Rosemary's Story Compulsive Eating Fairfield, CA

In the Afro-American culture, food is a big...big thing. You know, a lot of focus is around food, the amounts of it, the way it's cooked. It's such a big item - at celebrations, at funerals, at deaths.

I think compulsive eating probably happens more in the Afro-American culture. I don't hear a lot about anorexia nervosa or bulimia. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I just don't think it's as rampant as it is in the white culture. But people from my culture don't talk to people about their problems. Afro- Americans are very uncomfortable 'cause it's like telling your business. And you definitely don't go to therapists, 'cause if you do that, you're crazy.

My mother's a compulsive eater, big time. Growing up with a compulsive overeater and growing up in an environment that told me to eat everything on my plate, if you wanted it or not, is a good way to get someone started with that compulsive way of eating.

My food stuff really didn't come up until I got clean. Drugs and alcohol had stopped working. I went into treatment, I got out and I was clean. But I crossed over from not using drugs and alcohol to using food to suppress my emotions. I was real clear I wasn't going to use drugs and alcohol any more, but I still had all these issues that were unresolved. I needed something to medicate me.

One of these unresolved issues was the death of my only child. That was just one, one that really stood out, but I had many, many more. No identity, no self- esteem, no self-worth, now knowing who I was, not knowing what I wanted, big time people pleaser, very controlling like my mother, always trying to live up to her expectations.

I had been a very functional addict. I'm a registered nurse - I had to make money to buy my drugs. I was always thin, medium build, 10, 12, 14. I never got really fat until I got clean. But I got as big as size 22. I weighed about 230 pounds.

Back then I ate a lot of times on my way home from work because I was alone. I usually do it alone, and I do it when nobody sees me. When I'm in front of people I eat real healthy, but then when I'm alone I do other stuff. Like in my car, or when I leave the house, or whatever. I would go downstairs,when my husband was sleeping, or act as if I was going to the bathroom and get food and take it into the bathroom with me and eat it while I sat on the toilet and then get back into the bed. This is all about me not being O.K. with being alone with me. Food was comfort. When you're eating, you don't feel. It medicates the pain.

When I started Overeaters Anonymous it was definitely about food. That first year that I was in OA I lost my 50 pounds. But as time went on, it was not about weight anymore. It was about serenity and peace and joy. And the weight loss was just a little extra something.

After finding OA I started taking care of myself. In OA I was with other people who ate around their emotions like I did, feeding those emotions. I also realized that I didn't want to be like my mother and I had to admit that I was a lot like her. I didn't want to be fat like my mother.

I'm recently divorced. Being alone right now, my emotional eating comes up at night, being in a big bed alone. And I want to beat myself up for it. I hate when it comes up, because I can wake up and just go right to the kitchen, on automatic pilot. And it's like I'm just not present. Some nights are worse than others.

When I eat like I should, my life is good. I realized recently that when I feel bad about myself I do bad things to myself, and then I feel worse. When I don't eat like I should, I feel like shit. I feel worthless. I feel bad about me.

My family doesn't mess with me much now. They don't bother me. They really don't because I'm free, I'm very honest, and I'm not like them anymore. I've kind of broken the rules. I don't interact too much with my family. 'Cause they're not healthy for me. It's very painful for me to be around my mother. My mother gets bigger and bigger, she's only 16 years older than me, so that means she's only 61. She moves around like she's 80 because she's so big. It's too sad for me.

I have a 15 year old niece who is very intelligent, very smart, but she's a compulsive overeater. I have a lot of fear for her. She's going to be alienated from her peers 'cause she's so huge. My younger sister is a compulsive eater and so is her son. He's seven. It's passed on from her to him. They eat all the time.

We use substances to fill voids. And that's what it's about, whether we're doing too much sex, too much shopping, too much stealing, or drugs, or alcohol, or food, or relationships, it's all about filling up voids within ourselves. And today that's what I'm working on. Today, I'm just filling up voids with me.