TRG SPEAKER PROGRAM
Personal Stories of Recovery
~ Lisa C. ~
Hi everyone...thanks SOOO much for this opportunity to share my story with you all this evening...what an awesome chance to give service, as well as get so much recovery back. I truly believe we have to "give it away to keep it"...so thanks for being here! It's been a while since I've shared at a speaker meeting, and I do want to say that I've learned that while my history doesn't change, my perception of it has change IMMENSELY. I came to OA feeling like I was a victim...today, I no longer view myself that way.
A little background to those who don't know me...I'm Lisa, 41, single mom to a 17 yr old son, in Decatur (Atlanta) GA, and in OA for over 3 1/2 yrs now. When I came to OA I was about 30 lbs overweight and spent most my days getting stoned, eating, napping, and running my online antique business...if I wasn't bingeing and/or compulsive eating, I was running 10 miles (or about 2 hrs ) or more many days (exercise bulimia)..not a fun life...actually a very small life that felt like I was on a hamster wheel never really getting anywhere.
Today this is far from my reality. Sooo...now, this is the part where I tell you where I was before OA, what brought me here, what I did, and where I am now....
I am the youngest child and only girl with 3 much older brothers, the youngest
of whom was 10 yrs older than me...my youngest brother, Steven was my main
abuser while I was growing up; later, when Steve was about 42 or so (about 8 yrs
ago) after he had what the doctors termed a "psychotic episode", he was
diagnosed as being bipolar..suddenly Soooo much of my past memories around him
My mom and dad were 40 and 47 when I was born, really more the age of
grandparents of kids my age. My two oldest brothers had moved out of the house
by the time I was about 4, so I don't really remember living with them. I grew
up always thinking I was the "oops" baby, but recently my mother told me that I
was not an "oops" at all....she said she got pregnant on purpose so her father-
in-law would not be able to move in with them at the time. It seemed funny to
me when she first told me this, but as I have processed her little anecdote, it
made me realize that my parents weren't really thinking it through very well
that this little baby (me!) would actually grow up and need guidance,
attention, and boundries. I love my parents dearly, but I have had to realize
that while they were loving providers, they never posessed very good parenting
I remember being a chubby kid and always feeling "fat" since I was
about 4 yrs old...it was actually when my mom and I walked to a neighbor's
house a few houses from ours. Must have been a death or something in their
family and we were paying respects. I was wearing only underpants but I felt
naked and exposed for the first time ever...and fat. I wanted to eat there,
but I was ashamed and styed in the corners and hallways. I felt too old to be
out in public not dressed...kinda weird memory. I just wanted to go back
home...it felt like forever til I finally did.
Now, as a mother myself, I have been able to look back
at old photos and see a cute, healthy little girl who was not
overweight at all. It saddens me to think how I was already
developing an unhealthy body image and feeling like there was
never "enough"...that included enough attention, love, protection,
and of course FOOD.
When I was around 7 to 10 yrs old, I used to ride my bike to the local bakery and buy chocolate eclairs...a box of them. And it never felt like enough. I'd eat one before I even went home,
then it seemed like the rest of them would be gone within a short amount of
time. I wanted them all...did not want to share. I remember eating them
standing in the kitchen, which was a small square shaped room. I also remember
spinning around and around til I was dizzy and would fall down while the little
room spun around in my head. I was always chasing a buzz..either from spinning
or eating sugar or both. I also remember my mom buying me these particular cookies
that I loved and couldn't get enough of...I never felt like there was ENOUGH.
From the time I was quite young, I remember food always being a great source
of comfort, often eating huge amounts of food for a young child, buying boxes
of bakery items and eating it all, or half a box of my favorite cookies....no
mention was ever made to eat moderately and I never thought anything of it. I
remember kids calling me fatty, etc...and my brother, Steve, and his friends
ALSO calling me names and making fun of me. He was also physically abusive,
once using the buckle end of a belt to beat me with while babystitting me when
I was about 6 or 7, and another time giving me a bloody nose while my mother
screamed for him to unlock the door.....he was never punished for his actions. I grew up learning that even when something didn't feel right, or if it felt WRONG...that it wasn't...hence many years of negative relationships where I ignored my inner voice which told me that these were not healthy situations.
In second grade, I remember having to get weighed with the rest of the class
and being the heaviest girl at around 75 lbs....my teacher (a very large woman,
coincidently) made the heaviest boy and me stand in front of the class and tell
the rest of the kids that we were overweight and needed to go on diets and lose
weight. I was mortified....and so very embarrassed. My mother still claims she
has no memory of this event and even implies that maybe I "make things up". It
seems I have always been told by my family members that what I feel is not
"right" in some way.
When I was 8,9, 10 yrs old, I ate lots of fast food, easily eating enough food
for 2 kids. It never even dawned on me that that was too much. In fourth
grade, my mom and I joined Weight Watchers...I was 98 lbs, chubby for sure, not
obese, and I remember getting down about 10 lbs or so and feeling so proud of
losing weight. I would keep a little "check off" list when I ate my alotted
foods on program. My mom had also had issues around food and had gotten plump
in the mid 50s, on diet pills in the late 50s to 60s, and shared diets w/ me including
WW and the oh-so-famous "Scarsdale Diet". I realize now that it is only by the grace of a higher power that I was never grossly obese...when I see someone who appears to be like me...ie...a compulsive overeater, I don't just think "fat and lazy" like I may have judged before OA, instead I see a kindred spirit and know that chances are, they have the same disease as I.
I went to sleepaway camp that summer before 5th grade and
was probably, for the first time ever, more focused on activity and
fun rather than food. I remember coming home and being so proud that for the
first time in my life I felt comfortable in my skin....unfortunately it was
short lived and food once again became my main source of comfort. While I
never became obese, I always struggled with my weight and rarely felt like I
was a "normal" size.
By high school, I wanted to fit into a group, so when I didn't make
cheerleading squad, I decided that if I couldn't be popular maybe I could fit
in with the "freaks". So, I began smoking cigarettes and using drugs...mostly
pot...and of course the munchies went along with it. Some drinking too... I was
the chubette still...never really obese, but chunky enough to feel like
the 'fat friend" most of the time. I had a group of friends and
we'd hang out together, get stoned, pig out on fast food, and go to
the mall and meet guys. I was so insecure of myself that I would
think that any attention from a guy was "love"...and I didn't use
any discretion when it came to dating/sleeping with guys...most of
whom were too old to be hanging out with 13 and 14 yr olds. I realize now
that I was so desperate to feel some sort of protection and to be heard that I
was always willing to go out with anyone who asked....I didn't even think to
say no. At one time, I think right before I hit my teens, I was sent to a
psychologist, but when he told my dad that I was normal and the problem was in
the parenting, that wasn't the right answer so I didn't go back. We did try a
different therapist a few years later, but again, since she couldn't "fix" me,
my dad had me stop going....felt he was wasting his money....I realize now,
that my father was a depression era child, a man's man, and going to a
therapist to "Work out" problems was probably just a concept to which he could
never quite relate.
At age 15, my parents sent me to boarding school to get me away from
all the "bad influences"...of course, I found the potheads/stoners
quickly. I always had about 10 lbs or so of extra weight, and I
discovered that if I ate almost nothing most of the day, binged on
candy bars and junk food at night, then threw it up and went for a
quick jog, I could lose weight! Amazing! I had never thought of
THAT before...so I had a few months of bingeing and purging, and
lost 10 lbs and was truly thin. Kinda hard to stop a behaviour when
people are coming up to you all the time telling you how great you
I came home after a few months of boarding school, then got into the
club scene in Atlanta at age 15...fake IDs, 24 yr old boyfriend,
and doubling up on classes in high school to graduate by age 16. I
had a car wreck after I got my license, and gained weight from
laying around eating, recovering from a broken leg. As soon as I
could, I went on a strict diet...eating about 800 calories a day and
working out daily at an early woman's workout place called Elaine Powers (they
still used those rolly machine things you sat on that were supposed to roll
away your fat by jiggling it off!). I got ultra thin again for my graduation
day, and I remember before the ceremony, eating out at a Mexican restaurant and bingeing so bad, I thought I was going to barf on the stage...I actually warned classmates to get out of my way if I jumped up during the ceremony! A prevalent memory of graduating High school was how physically uncomfrotable I was from eating so much.
I moved in with my boyfriend that summer, and in about a year I went from about 120 to about 160 lbs. So...thanks to the wonders of coke...the drug not the drink, I again shifted my
focus...worked all day, college courses at night, partying when I got home...
By age 18 my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I first became
interested in the role eating healthy could have to your overall
health. I ate macrobiotics w/ him as often as possible. My mother
would spend lots of time cooking for him and I would come over and
eat. It still hurts me when I think of how she'd get mad at me for
eating the food. She hated cooking it and knew if I ate at their house w/ my
dad, it was more work for her. I was confused how she didn't want to see
me be healthy too...I know now that she was just overwhelmed, and she'd have
been glad to open up a can of soup for me or feed me
something "easy" to cook...but I wanted the organic stuff...I loved
the food, so it was not a big sacrifice to me to eat this way.
My dad died when I was around 20...I was still doing coke and speed..not
eating for days, then 'sobering" up and bingeing for a day or
two...I was the only chubby cokehead I knew! My memory of my
dad's funeral was me feeling so fat that I had to borrow some black
pants to wear and I binged and binged on the tons of food that was
pouring in....nothing like a Big Fat Jewish funeral to help you
I bought my first home (had broken up with my first love right
before my dad died after being with him for 4 1/2 yrs, living with
him 3 1/2 yrs) soon after my dad died, and I got a dog, started
walking regularly, stopped doing drugs (except for pot), and got
into a somewhat "healthy" lifestyle. At age 22, I met Brad...he re-
introduced me to drugs, (very briefly thank God), and bingeing on food on "off" days. Within a yr I'd gained 20 lbs, then I got pregnant with my son,
who is now almost 17 1/2. I'd stopped the drugs again after a short bout with
them before I got pregnant...food was the only option for me for
numbing...that and pot. Quitting coke was easy....for me.... I
stayed with Brad for a few years, then he disappeared for about 3 1/2 yrs, and when Alex was
about 7... he showed up one day...a week later, I got the call that he was found dead from an overdose at a hotel in Florida...he was 45. It was actually a blessing that it happened how and when it did.
When I was almost 30, I went to donate blood and found out that I
hadn't completely gotten thru my drug years unscathed...no Aids,
thank God, but I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. That summer, after
a depressing few months on my pity pot, I realized I needed to take
responsiblity for where I was at. My son wasn't even 6 yet, I was
about 160 lbs, lethargic, angry, and feeling like I was dying. So,
I met a homeopath, started eating and exercising in a way that would
be beneficial to me healthwise, and within about 6 months I was 35
lbs lighter, and I looked and felt great. I had never been this thin before,
and I must say, some friends thought I was anorexic and in my mind, that was a
great compliment! Unfortunately, I was only working the physical aspects of my
life and out of fear....which, as I have learned in
program, is the opposite of faith.
Still, it wasn't enough...my vanity took over...I wanted to be perfect,
thinner, sexier, happier...so as I lost focus of my health and
started restricted my diet more and more, my bingeing behavior
reared its head again. I'd usually binge on several desserts at
least one night a week, then run or do some sort of exercise for
hours the next day. Funny how people accepted that as "normal"
behaviour...I'd always hear how great I looked and how with all the
working out I did, I can eat whatever I want. And I did.
Eventually after a few years, the bingeing became more frequent, the
exercise less...and my weight came back. I did do a
juice/starvation/10mile daily run regimine for a while before my
son's Bar Mitzvah, then gained back the weight plus some within
about 6 months. So many people had made such a big deal over how
thin I had been, so when I saw in May of 2003 that I'd gained back
my weight, I felt like such a failure. Forget all the good stuff I
had done...like raising a great kid on my own or running my own
business for nearly 17 yrs...I had based ALL my self worth on the
fact that I wore a size 4 or 6. I could have won a Nobel Peace
Prize, but I swear I think I got more attention by losing 35 lbs.
I came to OA in May 2003 after a very dramatic scene w/ my brother Steve, who had berated me at a family wedding. Today, I am so grateful for it, as it brought to light the fact that while my brother may have HIS issues...the need to binge on 2 lb bags of chocolate was MY issue. My reactions are MY reactions...and OA has helped me to not REact to things too often, instead pausing and working towards practicing the principles of recovery in all my affairs.
Within about 6 months in OA, my compulsive eating and bingeing had lessened, I had begun to work with a sponsor and read OA literature and work the steps the best I could. I also adopted a plan of eating, was exercising moderately and regularly, and saw a nutritionist who knew and respected 12 step recovery and the concepts of food addiction and the spiritual and emotional aspects of food in addition to the physical. My life opened up a lot. I discovered Bikram yoga, which was an intense yoga series also known as "hot yoga" which was not typical stretching...it was strenuous, cardivascular, muscular, and just the thing I needed to transition from my over-exercising externally focused workouts to a more inwardly focused mindful one.
For over 3 yrs I have maintained a healthy "normal" weight and I've kept coming back. Physically, I was about a size 6/8 (I'm about 5' 5.5" tall) and I was physically abstinent about 99% of the time...it was that 1% that was the "beyotch" (as my son's friends say!). Yoga has become a great way for me to not only exercise, but to also work on my spiritual and emotional recovery. In December 2005, after about 700 or so yoga classes in about 2 yrs, after the teacher overslept for a class and I was pushed to teach that morning, I was given the chance to actually LEAD a class each week? Yep! So for over a year now, I now get paid to share my yoga practice with others! I NEVER imagined that I would EVER be an actual instructor...I am considering getting my certification to make it official this summer...we'll see...
Besides my yoga classes, I would walk and jog as well just about everyday...the studio is about 1/2 mile away, so I would do 10-30 min of walking or light jogging before and/or after my classes. I also live in a very walk-friendly community, so some days, I would walk to all my errands..bank, post office, grocery store, etc... I had begun to let go of my all-or-nothing mentality...the mindset that I either had to run 10 miles or not even bother. If I could just walk for 30 minutes or perhaps do some de-weeding in my lawn or mow the lawn for 20 minutes, then that was enough.
As for tools of recovery which I regularly utilize, I attend regular face to face OA meetings, online meetings, worked with my sponsor, worked with others in OA, had sponsorees, and despite it feeling kinda corny at times, I actually became willing to pray and meditate as often as possible. I defined (and still define) my abstinence not just as abstaining from toxic and unhealthy food and food behaviors, but also as abstaining from toxic people, places and situations which may threaten my peace and sanity.
My life has become larger too...I date occasionally, am a better and more present mother, I'm more social, attending a party here and there, and I generally no longer dread family functions. About 2 1/2 yrs ago, I went to Europe for a week and had a blast! I spent a whirlwind weekend in New York City and attending a wedding at the Rainbow Room...AND stayed abstinent! I went to about 3 family food-oriented events as well as making room to do some jogging and try out a couple of different yoga studios while I was there. I felt comfortable in my skin and clothes the entire time too! Oh...and I brought my laptop and OA stuff...I read, prayed, attended an online meeting or two, and called OA friends...I even met with an OA friend whom I had known from online meetings. Oh, and did I mention that one evening that summer (July 5th 2004 to be exact), after a nearly daily pot habit that began when I was 12 yrs old, the desire just went "poof" and I stopped. Yep, despite by belief that I would ALWAYS smoke a little, OA ruined a "perfectly" good pot habit after 26 years. Go figure....suddenly, smoking dope just wasn't part of my recovery life...I was 'done".
About 6 1/2 months ago, while life was pretty good, I still wanted more from recovery. I was still bingeing and compulsively eating about once every week or 2....sometimes 2 times in a week, even. It scared me because being slim had become a double-edged sword. I mean, I "looked" normal...I had a nice life....I felt like I was "getting away" with something when I binged...afterall, I could maintain a slim shape. But I discovered that a binge as a size 6 or 8 was just as insane as one at a size 28.....I'd been working with a great sponsor who suggested I commit to going to 90 in 90....90 face to face (f2f) meetings in 90 days. I resisted at first, however, I then realized that I had to be willing to go to any length. So back in the beginning or middle of July, I began by committing, one day at a time, to go to a meeting. I called this "immersion" into recovery...kinda like my own in and outpatient treatment program.
Since then, my recovery has grown amazingly. I have, for the 1st time in my 3 1/2 yrs in program, continued to enjoy the b2b (back to back) abstinence from bingeing I so craved and deserved for about 6 1/2 months. It has not been completely perfect...I have had 4 incidents where I did begin to compulsively overeat, and while I was compulsive, I stopped by contacting my local sponsor and sending in a 10th step to my online 10th step sponsor. I have lots of things I have to do daily to stay grounded in program on all levels, physical, emotional and spiritual. A couple of VERY crucial tools for me include daily contact with my sponsor and a willingness to go thru my stepwork slowly and steadily, and EVERY night, nearly without fail, for nearly 7 months, I email a 10th step to my online sponsor. It is a mini 4th that is, to me, essentially a 5th-9th step each evening that helps me to keep my side of the street clean on a daily basis. Thanks to my 10th step sponsor's loving feedback and ESH from over 20 yrs of b2b abstinence, I have been able to see all kinds of patterns surrounding my thoughts and actions and evolve so much in my life.
Life today is pretty cool...while it is not perfect, and in fact, far from it, I eagerly look forwarad to each day. After about 4 yrs of thinking about it and 20 yrs of interest, I FINALLY took the plunge and have started a distance learning degree program in holistic nutrition. I am a STUDENT again after quitting college over 20 yrs ago. I strive for balance between studying, continuing to run my own business which I have had for about 20 yrs, and raising my son and taking care of the house. I am very humble, teachable...I maintain a "beginner's mind". I'm just a babe in the woods really...I still get bratty, ego driven thoughts, I still screw up sometimes, I still REact sometimes rather than pausing and being mindful...the list goes on...I am still human!
Today, I realize that the first compulsive bite for me always starts with that first compulsive thought. So I pray each day for recovery from the obsession, and the willingness to align my will with that of my higher power's will. I want more than just physical recovery, because for me, simply not using food as a drug is not enough if I am still tormented with the mental obsession...that equates to white-knuckling...and that's no fun for me...and I eventually break down and act on the thoughts. I know that I CAN recover each day from my eating disorder, however, I am never "cured"...I only get to get a daily reprieve contingent upon my willingness to surrender and work this program on a spiritual level. Yoga is perfect for me, since it is getting in shape "from the inside out"...I am slim and energetic as a perk of my inner work. Lately, the b2b abstinence and the dedicated yoga practice (I also began pilates a few months ago) seems to be having an effect on my body as my jeans are getting looser and I am hearing comments from people that I look like I am getting thin...I have to remember that "what other people think of me is none of my business". Comments can be triggering..even so called "positive" ones. Bodies change and I am not my body...I HAVE a body and I honor it by moving it mindfully, regularly, and moderately and feeding it healthy, unprocessed, balanced non-triggering foods...but I my goal is to keep growing among spiritual lines. When I do, then it just shows on the outside!
Now, I am grateful for so much...and while I am facing some medical issues regarding endocrine imbalances, residual effects from the self abuse I underwent over a decade ago, I have surrender, acceptance, willingness, and courage to deal with it, one day at a time. I am forever grateful to this program and the amazing fellowship for helping me to grow and evolve and begin to see the miracles that life can offer if I open my eyes and listen to my inner voice.
Thanks for letting me share this evening!
Some of my favorite slogans...
"What other people think of me is none of my business."
"If i focus on weight I lose recovery; if i focus on recovery, I lose weight.
Also . . . . . a favorite mantra..."today I am enough"
For ME...half measures DID avail me something...in fact, I view my "half measures" as the baby steps I had to take in order to get to a point of willingness and recovery....and I wouldnt change a thing.
Your Recovery Speaker for today,
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