My journey with an eating disorder
I am a college student and this week in my Abnormal Psychology class we had to read and discuss eating disorders. This was a touchy subject for me because in 1994 when I was in the Navy I was diagnosed as having a compulsive overeating disorder and was sent to inpatient rehabilitation for 6 weeks in Miramar, California.
I had been in a painful place in my life for many years, and it manifested itself into an eating disorder. I had a “hole” in my soul and I tried to fill it with food. I went to an inpatient rehab, and interestingly, there was a mixture of male and female patients there for treatment. While in treatment I met with counselors, attended group meetings in the facility, and outside the facility, I attended Overeater’s Anonymous (OA) meetings.
Overeaters Anonymous logo used Courtesy of the Overeaters Anonymous Organization
After 6 weeks of treatment I graduated and was sent back to my command in Pensacola, Florida. I almost immediately transferred to San Diego, California. It turned out that San Diego was a wonderful place to live if you attend OA meetings, as there were at least 3-5 meetings every day at different times of the day. I had a sponsor and diligently worked my steps while at the same time maintaining abstinence from overeating. For OA, abstinence is a 3-0-1 program. Meaning 3 meals a day, 0 snacks in between, 1 day at a time. The goal is to stop the compulsive part of eating. With AA and NA the goal is completely stopping usage of what you are addicted to. With food, you can’t completely stop consumption, but you can stop consuming due to your emotions, and merely consume for your body’s energy. It changes the focus around food. And makes eating a means to an end as opposed to what your life centers around.
I was actively involved in OA for about 4 years and received many tokens (or coins) during my sobriety. I did not always do a perfect job, and had to get more than one 30-day abstinent pin. However, before I moved to Indiana, I received my 3-year coin for completing three years’ of abstinence. While I was in San Diego, I sponsored other women in the program, and was very involved in the San Diego OA community. We had annual talent shows, and other special events to raise awareness and to raise funds for the regional OA group.
When I moved from the San Diego area, I moved to a place where there were no meetings that worked for my schedule. I have not been to a meeting in many years, and no longer have the “need” to eat compulsively. I have learned how to identify my “emotional” eating, and recognize it for what it is. I can now redirect that into something else like exercise, or drinking water, or playing solitaire on the computer until that urge passes.
I will always be a compulsive overeater, but it is my choice whether or not I want to actively participate in the negative side of the disease, or keep it at bay. I recognize the signs and symptoms, and have learned how to combat the urges. I guess that is as close to a cure as I can get. However, I feel that I am in recovery every day, and still take it One Day at a Time.