when food turns into a drug

i remember the first time i ate food in the middle of the night (other than in college, but when you are awake still at 3am it's more like 3rd dinner). sitting in the stark fluorescent lit hospital cafeteria while our 2nd born was trapped in an incubator  in the nicu. i can't describe hospital smell, but it was there. clean and scary all at the same time. i had ordered a pudding cup and a turkey sandwich, anything to keep my eyes open and legs moving. i don't remember how old abby was the first time i did this, but those sleepless nights in her little NICU room were long, and food was the only way i could find to stay awake (i don't drink caffeine-go figure). my doctor and the nurses all wanted me to sleep. even an entire ambien couldn't keep me asleep though, not since abby's first night when she crumped on us. and so, for 2 weeks i was in that nicu room. morning, noon and night. there for every feeding, every round, every weigh in, x-ray, and procedure...i don't think about those days often.

my mother in law gracefully mothered our 2 year old lucy the entire time, as ty stayed at the hospital with me. and then we stayed in the Jubilee house across the street, a tiny house for family members to stay for only $25 a night. heaven sent for people with looming mountainous medical bills. after a bath and a weigh in and all that other mumbo jumbo they do to patients, abby would fall asleep while i pumped. then i would escape for 10 minutes to eat. peanut m&m's. almond roca's. those first few weeks of sleep deprivation i live on sugar and chocolate, oh, and butter.

when we returned home we had a few peaceful and rainy days of peace. and then saturday morning my father-in-law was in our living room telling us that our good friend, and one of my husband's best friends, had died of heart failure friday night, at the age of 25. that time was one large blur to me, i was still feeding abby every hour, and pumping afterwards, we had to take her temperature every 3 hours and dr. appointments twice a week for weigh ins. i was exhausted, ty was exhausted. we were mourning and we were still in shock. it had been a long month.

with food, i just remember eating a lot and a lot and a lot during those nights. after the memorial service, i had come home with 2 uneaten brownie pans of the 4 i had brought. the next morning, one was entirely gone. ty asked, "hey, where did that pan of brownies go?". and ashamedly i answered, "i guess i ate the whole thing last night." you could too if you ate a row every time you got up with a baby. 5 times up in the night, 5 rows. gone.

now, i'm not a psychiatrist, but i do know that ever since that month, that horrible january month in 2007, i have been a night eater.  since then, for a few months, and one year i have not been nursing and/or pregnant and have slept through the night. but those times are few and far between. i get up with insomnia during pregnancy, and eat 3 slices of pizza. i get up with a nursing baby with swine flu, and eat 1/2 a costco bag of miniature snicker bars. i get up with puke covered toddler, give them a bath, put them back to bed and eat a zone bar. and even a few months ago, with my fourth baby 9 months old and sleeping through the night, i will find myself eating a piece of buttery toast at 3am and reading emails.

 i remember my 2nd personal trainer that i hired after 20 weeks of bedrest (can you say desperate?). i only met with him for a month. he was in his late 20's, newlywed, no kids, 4 chihuahuas, you know, an extremely busy life. but he was the first person (besides my sisters) that i told that i ate at night {i felt safe telling him this as i had a newborn, so I was awake nursing too, what a perfect coverup!}  and he just looked at me and said, "well, just don't do that anymore." ha! what a genius! i knew i was paying him $40 an hour for something that ground breaking. sheesh.

now, luckily, i love to exercise. i love dancing. i love running and swimming. i love hiking. i love going for walks. moving my body is invigorating to my soul.  and i am lucky that i move so much, because the scale number would be quite different without it. but no matter how many books about fitness and nutrition i've read, 2 personal trainers, nutritionist, diet plans, weight watchers, combined with prayer and scripture study, i still couldn't escape my dysfunctional relationship with food.  because it wasn't just the night eating, food is my drug. my escape. my crack dealer lives in my house, at the store, at every restaurant, at every social function. and i am tired of using and abusing my body.

i used to think i was the only mom who had gone to food as a drug. because only a mom would understand how some days can go from ok to in the crapper in about 20 seconds. i go to the only escape that i can find during the day, and night, and that is food. i don't drink alcohol, i don't smoke, i don't do drugs, i don't take hard prescription drugs (that's another story in and of itself), by golly i don't even eat potato chips or drink soda pop! but food, delicious chocolaty, peanut buttery, sugary, or baked pastries goodness is my addiction. it takes me away, even for a little bit.  and sometimes, when i'm having a hard day i think about food a lot. more than i should, more than i think about God. and for me, that's not cool.  it wasn't always this way, but little glimpses of it were there growing up. and then i had a child, and it turned into a spark, and then we had a hospitalized preemie, and it catapulted into a a lightning show. and with each precious child that we've added to our family, that i am always grateful for, my life is less in my control. i can't control my children, i can only control so much of my day. i can only get so much quiet in a day. and the food fills the gaps. it is my addiction, it is my drug.

so few months ago, during my weight watchers bout, after an extremely frustrating day i downloaded the free 12-step program from our church, that can be applied to any area in your life where you find yourself stuck under an addiction. now some people may think i'm being a bit extreme looking into a 12-step program for just food. i mean, what american doesn't eat too many ding-dongs in any given week right? well, i would say, when you are like me, and no matter what you try and read, and do, nothing can help you break away from eating an entire costco package of cinnabon's in one night, you might have a problem. and when nothing works to help, and you kneel down and finally admit that only one power can take this problem away, and that is God. and that, my friends, is when you look into 12-steps.


Becky J. said...

Food is my escape, too, but it started for me on my mission when that was the only break from the mundane of walking streets contacting people all. day. long. I loved meal times on the mission and my body took a toll because of it. I find myself shoving unhealthy food down my gullet every time I'm stressed as a mom, too (in fact just before I read your post I downed 5 brownie bites in 5 seconds), so I hear ya. I don't ever do it at night, though, so I can only imagine how difficult that must be to stop. Good luck with the 12 steps! I think you're very smart and very brave and I want an update on how it goes. I'm pulling for (and praying for) you!

Tiffany said...

I love your openness and honesty, Annie! I sleep like a rock at night but I am so guilty of "needing" a little chocolate every day after I get my kids down for naps. I am convinced I would be the weight I want to be if I didn't do that. Long days (and nights) with little kids can be so frustrating and food definitely seems like an easy/instant reward. Good luck with the 12-steps! I know Heavenly Father can help us overcome any weakness!

Candi said...

Thats awesome you ran into my mom!! Unfortunately I'm pretty sure at 23 I already have more fine lines than she does?!

ON a more serious note.. thank you for writing this. I'm going to look into the program. I'm so done with not experiencing life because my mind is always in the fridge. I'm tired of binging and then depriving myself. I went on my first diet in second grade. (I must have been trying to copy my sisters that were teenagers at the time.)

I've been doing WW and exercising. I kept thinking if I got to 145 things would be different. (I got up to 202 at 8 mos pregnant) I thougt I would be a better wife/mother/ dental hygienist/friend/sister/ mormon etc.. Now I weigh 142 and I'm still grumpy to my husband, I question my mothering everyday, I still get nervous cleaning teeth...still forget friends birthday... (you get the point, I'm still the same)

I guess I haven't addressed the reasons I let my weight get out of control anyway. I like the idea of making this more of a spiritual matter. I am going to ask the Lord to help me experience life. I really don't think I was sent down here just to lose 20 pounds. I probably should start thinking about other things too!!!

Thank you and sorry for the lengthy comment!!

Candi said...

P.S. Your family photo is beautiful!!

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