TRG SPEAKER PROGRAM
Personal Stories of Recovery
~ Cindi ~
Hi everyone. My name is Cindi and I am a compulsive overeater just like all of you. My story begins on September 20, 1969, six weeks before my 18th birthday. That is the day I will never forget as it was the day that I became a food addict. Up until then I was a normal eater with no problems with food and no weight problems. One day I am normal and the next day I am an addict.
How did this happen to me? It started at my cousin's wedding. I was a bridesmaid and since I was to be 18 shortly, I was allowed to drink alcohol for the first time. I took my first drink and I liked it so much I took another and another until I passed out. The next morning I woke up with a viscious hangover. You would have thought I woke up an alcoholic but I didn't, that would come later. I woke up a sugar addict. I read somewhere that alcohol and sugar have very similar molecular structures. I believe it because from that moment on, I could not stop eating. My first binge consisted of a six pack of pepsi and a half gallon of ice cream and I wanted more when I was finished! Me, who had always been totally satisfied with a small dish of ice cream before. So my addiction to food began with the physical and quite soon the emotional and spiritual parts followed.
In six weeks I had gained 15 pounds when I had never been overweight before. I was mortified! I couldn't fit into any of my clothes. I wanted to eat more than I wanted anything else and I began to slowly isolate myself from family, friends and relatives. Up until that point, I had been very active socially in school, church and 4-H. I wanted nothing more in life than to be at home, by myself, with my food. I didn't want anyone to see me ingesting these huge amounts of food. It became very shameful to me to not be able to control my eating. I began to gain more and more weight and soon I noticed that when I was walking down the street, people would turn and stare. At first I couldn't understand why, then it dawned on me. They were staring at how huge I was. That realization crippled me emotionally and I began to build a wall around me that no one could penetrate. I graduated and went into a deep depression but no one recognized what was wrong with me so I got no help.
Eventually I pulled out of the depression with the help of my aunt who insisted I go to work for her. My life consisted of food and work. By the time I was 24, I decided I would like to get married but I knew no one would marry a 300 pound woman. Weight Watchers was in our area so I joined and lost about a 100 pounds. Then I began to drink because that wall around me not only kept people from getting to me but from me to reach out to others. The alcohol helped break that wall down and I began to visit bars every night looking for my soul mate. I found him and married him. He was an alcoholic too but he didn't mind my being overweight as long as I didn't say anything about his drinking. So, either I was in the food or I was in the alcohol. This went on during the entire ten year marriage. My weigh fluctuated between 200 and 300 pounds most of my adult life. By the time I hit my mid 30's, my body began to break down from the excess food and the alcohol. I became very physically ill and the doctor said I had to quit drinking. I joined AA and stopped drinking but in the process I lost my husband who did not want to stop drinking. I loved my husband very much but it was either stay with him and drink and die or leave and live. I left.
I had little self esteem, no self confidence and no goals in life other than to make it one day to the next. In the paper it announced that OA had a local meeting so I went. All they talked about was God and since I am not a religious person, I felt these people were all religious freaks. I wanted none of that. I simply wanted to lose weight, not find God. I left the meeting but always remembered that OA was there if and when I wanted it. It took another two years of misery before I was willing to go back to OA again. This time I stayed about a year. I went to meetings, I read literature and I did some service. I thought I was working the program. I listened to people with recovery and they said to get a sponsor. I said I was too scared. They said to work the steps and I said I can't do that. They said to reach out to others but I still had that wall between me and everyone else. Fear and self will held me back. I wanted to be thin more than I wanted anything else in the world EXCEPT food. I wanted food more than I wanted to be thin. I tried every diet I could find that seemed reasonable and every diet I lost weight. But as soon as the diet was over, I went back to eating and gaining all the weight back plus more. It never once occurred to me that I would gain the weight back after I had dieted it off, not once. I was in denial - Don't Even Know I am Lying. I tried so hard to work program but I understood it wasn't working for me. I didn't know why so I left OA again but I always remembered that OA was still there. I never forgot that.
I spent the next 20 years of my life doing absolutely nothing except working, eating, sleeping and watching television. That was my life! I stopped dieting because my mind refused to diet any longer. My body stabilized at 300 pounds and I figured I would always be obese. There was no hope for me.
When I hit 50, I lost my good job and no one, absolutely no one wants to hire a 50 year old woman who weighs 300 pounds with a high school education. I had hit my bottom and I had nowhere else to go. I spent my days at home, being unemployed and playing on the computer. One day I got the idea to look up OA online and found a support group called RODAT - Recovering One Day At a Time. They began a step study in January of 2002 and I joined. We met once a week for an hour and it took us 16 months to work our way through all Twelve Steps. This time I was able to manage getting a sponsor and working the steps. My wall that surrounded me somehow let the computer through. I was so scared when I asked someone to sponsor me and so scared to work the steps but I did it anyway. I had to, I had nothing left of me.
It was in that chat room where we did the step study that I began to finally heal. It was the first place I realized I really did have an actual disease and that other people had it too. We began to share our stories and our answers to the questions and I kept thinking "We are all one and the same person. Only the details are different." It is the first place I ever truly felt safe and at home. I could relate to these people, they knew who I was. Heck, they WERE me! I began to be abstinent with a 301 abstinence, which is 3 meals a day, nothing in between, one day at a time. I had a whole year of abstinence when Christmas came and my disease convinced me I could eat sugar again. I said yes! BIG MISTAKE! I would binge for days then be abstinent for days and this vicious cycle went on for 18 months. To my credit, I never gave up working the program. I kept going to meetings, kept working through the steps. I did whatever I could whether I was abstinent or not. It paid off.
On June 1st, 2004 my miracle happened, my spiritual awakening. I faced the truth of my addiction. I am an addict. I cannot eat sugar and/or white flour. I cannot binge. Ever. Because I am an addict, I have to work program to have any kind of remission from my disease of compulsive overeating. Because I am an addict, I am powerless over my food and I had to hand my disease and my food over to the care of a Higher Power. But I am not a religious person. Where is this HP? I looked "out there" but never found it. It was only when I looked into my heart that I found a spiritual strength that was greater than I and that spiritual strength is what I call God. The God of my understanding resides deep within my soul and is always available to me. All I need do is look into my heart, take a quiet moment and listen.
I surrendered my fight against having a disease of addiction. For that was what I was fighting all that time. I didn't wanna be an addict! I wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat whenever I wanted to eat and in whatever amounts I wanted to eat AND I wanted to be thin. That does not compute. *Wink* I had to give up the illusion that I could control my eating. I could not and I cannot today either. All the lies my disease told me, I knew they were lies but I wanted so badly to eat that I was willing to believe the lies my disease told me.
It was that day in June of 2004, when I turned and faced that wall of truth that said I am an addict. I cannot binge but I can be in recovery. There is relief for me and that relief is a program called OA. I have been abstinent since that day, an easy, natural, ongoing abstinence. I do whatever I need to do to keep my abstinence for abstinence is only the BEGINNING of my recovery. At first I mourned my best friend, food. I felt deprived until my sponsor pointed out what I was getting back in return for giving up the excess food. Clarity of mind, peace of soul and a whole new way of living. My disease of addiction did not want me to know that I would have a brand new life, a better, more healthy, more positive way of living.
Today, I am free of cravings, free of binging and free of obsessive food thoughts. I am also 89 pounds lighter but more important, I am a whole new me. For the first time in my life, I am an open, friendly, outgoing person. I love OA! I love the sense of belonging. I love being able to take good care of myself. I am learning new ways of living through the Twelve Steps. I work hard at program, I have to. It is a priority in my life for I would not have a life without OA. I have a great support team - My HP has my back, my sponsor on my right, my sponsees on my left and the entire OA fellowship surrounding us all. I cannot ask for more.
I am finally becoming the person that I have always wanted to be. I have a choice, I can be an addict in recovery or I can be an addict in hell. Today, I choose to be an addict in recovery. I am capable of recovery as are all of you. I spent 35 years of my adult life in compulsive overeating hell. The last two years have been spent in OA heaven. This I know, if I can do this, so can you. There is always hope for each and every single one of you. This miracle of recovery can be yours.
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my recovery with you. I love doing this!
Love in recovery,