I finally realized that I had tried for most of my four decades to handle my issues alone. Well, that’s not entirely true – i had lots and lots of input from therapists and nutritionists. They all meant well, but I just couldn’t do what they suggested.
Finally, I began by taking my alcoholism and drug addiction off to a 12 Step fellowship, but sill clung to my eating disorder, the mother ship. You could talk to me about drugs and drink, but food – that was mine, too private, too important, too terrifying. I knew for a fact, I thought, that if I didn’t control my eating, I’d quadruple in size. (funny now – 13 years later – that i AM gaining weight, and it’s okay!)
Eventually, a very kind alcoholic gently said to me, “Melissa, you are REALLY weird about food.” Oh, eating only iceberg lettuce and the wrappers off muffins was weird behavior?
I’m not here to say that one needs a 12 Step process to get well. But I am here to tell you how it worked for me.
For me, food was my solution to everything – eating and/or not eating. If I was lonely, tired, sad, or angry OR happy, excited,or pleased – I ate or starved. It didn’t matter. But of course, no amount of ice cream can do anything about sadness or anger or any emotion, for that matter.
The Twelve Steps taught me that food is just a symptom of an inner malady. I had to look at my causes and conditions if I wanted to get well.
I needed to take an honest look at myself and my life. One thing for sure, I felt so sorry for myself – I’d had a difficult childhood, made worse by being fat with acne, braces and frizzy hair. I’d never had a real boyfriend, didn’t like my job, had huge credit card debt AND was angry and miserable most of the time. And of course, I was a drug addict, alcoholic and severely eating disordered woman.
One other thing for sure, I blamed my mother for EVERYTHING. First, I had to look at, deal with and get over my mommy issues.
Here I was, 42 years old, sure that my mother shouldered the blame for everything wrong with my life. What I saw, however, through the 12 Step process was that as a grown woman, I was responsible for my current life. It was my job to build and develop a career. My mother had worked very very hard to build her own career. I’d never put much effort into anything.
And what about relationships? Who would want to date someone, me, who was angry and miserable AND no fun (because most of my life revolved around eating or not eating)? My mother was a nice, lovely person with lots of interests – of course, people liked her.
Also, at the time that I started looking at myself and my life, my mother had been dead two years. I couldn’t keep blaming her for my life.
Next, I compared my life to my mothers. I was a drug addict, alcoholic, buliimic mess. I had lied, cheated and stolen most of my life – done some really rotten stuff. I was selfish, self-involved and jealous of everyone else. And yet, I wanted to be forgiven and was, in fact, granted forgiveness by so, so many through the 12 Step process..
My mother was a single mom with three kids who worked 80 hours a week as a piano teacher. There was a roof over our heads, food on the table and we all went to college. She did her best. She tried her best. Did she make mistakes? Of course. But in comparison to me and my life and mistakes, the woman was practically a saint. How could I not forgive her, when I want to be forgiven my trespasses?
It’s funny, but after a lifetime of complaining about my mother, I can no longer actually remember anything bad about her. What a peaceful place.
And so, I found, if i could love my mother with all my heart, anything was possible. Seeing my mother’s humanity and being able to look at the truth about my life and MY problems and defects (not hers!) was a huge shift that allowed me to open my heart and mind. It began me on the path to freedom. I saw that there is nothing really to eat over – everything is really quite fine. Wow
So, through the 12 Step process, I discovered that my mother is NOT the problem, I am the problem. I am MY problem, which is the good news, because me I can change. If my mother HAD been the problem, I’d be lost, but she wasn’t.
And so, I get to work on changing myself.
Next up – my relationship with food and how that changed.