I Choose Life
I don’t remember the moment I became obsessed with my weight. Perhaps the obsession had always been there. What I do remember is when the obsession began requiring action, the moment that I walked into the bathroom and forced myself to purge what I had eaten for dinner. In that moment, I felt proud.
To people who have not struggled with an eating disorder, being proud of self-destructive behavior likely sounds insane. But the relief I felt when I purged the first time was astounding. I felt empowered and in control of my own body. I felt strong, like I was going the extra mile to be the best version of myself. Sadly, I had no idea what it meant to feel empowered. I didn’t understand the meaning of the word “strength.”
Within a matter of weeks, I was purging everyday—even when I didn’t want to. The compulsion to purge was like a magnetic force pulling me deeper into self-destruction. Spiritually, physically, and mentally I was falling apart. No matter how much weight I lost, I still felt inadequate. No matter how much I purged, I was still filled with self-pity and self-hatred. I wondered why I couldn’t be like other girls who loved their bodies. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Perhaps I should have been asking, why not?
The first relief I found from this compulsion came when I got drunk for the first time. This discovery marked the beginning of six long years, during which I became a severely depressed, eating-disorder alcoholic. I lost the ability to connect with other people, but, more importantly, I lost connection with myself. I knew that I couldn’t go on living the way I had been, yet I couldn’t picture my life without alcohol and purging. The day that I walked into a treatment center in Atlanta, I had completely given up on myself. I had nothing left.
One of the worst parts about having an eating disorder is the isolation it entails. I was constantly torn between wanting sympathy from others and protecting a secret that encapsulated my identity. I couldn’t begin to recover until I realized that I wasn’t special: There were plenty of people just like me who had recovered from eating disorders and gone on to lead full lives. This realization wasn’t easy to accept. Accepting it meant that I couldn’t feel sorry for myself anymore. I had to take responsibility; I had to take action.
I began working a 12-Step program specifically for eating disorders. By this point, I had been sober for nearly a year, and the obsession to drink had been lifted from my mind. I knew that the 12 Steps were responsible for that, and I longed for that freedom from the compulsion to purge. After completing the 12 Steps again, I experienced a type of serenity that I had long thought impossible. I’m eternally grateful to the 12 Steps for giving me a second chance at life.