It has taken me so long to write the second part of this post because I was going through a lot of “stuff” and didn’t have the energy to type it all out. Wait, that’s not entirely true. Yes, I was lacking the energy, but mostly I was lacking the willingness to actually sit down and do it. Why? Because even though I know that if I don’t ask for help when I need it, and I know I may be jeopardizing everything good in my life, I still don’t always do it. Partly because it feels like whining (‘cause someone’s always got it worse than me), partly because sometimes I need to sit and stew in my own chaos and self-pity for awhile, partly because it was just so overwhelming at the time that I just couldn’t do it, and partly because my ego still likes to think “I got this.”
What was I so upset about? Lots of things. What was the crux of the problem? I’m fat. Not just chubby (how I jokingly refer to it), FAT. F.A.T. Yep, I’m a fatty. I’ve always been heavier than I should be. At age 5, getting ready for kindergarten, my mom told me to go on a diet because, “No one plays with the fat kids.” I’m sure I’ve told that story in a different blog at some point. Needless to say, nearly 32 years later, that still sticks in my head.
How do you overcome that underlying feeling to your core that you’ll never be good enough? That you will never have any friends? That you’ll instantly be disliked because of what you look like? You find different ways of making people like you. You know that you’re always going to be coming from behind, so you learn how to overcompensate. When I was in early elementary school, I found out that if I was funny, people liked me. Funny and silly, but not loud or obnoxious about it. I was talkative and told funny stories and cracked jokes. I was polite and energetic. (In fact, I was a lot like my 8-yr old daughter is now. ) I figured if you were laughing and smiling at me, you liked me, and as long as you liked me, I was OK. And then…people started saying things like, “Do you ALWAYS talk this much?” and “Don’t you EVER stop talking?” and finally, “For the love of GOD, STOP TALKING!” (I try to be mindful of how I felt, but sometimes I hear myself tell #8, “Please…just stop talking for 3 minutes and give my ears a rest.” She usually shuts it down for a few minutes and then picks up right where she left off. Lol) Stop talking. Now what? My failsafe had failed. The one thing I was good at was now considered a bad thing. The one thing I relied on to fit in and feel good was all of the sudden the thing that people didn’t like about me. Now I’m fat AND I talk too much. I guess I better learn to be quiet. Seen but not heard. I learned to watch people and gauge their reactions to see if I was annoying them. I learned how to read facial expressions and body language. I could still talk and be funny, but only at the appropriate times. If only I could figure out the right times. I guess it’s just safer to shut up. I clammed up. Around adults I mostly only spoke when spoken to. I read a lot and learned to entertain myself. Both of which were touted as good behavior and won me favor. Got it. Quiet is the answer.I left a small class of kids who rarely teased me (after all, I WAS the tallest girl in the class and only 1 boy was taller than me), to a new class where I was the new fat girl. By 5th grade I had been teased enough to come up with a new plan. INTIMIDATION. I was still the tallest girl, and 3rd tallest in the class. I had cut my long hair off and had a spiked haircut. Drugs had already been introduced into my life and I was learning that if people are a little afraid of you, they leave you alone, and being left alone was always better than being teased. I admonished the “popular kids” and became leader of the “non popular girls”. I made up enough stories to make me seem more interesting than I really was and talked a big game and was always hatching a plan. Plans for what I cannot remember, but it was usually something very elaborate that probably ended up in us overthrowing the social ladder in our grade or meeting New Kids on the Block or something equally important. Oh by the way, did you know that I met TIFFANY at a big mall in the cities? I always liked her better than Debbie Gibson. It was SO great! She was walking behind me in the mall, heard me singing one of her songs, and caught up to me and sang with me and told me how great I sounded! Best day ever. (Yeah…that’s the kind of bullshit I would make up and they would believe me, or at least pretend to so I wouldn’t get pissed at them. People that I was pissed at NEVER had a good day at school. I would do whatever it took to let people know that I was pissed at you and what a loser you were and seriously, no one wants to hang out with “her” anymore because “her” is so stupid and thinks I lie about stuff because “she’s” lame and jealous. Yes, unfortunately, I was THAT kid. I could dehumanize you in a flash and not feel bad about it. As long as I was holding court, I was ok, and it didn’t matter who I had to take down. I would go to any lengths to be the leader of the pack.
I would like to make it clear that I was not a “people pleaser”. I hate that term. I really didn’t care if you were PLEASED by me. What I REALLY wanted was your approval. As a great Al-Anon speaker once said, “ I am not a people pleaser, I am an APPROVAL SUCKER.” I don’t care if I’ve please you at all. Just show me your approval and I’ll be ok. How do early to mid-teenage girls gain approval? Well, if you aren’t skinny and popular, but you have bigger boobs than most of the other girls, you’ve got something to work with. If you recognize your worth correlates with the size of your boobs and your willingness to let boys touch them, and add in a steadily increasing use of drugs and alcohol, you end up with a slutty teenager. You remember the slut in school, right? There was usually at least one girl who was the class slut and usually it didn’t have much to do with the truth about her behavior, but lots to do with the rumor mill. I was never actually labeled a slut though, because really, who would sleep with that fat cow? The truth is, I was becoming a chameleon. I knew how to work ”whore”,” crazy”, “weird”, “stoner”, and “not cool” quite well. The right behavior with the right person and I was pretty much left to do my own thing. Let’s look at the truth of the matter though. I was young, sensitive (I rather get in a fist fight than have my feelings hurt) girl with shameful secrets and who was on the path to becoming a full-blown alcoholic and drug addict. All because I couldn’t handle my feelings. All because I couldn’t take rejection. I had no coping skills to deal with the pain of being me. I did have one thing though. One of the best things in the world. I had drugs and alcohol.
I did drugs to feel different and I drank to fit in. At least that’s how it felt in my head. If I did enough, I found I could numb out all of those feelings and I could be ok. I could even be ok if the people around me didn’t like me! This stuff was AMAZING! I could be funny again! I could have a good time and not wonder what everyone was thinking about me because they were busying numbing their own feelings too! It was like I had been holding my breath my whole life and didn’t even know it and now I could BREATHE. Drinking wasn’t my PROBLEM, it was my SOLUTION. For everything. Having a bad day? Have a drink. Having a great day? Cheers! Let’s have a drink. It’s Tuesday? Let’s drink to that! I’m still fat, but who cares! Older men LOVE young, promiscuous girls and I knew how to work that. If I got you to spend your money on me, I WIN! And later…when you want to feel me up, or take me home…I’ll go a long with it, but only because I WANT to. To reward you for treating me so well.
Then morning comes. I cursed the mornings. My bad luck started by waking up. I spent years wishing I could just go to sleep and not wake up. I’m awake, searching for my clothes, running through the events of the previous night to remember if my car was outside waiting for me or if I rode with you, and if I rode with your, I would debate whether I had to wake you for a ride, or if my car might be close enough to walk to it. Oh yeah…I’m fat. I better wake you up because I can’t walk the 5 miles back to the bar to get my vehicle. Then there’s that awkward ride back to the bar. Strained small talk and thinly veiled pleasantries. I HATED that ride. Feeling demoralized and dirty. Why do I keep doing this? When am I ever going to learn? What the hell is wrong with me? I’m a fat drunk that no one loves, that’s what’s wrong with me. I wonder who will be at the bar when I get dropped off. Hopefully I’ll recognize at least one car and can go in and have a drink. Hey look a couple of cars I recognize. I haven’t seen them in a while. I think I’ll go in and have a drink with them and catch up.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Night after night after night.
Eventually I sobered up. I had to. I got to a point where I was miserable drinking and miserable NOT drinking. I ran out of different bars to go to and a few of the old guys were now comparing stories and figuring out my hustle. I was running out of people to fool. Without the numbing effect of the alcohol, I had no defense against my shame and guilt. I honestly would have killed myself if it wasn’t for the fact that I didn’t want to put my family through that. I couldn’t think of anything more selfish than suicide and they didn’t deserve that. Finally, in 1997, after more than 10 years of drinking and using, in a last-ditch effort, I walked into a 12-Step meeting and my life has never been the same.
Fast forward to today. Where am I 15 years later? Other than the hiatus I took from mid-2000 to February 2005, I have been in 1 of 2 12-Step programs. I came in through the doors of NA, but found recovery in AA. Today I have 2 wonderful daughters that fill me with wonder and fear on a daily basis. I have a mostly amicable relationship with their father, my ex-husband. I am a mom, a daughter, an employee, a friend and a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most days, I get better than I deserve, and have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I am lucky enough to help other alcoholics try to stay sober, and in the process, keep myself sober. Integrity, compassion, dignity, and gratitude are 4 ideals that I try to practice in my waking hours. I don’t do it perfectly by any means, but I seem to get it right more than I get it wrong now. My dear, sweet daughters know their mother is a sober alcoholic who goes to meetings to keep learning how to make good decisions in life and have healthy minds. They know that alcoholics who drink alcohol get sick in the mind and start making bad decisions and bad choices. They don’t necessarily know it, but I’m raising them with the 12-Steps. I treat it like an insurance policy. If I keep paying the premiums (lead by example), I pray they will never have to cash in the policy and need the Program to sober up themselves. I stay active in AA to make sure it’s still there in the future. AA gave me my life and I will never be able to repay that debt. I CAN, however, do what it takes to ensure it will be around in the future for the other broken people who are lucky enough to find the courage to drag themselves through the doors of a meeting.
Today I am still fat. Fatter than I’ve ever been. It’s the one addiction that is still kicking my ass. I know what I have to do. I’ve been shown the way. The fact that I haven’t made any progress in that area is a direct result of my resistance to what works. Fear seems to be the biggest road block for me. Always has been. I’m figuring out what the fears are now. Just like drinking, I KNOW it’s killing me and it still doesn’t stop me. I have no self-discipline. I AM taking baby steps though. Writing about it here is a HUGE step for me. My weight is the one thing I NEVER talk about. I’ll tell you about the disgusting drunk I used to be and tell you the horror stories, but pretend like my weight is not even in the realm of things I have issues with. Well…here it is folks. It’s out there. Progress, not perfection, for the win! Now pardon me while I go eat these raspberries instead of the candy the kids brought home from the festival yesterday. ;-)