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Food as an Addiction
It is a known fact that if a person has one addiction, there is probably another lurking somewhere. The other addiction(s) may not be as serious as the primary one, but it is nonetheless an addiction. The most popular example is drinking and smoking. Both are life-threatening but society sees these as different. Actually, my favorite personal story is that when I tell someone I don’t drink, they look at me with question in their eyes and say “why not?” Yet when I tell someone I stopped smoking, they congratulate me! Who can figure?
There is one addiction that I am becoming more familiar with and that is food. I understand food issues. For some in recovery from alcohol and/or drugs, food was not a problem until recovery. Now well into recovery, food is not only very important, it is an addiction. If your only addiction is food and you are in a program such as Overeaters Anonymous, then you are dealing with your food issues as your primary addiction. I don’t think those in OA turn to alcohol or drugs in recovery but that also doesn’t mean there isn’t another addiction.
Recently, I have encountered a number of women who have decided to attend OA meetings because they now understand addiction and 12 Step Recovery and believe they are on dangerous ground. These are not women who are extremely overweight but realize that they are eating in an unhealthy way and I’m not necessarily talking about nutrition. They are using food they way they used alcohol or drugs. That translates to when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are alone, when they are with others; in other words, nonstop!
One of my very young friends in recovery is pregnant with her first child. Prior to becoming pregnant, she felt she had a problem with food. She was even hiding it in her bedroom at night. Now that it isn’t all about her anymore (which I constantly tell her), she should eat and eat well. But she doesn’t have to eat 24 hours a day because she isn’t hungry 24 hours a day. Don’t get me wrong. Her nutrition is paramount but I am talking about the real reasons she eats constantly. She is the one who approached the subject because she knew deep inside she was uncomfortable with her eating habits. She has been attending OA meetings because she knows that if AA could get her sober, then OA, following the same 12 Steps, could help her with her eating. As a matter of fact, she had planned months ago to do a Step Four and Five based on her eating habits and now she has an OA sponsor to help her.
When I talk about food I am not only talking about overeating. I am talking about not eating enough. This isn’t necessarily in the anorexic category and I am not talking about bulimia either. These are diseases in their own right and should be treated by professionals. I am talking about being rather obsessed about weight to the point where food is not enjoyable. This is the person who weighs herself every morning, counts calories she doesn’t have to count, exercises regularly and it in pretty good shape. But, it’s just not good enough. Since I have bared my defects to all of you in the past, I can’t stop now. The type of person I am describing here is me. I know there are many like me but I am trying not to make this too personal.
Being obsessed with food (usually overeating) or being obsessed with weight (under eating) are both problematic. Psychological and emotional issues are a part of both. These are always why we eat or don’t eat. It is about self image and self esteem and in the case of the obsessed-with-weight person, it is that need to be perfect or at least better than the average. The bottom line is that Step One, admitting we are powerless over food, works for both groups but in a different way. I may be as addicted NOT to eat as well as the person who is addicted TO eat. I may make an excuse not to eat and someone else may make an excuse to eat. We may look different on the outside but our insides are all pretty much the same.
I received a nice little book from Carl “Tuchy” Palmieri entitled “The Food Contrarian”. It is “Quotes for People Recovering from or Dealing with Eating Issues”. It’s a fun book with quotes, poems, and sayings with a focus on the 12 Steps, the Promises, Traditions, and of course, our Higher Power. Mr. Palmieri writes in his intro that he invites us to read “in the spirit of what works and leave the rest”. You may get more information about the book at www.booksurge.com. I think you will find it enjoyable, and inspiring.
If you are already in OA and are working the steps, I hope that you are finding or have found that the road to recovery is not easy but with the help of the program, sponsor, and Higher Power, there is nothing you can’t do. For folks like me in a different recovery program…well, I have to go back to the drawing board and rework some of my steps so that I can cross out “food” from my list of addictions. I did it with alcohol and I did it with nicotine and for all of us it is progress not perfection!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
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