Addiction is an epidemic in the world, according to the Addiction Centerwebsite, link below, over 20 million people suffer from a drug and alcohol dependency. Addiction stems further than those two. If you’ve ever seen the show on TLC, My strange addiction,you can attest to that statement. For most part, people keep their addictions a secret, it’s hard to notice the dependency or it can be extremely easy, depending on the situation. Some addictions, like street drugs and alcohol are, most of the time, are easily noticed. Eating disorders, sex, excessive exercise, depression and even love are just a few of the many examples of different addictions. In sharing my story, I hope to inspire at least one person to make the first step in change, believing in yourself.
Growing up in a small town was a curse and blessing. In general Moscow, Idaho is a very close-knit community. Growing up, we weren’t exposed to much of the many issues going on in the world, let’s say just say, we were a very sheltered community. We had multiple elementary schools, but we were all intertwined with different school activities. About 6thgrade is when I started to notice, in movies and TV shows, that the way you looked attracted attention, the skinny girls always got the attention and love.
Junior High was a changing point in the way I looked at myself and my body. I wanted to be liked and to be a part of the “popular” kids. 7thgrade I made the discussion give up 4-H to start cheerleading. I learned more about what drives hormonal boys and that was, big boobs and being skinny. I had the big boobs, but I was far from skinny. It was in 9thgrade that I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, but nobody else seemed to notice. One day after school when I was waiting for my bus, my crush came up to me and gave me the biggest hug! This gave me hope, hope that no one noticed that I was bigger. 7 words from a kid that was driven by his own insecurities, was all it took to change my life. “I’m surprised you can lift her up.” Even though he apologized in my senior yearbook, not actually in person, I carried that sentence with me until 2018.
Once High School came along, I was fully committed to cheerleading and bettering my abilities. I was the strongest one the on the squad, so I lifted more and ran harder to improve those qualities that I brought to the squad. I believed that cheerleading saved my life, I felt needed and a part of a group that didn’t judge me based on my body. Quickly I replaced my feelings of not being worthy enough into excessive exercising to achieve those results. Yes, building muscle made me feel good on the inside but on the outside, doing what I loved caused me to be bulkier. I started to wear double spandex to cover up my stomach, not only in my cheerleading uniform but my daily life as well. The lack self-confidence and abundance of self-hate manifested themselves into bullying. I thought if I was the one that they ‘feared’, no one would speak ill of me. It did the exact opposite, those actions turned me into the exact type of person that had caused this pain.
I took cheerleading with me and had the hopes and aspirations of joining my college team, but with my lack of self-confidence, I shied away. I had all the attributes and abilities to make the team, but I was ashamed of my body and talked myself out of a great opportunity. Instead I took matters into my own hands and started an unhealthy change. From the day I graduated high school to one year after I went from 170 to 115-120. My goals, at the time, were to be able to see my collar bones and hip bones and I would do anything to get those results as quickly as possible. In order for me to feel content with myself I only ate 600 calories a day, started obsessing over exercising, drinking, smoking, binging and started to take Adderall to help with the hunger urges.
Right before college started, I got my first job as a cashier at a sporting goods store right across from campus. It was around the time the football players started their summer camp, of course as girls do, they drool over the older guys. It just so happened, that my cousin was recruited to the team as well and that was my in. I got way more attention with the way my body looked from the men I was most attracted too. I was being rewarded for how terrible I was treating my body.
By the time I had experienced the first half of college I had met a man online that lived across the country. He showed me the attention and love that I thought I needed. My school work started to struggle since I spend the majority of my time with him on the East coast. I dropped out of college with promises that he would take of me if I moved with him back home to New Jersey. So that’s what I did. I took out a loan, something that I knew I couldn’t pay back, to help ‘us’ start a new life, but his intentions were to help himself. I was addicted to being loved because I had no idea how to love myself. He knew about my dirty little habit of binging and actually he taught me the ‘rules’ and how to do it ‘safely’. At the time I thanked him.
Once that love affair ended, I was still searching for someone to love me, something I couldn’t do. I hopped from one relationship to another, which brought me to a man that I met online from Texas. We had only met him one time in person and that’s all it took for me to be in ‘love’. Once I moved down, I was spending my money frivolously on a very expensive addiction for smoking and drinking, the money ran out within the first month. No money meant more problems, stress and binging. We weren’t in a place to take care of ourselves, let alone each other. We both became stressed and the relationship turned sour, we didn’t have love for each other anymore. I needed to find someone or something to give me the love I deprived myself of for so long, but until then, binging took center stage once again.
The first real job I had in Texas was working for a sporting goods store as an apparel associate. This helped me get my mind off the stress that was at home, but this was just a temporary fix, basically putting a band aide on. I continued to binge not only at home, but it spilled into work. If I didn’t accept it before, I did now, I was addicted to binging. I hid this monster and buckled down and focused on work. I worked so hard that I made it to apparel supervisor after 9 months. This opened doors to go build and remodel stores all over Texas and I became a key player not only in my store but in the district, people came to me for guidance and I felt needed and loved. This gave me the tools to be able to afford a gym membership and started the process on living a healthier life. All my efforts at work paid off, I was promoted to softlines manager and was on my way to Tyler Texas. At this point in my love life I was single and ready to mingle. This caused me to once again make terrible decisions on who I gave my love too. I started struggling at work and after everything was said and done, I had no choice but to retreat and come back home.
No matter the amount of men and friends that came and went in my life over the years, my bulimia stayed with me. After moving back home I struggled with depression, anxiety and the feeling that I needed love from other people to be happy. I did everything I could to mask those feelings, that’s when drinking and cigarettes became center stage again. In the fall, I got my first job as a store manager for a clothing store in the mall. I loved it! I loved the challenge and having more responsibility, I felt needed again so the purging slowed down. I started traveling more with the company and made myself more available, after 6 months they relocated me to a bigger store only 2 hours away. This opportunity allowed me to make enough to be able to afford my own apartment and live fully on my own. This is when I started to notice that when I gave love to myself for my accomplishments, I didn’t binge as often.
As I was getting settled in at my new store, I was also getting into the dating scene. In winter of 2016 I found myself in my first real relationship since getting back from Texas. I was the happiest I had ever been, and it was the realest relationship, up to that point. Even though I was eating healthy and exercising the right way, I still needed those instant results. No amount of happiness I found in that relationship; I wasn’t truly happy because I still used bulimia as crutch. In the back of my brain I thought, “I have to do everything to keep him happy”, at the time I thought keeping him happy was keeping myself skinny. The purging took center stage again.
In the early months of 2017, the company I worked for went bankrupt and closed all of its stores. At this point in our relationship we had gotten so close that he asked me to move with him. Of course, I accepted. I had no job for the entire summer, even with applying for multiple positions, I still got no responses. He was gone for most of the day leaving me to my own devices, which included binging to cover the stress of being jobless. Also, he was active in a sport that required a lot of attention to weight, so that was topic of many conversations, not what I needed at that current time.
At this point, I was tired of not being able to work and make real money other than unemployment. One day I came across a job on Indeed, it was a store manager position for a well know big box retailer. To my surprise I got it! Working 10 hours a day and walking 7-8 miles per shift, the binging took a back seat.
I studied everything about bulimia, short term and long-term effects, I became a master at it. I knew how to hide it from the closest people in my life. I felt ashamed whenever I would give into the monster of purging, which caused a downward spiral. Winter of 2017 going into 2018, I noticed that I started to have unbearable headaches, stomach problems and my teeth were in terrible condition. Something needed to change especially if me and him were going to be in it for the long run. We had a trusting and very open communicative relationship, if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have been able to start my first step of eliminating that part of my life.
It was the hardest thing for me to admit, but it was the greatest feeling I ever had. I finally told someone about my addiction. I told him everything, every detail from the time frame in which I had to throw up after I ate, to foods that were easier to throw up. He helped me accept that I had a problem and took the steps to diligently filter the things he talked about including his weight. Man was it a roller coaster! Knowing that I had someone that knew everything made it harder and easier to stop binging. I quit everything cold turkey, smoking, drinking and my Adderall dependency as well. Once I stopped binging, I noticed my headaches and stomach issues never went away, even with eating healthy and actively working out, I still felt physical horrible.
The relationship came to an unexpected halt shortly after. I had a big decision to make, to mask my emotions with binging again or to continue the journey of recovery. I chose recovery. I was thankful and enlightened by the way I loved my body the way it deserved, and binging wasn’t the way. I devoted myself to myself, I promised, even when those thoughts of not being good enough arose, I would still love myself 10 times harder.
When summer time came around, all my hard work up to this point was tested, I started having seizures, I had them middle of the night without even knowing. Since I was sleeping alone now, I thought I was grinding my teeth so hard that I was biting my tongue as well. It wasn’t until I pursued a love interest that I was told that I had a seizure in the middle of the night. I didn’t believe him because there was no way I was having seizures. It took two more times of that happening for me to make that appointment with my doctor.
July 17th, 2018. The day I became completely numb to the world that was happening around me. My doctor sent me for an MRI that morning and we weren’t expecting a phone call the same day, let alone only a few hours after my appointment. She said needed to seem me that night. I didn’t know what I was expecting going in, my mom always came with love and support, and I had her stay in the waiting room, like I always did, and I went back. When the doctor entered the room, she had a large book on the brain. My heart stopped. She pointed to the area that my tumor was located. I plan on going in depth on my experience with my brain tumor in a later post, so this is all you guys will get until then.
I believe there was no coincidence that just months before me finding out about my tumor, I made the I choice to not be controlled by an addiction any longer. I wouldn’t have had the amazing outcome during surgery if binging and self-hate still ran my life. I would’ve shrugged off all those side effects and warnings and continued to live my life in the cycle of that burden. I believe the universe gives us all the tools that we need to help ourselves, we just have to pay attention, do the work and believe in yourself. You’re stronger than you think.