Monday, December 26, 2016

Clean Change (Part 2)

1. Desperation
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I am by no means an expert on addiction, just as I have never claimed to be an expert on cancer. I have nothing more than my own experiences to share, and if I ever sound like I'm writing about anything more than those, I hope that someone tries to shut me up. Nevertheless, in my own humble experience, I believe that real change begins with desperation. 

This time last year, I was desperate. While my weight had fallen to 129 pounds when I was first diagnosed (sick-to-my-stomach fear was a real appetite blocker), it had steadily climbed up to 140, 150, and 160 in the few years after. I was terrified, not so much by the number on the scale, but by the reality that I had no choice but to face -- that something inside me had broken. 

I don't mean that metaphorically so much as I mean it literally -- I felt as if there was a switch in my head, even a floodgate if you will, that had broken, no longer giving me the ability to stop. After dinner every night, I would tell myself, One bowl of ice cream, no going back for seconds, but before I had even swallowed that last bite I would be planning my trip back into the freezer for more. I wouldn't scoop it into the bowl that second time around, I would just stand at the counter and eat it out of the container, usually until the container was empty. I loved that food at the very same time that I hated it. If I'm not sitting down, it doesn't count, I told myself. Only it counted. It counted as I started to hate myself more and more. It counted as my clothes grew tighter. It counted as I tortured myself about exercising the next day enough to erase the mistakes I had made the day prior. It counted in pounds and pounds of pain. 

If it stopped at the standing-up-ice-cream, that may have been okay. But it never stopped there. Some sort of salty cracker (Cheez-Its, Goldfish, you name it), provided the yang to the yin of the sweets. So every single night, I would eat those by the handful and ultimately, the box-ful. I'd return to the sofa or to my computer "done," but then I'd be back in the cabinet for more. I wanted to stop. So so badly I wanted to stop. But I couldn't. As I've heard people say in FA, my "enough switch" was broken. Turns out that sanity requires that switch to be functioning. Happiness does, too. 

I know that Twelve Step programs scare away some people and I swear to you, I am not promoting the program through this post. Truthfully, Twelve Step programs scared me, too. I didn't understand (and thus feared) "the God part." Growing up in a family of mostly atheists and agnostics, God wasn't ever part of my life. So when I first heard people talking about God helping them with their food (or booze, or drugs) and asking me to get down on my knees, I was completely freaked. But I was desperate enough to stay and listen. That's why I think that real change, for me at least, began with desperation. 

Desperation for me was, ultimately, a voice in my head January of last year that announced, "If I get cancer again, at least I'll die thin." And God, for me, was the voice that came right after that. God was the voice that said, "That thought is so sick, so wrong, so sad, that you better get yourself some real help, and fast." I learned about FA shortly thereafter. 

The truth is that while cancer introduced me to the idea of a higher power, FA has connected me to it. I use the term "God" because it makes it easier to converse, although I have no clue what He (or She/We/They/Me/It) is. Today, I simply believe something is there -- something bigger than myself, bigger than all of us. Surprisingly, I find comfort in that. And so the thing that freaked me out most about a Twelve Step program for food addiction (besides the "food addiction" part) is precisely the gift I have found most valuable. I know that there is something so much bigger than me at play here. There must be, because I haven't had a bowl of ice cream or a Cheez-It since last January. 

In the end, I'm not proud of anything I have admitted here. I'm not brave nor selfless. Today, I'm just desperate. Desperate because food is literally everywhere I turn. And once you take the food away from a food addict, she has to figure out what else there is to do in the week between Christmas and New Years. God, if you're not too busy, please help me with that. 


  1. I wanted to thank you for your honest article about your allergic reaction back in 2014. My partner had a similar reaction last Wednesday at Dana where he is being treated for Sarcoma. I was with him as it happened, and it was a hard thing to see for someone you love. I have only now begun to look outward to hear others stories of similar incidents.

    I needed to know my feelings and reaction we not an overreaction.

    Thank you for publishing your article, so that I could feel as you do, that the Angels at Dana were on our side that day,

    Thank you,


  2. Tara you just described me after I eat dinner every night. I'm already thinking of the next snack as I'm chewing the last few bites of the healthy dinner I worked hard to make. For me it's chocolate then popcorn then nuts and so on. Every night I make a pact with myself that I will not have that snack and then I cave. I'm eager to read your next post. I am a two year breast cancer survivor. I lost 20 lbs during treatment and have gained 15 back. I'm worried what the extra fat will do to my estrogen loving cancer cells, I need to keep the weight off!