In my opinion there is no hierarchy when it comes to addiction, all addiction is painful and often traumatic to the person experiencing it. Addiction Recovery is an ongoing process, one cannot simply be “cured” however they can retain long periods of sobriety. Addiction isn’t about simply liking something a bit too much or the occasional, it’s about a carnal need to obtain something.
From an early age I was addicted to food, the specific foods I craved don’t necessarily matter (it wasn’t fresh vegetables), what’s important here is the sense of powerlessness I had over my food. The incessant thoughts about food, planning my life around food, a hunger that was far beyond anything physical. There were definitely periods in my life where I had more of a handle on my addiction, I could use the various coping skills I had learned throughout therapy to not give in. But for me addiction doesn’t live in a vacuum, there are so many outside factors that directly impact where I am in my recovery at any given moment.
Last year I was experiencing severe stress from my employment situation which led to a relapse in my Binge Eating Disorder. I do not blame my former employer because I am the one who has the responsibility to maintain my health and wellness; I have countless years of experience in professional training in order to manage my illness and it was my decision not to use any of those highly effective coping skills. Why didn’t I use my coping skills? Because giving into my addiction was easier and had instant gratification. Simply put it felt good and who doesn’t want to feel good when life is making them feel bad? That’s the dark road I started to walk down. It started off small because to me a cookie is never really just a cookie, it’s the gateway to the entire box of cookies.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM V) which is the “bible” Mental Health Professionals use to both diagnose and treat those with Mental Illnesses, Binge Eating Disorder is in fact an actual diagnosis all on its own. There is a huge difference in someone making poor eating choices and someone having a food addiction/eating disorder. It was so easy for those from the outside looking in to berate me about not making better food choices. DSM V explains it better than I ever could:
“Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized
by both of the following:
1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).”
There was so much shame surrounding my Binge Eating and I would often go out of my way to hide what I was doing from the people in my life. I remember once when I was married eating a snickers in the bathroom, then burying the wrapper in the trash. There were countless times I ate myself not only to the point of extreme discomfort, but often to physical illness. How many times did I end up on the bathroom floor at my friend’s holiday party crying from the pain?
This past December I had to make a plea for help explaining I needed my freedom regarding food taken away from me because I was incapable of making the right choices for myself. I had completely given in to my addiction to the point that I did not recognize what an appropriate meal was in regards to portions or the actual food selection in and of itself. I joined a nutritional program that had pre-packaged foods with a pre-selected menu chosen for me. I was to forego any social occasions that involved food. This was a low I had never plummeted to previously in my decades of battling my food addiction. It was time to get my life back.