With all the amazing recovery blogs/websites out there (The Real Edition, The Recovery Revolution, Sober Courage, The Rooms Project, Veronica Valli, After Party Magazine, etc.), I'm always honored when someone finds The Sobriety Collective and resonates with my message. And on top of all that, wants to share with our little community here! So without further ado, I bring you the beautiful and soulfully self-aware Katherine Arati Maas of Within the Flow.
Ever since I was a child I remember never being satisfied - I constantly wanted something more to help me feel safe and secure. That safety came in the form of food. Being raised in the 1980s in America, I was addicted to junk food and watching TV. I would sit close to the television; watch it for hours alone by myself. Nothing was off limits and I loved the adult talk shows. I loved eating and the way it made me feel (just like alcohol would soon do).
I don’t remember when I started to turn to food to make up for the lack of safety I felt in my young life. I was afraid of death while lying in my bed at night. I was simply afraid of everything. I started binge eating at a very early age, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. I ate anything that tasted or looked good. I remember eating peanut butter from the jar with my hands in frenzy, wiping my pants, as I was too much in a hurry to use a napkin. I ate crazy flavored salad dressings and spray cheeses- basically squeezing them in to my mouth when no one was looking. I ate sour cream out of the tub on taco night after everyone was finished. I used to lock myself in the bathroom and chug Pepto Bismol. Loved that stuff. I ate vegetable shortening because the container had a picture of a cherry pie on it. I would eat candies and crackers I would see on the carpet at church- nothing was off limits.
Much like my dinking behavior as an adult, I was secretive and possessive about my eating. Frenzied eating to fulfill something within came as second nature to me and made me feel safe, protected, and nurtured. Eating quenched a deep hungering need within myself, a need I didn’t know how to deal with or understand. Taking care of this need was shameful and private and felt as if I had a dangerous animal living under my bed that kept growing in size no matter how I tried to pacify it.
Eating “the way I wanted to” became a very secretive behavior, which later naturally turned into drinking “the way I wanted to”.
Consuming food or alcohol made me feel full, secure, and satisfied. As a child I saw the fast food we often ate as entertainment and fun. I loved the high food gave me and I couldn’t get enough. I simply always wanted more.
I remember sipping from my Dad’s beer when he let me try it once, but like a lot of kids, I thought it was gross. Alcohol never played a role in my life through high school when other kids were experimenting. I drank a few times when I was 17 or 18, but started on a regular basis when I was about 21.
It really has never occurred to me until now that the very first time I ever drank, I blacked out. I never saw that as an indicator of a problem because isn’t it normal that young people experiment with alcohol and get a little crazy? Apparently not! Guess I missed that memo…
Around the time after high school I started to restrict myself with food. I restricted and binged, never understanding how to feed myself properly. I would resist the temptation to eat very much, restricting myself and then would inevitably binge on junk food. I taught myself early on that food was something either to abuse and cover up feelings with or to deny yourself completely. If I could control myself not to eat, I felt strong and powerful. I used foods to make me feel good because I guess that was the only way I knew how.
Food took on a role more than nutrition- it was medicine. Much like alcohol, I felt the need to do my binging in private and felt uncomfortable eating and drinking in public because I felt I had to “hold back”. After getting my fix I would feel numb and physically stuffed. I can honestly say that while this was happening, I had no idea that what I was doing would be considered an eating disorder because in my mind an eating disorder was about purging into a toilet and storing the vomit in jars in your closet like in Lifetime movies or being sickly skinny. I was neither of the two.
As an adult, I just never knew when to stop or at least I couldn’t stop.
At the end of a ten year addiction, alcohol had taken over my entire life- it was all I cared about, but funny enough I never thought I had a problem. No one ever gave me an intervention, I never went to jail or lost a job. Even though I have had a lot of scary and embarrassing moments, I never really reached a climatic “rock bottom”. Things just stopped being funny and started feeling scary. I remember one morning after a pub crawl, trying to tell my friend that my hangover wasn’t that bad and everyone got crazy the night before she said, “everyone was drunk last night but you were by far the drunkest.” Why was it always that way?
Not all women who have issues with food, abuse alcohol, but it seems that whenever alcohol is an issue, food is often as well. Why? Is it a way for us to feel we are in control? To conform to a body image our culture pushes on us although we all despise it? I turned to food as a kid because I was nervous and scared for reasons, which are unknown to me. Somewhere down the line, I decided that the feelings I had were too much to handle and I had to gain control somehow, so I restricted my love for eating without even realizing I was doing it. I went into autopilot and the addictions slowly took over.
I am now sober and have come a long way in reshaping my relationship with food, however the restrict and binge behavior affected other areas of life, like fitness, money and work. These days I often have to make it a point to eat a proper lunch because otherwise I will forget. The thing is though, the more that I try to be a militant tyrant in my own life in any way, the more out of control I will get. The more I try to push the contents of the volcano down, the more powerful and destructive the eruption will be.
I was reading the super insightful and wonderfully written blog, Unpickled, the other day. In one particular post, Jean was asked what she does to relax or deal with a difficult day when she can’t have the alcohol. She said something along the lines of “I no longer live my life in such a way where I need to indulge in destructive habits to calm myself down or check out.” This resonates with me deeply. I have always turned to food and alcohol to numb me out, however as I have learnt to live my life in a more gentle, self compassionate way, I feel less and less the need to imbibe in destructive ways of coping.
I have realized that sometimes my self-compassion has been conditional. For example, if I had worked out and ate well, I would feel good about myself and allow myself things. However if I had “fucked up” and been lazy, had not exercised or ate a lot then I had a failure mentality. The only hope I had for myself was to wait for the next day to make up for the mess I had made.
Recently I read a blog post by Isabel Foxen Duke, which really woke me up. She said something like, even if you eat 10 boxes of donuts a day for the rest of your life, it doesn’t mean anything about your worth as a person. Many people have lived meaningful, fascinating lives regardless of how they ate. I thought about it, my diet choices and the diet choices of others do not measure our self worth. Sure, we should take care of ourselves and eat well, but our worth comes from something much greater.
Our worth doesn’t come from the amount of stuff we have, the money we have, the food we eat or the way our bodies look. being deserving of love is not conditional. It comes from deep within because at our core we are love.
Happy Holidays everyone,
Make sure you take extra special care of YOU this season.
Katherine Arati Maas is just a regular girl with something to say and trying to live authentically one day at a time. She writes about sober living and meditation on her blog at www.withintheflow.com.