A Story of Recovery:

Sweet Sorrow


Outside the sunny window of my mother-in-law’s house, I could glimpse the river shining in the sun. Inside, lace curtains graced the windows; a linen cloth covered the table; flowers and candles added to the ambiance of the afternoon and then, the dessert. Gleaming with shiny sugar, embellished with beautiful decorations, it teased me with its promise. The fragrance of fresh coffee filled the air as we prepared to celebrate a family event.

I have been in a life-and-death struggle with my weight since I was eight. I grew up in the era of Twiggy and the styles which characterized the “Mod” culture. After all, as everyone knows, “You can never be too thin or too rich,” can you? I ate my miserable way up to nearly 325 pounds (147.4 kilograms), hating myself, judging myself, listening to the voices telling me “You’re fat, therefore you’re ugly; you’re stupid, because you can’t take it off.”

Food was my solace, my friend. After all, it’s food, it’s legal, what’s the problem?  It comforted me when I was sad or depressed, had anxiety, painful thoughts or an aching heart.  I used it to celebrate, to treat myself. My refrain was always “What the hell, I’ll have only one; or two….”  Sometimes I would go to a drive-thru for a meal and a drink– diet, of course, since I am diabetic, after all.  I would sit in the car and wolf the sandwich down, sometimes choking on the food, unable to catch my breath. Only by a miracle was I able to breathe again.  I made sure I threw away the boxes before I got home so I could pretend my husband wouldn’t find out, as if it wasn’t obvious on my body.

Finally, at 51 years old, I was told by a friend about a 12 Step program where many people lost their weight and kept it off. I went to a meeting and heard that they weighed and measured their food, called their sponsor every day and attended three meetings a week. I dragged my feet for six months, unwilling to commit myself to such a stringent program; but eventually I took the plunge and began to drop pounds and dress sizes, finally fitting into a size 10, which was a miracle. I felt wonderful, free and confident.

On this trip to visit my in-laws, the neighbors were gossiping that my husband had divorced the fat wife and found a new one. I laughed at that and felt great! (Talk about denial!) I was diligently weighing and measuring my food, but most of the foods everyone else was eating weren’t on my food plan. I had to resist those tempting treats and it was hard. So here we are, back at the table with the dessert and coffee, everyone celebrating, except me, and someone constantly urging me to have just one piece. “No, thank you,” I say once, twice, then “Okay, I’ll try just one…. “

That was the end of my abstinence. I couldn’t stop; bags of sweets, baked goods, candy, everything I had denied myself for the last two years was now an unstoppable, unfillable craving. I hid it from my family, but I was unable to control myself. I determined to re-start my program as soon as I arrived back home. On the final day of our trip, our plane was delayed and we had to take some odd flights, ending up in the Midwest. I thought, “If I’m starting again as soon as I get home, I’d better take the chance and have one last fast food meal and drink; diet, of course.”

While I was at McDonald’s, I heard the loudspeaker calling my name. I raced as fast as I could, running, taking a train, desperate to reach the gate; but I arrived after they had closed the door and we missed our flight. My ten-year-old daughter had run all over the airport looking for me and was she ever furious! I was so embarrassed by my behavior that I didn’t go back to the program for eight years, during which I regained 191 pounds, all my misery, all my self-judgment and all my self-hatred.

Thankfully, four and a half years ago, I finally returned to the program and have lost a good deal of that weight. I took it more slowly this time, though. I realized that I must be careful not to get too arrogant or focus too much on the weight part. Today, I take things one day at a time. This time, “I came for the vanity, but I stay for the sanity.” No dessert, no fast food can taste nearly as good as self-respect.

 

This story was originally published in the connection Magazine. Subscribe to the connection Magazine for more stories of recovery. Or submit your own story of recovery.