The human mind will go to amazing lengths to protect itself from pain like putting band-aids on wounds that need debridement, antibiotics, and air. This is a very personal and self-revealing post, it's about my life journey, my struggle with addictions to food and love, and how they're entangled, inextricable from each other. I'm sharing this story in case it can help someone else with their struggles. It will not be my most eloquent blog, nor the most grammatically correct, or even the most evocative, but it is the most raw, real piece of me I care to share.
I am more than just an emotional eater; I am addicted to food. The cycle of food addiction is very similar to that addicts receive from opiates, which activate dopamine receptors. The pathway to get there is different, but the end result is the same.
When I have sought validation from love, I can abstain from food abuse to attain and maintain that love; when I am not seeking love, and feel more whole, solo, I struggle more with using food to fill that void, since I'm never really whole, just always trying to get there, alone. I have two wonderful children I share custody of, but they are not responsible for making me whole either; I know I have to be whole in order to be the best Mom I can be.
My first addiction was food, and the first emotion I ate was shame. I was a victim of abuse – sexual, emotional, and physical. I was sexually abused by the son of my mother's best friend, and I was left in his "care" for years, because he was older than I. He also abused his sister, and I had the additional shame of putting myself in harm's way to prevent him abusing her, whenever I could. For years, I felt guilty, as if I were consenting to his predatory nature, but of course, with therapy, healing, and facing my feelings head-on, I realized that it was all coercive. I felt the need to save her, since I couldn't save myself. I told my parents what was happening, but no one believed me. It wasn't until his younger brother told his parents that it stopped – for me anyway. I'll never know if she was still abused, they lived in another state by then. I ate Mike Sells potato chips, Hostess pies and Twinkies, Rain-blo bubble gum, now and later, swedish fish, gummi bears…the list of food abuses is endless. This was a secret habit, where I stole money from my abusive father's change bowl (I felt it was justified, at the time), and usually ate the food and candy alone. My addiction to junk food was born, and it later mutated into other comfort foods – ice cream, macaroni and cheese, again, the list is endless. Everything forbidden was wonderful, and my parents did not allow junk food. Shame, forbidden foods, and pain became inextricably intertwined in my mind and my dopamine receptors happily responded to the influx of horrid substances.
Right now, as I write this, I want to throw up. And eat bad things. I’m trying the novel concept of facing my problems without food. FAT chance, says the former fat girl who is overweight………again, despite being addicted to fitness. Hilarious, right? Binge less, purge more? I’m not making light of an illness, I’m talking about my own. I’ve often wished I had both bingeing and purging on my to-do list, so I wouldn’t have obesity and overweight status as additional lifetime afflictions. Fact – I’m an orphan. My mom was an emotionally abusive person, and she hasn’t been in my life since December 2005, her choice for many of those years, but since my son has never met her, I’ve made the decision to keep it that way. I’m not talking mildly toxic, I mean the kind of abuse that makes you wish you had the courage to end your life. That’s an entire novel in and of itself, so we’ll leave it at that. Borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, social and generalized anxiety disorders are her beginning….my dad is schizophrenic and I have a domestic violence civil protection order against him, that’s pretty self-explanatory also. I’ve been psychologically evaluated, and they say that I’m normal and past the age where females typically manifest mental illness. Good news!
I am, however, codependent, always putting my relationship before myself. It started with taking care of my parents, and continued into my love relationships, even when they did not want me to take care of them. I was toxic myself; I’m not going to state whether or not I chose healthy people to love, we’re all unhealthy to different degrees; this isn’t about the people I loved, it’s about me and my addiction. I’m a recovering addict, and one of my addictions is love. I am addicted to the pain, the pleasure, of loving the ones who don’t love me back as much. Part of the reason they don’t love me as much is because, well, I love too much. Yes, there is a book about that,
Women Who Love Too Much
, and another great book is
The New Codependency
, I used both of those books to heal myself in the last year or so. Be prepared, if you decide to read them, to be forced to change your life. I did, and I am both single and solo….by choice.
I am still in love with a ghost, a memory, an illusion. At one time I loved a real person but over time he wasn’t that person anymore with me. I find myself unable to stop the memories the feelings, and I think I’m addicted to the pain of my former love, even more than I miss the laughter he brought to my life; love can be so sick, so twisted. The entire time I was with him, I felt alone, always seeking his validation, his acceptance, rather than feeling whole by myself. I thought if I just loved him more, if I let him more inside of me, that if I gave him more, he would love me back the way I needed to be loved. But no one can fill that hole but you. Some days my black hole looks like this….
The fact is, only you can fill your own black hole, and it can be overwhelming; sometimes it feels like it will suck you into its cold darkness forever. At times life can make the hole so big and so wide you can feel like it will swallow you and you will cease to be anything but a black hole, and it looks like this If you’ve ever felt this, you are not alone. Every addict feels this way. Every abused child feels this way, we carry those abused children around inside us. Ask Dr. Drew, he’ll ask you to have a conversation with your child self, to reassure them that they’re ok now….and sometimes you just don’t feel OK, and I think I’ll just say, some days I don’t feel OK, but some days I feel really good.
I realized years before I knew what codependency was that I had an addictive personality. Both of my parents were addicted to marijuana and prescriptions, so I have always been careful with alcohol and never used drugs, food was my only abuse, and dangerous enough by itself, given my struggle with obesity. To conquer my obesity, I became, late in life, a runner, and that became my new addiction. That and starving; I was really good at starving for a year or two, but then I started to eat normally again, when I needed fuel to run. One addiction broke me of another….running slowly replaced starving as I loved running even more than I loved being thin. I’m still addicted to running, and I was addicted to CrossFit, which I’m now replacing with swimming. I’ll always be an addict, I have to find healthy addictions to survive. Emotionally, I’m a wreck when I cannot run. Today, like many days, I’m injured and cannot run, and therefore I’m not well. I’m writing this because I am struggling, and I imagine others are struggling with the same or similar demons. Today, this blog isn’t about all of my fabulous accomplishments, though I have many; today I am acknowledging that I am a work in progress, that I am human, not always Supergirl, or Batgirl, or even Asthma Runner Girl, conquerer of the running universe despite severely restricted lungs. Today, Kernie C is just a girl, a little broken by life, but healing, and never beaten. I have ripped off a lot of band-aids this year, and this post is giving them air.