Thursday, February 19, 2009

Still the beginning ...

I know there are major differences between overcoming alcoholism and overcoming compulsive overeating. But there is at least one advantage that the recovering alcoholic has that the recovering COE does not have. 

An alcoholic can choose to remove all alcohol from her house, can choose not to go into a liquor store, and can choose to stay out of bars. In essence, she can virtually eliminate alcohol from her immediate  surroundings. I know that doesn't remove the desire or the craving, and I am by no means minimizing the struggle. The alcoholic will eventually have to learn to survive in a world where alcohol is present. But stop and think for a minute. The alcoholic has the ability to completely stop drinking alcohol, get it completely out of her system. I, as a compulsive overeater, do not have that choice. If I stop eating, I starve and die.

The struggle I'm having is that first meal, that first bite. Just like the alcoholic's first drink, it can lead to a binge, which leads to me wanting to purge. So, the struggle the COE has is that she must eat, but not overdo; she has to indulge, but only a little. Do you see the dilemma here?

I was chatting last night with another COE at an on-line OA meeting. When I mentioned this to her, she said she thought that an addiction to food was the worst addiction one could have. I would imagine everyone struggling with an addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, or food, thinks theirs is the worst one out there. I guess all we can do is take it day by day ... or, as they say, "one day at a time."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The beginning ...

This is a hard one. First steps usually are.

I've been bulimic for the better part of 20 years. And once I tried to start dealing with it, I always assumed it was the problem, the behavior itself. But it's not. I think it's just a side effect of the real problem ... compulsive overeating.

I don't know when I became a compulsive overeater; there isn't a specific "a-ha" moment in my memory. I do remember being very young and not liking most foods, and my mom making me sit at the table until I ate all my carrots, and hearing stories about how children in China were starving. And then, I have later memories of feeling like I needed to eat as much as I could, but I had to be sneaky about it because I didn't want people to think I was a pig. I don't know why I felt I needed to get more than everyone else. Was I afraid there wasn't going to be enough? I don't know. I think the bulimia became a way to control the consequential weight gain of COE.

Much like alcoholism, compulsive overeating is an addiction. Although the physical withdrawal is not as bad, the headaches and cravings one experiences when withdrawing from sugar can be difficult to deal with. I used to say it's a way of dealing with what life throws at you. But in reality, it's a way of a way of not dealing with things. That's part of what makes this whole thing really scary. In trying to stop the behavior, I'm going to have to start dealing with life, instead of hiding from it.

Part of that is going to be realizing that even though certain events in my life may have started the ball rolling in this direction, ultimately I bear the responsibility for my own actions. I choose to act in a certain way, or not to. It's time to stop blaming things that happened thirty or fourty years ago.

Someone recently told me it's better to act than to react, and then he explained what that means by way of an example. He told me to think of something that annoys or irritates me. For example, because I used to be one, I don't have a lot of patience with bad waiters or waitresses. Then he said to think of how I would react in that situation. Like I said, I had no patience, so I'd become all authoritative, like there would be no pleasing me, no matter what. Consequently, this would only serve to intimidate the waitress or waiter, making them even more nervous. (Was that my goal? Was I that mean spirited?) Now, imagine that instead of reacting the way I did, I could choose to think first. Think about what? Well, I guess that's up to me. I think in this case, it would be to think about how I felt as a new and inexperienced waitress, and think about how I would want to be treated. Puts things in a whole new perspective.

And he told me to try and find my spirituality, my higher power. Whether it's God, Buddha, whatever ... it doesn't matter. Just find it. The purpose is to admit the problem, admit that I'm powerless against it, and turn it over to the higher power. This will be difficult for me. I was raised Catholic; went to Catholic school for eight years. I abandoned that religion a long time ago, and in doing so I tried to deny the existence of God. But he told me that religion is different from spirituality. Academically I know this. Emotionally, inside it's confusing to me. I'm having a difficult time separating the two.

OA (Overeaters Anonymous) recommends reading the AA "Big Book." They recommend following the same twelve step program. I didn't just decide to do this yesterday ... I've been thinking about it for a long time. It used to be about how I looked in terms of my weight, etc. But that's changed. It's more about how I feel. And I don't know how to define that yet. I did get the book and I will start reading. I'm thinking I should probably go to a few OA meetings and try to get a sponsor. That's scary. That's part of admitting to the problem. It's one thing to admit it to myself, or to my friend. It's another to admit it to a room full of strangers. It's like making it real.

Okay ... so the last thing. Why am I doing this so publicly? Well, I have learned a few things in my 53 years here. The first is that no matter how bad your situation is, no matter how much you're suffering, someone else has it worse. For example, I have fibromyalgia. Yes, it's painful; yes I'm forced to make changes that I really don't want to make. But it's not going to kill me. It's life changing, not life threatening. It's all about perspective.

Second, we're never as alone as we think we are. Someone, somewhere is going through the same thing. So if by doing this in a public way I can help someone else, or connect with someone else, then perhaps we can both be helped in the process.

So here I go on my own yellow brick road to recovery. If you'd like to follow along, great. If not, that's great too. Just please, wish me luck.

Friday, February 13, 2009

If you don't wanna know ...

I have a need to vent ...

This habit that we all have of saying hello and then automatically following it with "How are you?" should cease. It's not a greeting. It's a question. Questions usually solicit answers, don't they? (that was a question) "Why yes, they do." (this is an answer)

People know I have fibro. And because I haven't yet seen the rheumatologist, (it takes a month and a half to get a "new patient" appointment) it's pretty easy to tell when I'm having a bad day with it. I move more slowly; I may grimace from time to time; I may close my office door and put my head down for a few minutes at lunch. It's not rocket science. Pretty much all you have to do is look at me to tell. So when you say "How are you?" I'm gonna tell you the truth. Today sucks ... I'm sore ... whatever. I've been told I'm honest to a fault. Should I not be? Should I lie? Say I'm fine when I'm not? Well, I don't. That's not me. And I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. I've known people with chronic illness or chronic pain conditions who've voiced the same frustrations.

Even deeper than the surface annoyance of this, is the insincerity and downright falsity it illustrates and perpetuates. How many times have we asked someone how they are, and then thought "Oh shit. Now she's gonna tell me." Why do this if we really don't want to know? Do we want someone to think we care, but inside we really don't? That's just wrong.

If you don't wanna know, don't ask.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hiding

As I said in my last post, I was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia about three weeks ago. I also said that I was trying to look on the bright side and find the silver lining in this situation. Well, it's becoming harder and harder. I understand how people can allow this or any disease to overtake them. Even my studies don't seem to hold much interest for me, which is a completely new twist. My school work has always been the one thing that's kept me going during difficult times. Classes start next week and for the first time ever, I'm really not looking forward to it.

I'm scheduled to see a rheumatologist in early March which should bring some relief to my worried psyche. However, all the research I've done tells me I'm in for a long and unpleasant struggle. I think that fact is beginning to wear on me.

There are a few fears I have. One is that I'll become a different person. I've never been one to say "I can't." I've always tried, and I'm afraid that'll change. I don't want to develop a fear of trying something new.

I can also feel myself withdrawing from people. A lot of the time, I just want to be alone, and I don't know why. Is it pride? Not wanting people to see me in a weakened state of being? Not wanting to admit my new physical limitations? I do know that it has always angered me when people feel sorry for me, pity me. Perhaps by being alone I'm trying to avoid that.

The pain wears on you. I saw that in my Dad for years. He had a horrific accident when he was in his teens (during the 1940's) that left him with completely crushed knees. Medicine being what it was at the time, they used steel pins to basically hold his knees together. By the time he was in his 40's, he was in constant pain from arthritis. Virtually all of the cartilage had worn away in both knees. I asked him once when I was little, "Daddy, do your knees hurt today?" He replied, "Baby, they hurt everyday. It's just a matter of how much." I remember feeling sad about that.

So, I guess this will pass. Worrisome thoughts and feelings of depression usually do. In the meantime ... I don't know. I guess I'll just take it day by day.