Step One

We admitted we were powerless over
our compulsive behavior with food
that our lives had become unmanageable.




LEADER'S SHARE ~ STEP ONE

Hi, my name is Thumper and I'm a compulsive overeater. My oldest memory is of food. What I remember is sitting in front of a plate of creamed corn and crying because I wanted something else. Although the memories of a 3 year old can be hazy in retrospect, my sense of it was that I was at that plate for a long time. My parents had the unfortunate and abusive notion that it was important for us to eat everything on our plate, now matter how disagreeable we thought the food was. As I grew older I can remember 6 and 7 hour marathons at the dinner table - we were often kept at the table in my parent's vain attempt to force us to eat really gross tasting stuff that I couldn't physically eat without vomiting and these sessions only ended each day when they became tired and decided that getting their sleep was more important than forcing us to eat the food. To this day, I still have the compulsive need to eat everything that is on my plate which is one of the reasons weighing and measuring my food BEFORE it gets on the plate is so essential for me.

I loved sweets and high fat foods. I remember fighting with my siblings over the largest cookie and crying if the cookie broke as we fought over it. As a kid I stole candy bars and cheese from the grocery stores. I stole ice cream from the freezer and ate from the bottom of it in hopes that I wouldn't get discovered and if I failed to restrain myself before eating the entire box, I would hide the remains under my bed until the mold on it became scarier than the fear of getting caught! I lived in fear of not getting enough to eat. My folks were fond of embarrassing me with the story of the time our car ran into the ditch and I started crying uncontrollably because I was frightened that we wouldn't be home in time for breakfast.

Because I was a bit overweight, I never fit into any of the "in" crowds in school. Actually, I didn't fit into any crowds at all. I was teased and made fun of because of my weight and appearance. I was picked on by the bullies. I hated school and I hated the people in it, both the kids who made me miserable and the teachers who wouldn't or couldn't protect me. I hate to say it, but I can relate to these kids who have taken weapons into the school and killed their classmates. I spent many hours fantasizing about such revenges. I hated my life so much that there was a question I used to amuse myself with. The question was if I had the ability to push a button and destroy the entire world, myself included, would I go ahead and push it? Most days, the answer was "yes."

I learned how to be tougher and I learned how to suppress my emotions. Alcohol and drugs became my primary weapon against the experiencing of feelings. Life was lived in a vacuum that consisted of eating, sleeping, and getting high. I barely got by. Eventually my life became so miserable as a result of the alcohol and drugs that I had to get sober. When I did, compulsive overeating took over my life.

Within one year of getting sober, I had gained over 100 lbs! Eating became my life. I ate huge quantities of food and I ate often! I'd eat and eat and eat until I my stomach hurt so bad I'd think I was going to die but the insane notion would still remain that maybe if I just ate one more thing the pain would go away. I stole food from work or took things out of the lunch bags of fellow co-workers. In the 4 years I worked as an alcohol/drug counselor, I embezzled about $3,000 to finance my trips to the all you can eat buffets. Although I was eating like a crazy person and all my waking moments were spent in some way thinking about or dealing with food, and despite my working in the field of addictions, I STILL didn't realize I had a disease!

As I grew to around 300 lbs, my physical and mental health were both deteriorating. My back hurt all the time and I had difficulty walking because of the pain in my ankles. I started my career of dieting alternated with periods of compulsive exercising. I'd go months eating nothing but lettuce and popcorn. I'd lose weight, but then gain it right back. I tried high carb, low fat - high fat, low carb, no protein, all protein, liquid only, and just about every other kind of diet I could find out about. (I know that I sure ate a lot of grapefruit at one point in my life!) I would go crazy with exercising. I dropped out of college so that I could begin another phase - playing racquetball for 8 hours a day! That time I lost 100 lbs in 3 months and was fortunate that it didn't kill me and that all I lost was my education. When I quit playing the racquetball, I went back to the eating with a vengeance!

My bottom happened over a period of days. It's a very foggy memory but I remember being severely depressed and wanting to die. I hadn't gone to work in weeks. I didn't get out of bed other than to go to the bathroom. I had boxes of food next to the bed and I just kept eating. All through the apartment was trash and moldy and rotten food remains. I hadn't changed the litter box for my cats in a very long time and I had to walk carefully to get to the bathroom without stepping on any of it. The trash was completely covering the floor, there wasn't one uncovered place. The stench was awful. My clothes were dirty and I had nothing to change into because the acrid smell of cat pee and rotting food permeated my unused clothing. I don't know how many days I laid there in bed. I remember people coming into my apartment because I hadn't locked my front door and shaking me by the shoulder to ask me if I was ok. I don't know what I usually told them, but they'd go away. I wanted to go downstairs and lock my door but I couldn't seem to get the energy to do it.

I don't remember who it was or how they did it, but somebody came and took me to an AA meeting and on the wall of that meeting hall was mention of an OA meeting scheduled for later in the week. It may seem insane, but it wasn't until that moment that I truly realized that I was suffering from a disease and that I needed help! Eating was my life. And that my life was unmanageable, there wasn't much doubt. My job was in jeopardy, I had isolated myself from my friends, my spouse had left me, I was in danger of going to jail for embezzlement, and I saw no reason to think my life would get any better. I knew that unless something changed, I would choose to end my life. I finally came to understand that which is known as "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization."

Thanks for listening to me tell the story of how I got to my bottom and learned I was powerless over food and that my life had become unmanageable.

Since I've told you mine, how about you telling me yours?

Love,
Thumper



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