Peggy (mom): When I called the rehab facility and they told me I was going to have to give up caffeine while I was there, I looked down at my TWO cups of coffee (I didn’t want to have to walk back to the kitchen for a second cup) and thought this was NOT going to be easy. Getting up in the a.m. was VERY difficult without reaching for my beloved caffeine.
We all prepared our breakfasts according to the plan we were given….measuring every cereal piece, every drop of skim milk, a piece of fruit, etc. It felt very strange to eat this way and I was very self-conscious…..breakfast was almost too big but they really wanted us to eat it all. How was I going to lose weight if I’m on this kind of food plan? I was worried about my next meal….was it going to be this big? was it going to be too small? Why do they think this would work for me?
I soon settled into the pace of this treatment facility. Things weren’t terribly organized, we waited around at times and we were definitely pushed out of our comfort zones. One of the best exercises was taking everyone through our individual life histories. We had to write down significant events for every two years of our lives and share it with the group. Yes, we literally started out at age 0-2 years….its amazing the patterns that you yourself start to notice when you are following a life history this way. In my case, I had taken a strong barbiturate from age 5 until 16 for childhood epilepsy….once I was off of that, I started eating for emotional comfort, then I found “boys” and they were my vice. I would teeter totter between boys and food for years after that.
That addiction pattern was easy to identify but what was the hole in me that was causing me to overeat? I knew I didn’t have any specific trauma per se….I didn’t remember any kind of molestation or abuse……my life growing up was pretty happy…I thought. I mean, there were secrets in my family, my father was an overeater and a “dry” alcoholic. I learned that term in rehab…he didn’t drink but he was a rager and very insecure which had a profound effect on my whole family. At age eight, he started saying things like, “I’ll just go blow my brains out” whenever he felt insecure with the family and wanted attention.
I started to see the light of what was causing my emotional issues but I still wasn’t entirely convinced. Then they took me through one of the most profound experiences I had ever gone through. I had seen people go through symbolic role playing on t.v. and I could never understand how it worked. First the owner of the facility started talking to me about my father and the anger I had, she gave me a bat and a gigantic mat….she encouraged me to beat out my anger. I took a couple of swings and then looked at her and said, “I don’t really feel angry”.
To her credit, she didn’t leave it at that. She took me aside and asked me to label each one of my peers as a family member…first, I had to choose me as a child (my inner child)…I asked one of my roommates to be my inner child. Then I picked someone to be my dad (strangely, I didn’t pick the guy in the group but my other roommate for some reason, maybe I needed to be sure I could trust her to play the role effectively?). The rest of the group were my sisters….I have four older sisters and quite frankly, I was teased mercilessly while growing up. I never quite felt like I was “heard” or validated plus I was the secret keeper in the family.
They asked me to close my eyes and the owner started talking to me about my childhood and how no one paid attention to me. Slowly, I started to hear my “family” saying ALL THE THINGS I HATED TO HEAR FOR YEARS over and over again and all at once. “You have huge feet” was repeated over and over again. “Someday you’ll blossom” (my dad’s response to my wanting to be told I was pretty enough). “Keep this secret, don’t tell anyone” (what I had been asked to do as a child about many secrets in my family. The owner continued to talk to me in her monotone voice and encouraged me to talk about what it felt like to hear those things. With my eyes still closed, she led me all around the room as I listened to these horrible statements, things that alone seemed like nothing but grouped together were unbearable, and they were being repeated/chanted over and over again….louder and louder. I couldn’t stand it anymore and I started to cry…..I hated hearing that. I told her I wanted them to stop. She asked me to open my eyes…….I still get chills when I remember this…..I opened my eyes and my “family” was surrounding my “inner child”….they were all crowded tightly around her and she was on her knees crying and had her hands over her eyes. They were still saying the mean things I had heard all my life. The owner of the facility asked me what I wanted to do, I said I want to save her…..then, without any encouragement or anything, my survival instinct took over and I leaped forward, pushed my peers away (drawing blood on one!) and grabbed my inner child to rescue her! We both were sobbing…….and I finally got it. It wasn’t ONE thing that had affected me and made me feel worthless, it was EVERY thing that I had been through my whole life. Yes, I had well-meaning parents and humorous sisters….but MY tender heart couldn’t take it and created a lifelong emotional hole from the experience. Now that I knew what was causing my eating, how do I make it stop?