TRG SPEAKER PROGRAM
Personal Stories of Recovery
~ Amy ~
My name is Amy M. and I am a gratefully recovering compulsive overeater, food addict, volume addicted, cross addicted person. I am very happy to be here this evening!
I want to warn you that I will be talking about food...but not in a glamorous way. But food will be mentioned. I don't usually mention foods at meetings but as a speaker I think it is important to give an idea of what it was like.
I am an OA retread. I was in OA several years ago. I had lost a lot of weight (again!) the old fashioned way. Obsessively counting calories, starving & juicing after binges, taking huge amounts of laxatives, and vomiting. I loved being thin (it lasted about two seconds) and I was starting to gain weight despite all my weight loss "methods". I was desperate to be thin...but not control my food intake. I heard about OA and came to a few meetings. I hated the whiny people who couldn't seem to get their lives together like me. These people were still fat (unlike me) and obviously losers. Yes, I had a problem with food...but I was thin & therefore better than them, what could they teach me? I did however; enjoy the camaraderie & companionship of people who were just as crazy with food as I was so I kept coming back.
A few weeks into attending meetings I got very sick. I started vomiting & couldn't stop. My body swelled up and I was in agonizing pain. I called an ambulance and was humiliated & embarrassed that I bothered these good people for nothing. A few hours later I lay in a hospital bed and had a gastrointestinal specialist telling me that I was dying, and they didn't know why. To make a long story short my decades of yo-yo dieting had caused many small gallstones. One had gotten stuck in my pancreatic duct. The bile that was supposed to digest my food was leaking out of my gut and digesting my organs. I had pancreas & liver damage. After 1 month and 3 very traumatic surgeries (all of which almost killed me) there was nothing more that could be done. There was talk of one last ditch surgery as I was definitely going to die without it. So though chances were great I would die on the table, why not? I had enough at this point however and declined the surgery. I wanted to die in peace. The doctors were kind enough to give me a private room (though I had no insurance). They upped my pain killers after giving me "the talk" that too many would "help me on my way". During this month long agony where I was not allowed to eat, drink, have ice chips, smell any odors, or do anything that could trigger my digestive system (a coe's nightmare or what) I desperately needed distraction. Friends I had known for several years, friends I thought would walk through fire for me, didn't come to the hospital to visit me. I was devastated. But these OA people that I had only known for a few weeks, traveled an hour to visit me in the hospital and bring me flowers. Total strangers, who loved and cared for me, I was hooked on OA.
I attended OA another 31/2 years, gaining back every pound I had lost previous to OA, plus more. In the end I weighed around 450lbs (an estimate.....the last time I weighed I was almost 430 but had gained after that revelation). This was after being told by my doctors that I should never binge again. My doctor told me, "the next binge may not kill you, or the one after that. But every time you binge you are playing Russian roulette. One of your binges will kill you." I never however "worked" the program. I was stuck in step 1 due to my misinterpretation of the step. You see, I reasoned that if I was powerless over food, I should be able to eat anything I wanted....I am powerless after all, an addict, unable to stop. This is where my reasoning ended, I was doomed to failure. After doing everything I could to recover (if you include nonstop bingeing as everything) I finally gave up and left the program to die. I was rushed to the hospital several times with pancreatic pain & had a few hospital stays but didn't die. Five years ago I had had enough & decided to get this show on the road. I settled down to a mixture of 4 different prescribed & powerful psychiatric meds (one of which was a sleeping pill). I took several hundred pills and lay down to die. I was found, and my life saved. There were metal bracelets put on my wrist & I was escorted to the local mental health facility for a mandatory hold. Make no mistake, this was the second time my disease almost killed me. I think the intensive outpatient treatment I received was the very beginning the glimmer of hope I needed that started me on the long road to recovery. It would still be years before I came back to OA. At 450lbs it is hard not to know you have a problem. It is hard for everyone else to not know you have a problem too! I couldn't find decent employment, no one wanted to hire a morbidly obese woman in her mid-30's. But I had lots of medical bills to pay so I persevered. It is hard to go on a job interview when sweat is constantly pouring off of you. I looked like I was constantly caught in a torrential downpour even if it was 40 degrees outside. My poor body was constantly overheated. The only work I could find was retail. It was hard work & little pay but it started me back into the world of normalcy where I was forced to interact with people. I ignored my weight and ate to soothe the pain and that was enough for me at the time. I was alive.
I went to the movies one day. I had my gigantic popcorn tub extra, extra butter, and a soft drink the size of my head. This purchase made sense you see....if you bought the largest you got free refills! And yes, I always got the refills. So I sat there watching the previews and an advertisement came on for a TV show The Biggest Loser and there was this girl in the kitchen with all her teammates around her and she was hysterically crying because she was confused as to what to eat. She couldn't think with all the chaos around her and I was thinking "this is me" and my heart reached out to her as I squirmed in my seat except...I could barely fit in the oversized movie seat! Everyone around me started laughing, literally pointing at the screen and laughing at the pain this poor woman was in and I was....felt humiliated and I knew something had to be done. I started to go on a big exercise & weight loss kick I lost down to 275 lbs. I know...not exactly svelte! But better than what I was I was. I was counting calories, not eating fat, exercising 2-3 hours a day, not exactly healthy and still very obsessed with food. One day I was at the store, the "health food" section you see....I wasn't abstinent but I knew I couldn't eat ice cream. #1 binge food for me (though I didn't know that terminology) but I stood in front of this frozen case full of healthy frozen non-ice cream concoctions that I hadn't eaten in over 6 months and I had this peculiar thought that now....having been clean for 6 months I could surely have some soy ice cream. 1 pint a day soon became 2 pints a day then 4, then 6 pints plus I would have 4 strawberry milkshakes from McDonalds, 4 french fries, 4 apple pies on the way home from work, plus 2 subs from Subway, then I would stop for my ice cream cake. It served 8 so the box said but for me it served one.
I ate hard I ate in bulk. I ate all this food in the car hiding in my driveway before I got home except for the ice cream cake which I hid in my hamper in my closet. You see, I am a compulsive overeating genius and I figured out a way to hide frozen food in my closet without a fridge! Imagine if I turned my evil powers to good! LOL! I was sick, so very sick then. I would continue to eat my supper, enough for a family of four at least, and this is how I gained back in a very short amount of time back up to 333lbs. My new coworkers were horrified as they had never seen anything like this. My family thought it was business as usual. My father told me flat out he did not expect me to live. I got very sick and went to the doctor. To make a long story short they discovered I had been misdiagnosed with a disease. The disease I thought I had was going to cut my life short so I did not bother to live and I ate and waited to die but now...they said I would live. Though I would be in pain, I would live a normal lifespan if I took care of myself. I got scared, desperate. LIVE? Like this? FAT, obese, in pain every moment of every day? I mean physical, emotional, mental, spiritual pain! I couldn't believe it! I mean, I was counting on dying young, expecting it, wishing for it. I no longer had the guts to kill myself, not after what I put my family through with the last suicide attempt. But live like this? NO WAY! I went back to OA really ready to work the program this time. I didn't want to be thin anymore. I wanted to be SANE. I found the OA website to find out where the meetings were now, but there were NONE! How could OA desert me? But I found this nifty site with online meetings every 3 hours so I went to one. I remembered that my first time in OA I worked the Amy program of recovery. You know that saying she who has herself as a sponsor has a fool for a sponsor? Well this time....I wanted to live AND work the program so I asked during my first online share for a sponsor (I didn't know how the format worked but I was desperate). I guess that desperation shone like a beacon because this woman sent me a private message telling me she was a sponsor. That night, that first meeting, was my first day of abstinence. I have never turned back. I am a baby in the program still. I have 1 year & 41/2 months of back to back abstinence. I have not touched my binge or trigger foods. I still struggle sometimes with volume but I haven't picked up my poison. My sponsor was an angel for me. She literally saved my life. She was a soft place for me when I needed it. She was tough when I needed her to be. She called me on my BS and made me do something I swore I couldn't do-pick up my 500 lb telephone! LOL! She really has helped me stretch my boundaries! She helped me work the steps. I didn't realize that working those steps, incorporating them into my life, would change me. I guess I thought the steps were like a list. I would check off step 1....done-step 2....done! Look at me, I'm all healed now! heh heh WRONG! Working It wasn't easy sometimes....it really sucked when I needed comforting and the only way I knew how to comfort myself was to eat food. I chose not too. Well that was painful, , it blew! No way to get around it, detox was a bitch! But you know what.... it got better, a lot better! Now I can't imagine ever going back. I went to an online meeting every day for a year and I still go to online meetings pretty often although now, I have a f2f fellowship where I live that I am very active in. I had to dive into the program because I am a low bottom compulsive overeater. I have gone places I pray y'all will never have to go so I put a lot in my program. A lot of effort, work, and study. That is what I need to stay sober, and I do mean sober. Because food is more than comfort for me-it is a drug. My drug of choice. I need to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to stay sober. Today I am willing to do that and that is why I am abstinent. Sometimes people ask me what happened, what made the difference? Like I found fairy or leprechaun that hit me with a wand or shelale (sp) and magically I was given the gift of abstinence!!! I wasn't given a special gift! Everyone is given the gift of abstinence everyday! I believe your HP is giving you abstinence right now. The difference is I had to grab it, claim my gift, do the work to keep it. So I guess that's pretty much my story, the short version anyway. Except that I want to tell you a little bit about what life is like now.
I am a normal size. I have a normal job. I make a normal salary. I have normal problems and as the 9th step promises have come true for me, I handle them-normally! I talk to my friends. My OA fellowship my sponsor. I have normal emotions. I cry when appropriate. I laugh. I have a whole range of feelings in between. I have a relationship with my HP whom I trust and adore (never thought I would have that). I love my life! I swear to you this former 450lb girl became a beautiful woman who wouldn't trade her life with anyone for anything or any amount of money. This is a wonderful adventure I am living. I can't wait to see what happens next! I want to thank all of you who go to meetings and share and write on the loops because each of you have helped save my life on a daily basis. For today I am abstinent and humble. Yet I am proud too! Very proud to be a member of the OA fellowship, and a member of TRG. Thanks for listening!