Thursday, January 10, 2013

Interview - Barbara G.

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

  • Describe the history of your eating disorder:
It started with family appearance and the way I looked. When I got my (drivers) license, it gave me permission and freedom to go binge and purge. When I got to college, I didn't have my parents looking after me so it got worse. After I got married and had kids, I gained a lot of weight so I started binging and purging again. My father passed away from cancer and my mother and I are estranged. She was very cruel. Nothing I did was ever good enough for her. After I got breast cancer I lost a ton of weight. After the cancer I began normal eating and the weight started coming back on. My mother said I should stay on chemo to stay thin. Any time anything happened whether it was stress, was how I dealt with the emotions and escaped it all.  A twelve-step program helped me to turn it all over to a higher power.

  • Are you going to forgive yourself and your mother?
That's exactly what I've had to do. I have tried so hard to make her (my mother) love me. Through this program I've learned that it’s not me that has the problem, it's her. My mother is cruel and that's not how mothers are supposed to act and treat their children. I just need to release it and not let it bother me. I never would have gotten to this point without the program, the steps and my daughters.

  • When did you know you had a problem?
I always tried to keep my eating disorder as a secret. I was really put together on the outside. My daughter was the one who said she really worried about me and she found a twelve-step meeting that I started attending. It’s not about me anymore and I want to set a good example for my daughters.

  • Did your daughter catch you acting out in your disordered behavior?
She did and I was completely mortified and embarrassed. I was pissed off that someone had found out and that I might need to stop. Looking back now, I'm happy she found out because now I am healthy. It was a good thing but it's still hard.

  • What was your first meeting like?
My daughter insisted on taking me because she didn't trust me to go on my own. It was weird, because the roles were reversing and she was taking the parental role and I was the child. I went and didn't know what to expect. The people were very friendly but I was still skeptical. There was a lot of talk about God, which scared me.  I have never felt the kind of love from my mom, like I felt in those meeting, in those rooms. It was the first time I felt truly loved and accepted. It felt weird that I would find love from strangers but it worked for me.  I’ve relapsed before but each time, I was able to get over it quickly, because I was involved in the 12-step program. I have a really good sponsor and she has me look at things differently.

  • What are the tools that you use that gives you that new perspective?
I go to 3 meetings a week. I make phone calls, do a lot of service and write. I lost all hope and stopped caring but found community in the steps and knowing I’m not the only one with these feelings. 

  • How do you find freedom in the group setting?
Well, there’s freedom in admitting I was powerless over my eating disorder. I gave that control up and made the very big commitment to make the calls, reach out, read the literature.  It keeps me from going back into behavior that is destructive. 

  • What are the tools you're getting from a twelve-step program?
In the twelve-step program I connect with people who are struggling with the same thing I do. We learn about our character defects and turning over our disease to a higher power. We face the behaviors we have that have harmed others.  My sponsor was committed to my recovery and that inspired me.
  • How important is it to have a sponsor?
It’s very important. Part of the illness is very secretive and isolating. If you have a sponsor that you're accountable to, if you have someone to answer to than you're commitment will be a lot stronger.

  • Is there a step that resonates most for you?
The first step was really the ahh ha moment. In step one I learned that I didn't decide to have this disease any more than a diabetic wanted to have diabetes.

  • What would you tell someone who is struggling with an eating disorder?
I would tell them and encourage them to reach out, find a meeting, because I wish I had found them earlier. I would tell them to get help now and life will be better with that help.

  • There is a lot of talk in twelve-step programs about ‘God’ and a higher power.  What would you say to someone struggling with those concepts? 
I would recommend that they have an open-mind. Twelve-step groups are not a cult or catholic school.  ‘God’ doesn’t have to be church or a white robe.  My higher power is every person in the room struggling with the same thing I am and working the program.  

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