Friday, March 06, 2009


Yesterday was a bearcat. I knew it by 10 a.m. when Daisy and I walked the mile down to pick up Henry. As we approached the corner, crowded with garbage bags and early morning worker bees, I saw a Welsh springer spaniel approaching.

"Don't be scared," I soothed Daisy as I shortened her leash. "It's OK, you don't have to be scared." She lunged anyway & the owner of the spaniel yelled at me about controlling my dor or what is the matter with her or some damn thing. He'd heard me talking to her about being scared & made no attempt to sidestep us or simply ignore the lunge. "I'm sorry," I called over my shoulder as I struggled to get Daisy away from a bag full of bread someone had dumped on the sidewalk, "I'm doing the best I can."

But I broke down in tears by the time I turned the corner, leashed her & went back to pick up the 20 rolls that had spilled all over the place. I cried intermittently the mile and a half to Hero's house, although by then it wasn't about being yelled at. I was crying because I lost six years to compulsive eating, & 42 years before that. I was crying because it's Not Fair that God gave me this disease of addiction and of depression as well.

I did a smart thing when I got home. I turned off my computer, stuck the DVD of the first half of the first season of 30 Roc in my new thingie, sat down with Daisy curled up against me & disappeared into this OK sit-com.

A good crying jag must release some hormone, one that leaves one limp for the day. I was exhausted by 11.30 a.m.

That was the Pity-Me part of this post.

I must now say a couple of things that directly attack my right to self-pity.

The first is that I am feeling every which way at any given time (although yesterday just left me depleted). I'm not medicating with food. I'm walking through my break-up with my lover. I have no words for how fiercely I WANT this abstinence. I WANT it. I WANT it. But breaking up is still hard to do.

The second is that I was walking my three-mile morning walk without Naprosin or any other pain medication. I've lost enough weight to be more pain-free than I've been in a long time.

The third is that I watched 30 Roc, then watched TV that night. I've lived in silence for years, unable to sit still long enough to watch a video or TV show. I didn't know my television was dying until the presidential debates. Some power of concentration has come back & it's a welcome guest.

OK, the next part of this post is enlightenment. I told my sponsor about how wretched I'd felt that morning & how I'd taken the day off, which she thought was a very good reaction. Then she reminded me of the 12-step axiom:

"You have awareness of this disease, but as long as you keep saying `I'm so angry at myself for relapsing,' you're playing God. Awareness, acceptance, action. You've got to accept that you're a compulsive overeater."

We ended the conversation & I went back to bed with Daisy, who was being therapy dog par excellence last night. What did she mean that I had to accept my disease? Wasn't I, every time I measured an ounce of chicken or went to a meeting? How could I move beyond my anger, at myself, at God? I'd relapsed, no one pushed me into a pint of Ben & Jerry's. How could I not be angry at myself?

As I was ruminating on this today, I stepped on a rock right on the ball of my foot. I have terrible, deep corns on the nerves in the balls of my feet. A podiatrist explained that they're too deep to remove & not curable because I have one toe that's too long & one that's too short. I can shave the callouses down & that helps a lot, but stepping on a rock will always make me wince smartly.

I've never blamed myself for my feet. I've never blamed God for them. I've never blamed myself for smoking (or only a little) & I don't blame God. I don't blame either of us when I get a cold (although I blamed him when my intestines got all tangled up & I had to have abdominal surgery) or it rains or my eyebrows need waxing. (I blame myself & my weight for being tired and achy, however. The examples I've given are really accurate). I shave my feet, enjoy my cigarette, take Thera-flu, complain a lot, put on my raincoat, make an appointment or let them go.

I decide whether to take action on stuff I'm stuck with or leave it be. But I don't rant at myself or God about them.

Compulsive eating & depression are painful. My feet are in pain. Compulsive eating & depression are physical facts about me as much as the way my feet are made. They just are. They aren't my fault. An addict will go back to her substance when she doesn't want her sobriety & when she doesn't take the actions to keep it from happening. & my best shot of conquering or riding out depression is not to eat sugar & flour.

I got it, finally. I have funny feet, two diseases, navy blue eyes, long fingers, am right-handed, am a spendthrift & like 19th century British novels.

It's who & what I am.

Day 21. Time to go make a salad with 1 cup of garbanzo beans, it being Lent & all.


Laura N said...

I need to read & re-read this post Frances. I cannot tell you how much I am struggling right now with exactly what you describe--compulsive eating & depression. They are NOT FAIR. One leads to the other in a vicious circle that (seemingly never) ends in shame & bigger clothes.

And I hate feeling like this. Hate feeling helpless. Hate feeling like I can't make myself stop eating, can't make myself go running, can't make myself eat a salad instead of a bowl of cereal.

Most of all I hate the shame & guilt.

"they aren't my fault" & "my best shot is not to eat sugar & flour" are ringing in my soul. I just hope my body will respond, too.

Congratulations on 21 days & having such an amazing AHA moment. So very proud of you.

Unknown said...

Frances, I identify with so much of what you're saying and feeling a lot of the time. The really aggravating thing is, I need to take my antidepressants (I'm on two), but they seem to erode my willpower about overeating. I get this "oh, who cares" reaction when I try to eat moderately and then have cravings. Sometimes I wish I had the guts to take uppers to lose weight -- nice attitude, huh.

Anyway, you are so very honest and clearly are hurting a lot of the time. Just want to say that my heart goes out to you in both sympathy and some empathy.

Cindy said...

Congratulations on 21 days of abstinence!! You are still detoxing. That's what some guy used to say to me when I was in a 30 day treatment program just about every time I opened my mouth. I have been struggling with acceptance myself. Making peace with the fact that I can't just eat what I want whenever I want and how much I want. Glad you took the day off and have your therapy dog by your side. I use TV as therapy sometimes. Thanks so much for writing about this. I think a bunch of us are at the same place right now. Garbanzo beans sound good. Take care of yourself, extra care.

Nan said...

I'm in pain tonight, too. I sprained my back by slipping on a wet floor at work. I'm eating salmon in pain because, like you, I've chosen not to go for the comfort food.

I sent my husband out for unexpired Advil. But it had nothing to do with the fact that he made himself an acre of spaghetti with butter and cheese while I lay on a Ziplock bag of ice. Honest, I swear it didn't! ;)

Who do I blame for my pain?

Me. Uh, I'm the one who spilled the water on the floor.

drlisa said...

Thank you Frances for always saying it like it is! I admire you and respect you for your courage to share your life living with food addiction. Your story is my story...and others for sure.

Unknown said...

What do you put on your salad with garbanzo beans? I like them with a dressing of olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, & lemon juice. Something I learned from Chef Kathleen. It's sort of Mediterranean. I don't love the flavor of the beans on their own so I put them to soak in the dressing for a while after I rinse them so they have some good flavor.

This is an interesting post and I'm filing it away in my brain. I'm curious to know more about how it works in practice.

Frances Kuffel said...

My dressing that day was 1 T sesame oil, 1/2 packet sweetener, unfortunately a little too much red wine vinegar & some cayenne, which I now add to almost everything.

I rinse the beans -- I don't like the thick water they come in.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 21 days! I'm rooting for you. Your writing evokes feelings in me about my own raw, rubbed, bumpy hurt places. About past wrongs. About fears for the future. I am called to be here in the now, it's the only place I know I can change. I relate to this post because my dog lunges too and it's fricking frustrating to me. C/