Free at last…I am free from binge eating. I’ve wondered what is going to happen now. I am not bingeing to stuff my emotions that I don’t want to feel. There is a freedom to that because bingeing calls for negative behaviors such as being secretive, not feeling anything but the numbness, keeping my distance from others deliberately hoping they would never know what I’ve done, the guilt afterward, what a failure I was, and lies about my “stash of food” in my room.
Each time I binged, it served a purpose for me. I would go numb, detached, kind of hypnotized at the time. Food is my drug of choice. I was too afraid of alcohol and drugs because I needed to stay in control and conscious. It’s difficult to break the addiction because you still need to eat to survive. You can’t go “cold turkey” with food. You would not be around long if you did.
Binge eating started for me in childhood while I was being sexually abused by my father. Below is my memory of those events and may **trigger** some others who may have experience abuse.
I remember that he would “finish” and then tell me to go to the bathroom and get myself cleaned up before going to bed. I would get out of his bed and creep through the livingroom, where my mother was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake her as she slept on the couch rather than with my father. I was 6 or 7 so I didn’t understand why she slept on the couch. I just didn’t want to wake her because she would be mad and yell at me.
I’d make it to the bathroom, but I didn’t clean up. I crouched down by the toilet in the dark and cried. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see the refrigerator from where I crouched. At some point, I remembered that I didn’t eat much for dinner. I would slowly and quietly go to the fridge and open it. The light was startling at first but then I would look at all the food in there. I would take something to eat like fruit or cheese or lunch meat.
I discovered that while I was eating, I would forget about the abuse for a while. I would go back into the bathroom in the corner by the toilet (my safe place) taking my food stash with me and pretend that I was someone else or somewhere else. Some nights I would imagine I was a pirate and that I stole the stash from the people in the village. Other nights, I would pretend I was having a picnic with my friends (even though I don’t remember having any). “That is when food became my friend. The food understood that I needed it to feel better and it kept me from feeling lonely with nobody to talk to about things.
The ritual began and the binge behavior started. I was secretive and would lie if my mother asked about food missing. I started exploring the cabinets and found things like peanut butter, jelly, cereal, etc. These I could eat by the spoonful or with my hands. I even sat and ate a whole canister of Nestles chocolate powder (used to make chocolate milk) but the milk carton was too heavy to lift and pour. I would eat it with a spoon and get numb and “high” on the sugar.
This ritual continued for a few years and I remember my mother complaining because she had to buy my school clothes in the “chubby” section at Sears. I told her all the kids at school were getting bigger and I was going through a growing spurt. By age 11, I was really getting heavy and my father started complaining and calling me “fat.” He said he didn’t like fat women and that’s why he needed me because my mother was fat. That is when he stopped sexually abusing me. I wasn’t his pretty little girl any longer.
Now, there was a “Catch-22” in that I didn’t like being fat, but if I stayed fat, my father wouldn’t have sex with me. I WAS SAFE!!! My goal was to keep eating so he wouldn’t do “it” again. I was hooked. Food numbed me out when I felt awful, it became my friend when I felt lonely and abandoned by my mother, and it kept me safe from the abuse because my father didn’t like me being fat. Of course, there were some negative consequences for me. I wasn’t skinny and boys didn’t like me. I was always picked last in gym class for team games. Others kids teased me because I was fat.
The positives outweighed (no pun intended) the negatives. So. I buried my memories of the abuse for 24 more years. Then I went into therapy for depression and anxiety from the flashback of memories I was experiencing. At that time, I couldn’t remember anything until age 12. The flashbacks were memories of the abuse.
I never connected until recently that I wasn’t just fat because I ate too much and loved food. So now, I am free of the need to binge. I am an adult, safe, I have people who love me and support me. I am still lonely, but I’m working on that. I realized that I could stop using food to stuff my feelings. I could feel my emotions and deal with my anxiety or pain, or depression as an adult, not a child. I was an adult and could make different choices now.
It is early in my recovery and I have a way to go. I’m still learning about the behaviors and how turning to food, kept me isolated and away from other people who could help me. I take it one day at a time. I don’t need to use food as my drug at least for the next 24 hours. So…tonight I celebrate feeling FREE!