old, I looked online for a  solution, because I was living with a boyfriend, and I was doing this in secret, no one knew about this. It became my whole entire life, and it was a big secret. So I looked online and there was a meeting, I came across Over Eaters Anonymous, and the meeting was like in the next hour and literally half a block from where I was living. It was amazing! That was the first step for me, for admitting that I had this. I walked over to the meeting, I was late, and at this point I was just desperate for a solution. A lot of people go into OA not liking it, judging it, but I didn't care I was so desperate. So at 18, 19, was the point I got help.

  • How old are you now, and how long have you been abstinent?
I'm 24, and 1 year (of abstinence).

  • When you were younger was there any awareness of the disease you had? Or had you never heard of them and just though you were alone in doing them?
In the back of my head I knew that there was something going on. At one point, I did look online for help. I don't think I came across a way (for help). Maybe I did, I just didn't want to hear it. I think I was just looking for that quick solution: tell me what it is I'm doing, tell me what the is solution so I can wake up tomorrow and everything's going to be okay, whether it's a diet or whatever. But I don't think I really understood the severity of what I was doing. I was in complete confusion.

  • The biggest thing for you was bulimia, but did you ever have a problem with compulsive over eating?
It was mainly binge eating, but I definitely restricted.  I had some anorexia during my teen years, at one point I lost a lot of weight and everything was really controlled, but my whole eating career was mostly binge eating and restricting. When I thought I had some kind of control to make up for all the calories I would take in, it was my way to sort of manage the weight. It shocked me because I was never really over weight, but my weight fluctuated. When I was restricting, I'm 5'10, and I got to 110, and then I go to 150 in four months. 150 was my highest weight but I never... I consumed close to 10,000 calories a day, so I have no idea why I was not bigger, it's miraculous to me. But my problem was mostly binge eating, binge eating every day, every day, every day. It's crazy to look back and imagine a human being went through this almost every day in her life!

  • Did you ever have a rock bottom?
Yeah, it's funny because, when I got abstinent, I didn't get abstinent when I hit my rock bottom. I had so many rock bottoms. It's so hard to say this, I dappled in... I tried working and I couldn't because I was so consumed in the eating, and I was so mentally messed up. I dappled in prostitution, so I could get money for food, so I hit so many different rock bottoms. Eventually, when I went into OA, I couldn't get it, I couldn't get it, I couldn't get it, I kept going back. I had so many rock bottoms before I was abstinent that I finally I saw that what I was doing wasn't working, and I had absolutely no control over this. It clicked about a year ago.

  • Was there a specific step out of the twelve steps that particularly resonated with you?
I think it was step one for me, because I went through the steps still (thinking) I had some kind of control, I went through the steps treating it like a diet. So it was really step one for me, to just really be honest with myself, which was extremely hard for me and just say, “I can't do this, I cannot do this.” I think it's what gave me the most clarity, just accepting the powerlessness that I had. And it would be so easy for a outsider to look at my life and say, “Hey girl, you are so out of control. You don't have control over this thing!” But when you're in it, it may seem like the most logical thing to do, but for some reason when you're in it, you still want to exert that control everyday, you keep hitting that wall. So I think step one was the most profound for me. When I looked at it for years, and I sit in the room   say, “Yeah, yeah, I'm powerless, I'm powerless”, and I thought I believed it. But when I really had an inner acceptance, “Wow, I really am powerless here. I really need to let go of everything that I believed about my eating disorder, I just need to let go.”

  • Who's your higher power and what would you say to people who are turned off from the twelve steps because the belief that God is involved?
For me, I was so desperate, it was kind of like blind faith. I was willing to listen to anything, I didn't really believe in God, but I went into it with blind faith. What do I have to lose, it's either I go back out there and say screw this, there's no God or I go in there and go in with blind faith, listen to what everybody has to say, use this persons God or that persons God who helped them recover, what can I lose? If it works, great! If it doesn't I'm going to be in the same position I was when I didn't believe. Eventually, that faith turned into real faith, because in my own experience I started developing my own personal God. For me it was a matter of how desperate was I? 

  • So you believe that God is your higher power.
Yes, I do, I do. At first I was definitely skeptical, but I was so desperate, that it really helped (to know) that there are these people who have recovered, they went through what I did, and they have recovered, so I am going to use their God and pray for that God. It just grew from (there), and it was  blind faith in the beginning.
  • How important is sponsorship in the program?
Extremely important. It's essential, it's vital. I tried doing the twelve steps on my own and it didn't work for me. To have some one I could call every single day... it's crucial to have a sponsor.

  • How did you find your sponsor?
I went through so many sponsors, when I went to meeting literally every single person in the room was at one time my sponsor. When I was first working for somebody... I was trying to find the prettiest person in the room, because if they became my sponsor I would become this typically gorgeous person. Again, I treated it like a diet, which person has the answer. I would get this person who would look like a great sponsor on the outside but I'd still binge, then I went to another sponsor, and another sponsor, and another sponsor. I can't say that I found the right sponsor, I think when it clicked for me I was able to hear the message from whoever was telling me. The teacher appeared. When the student is ready the teacher appears, and I stuck with her for a year. The big thing for me was sticking with her, because she was also with me while I was binging. For me I would treat sponsorship like a diet, if you didn't work I would go onto the next one. Finally I stuck with her, and she told me, “If you binge you call me. You keep showing up to meetings. You keep showing up to your commitment.” I became open to that and I stuck to it. I couldn't stick to anything in my life, but I stuck to this no matter what. Eventually it just clicked for me and I was able to hear the message.

  • Do you think 12 step programs are lifestyles or do you think there is a point where you're done and can move on?
It's hard to say. The program says it's a lifestyle thing, but everyone has their own story. I know people who used the 12 steps and then just left, and now there fine. There are also people who used the 12 steps and left, and are not fine. In the program we don't say, “This is the answer, this is the only answer to recovery.” But I know for me is it definitely a forever thing, because nothing for me worked before. To have a year, no therapy, no medication, just doing the steps, and to have this amazing life unfold to me I don't want to give it up. If I want to follow the program it's a lifestyle and it's a lot easier than how it was when I was over eating. For me it's lifestyle, absolutely.