Today I would like to share a not-finished thought pattern about addiction. This year as I've been in the Corona-retreat (not voluntarily, but still very effective!) I've had more time and space to work with the concept of addiction, how it materializes in my world - and hopefully how I can understand it and calm it down. It isn't something I share with loads of people in real life, I think it's embarrassing - both that I am an addict and that I can't control something as normal as how to eat properly!
In September I turned 49. Next year I’ll become an adult, stepping into my 50th year - and a thought slowly appeared; I want to step into my new year as a healthier, more secure and happy person. For me that means stepping into the arena and face my oldest companion, my eating disorder. I don't want to bring this companion with me in the next half of my life! It is enough that it has been such a big part of my life until now!
I’ve always been overweight, everything that was put in front of me I ate. I cannot open a bar of chocolate and just enjoy 2 pieces….. no, I have to EAT IT ALL!!! I can’t have candy in the house - I’ll eat it, often without enjoying it. I needed to dive into my own patterns to find out why, when and how to have the possibility to realign my self and my actions, thus becoming more healthy and happy.
Some questions comes up when I dwell into the existence of it, and I have made into points to keep my thoughts straight:
How does my eating disorder look?
My eating disorder makes itself known in the fact that I haven’t felt hunger and or “being full” for many years. I have no stop-button, and I just eat. It runs wild and instead I eat EVERYTHING that is put in front of me! I’ve experienced to almost having a blackout when sitting at the table and when I get “back” to real life, I’m too full, nauseated, embarrassed and sad.
When these feelings emerge I have a "Well, it doesn't matter! Nobody loves me anyway, I'll just be fat and sad!"-thought pattern in my head, and I eat even more! When I eat, these thoughts become quieter and sometimes I can't even hear them! Aaaaah, bliss!
Where does it come from?
When I was child my Dad was an alcoholic. Every day he had to have a certain amount of beers inside him to make it “a good day”, also for us children. It was like being in a balancing act, knowing that if he had too little or too much, we wouldn’t know how to approach him when he returned from work. His eyes would be dark, his hair tussled. And he would smell of heat and smoke and beer - and anger. If we were lucky we would only be sent to bed without food. He wouldn’t hit us and make a big issue of something. Sometimes we were not that lucky! The result was that I’ve learned to eat food directly from the freezer; I have got a competence in finding out what kind of food you can heat on a radiator - sausage, hotdog buns and fruit.
How can I control it?
My experience says that I have to learn how to approach this addiction with love. To make sure that every time I slip up I can be loving towards myself instead of hitting myself over the head, as I often do when I do something wrong. Instead, I need to remember that I AM indeed loved. That's the hard part; remembering that when I'm at my lowest, foulest, fattest and most sad!. Then it's easier to just find the easy way to the happiness hormones; fast release while I fill my mouth with chocolate and sugar.
It has been a way of surviving and feeling ok in a traumatic childhood, a coping mechanism, that has made me the person I am today. I am happy about all the hard times I've gone though because I've learned from it, but this eating disorder still makes me embarrassed and ashamed. How come I cannot just be normal!?
I have to BE CONSCIOUS all the time. ALL! THE!! TIME!!! and it’s very energy consuming. Imagine you're to hold the biggest stallion by the reins an entire day, reading his mood and expecting every little pull of the reins? That would tired you out, too...... that is how I picture me fighting my disorder! Every day I have to take decisions as to I WANT TO BE HEALTHY and how I am going to do it.
When is it difficult?
If I’m tired or stressed it’s easy to “let go”. If I’m sad or sick - all in all if I’m not 100% then it’s difficult to keep on being alert and concentrated. Also, I find that when I've done something that is not perfect it can be difficult to stay loving towards myself.
How can I “ride it out” and find my center again when it does?
This is where I’m working right now. How to stop it. For me I have to research the existence of it, what it looks like and how it reacts, and then - hopefully - I’ll be able to understand it, work with it and reform it.
I find that movement helps me - to feel my body, my breath and my centre. Yoga and meditation is also a friend, and I just need to remember that!
So, what IS addiction? And how come I’m not an alcoholic or using drugs? Could I have turned into an alcoholic, or could I have become a cocaine user?
According to Wikipedia addiction is “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences”. That means I have a brain disorder, my brain has learned that the intake of food and candy makes me happy. It releases hormones into your brain and you “feel good”. The hormones are serotonin (happiness hormone), dopamine (feel-good hormone) and oxytocin (cuddle hormone).
The culture I grew up in was very "oh, how cool! I can drink loads and still drive home!!" and "I can't remember what happened, it must've been a brilliant party!" - and I think that's exactly why my addiction didn't become with alcohol! I don't like to lose control as I've seen with several people during my life. I do believe that the addiction you suffer from is culturally destined!
It is only now I see it in writing, the hormones that addiction releases, that I understand! I understand that these feelings the hormones release is exactly what I didn’t have as a child; happiness, feeling good, safe and being cuddled and cared for.
I turned to what I had - food. I think that if it hadn't been food, maybe I would have been able to battle it sooner? I have no problem choosing to NOT doing something; "I'm not going to drink in January!" or "I'll fast once a week!" The choice of not doing is ok for me, and I can be quite hard core with it!
..... but I can't choose to not eat, because I need food to survive. I don't need alcohol to survive and I could easily choose to never drink again! - but with food, I need it and I need to choose it every day, healthy, full and healing
I think that addiction is a state you can suffer from! - and this state can send you in different directions - drugs, liquor, sex, smoking, devices, food, candy - and have different outcomes, some more dangerous than others. The basic thing is THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO GET THESE HORMONES TO RELEASE INTO YOUR BRAIN to feel happy and good about yourself and your life. And is that because you are more prone to addiction when you come from a bad childhood?
In German addiction is also called “Sucht” - to seek, to look for. “Ich habe eine Sucht”, meaning “I am seeking/I am looking for…” I find that this very describing for what I’m going through. I'm trying to find that magic stuff that can make me happy. And putting a big chunk of chocolate in my mouth is the quick fix - I don't want "the quick fix" any more, I wan't to BE happy IN me, instead of seeking it outside of me!
I heard myself say to a friend: "When you don't overeat, you have space for your soul. When your soul has space, you can hear it. When you can hear it, then listen! It will guide you and you'll be on the right path!" - and I must say!! That makes sense!
To you who are battling an addiction, no matter which form - have faith! It will be better! To those who are supporting - THANK YOU! You are valued!