by Malerie Bleich
Imagine you are about to step onto a bridge, an extraordinary crossing. From where you stand, you cannot see the other side. In fact, you do not know where the bridge is leading to! You just know that you have been led to this place and you have to cross it. You have tried many times and many times you turned back. Euphoric recall and denial kept bringing you back to the dieting-binging rollercoaster.
As you resolve to start to change, you are aware that you now feel defeated. You see that your usual way of thinking and behaving, while familiar, is not only ineffectual, but extremely harmful. You are now teachable. Your first few steps onto the bridge are the stepping away from denial and toward your new life.
Firstly, you need to: a) realistically remember the unhappiness, suffering and shame felt for not being able to maintain any progress, much less commitment; b) accept the need to see not only your misery from your self-obsession, but also the unhappiness it causes those around you; and c) foresee your future suffering if you continue this way of life. You are now one eighth of the way across the bridge.
Secondly, you need to know the genuine origin of your deceptive thinking and destructive behavior. It is rooted in a fundamentally immature self-concern and spiritual deprivation. The main coping style is to create pleasure for one’s self in order to alleviate any perceived discomfort (i.e. feelings of loneliness, hunger, fatigue, anger, sadness, pain, jealousy, even happiness). Pleasure can translate differently for all living beings, but for addicts, it is about attempting to create a type of stasis through sedation. Food and eating are initially exciting, stimulating. However, the act of eating soon sedates and numbs, which is the ultimate, though usually unconscious, goal. And so the powerless return to food’s seductive and deceptive lure, regardless of the painful consequences awaiting you. You are now one quarter of the way across the bridge.
Thirdly, a radical, continual and enduring change is required to alter the direction of your life. Nothing short of this will help you overcome. Quick fixes lead to quick failures. You need to fully integrate the importance of the need for a powerful opponent to defend against the powerful destruction your thought and behavior patterns regarding food and eating, self and others. Clearly, you need to deeply palpate your own wish to fully emerge out of the addictive lifestyle and combine it with a willingness to do so. You are now stepping over the halfway line of the bridge. The destination is not yet observable.
Fourthly, you need to seek and implement a proven, definitive, multifaceted plan for creating long term wellness. This dimensional process needs to be co-created with others who have maintained a healthy management of their addiction and/or with an experienced professional who specializes in the field of eating disorders, food addiction and co-occurring issues, such as depression and anxiety. The patterns are too imbedded to oppose alone.
Overeaters Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous and Compulsive Eaters Anonymous (formerly HOW) are four 12 Step programs that help myriads of sufferers around the world. There are effective eating disorders treatment programs available throughout the country and in Florida. In Broward County and elsewhere, there are addictions groups, retreats and individual sessions facilitated by excellent, experienced specialists in private psychotherapy practice. Cognitive Behavioral and Mindfulness have been the chosen approaches of most addictions professionals.
In order to transition off the bridge successfully, you will need to hold the hands of others and accept their help.
You will not “arrive” when you reach the other side of the bridge. There is no actual “finish line.” There is, however, an almost immediate inner experience of freedom from the bondage of addiction. As your process continues on, so does your experience of happiness and well-being increase. And so continues your living in wellness.
Malerie Bleich, LMHC is a specialist in food and eating addictions, as well as substance abuse, for thirty years. She is the founder of Clear Light Retreats and is in private practice in Fort Lauderdale. See ad page 42.