When I first entered recovery a little over two years ago, I was a mess in a thousand ways. Not only was I addicted to food and bingeing at least once a day, I also had scores of physical and mental health issues that were increasing in severity.
Physically, I was struggling with
- plantar fasciitis
- gastric reflux disease
- out-of-control PCOS
- hiatal hernia
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
I needed medication for nearly all of those chronic illnesses, and at not-quite 40 years old, things were looking pretty rough for me in terms of being able to grow old gracefully.
Far worse than even the physical illnesses, I also suffered from a host of mental issues:
- anxiety disorder
- panic attacks
- delusional thinking
No amount of therapy or anti-depressants were ever able to do much more than calm those ailments.
Surprisingly, in less than six months in recovery ALL of the physical and mental conditions were in remission. ALL of them.
Part of that was due to giving up foods that were acting as stimulants on my body and mind, like sugar and flour and processed foods. Part of it was introducing and maintaining a regular meditation practice. Part of it was seeing a therapist. Part of it was founding a support group for food addicts in recovery. And on and on.
Even though I have faced challenges in my recovery, and it has been far from perfect, I have kept going because I remember where I was before. I can literally count the ways my life has changed because of recovery, but this point has never been driven home as hard as it was this past week.
Four days ago I had to have the left lobe of my thyroid removed. A nodule there had grown to 4 cm. Although none of the biopsies had ever revealed cancerous cells, my doctor and the American Society of Endocrinologists recommended that it be removed to be sure that they weren’t missing malignant cells.
It is normal, of course, to be a bit concerned about surgery, but you see, I used to be absolutely terrified of being put to sleep through anesthesia because, in part, I hated being out of control.
Let me give you an example. In 2001 I had to have my gallbladder removed. I became so afraid of being put to sleep that I got up off the table outside the operating room doors, ripped the IV out of my arm, and ran, bare ass flapping in the breezing of my ill-fitting hospital gown. I ran all the way out to the parking lot before I realized that no one was chasing me.
Two weeks later, I did have that surgery, but it took a priest, three injections of a sedative, and Enya on a loop to get me to the operating room.
ALL of this was about losing control. That is what food addiction is about. It is about control the ONE thing in life that can be control: food intake. At the same time, though, food addiction is the ultimate lack of control.
As my anxiety and PTSD faded, along with my physical ailments, my overall well being dramatically improved to the point where just four days ago I underwent surgery without so much as a nervous thought.
This is radical.
This is huge.
This is recovery.
And this is why before and after surgery I never once considered turning to comfort foods as a way of coping with any difficult feelings–physical or emotional– that I felt. I protected my abstinence like the pure gold that it is.
As a result, I came through surgery with a clear head and excellent physical recovery.
The health anxiety the used to consume my thoughts and actions in ways that were far worse and far more suffocating than even food addiction is gone. I hope it never returns. It robbed me of doing. It robbed me of being. It robbed me of living.
Power to recovery. It is the best gift you will ever give yourself.
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