Fighting Anorexia and Alcoholism: Alison's Recovery Story, Part 3
This four-part article series was written exclusively for EatingDisordersOnline.com by Alison Smela. Alison offers more insight into addiction and eating disorder recovery on her blog.
There were many recommendations offered while I was in treatment for alcoholism, including that I consider my relationship with food, which I chose to disregard for the first six years in sobriety.
The mere idea of divulging my secret eating habits horrified me. I feared being pegged immature and childish for struggling with an eating disorder typically associated with girls 20 years younger. I felt incredibly vulnerable to criticism; fearing people would turn their back to my pain. Instead of making an outward fool of myself, I chose to keep on going with this charade and remain an imposter.
Realizing I'm Not Alone
In March of 2008, I watched a news segment on TV about a woman in her mid-30s who went to a treatment center with a program for adult women with eating disorders. When the program ended, I called their 800 number and talked with a very patient and kind woman. After a 45-minute question/answer session, she explained I’d need to see my doctor for some medical screening tests before a determination would be made about admission to their program.
I went through all the steps required but did so behind my husband’s back. I feared telling him about the program, the time I’d have to be away and the potential out-of-pocket costs. I signed the paperwork assuring the doctor’s findings would be made available only to me and the treatment center admissions office. When the results were in, the treatment center called to say they had space available for me the next day.
I froze. I thanked the woman and said I’d call back but I didn’t. I was overwhelmed with feelings of shame anticipating what would happen by admitting to so many people how I’d yet again failed in my life. The utter disgrace kept me silent although I had test results proving my health was becoming compromised.
Seeing the Light at Last
That following summer, I visited family after not having seen them for a while. I had planned how I could fly there, attend the celebratory function and fly home having to share only one meal. There was no way I could handle much more without believing the scale would scream I was a failure for not having more control over the food I ingested.
What I didn’t know at the time was, everyone who interacted with me that weekend feared for my life. My sister-in-law is a doctor and immediately recognized what the medical test results had uncovered. After I left, she subtly advised others that by the looks of me, my organs were beginning to feed on themselves.
Although I tried, I could not shake the delicate questions my relatives had asked of me. Shortly after that as I walked down the sidewalk, I glanced at my reflection in a store window. I stopped in my tracks. The image reflecting back at me was that of a woman I didn’t recognize.
The veil had lifted. I no longer saw the little girl everyone called fat. I saw the truth. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live.