When I worked for Accredo, we held a Manager’s training that was designed by some women in New Jersey for our parent company, Medco. We scheduled it 2-3 times a year, and I was responsible for working with the consultants to prepare and make sure they had everything they needed when they were in Memphis. I became really good friends with Deb, but I never really got to know the other consultant, Marcia. They were both really likeable, and I enjoyed being around them. I just never had an opportunity to hang out with Marcia. Last year I received an email on a distribution list about Marcia’s new book The Goodbye Cookie. Being a writer, I was very interested to see what she wrote about.
It’s funny how you can know people – bump up against them time and again – and never really know who they are. Unbeknownst to me, Marcia and I had a LOT in common. And, now she’s written about her life in a book and has some pretty stellar press. She has battled a food addiction for most of her life and is now in recovery. She weighed 300 pounds at one time, and her book is about her struggle and her victory. We’ve exchanged a few emails since she wrote her book. She’s read my blog, and I’ve read some of her articles. Today, she tweeted one that I’ll share with you here. If you have issues with food, this article is very insightful. If you read me on a regular basis, you’ll see a lot of similarities in our path. How I wish we’d chatted just a little back there in Memphis. I’m sure we could have become great friends.
Marcia’s Video on her Website with Her Story
I had lunch with a friend last weekend, and we discussed food. Over the years, she’s seen my struggle with binging and emotional eating, and she has had her own struggles with it. We were always going on some kind of eating plan to try to rein it in. I told her that in the last year and a half, it seems that my food stuff has just fallen away. I still have times that I emotionally eat, but it’s not like it used to be. There were times that I ate all day long. Often, I would buy single-serving 2-lb bags of chocolates and eat the entire bag in one sitting…. and still be ravenous. I hated doing it, but I couldn’t stop. I’d vow not to do it the next day, and I’d do it all over again. There was a nagging hunger in my gut that really had nothing to do with food. But, food was my comfort. Growing up food equalled love. In order to be close or give affection, we’d share food. It may have worked back in the day when food was not so plentiful, but today that desire for love coupled with the quick availability of food is a wrecking ball on my health and my emotional state.
So, I told my friend that I thought those issues had fallen away. I still have a treat to celebrate, and I still have fun with food. But, I no longer have the desire to “use” food. Sugar is my drug. I’ve never really been into salty foods or fatty meats. But, I love sweets. I have an awareness now of what it feels like to enjoy dessert and what it feels like to “use” sugar to fill up spots that can’t be filled by the granular white stuff. I remember telling myself when I was drinking that I could drink when I was happy but I couldn’t drink if I was sad or angry. It always turned into a bad drunk. The problem was that I was using alcohol to numb out, and, eventually it didn’t matter what emotional state I was in. I always had some undercurrent of sadness and anger flowing through me. I had to be numb as often as possible, and, since I was a binge drinker, I used food when I wasn’t using alcohol. The using made me sadder and angrier and lonelier because it dragged me further into the abyss of an empty life. People ask me if I miss alcohol. No, I don’t miss it. I never enjoyed it. It wasn’t fun. It was medicine… and I’m no longer sick like I once was.
I’ve been down this week. It started Sunday after leaving my friends’ house in Houston. It’s hard for me to unplug when I feel connected and go home to an empty house. All of a sudden, extreme perfectionism started rearing its ugly head. I rehashed everything I said and did over the weekend. In the re-hashing, I came to the conclusion that I was flawed … and selfish … and not worthy of having the love of anybody. The perfectionism … and my inevitable failure to live up to its expectations … turned into self-loathing pretty quickly. Down I tumbled into the abyss. I tried not to panic as I’ve been here before, and I let myself go through it, talking to a couple of close friends to keep me calibrated on what was real and what were my insecurities. I kept doing my yoga and meditation and prayer. I kept going to work. I was in a pretty good funk, so I had no energy to exercise. But, I walked out the door anyway. For two days I mostly strolled with my dog, but I kept moving. And, I didn’t ‘use’ food… well …. much. I did have a milkshake yesterday on a road trip, but I was already coming back to myself. If I’m honest, I was ‘using’ a little, so I’ll own that. I actually ran this morning, and I felt good. I rode this wave, and I didn’t give in to numbing as a daily habit.
Like Marcia, I know that my drinking and my food issues … and my perfectionism … and my insecurities … are all spiritual issues. When I did the intensive work of the last few years and uncovered the root hurts and deep wounds I harbored inside me, I healed myself once and for all. The scars are still there, but I no longer have to feed the gaping holes inside of me. They closed up, and food became fuel. Alcohol became something that didn’t work for me and had too many consequences to make it worthwhile. Emotions became navigable. People became sources of comfort. God became the true source of light. Everything got right-sized …. even me.