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The Hidden Addiction

I’m an addict. But you can’t tell by looking at me. I don’t have needle marks and I don’t smell of alcohol. I’m not a compulsive gambler or a shopper, either. I’m a food addict. And I hide it well. Most of my family members and work associates are unaware of my addiction. I’ve read that admitting your addiction is the first step to healing. So, this is a public admission!

Food addiction is more than just overeating. For me, it involves binge eating foods made with sugar, flour, or both. It involves something like eating a whole box of cookies in 20 minutes, followed by a full bag of chocolates, and an entire box of donuts—all in the same morning. I feel out of control, compulsive. 

My mind is flooded with food cravings, relentless thoughts. I mindlessly cave in and start eating voraciously. And just like that my abstinence is broken, followed by guilt, shame, and nausea. Was it worth it? Absolutely not. I’m so embarrassed that I do it in secret. My husband of 38 years has no idea when I’ve binged, unless, of course, when I eat the last of his cookies.

Food addiction produces no high or inebriated state. Food addicts don’t pass out on the sofa, revealing to everyone their addiction. Instead, the addict is left uncomfortably full, feeling sick to their stomach. But no one around the food addict is even aware that he or she is uncomfortable. There are no obvious outward effects of food addiction, except perhaps weight gain. But even that can be explained away or avoided by purging or excessive exercise.

The pain of food addiction also remains hidden. Most addicts are too ashamed to admit they can’t control their eating. So they suffer in silence.  

So, how did I end up like this? When I was eight years old I was sexually molested. I reported it to my mother, who immediately accused me of lying and sent me to bed without supper. Today that would be considered child neglect, but back then it was commonplace. In my little eight-year-old brain, I lived in fear of being deprived of food again. 

And so when everyone was in bed, I’d sneak into the kitchen and take food back to my room. I’d hide the wrappers to cover my tracks. It was a bit of a thrill to sneak food without getting caught. I don’t think my mother ever knew. If she did, she didn’t tell me. The adults who should have taken care of me had betrayed me. I was alone, in pain, and afraid. And because I had been punished for telling the truth, I became a habitual liar. Obviously, since they did not want to hear the truth, I lied almost all of the time.

It wasn’t until I was in my 50s when I sought counseling for this. Yet the counselor I saw had no idea how to help me. She suggested I accept myself at my current weight, which for a diabetic would be deadly. She even told me it was OK to binge. I’m still searching for a counselor. And though I have not yet found one who knows how to help me, I have hope that I will find one eventually. 

Recently, I’ve been reading tons of recovery articles and books. One word comes up over and over again. And it scares the you-know-what out of me. 

Surrender.

Surrender is scary because I want to be in control. And surrendering requires giving up control. But am I really in control when I’m in the throes of addiction? No. Addiction is controlling me. And if I don’t want addiction to control me then why am I afraid of surrendering?

For me, surrendering occurs by visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of our local hospital, right down the street from my office. In the silence, in the presence of Jesus, I can surrender. He calls to me even now, offering me peace. All I have to do is accept it. 

It all started with my New Year’s resolution to do an hour of Eucharistic adoration each Wednesday. These hours in the chapel provide a safe zone for me. I can be totally myself and Christ loves me still. The stress of the day, the scourge of addiction, it all seem to slip away in His presence. Sometimes I get so relaxed that I fall asleep. I give Him my vulnerability and He gives me His peace. What a precious gift!  

Another place I find surrender is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows me to surrender myself to Christ as He pours mercy over me like a fragrant oil. The fragrance remains long afterwards.  

I hope I can embrace surrender and not fear it. I hope I can make it a way of life. I still stumble and fall facedown into the ditch, but I have a way out now. I have hope instead of despair.

How are you surrendering? I encourage you to consider stopping by a Catholic church and visiting Jesus. His own surrender on the cross brings freedom. You may not surrender the first time—or the tenth time—you visit. But, eventually, you will. 

Jesus is waiting.

 

Celeste is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Louisiana’s Cajun Country. She is a lifelong Catholic and committed to spreading the Gospel through small group formation programs. She is a recovering food addict (embracing the slogan, “If you can’t stop at one, have none!”), an avid knitter, and a lover of God.

2 Comments

  1. Maria Tait on November 5, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Celeste, what a great article thank you! In the end I surrendered by accepting that I was as sick in body, mind and spirit. I didn’t want to admit I was powerless where food was concerned. It seemed utterly ridiculous. Since joining a 12 step program I have become abstinent from binge eating and from my particular ‘alcoholic foods’. Life is now mostly peaceful and when it’s challenging I feel alive, not asleep and desperately struggling to escape from any emotional suffering by numbing my existence with hugely excessive amounts of food. I’m reminded that I can only keep this if I remain in a spiritually fit condition however. Right now I am working the steps but without the sacraments (incl. frequent confession) and constant prayer, surrendering the moment to God and looking for His will in it, I will, without a doubt, end up back where I started and worse, because I now know that this is a progressive condition. The Lord is at the center of our healing and I feel my life changing as He transforms it and me. The most beautiful thing being that I have been given a love and appreciation for the Eucharist that I could never have had before, or even have ever had without this journey. What a gift, thank God!

    • Celeste on November 5, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      Maria, thank you for your kind words. It is indeed a precious gift we are given in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist!

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