There by the grace of God....
Sunday morning, my sponsor told me a story that gave me the cold shudders coupled with enormous amount of gratitude for narrowly escaping death at the hands of this addiction. Years ago, she was in a different food-related 12 step program with an African American woman who I will refer to as "Dee" (not her real name). Dee came into the program weighing close to, if not over, 600 pounds. She couldn't walk more than a few inches at a time, and used a specially designed electric wheelchair to get around. Once, she asked to borrow ten dollars from my sponsor, who told her that she would give it to her if Dee came over to her house get the money. Dee said she had to take a shower and get dressed, then she would come over.
Two hours later, Dee hadn't shown up. My sponsor called her to see what was taking her so long. Dee was just then putting her clothes on. She couldn't just get up, take a shower and get dressed. It took her a long time because she had to rest for a while after showering, then put on her underwear. By that time, she was drenched in sweat from exertion. The process took more than three hours before she could even walk to the front door.
Dee took off almost 400 pounds after working a solid 12 step recovery program. She was feeling great, walking everywhere and talking about someday running a marathon. Everyone in the program was so happy for her. She was the group's shining star. Then one day, Dee had a personal confrontation with another member. Harsh words were exchanged after a meeting, and Dee walked away from the recovery group in a snit. She never returned.
In an alarmingly short amount of time, Dee re-gained all of the weight she previously lost, plus more. Whenever my sponsor called her to encourage to return to the meetings, she replied with what seemed to be perfectly logical reasons why she couldn't do recovery again. She was tired all the time, and her body hurt. When my sponsor reminded her that she would feel better if she got out of the house at least once a week, Dee said that she couldn't bear to face the person with whom she had personal issues. And she was afraid of offending people because she smelled so bad all the time, even though she tried to keep clean by showering. (Super obese people often have trouble with chronic yeast infections between the numerous layers of fat because those areas never completely dry out after bathing, which causes bacteria to proliferate there.) She loved being in her house, and besides, she had Jesus and her soap operas to keep her company. That's all she needed.
Whenever my sponsor called her, she was horrified to realize that Dee was becoming a prisoner of her super-obese body and fantasy-addicted mind. She spoke of soap opera characters as if they were her close personal friends. The distinction between the reality of her increasingly small world and the make-believe lives of soap characters was of no concern to her. She rattled on and on about "her friends" until my sponsor had to get off the phone to collect herself.
To this day, my sponsor doesn't know if Dee is dead or alive. She learned that Dee eventually had a complete mental breakdown, and she was taken away to the Napa State Mental Hospital, which isn't the best place in the world to be (see article URL):
I never met Dee, but I've known plenty of women like her. I'm sure someone reading this blog knows a Dee. In fact, I came dangerously close to a fate like Dee's, even though I wasn't anywhere close to 600 pounds. But at 358 (maybe even 365)pounds, I was getting there. And just like Dee's relapse back into the food, the weight was coming on fast.
It's horrible to feel unable to do anything but sit all day while eating pound after pound of junk food and watch T.V. I was so aware that my life could be so much more than that, but I couldn't even talk myself into moving, much less going to a 12 step meeting. Move Angela, I would tell myself. Get up! You have to get up and do SOMETHING, anything, but stay here in this house all the time! I would even try willing my body to move, one inch at a time. But it wouldn't, rather, I wouldn't. Bit by bit, my body became a separate entity from me, and I found myself staring, zombie-like at the soaps or out the window. True hell. I loath soap operas.
One day, after I was zoning out from eating something that probably had lots of sugar and flour as the first, second and third ingredients, I heard a voice in my head, quiet yet firm:
"Angela, if you don't get up off this couch right now, you will remain here for the rest of your life."
That scared me. I was living with my sister at the time, and I DID NOT want to live with her for the remainder of my days on earth. I prayed for help, and that led to a phone call to my doctor at Kaiser Permamente, and through a series of fortunate events, to where I am today. I'm abstinent and recovering, one day at time, as I was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.
God willing, I'll be recovering tomorrow. But unlike Dee, I'm not looking forward to running a marathon. That's up to God to determine. I'm satisfied with being abstinent from my addictive foods and living without television today. Hell, I'm even grateful for my sponsor, who shows no mercy for my unintelligible babbling in the morning. She's hung with me this far, so I might as well do this thing one more time. Just for today.
Angela at 350 pounds plus--too ashamed to stand up for a full body picture.