Five and a half years ago, I was at the height of my addictions. I say “addictions” plural because there wasn’t just one. I woke up in the morning to go to my corporate job and the first thing I did when waking up may not surprise you. I didn’t brush my teeth or take a shower or even pick out my corporate clothes for the day. I fumbled in my purse for the orange bottle of magic that would make everything okay for that day. As soon as it was in my grasp, I took the pills and started my day. Breakfast was nonexistent because who wants to eat when you are chowing down on speed? Lunch was the same after another two pills.
My co-workers held meetings to discuss my “odd” and “erratic” behavior. I, of course, was always defensive and resentful and thought they were all out to get me (paranoia will destroy you). Eventually work would end and I would need to come down. I reached into the bedside table and pulled out my sample packet of downers. I had hit almost every doctor in the area for sample packs because it didn’t require prescription, money, or arouse any suspicion. Once I had ingested the big pills, I then became ravenously hungry, having not eaten all day.
At this point I was living with my ex-husband at his parents’ house. Let’s all pause at that decision, shall we? I was terrified that they would discover I had another addiction and that addiction was food. I would order large amounts of Chinese food and then sneak them up the stairs in my purse. My ex didn’t care because he was caught up in his own addictions and busy playing World of Warcraft.
On the bed, I would lay out all of the food ritualistically and proceed to binge. Binging was a combination of high and calm. The high came before the binge. The excitement of knowing that I was going to binge was actually more exciting than the binge itself. It never lives up to the hype, does it? Once I was binging, there was a calm that washed over me and everything was okay….for about ten minutes. Then the shame set in, compounded with the stomachache and feeling that I must get rid of the shame…by vomiting. After this was done, I would settle into my bed and watch five hours of television, which was an escape all its own.
Eventually the pain of staying the same became greater than the pain of changing and I had a revelation. I needed to change my life. I knew if I continued down this path I would be dead in a year. I called my brother, who was in the program for about five years at that time, and asked him what to do. He told me to find an N.A. meeting and pick up my first white key tag. I asked him to come with me and he said, “No, this is something you must do on your own.” I went to my first meeting on November 14, 2008. On November 16 I asked my ex to flush all of my drugs down the toilet while I watched.
After that, I moved out of my ex’s parents’ house for good and into a halfway house and didn’t look back. His drug use ended up with him making some unhealthy decisions and he contracted AIDS. I proceeded to do everything that I was told. I did my ninety meetings in ninety days. I got a sponsor. Actually, over the course of six years, I got many sponsors. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit. I went to treatment for six months. I lived in the halfway house for ten months. I honestly (do as I share, not as I do) didn’t really start working Steps till I had a year clean. They also told me not to get into a relationship until after a year. To give you an example of how I coped with this, take this bit of fun that I learned in a meeting: Meditation, Masturbation and Meetings.
After getting a year clean, I started dating someone who had twenty years clean. This didn’t prove to be the best decision in the world. We lasted a year and then I took more time for myself. You’re probably wondering what became of my eating disorder? Well, it threatened to ruin every relationship I had and almost killed me. After four years of constant struggle, I finally worked a new set of Steps on just my food addiction and finally found the freedom. Once I realized that I always equated food with love and comfort, I didn’t need it anymore.
I was diagnosed as manic-depressive (a diagnosis I fought tooth and nail) and soon had to go on medication and see a therapist. Just as when I had first gone to treatment, I hated it, though this time around I didn’t throw a chair or pout with my arms crossed. I accepted it and accepted that I wasn’t going to be okay without doing some work.
After getting my four years, I started taking a long look at my life and what I wanted to be. My meeting attendance had fallen off and I was generally a very nasty person. I needed to stay plugged in and needed to continually work on my relationship with GOD. I started slowly. I had been out of work for a while and, thanks to a glitch with the formatting of my resume, no one was getting it when I applied to different jobs. This led me to think that everyone was once again out to get me. Eventually someone took pity and told me that when receiving my resume they couldn’t open it, and I made the changes.
I started working on my codependence, which had also become a huge issue with my family relationships. After five years I started working the Steps again and found that it was a whole other ballgame. I met a man who respected my recovery and loved me even though I was having issues loving myself.
What has changed after five and a half years? I don’t use drugs or act out in my food. I still have issues with self-esteem, and doing daily affirmations and praying really helped me with that. My sponsor and I talk a minimum of three times a week. I still work Steps, except this time I apply the Steps to everything (even if it is with kicking and screaming sometimes). I attend about four meetings week. I confront my issues and don’t run away from them. I am a hundred percent honest about my struggles and who I am.
The most important gifts I have received from recovery are: (1) a relationship with a GOD of my understanding that helps me get through the most confusing and terrible of times; (2) relationships with family and friends that are genuine and not manipulative or self-centered; and (3) I get to look at myself in the mirror today. Recovery has given me the ability to look at myself and know that I am not less than or more than. My name is Erin and I am a grateful, recovering addict.