“I hope one day I can do everything I want without having all the thoughts I have.
I don’t want to be haunted by this for the rest of my life.”
- Journal Entry, Lindner Center of Hope 2/27/13
I’m not sure everyone understands the depths one may go to when it comes to “feeding” their addiction—the lies, change in routine, and excessive behavior that is incomprehensible to anyone else.
I look back and think of all the situations I was in that don’t make sense to me now that I am on the other side of addiction, but when I was going through it, I was all in. Whatever the eating disorder led me to do, I did. Completely irrational, but at the time, 100% rational. The best way I can probably paint this picture is to walk you through a day in the life of a 20-year-old girl walking through the thick of it.
Let me first start by saying, at this point, I was standing at 5’6” tall and under 100 pounds. My muscles had significantly begun deteriorating, and my body was essentially feeding off itself because it didn’t have enough nutrients through food to maintain much life. My body hurt everywhere, and my legs were so weak I could barely get on and off the toilet without falling over. I could scarcely breathe when I walked a flight of stairs, and my brain was so foggy I couldn’t focus on any conversation with anyone, nor could I understand what was happening in my classes. And to top it all off, I was CONSTANTLY hungry.
Many people may consider my routines and rituals crazy, and rightfully so. But I am sharing to help others understand how much an addiction will overtake someone’s life in the blink of an eye. Not by choice and by choice, all at the same time.
I would wake up extra early to complete my workout before my 8 am classes. Doing this meant waking up at 4 or 5 am (which was a struggle because, at this point, I was so malnourished I had no energy). I would go straight to the living room and do 700 repetitions of abdominal exercises. After this, I would pack my stuff up to go to school, but I would need to take a significant detour on my way. My grandma only lived 7 minutes from me, but not on my way to school. I didn’t have a scale at my house, and I knew she did, so I would go there (basically sneak in her house if she was home that day because I didn’t want her to know what I was doing), and I would weigh myself. Not just hop on and off the scale real quick. No, I got down to the bare bottoms (if you know what I’m saying), made sure I unloaded my bladder first and weighed myself (sometimes twice if I didn’t like the number I saw). Then I got dressed and headed to school. My grandma heard me come in a few times and asked what I was doing, and I tried to cover it up. I would tell her I was going to the bathroom (which wasn’t a lie). It wasn’t uncommon for me to come to her house and hang out, so it’s not like she was never expecting me, but you’re talking early morning on a weekday sometimes.
After leaving her house, I would head to the cardio room at school, where I would hop on the elliptical machine for about an hour until I was satisfied with how many calories the device said I had burned. I went as hard as possible. I may have been moving backward some days because I was worn down. I would change in the bathroom and head straight to class.
After my workout, I would graze on low-carb yogurt or protein bars. How do you graze on such items, you ask? Well, I ate the tiniest bites to make it last as long as possible so that the amount of time before I was “allowed” to eat my next meal wasn’t that long. I was hungry, but the eating disorder told me I couldn’t eat until my allotted meal time. My caloric intake-to-expenditure ratio was nowhere close to where it needed to be to keep my body functioning at any level.
I existed in class. I didn’t have much to contribute at this point because my energy was gone, and I couldn’t focus because my brain was also malnourished. Most of the time, my friends were helping me with my work which was the opposite of how things were when I was healthy. I was always contributing, asking and answering questions, and helping my peers with their work. I would have plain lettuce with a few other veggies tossed on there and a tiny amount of hummus for lunch. And for dinner, it was just a tiny amount of protein (mostly chicken) and more veggies. This was my life every day for months. I don’t know the exact time frame because I’m unsure when it reached completely overtaking my life.
Everything about addiction is inconvenient. My whole life revolved around my addiction. My schedule was run by it. If I was planning my calendar, I consulted my addiction. Consulting an addiction sounds blasphemous, and it is. I wish I didn’t have to admit this was the way things were, but it was. I turned down dates, coffee meet-ups, dinners, activities, and pretty much everything a college kid would want to do because it didn’t accommodate what my addiction needed at that time. If the activity didn’t fit into my eating or workout schedule or didn’t allow me to eat my “safe” foods, I wouldn’t do it. The amount of time, energy, brain power, relationships, joy, peace, and life sacrificed to maintain my addiction is beyond what words can convey.
This daily scenario is just the surface level of what I went through with my eating disorder and what others go through with their addictions. If you are a family member or friend, remember this when you are frustrated or not understanding why they are behaving in mysterious ways. If you are the one overcoming addiction, there is healing and freedom! You are not alone, but you no longer have to be defined by it! If this is you or a loved one, please seek help! Joy, hope, and peace can be restored!