25 Jun

When you come into recovery for alcoholism, every fibre of your being is focused on staying sober. Every moment feels like you are inching your way through the day, willing yourself to get your head on the pillow that night.

Each and every time I tried and failed to get sober, I was getting distracted by other things; trying to maintain a carbon copy of my drinking social life, trying to lose weight, the list went on. So when I finally decided I needed to give sobriety my everything in January 2014, it became my sole focus. Everything I did was designed to support my sobriety, to kindle that little sober flame that I’d carelessly blown out so many times in the past.

I have had some absolutely wonderful  experiences in the (nearly) 18 months since I had my last drink.  I’ve had moments of clarity and joy that I never could have imagined. I’ve achieved things I never thought possible when the cloud of alcohol was hanging over me. And yet there has been something rumbling on in the background of my sobriety that I haven’t been able or ready to address: my issues with food, body image and weight.

Many of you who have followed this blog from its inception will know that I came to writing it as a means of working through my food and body image issues. I’d had a form of anorexia for several years, started drinking as a way to cope with the anxiety it induced, and piled on weight from the alcohol calories. I looked like I had ‘recovered’ from anorexia, but little did I or anyone know that the healthier looking exterior was a mask for deeper problems, problems that would soon need addressing very seriously. My drinking got out of control- what I thought was a temporary crutch, a sticking plaster over the wound of my eating issues was revealed to be a dangerous and all-consuming disease in itself. I just couldn’t stop the cycle of drinking. It would drive me to depression, shame and a sense of all consuming entrapment. I didn’t want to drink, but I just couldn’t stop. I’d leave the house, hungover, crawl to work and tell myself that I wouldn’t drink anymore, that this was the last morning I’d endure in that desperate state. By 8pm, I’d be halfway through a bottle of wine and in my happy place, ready to think about lining up the second.

Getting sober has been absolutely transformative and yet, in the past fortnight I’ve had an absolute smack in the face. A realisation I can’t turn away from. It’s been rumbling under the surface for months, if not since the moment I got sober, but I still have SERIOUS issues with food and fixation upon weight that need to be addressed. I’d squished these down, and felt I was doing fine, most of the time. I had extreme highs in sobriety. and thought if I feel THIS good and have this real sense of spirituality that helps me stay sober, all must be ok, right?! Wrong, I unequivocally have symptoms, still, of an eating disorder. I engage in habits that are too painful and shameful for me to articulate. It shocks me to write this, because it’s only this week I’ve admitted it to myself.

Just as I was in denial about alcohol being an issue, pushing down those instinctive warning signals I was getting, I’ve been in denial about my issues in this area. I’ve written posts, throughout my sobriety, which have started to examine my troubled relationship with food and body image, but have left that examination at a surface level. I was in an AA meeting this week where it hit me, that food issues are almost as big a factor in my life as the alcohol; for the first time, it seemed strange to me that I have been addressing one and not the other.

I have a real issue with my body being a symbol of my alcoholism; I started my drinking a bag of bones and finished it in an entirely different body entirely. I have flesh on my bones that to me, symbolises the shame of my dual diseases: the starvation once endured followed by the alcohol-fuelled binges where I spiralled out of control. I look in the mirror and I don’t see the legs that have carried me through countless marathons, or the arms that can lift heavy weights. I see something entirely different- some days I catch sight of myself and feel like I must be wearing a different skin, a fat suit almost, that’s been layered over my ‘true’ body, the body of my pre-drinking days. I am SO confused about it all because if you were to look at me now, as an objective outsider, I have no idea what you would see. My notions of body image are so warped I have no idea what I actually look like. And my food consumption swings from absolute clean perfection to uncontrolled and destructive. I have no true sense of what I should be doing, how I should be feeling or what I should be eating to be my best self. I feel as confused as when I once wrote about alcohol clouding what I really want in life, I feel like this obsessive cycle I’m caught in is dragging me into the abyss once again.

Ugh, this is so hard to write.

But, if I’m to experience TRUE sobriety, I must tackle this head on. I must get help. Just as I used this blog to make me accountable with alcohol, I want to declare my other issues so that I can be accountable by outing myself once again.

I’m fearful of what this next turn in the road might lead to, but I know that I am on the right path.

21 Responses to “Denial”

  1. lucy2610 June 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    Food is so much more complex isn’t it because we have to eat! FFF have you had any counselling about the issue? That’s what my gut is telling me to say to you 😉 Big hug lovely xx

    • FitFatFood June 25, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      I started to, but then we discovered I had an alcohol problem! My food counsellor was the one who suggested I go to AA…

      I need some help and I’m making enquiries about what the best next step is x

      • lucy2610 June 25, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

        Good good. I know, from professional insight, how difficult food issues are so help sounds best 🙂

  2. ainsobriety June 25, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    Get help. It is so needed. These issues are too big for us alone
    So much of my therapy has been directed at body image and disordered eating.
    Yoga has been the absolute most powerful change to help with the body image.
    My past is very similar to yours. I love to withhold food. It helps me feel control. I was a rock solid 15 % body weight and exercising frantically to get smaller. Starving.
    Drinking to cover the anxiety.
    Spiralling out of control slowly for years.

    This is taking a long time to begin to unravel. Finding acceptance for my new, not so rock hard body has been part of it. It will be a lifelong battle.
    But when we can see and notice out behaviours they are easier to alter.

    I wish you were closer. I bet we could share some stories that would make us both feel a little less alone with this.

    Email me if you want.

    I can tell you a few things that have been useful!


  3. primrose June 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    FFF I’m so glad you are identifying and acknowledging these difficult areas, and that you’re looking into getting much more precisely targeted help and advice than I could offer… But sending you enormous hugs – one can never have too many of those! Xxx

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

      Thanks Prim. Ugh it’s ugly being honest, but it’s the first step to change…

  4. Bea June 25, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Last time you sought out help with this, you had first to deal with the drinking issues. You’ve done that so don’t forget how far you’ve come and how strong you are. Now you can take that strength and courage and throw it at the eating/body image issues with a counsellor. Hugs from me too xxx

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

      So true Bea. I was so ill equipped last time and I can’t expect all my issues to have magically melted away in the meantime..! Thank you for helping me see that x

  5. Heya, Monster. June 25, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    Your bravery and strength are amazing. Thank you for being so vulnerable.* You are incredible.

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

      Thank you monster. Kind words like these mean so much x

  6. Hope June 26, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Hi FFF. I’ve never commented on a blog before but wanted to reach out. I’m 11 months sober and go round in circles re weight, food and carbs/sugar. I’ve just read a book by Kathryn Hansen – Brain Over Binge. She has done therapy, and looked into many recovery avenues. Eventually she made her own findings and recovery. Very interesting read. Love your blog!

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

      Thank you so much for this recommendation! V excited about reading it 🙂

  7. Off-Dry June 27, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    I’m so glad you’re writing about this–I just hit two years sober and am beginning to recognize some of what you describe in myself. I hope you’ll keep sharing new insights as they come. Kristi

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      Thanks Kristi- and I hope for the strength to keep sharing. I honestly find this harder than alcohol to open up about…

  8. Leslie June 27, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    This is the same issue I am facing. I was an overeater and much too heavy and had gastric bypass. Like magic, the weight melted off and I stopped using food addictively, but my slowly-progressing alcoholic journey became, in three years, a raging inferno that had to be addressed. Sober, I then immediately turned back to food. It took me 8 sober months to recognize that I was once again using food to sooth my emotional roller coaster, and that I was doing this, as you say FFF, while still progressing in recovery and feeling wonderful about myself and my life for the first time in a very, very long time. Such a paradox. How can we be recovering from alcohol and experiencing all those insights and still use food as an addictive substance? I speak about this frequently to my AA group, because it is such a struggle for me. I go so far as to identify food as my primary addiction. At this moment, I am eating a healthy diet and very happy with it, but it is a daily challenge, much more of a ever-constant challenge than not drinking is. Alcohol really was removed from my life; it’s not that the thought of drinking never crosses my mind, but the craving, the wanting, the need is removed. Instead, I spend my days thinking about food, planning what I will eat, making food, counting calories, being ever-vigilant that my eating might cross back over into obsessive eating for purposes other than nourishing my body. I don’t know if my vigilance is obsessive or not and I struggle with to. My best support in this struggle is the skill I gained in sobriety, which is to be honest. I talk to my friends about what is going on with me. Many of them also have food issues of their own and it is wonderful to share with and we support each other. I also see a psychologist who helps me on this journey. I admit I have hoped that the food compulsion would be removed from my life like the alcohol compulsion was. It has not. For the moment, I am accepting that his struggle with food is part of my life and something I deal with daily. One thought I use to help me is to realize that we only have today, and for that for one day I can make healthy choices. Right now I have strung together almost 6 months of one- day-at-a-time in a row as far was my eating goes. Thank you for writing this blog and being so honest about your food issues. It helps me immeasurably. When I found your blog, I thought “At last, somebody really understands what I am going through!”

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      What an amazing, insightful comment.

      I don’t know where to begin in my journey, but the “one day at a time” approach hadn’t even occurred to me! But of course that makes so much sense 🙂 thank you.

  9. LC June 28, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    I feel like you wrote this about me – it is EXACTLY what I am going through at this moment and until I read this, I felt very alone. Stay strong, you have come SO far with your sobriety and your willingness to be open, real and vulnerable is such an inspiration! Please continue to share about the food issues in the same amazing way that you have about alcohol. This blog has truly been the hope that I have been searching for… Thank you!

    • FitFatFood June 28, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

      Thank you for this comment. It means so much. I must confess, I feel embarrassed about it all, but it’s important I write honestly to help myself and others who might have the same thing. I will continue to write thanks to the encouragement of you and others x x x x

  10. LC June 29, 2015 at 2:20 am #

    The feelings of shame & embarassment are so painful & make it that much harder to actually face the food issue head on. I’m totally with you; I know they are only words, but hopefully you feel the comfort I felt after finding this blog knowing we are not alone. I actually think food is harder to deal with than alcohol because like Lucy said in her reply, we have to eat!
    I’ve been in therapy for about 3 years, this year being the most intense & ‘productive.’ I thought I needed therapy to only help with being super anxious since my life is really not all that bad. It turns out that as not bad as my life was, it was also a huge mess & I couldn’t even see it because of the toxicity I surrounded myself with. Not just the alcohol, but the people, places & things. I’ve done just ok with giving up the alcohol, but I’m struggling & trying to fill the holes, as you called them in an earlier blog, with running, restricting, bingeing & a few other things I’m not proud of. It’s interesting how quickly we find behaviors that have the ability to be used in the same manner as alcohol.
    I have a few questions about your AA experience – I just started experiencing the 12 step world in ACOA meetings. If you have time, I’d love to talk more if you’d be willing to contact me through email.
    I feel so lucky to have found this blog. I’m thankful for you & for your strength in writing! 🙂

  11. Phil June 29, 2015 at 3:27 am #

    Just to echo what the other amazing people on here have already said…

    This is ONLY a positive thing……You have overcome one hurdle, and that has presented you with your next one. You WILL overcome this one, just like the last, and more will likely follow.

    These hurdles will make you a stronger and a better person. Know that going forward!

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