I was having a conversation recently with a fellow addict and we were talking about our mutual eating disorders. For the friend, food is their primary addiction, and alcohol a more secondary issue. For me it is the reverse.
I relayed how after 30 years of sobriety, alcohol, dexedrine, and my other mind altering drugs of choice remain the furthest thing from my mind. I have been nicotine free for coming up on 20 years. But food – that is another whole issue. I have written before about how just in the last few years, I realized I had a full-blown eating disorder when as a young kid I had to push the stool up against the kitchen counter to climb up to scoop sugar into my mouth from the storage canister.
And today, I can and often times do go into that same binge behavior.
As I was talking to my friend, I noted that losing weight was not a problem for me. I can yo-yo up and down with some regularity. As we talked, I had a huge revelation. For at least the last 20 years, there has been a strong correlation between my binge eating and my career expectations. Most dramatically, about 10 years ago I weighed more than I have ever weighed in my life – some 60 pounds overweight. I was in a job where the expectations on what I was hired to do got shifted midstream and the job became miserable. For a couple of years I struggled with trying to figure out what was wrong. When I realized that I was trying to put my square skills and interests into a round job hole, the recognition was truly transformative. My expectations were at odds with the new job demands. It was irrelevant whether my expectations were reasonable or not, they were not going to be met. When I realized this, my expectations shifted dramatically, my food got good, I became more physically active, and I lost 60 pounds in under six months. I kept the weight off and had a good relationship with food for a couple of years.
Since that time, my eating disorder has been directly tied to my feeling of self-worth – when I have value and feel supported in what I am doing, my food is good. When my expectations are not met, when I struggle to maintain a sense of self-worth and value in what I am doing in the world, my eating disorder comes to the fore.
Like so much in recovery, I don’t get down to the lowest of lows as I might have done in the more distant past before I start to climb out. But, like all else, my eating disorder recovery is truly a process and not a single event. I consider myself blessed today to at least be aware of the questions and some of the answers that work.