You cannot tackle an addiction with resolve. It doesn’t work. The only way to face addiction is with humility. To recognize that you are powerless against it. And somehow the act of admitting that you can’t do anything about it of your own volition begins to break its power over you. For nine years I believed that if I just tried harder, if I just had more control over my thoughts, if I just created better habits then I would beat bulimia. It was all centered around me and my control, which in a way was only an extension of the disorder and addiction.
I always believed that it was possible to be completely free from bulimia. There were plenty of people who told me this wasn’t possible: doctors, nutritionists, therapists other people I encountered in group therapy sessions. They were all of the opinion that in some way I would struggle with this for the rest of my life; that I would constantly be fighting the battle. It was as if they had all accepted defeat. To me that was unthinkable. Mostly because the battle that was going on in my mind, to me was hell-on-earth. If it was going to continue as they said, then what was the point? I couldn’t help but ask this question. But I believed that I was not made to live a hell-on-earth, that I was made to be MORE. This hope grew out of my faith in God, that His intention for me, for all mankind is to know love and freedom. I believed that His offer is not necessarily a perfect life free of hardship or pain, but a new identity one where I would be free and fully alive.
Whether or not you believe in God, it seems to me that there is an element of faith when anyone perseveres into something that seems utterly hopeless. Whatever the suffering, whatever the disorder, whatever the addiction it takes faith to believe that we were meant for more: that we were meant to be fully alive.
I finally came to know what being fully alive meant in the Spring of 2009. In February of 2009 I attended a few Anorexic and Bulimics Anonymous meetings and began to read the book [ABA follows a twelve step program similar to AA. Click here for resources]. As I read those first few pages, something clicked: my bulimia was an addiction. Slowly those years of work (In nine years I did so much therapeutic ‘work’ surrounding my eating disorder: the behaviors, my personality and my relationships and I had journaled it all) started to come together. I realized that I was pretending it wasn’t a problem, I was trying to gloss over the power it had over me in an attempt to feel in control. I downplayed the behavior to friends and family who were trying to support me, further alienating myself from the help that I really needed. And when I sought help I did so when I was feeling “strong” and in control, not when I was in my weakest, most helpless moments. For nine years I had refused to admit that I was powerless over my addiction. When I finally, truthfully and fully, admitted to myself that I was at the end of myself and was completely powerless, things started to change. It was gradual at first: I didn’t feel as guilty if I ate “more than I should” and the desire to be in constant control wained. The lie was losing its grip on me because I had FINALLY admitted the truth.
It wasn’t long after the tide began to turn that I found out I was pregnant with our first child. It was at that point that everything began to solidify. I realized that if I truly loved the life inside me then I had to completely let go of the self-centered way of thinking that had trapped me for so long. I began to embrace the thing that petrified me: weight gain.
Before I was ever pregnant I was consumed with fear that I’d never lose the weight I would gain during pregnancy. I was also worried that if I had a daughter that she would follow in my footsteps and also be obsessed with weight and appearance that would eventually lead to an eating disorder the way it did with me.
When I found out I was pregnant I had to let go of all these fears, along with my disordered thinking about weight and food. I found pregnancy to be freeing. I promised to embrace the weight gain. I promised to not purge. It was in these promises that I let go. I had made promises before, but it was the threat of loss that brought me to my “rock bottom” or at least within sight of it. I didn’t want to lose my baby. I had disregarded my own life and health, but I could NOT disregard the life–the baby–inside me. This pregnancy was too precious: I’d been told by two doctors that my ability to conceive was slim to none due to complications with amenorrhea. To finally, though unexpectedly, conceive “against the odds” made me realize I had been give a precious gift that I didn’t want to loose.
Even with this resolve there was a part of me that didn’t want to keep those promises. So I told myself that if I still wanted to go back to restricting or purging after the pregnancy as a way to lose weight then I could, but during the pregnancy I wouldn’t. When I got to the end of nine months and finally held my daughter in my arms on December 9, 2009 I knew there was no going back. For nine months I’d tasted freedom. For nine months I’d felt fully alive. Even though I’d given myself permission to go back to the way I had been living, it didn’t mean anything. It had no appeal.The addiction had no hold over me. I had a new identity. I was bulimic. Now I am FREE!
There are so many people that I leave out of this story. Mostly because it would become so detailed that the post would become impossibly long. However, there are some incredibly significant people who I want to publicly thank.
Mark–My husband, my best friend, my cheerleader. He was by my side through the whole thing. We began dating in college the fall after I was diagnosed with Anorexia (2001). He attended counseling sessions with me. He prayed and cried with me. He encouraged and challenged me. But mostly he loved me through it. And even when he had his own doubts that the battle would ever end he kept hoping and believing for me. You are the most amazing man ever! I love you!
My family-Mom, Dad, Chris, Rachel and Alissa. I love you all. Your prayers have finally been answered. God is faithful!
Anna-Dear friend! You saw it all and still cared. Thank you for encouraging me with truth when I needed to hear truth, offering a hug when I needed one and above all believing that I was made for MORE.
Karen- A mentor and friend in my college days. Karen provided support, wisdom and prayer. I could be honest with her and she didn’t flinch, she never judged, she just believed. And I know she spent a good amount of time on her knees for me. Thank you!
Donna-Mentor and friend during the thick of it. When I was far away from my family and friends you helped me have hope for a future of freedom. Thank you for your prayers and love!
Kimberly-My counselor in Phoenix, AZ whose Christian perspective helped me break through in so many areas where I struggled. Thank you for your wisdom, prayers and support. You were such help in my journey.