What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

deb-live-KCAs a performer on stage, it is amazing when you can let go of distractions, lose yourself in the music and just deliver something that is authentic without holding anything back, without thinking of anything but the music and the message. I had never been to that place – until now.

I remember when I was a size 22, and during every performance the biggest distraction was me. I would sing the lyrics and act the part but inside I was a disaster. I was always so aware of my body and what it looked like and what it felt like. I always had the feeling that I didn’t belong here. Female lead singers were supposed to be beautiful and thin. And I knew what every audience was thinking. “What is SHE doing up there? She should really lose some weight.”

Oh, how I wanted to. I wanted OUT of that body. I wanted a perfect body so I would be happy. I felt so out of place in an industry where I had to be so public. My addiction was robbing me of one of the greatest joys of my life: singing. I dreaded watching myself on TV and video; my heart would beat a million miles an hour before playback; I was fearful of the image I would see and the feelings I would encounter when I saw it. And I always made sure my album covers were shots from the shoulders and up. I always found a way to hide myself behind something when taking band pictures.

No amount of “I love you no matter what size you are” by my wonderful husband/band mate could cure my hatred of my body and my binge eating. This size was not a place where I felt comfortable or normal. . Looking back, there were many times in my life that should have been enjoyable, but because of weight they have become painful memories for me:

  • I remember taking my two girls to an amusement park. They wanted to ride the roller coaster with me (they were too small to go on their own) so we got in, but I couldn’t lock the safety bar – my large body obstructed it from coming all the way down. The guy who worked the rides noticed what was happening and came over and gave it a try while everyone standing in line and in the other cars watched and waited. But he couldn’t do it-I was too big. We had to get out of the ride. I was so ashamed and embarrassed and most of all, sad that my girls couldn’t enjoy the roller coaster because of me.
  • I used to work in an office with a great team of people. One summer day we were on a team-building outing and had rented a pontoon on a large lake. At one point, we anchored, jumped off the pontoon and went for a swim. Everyone on the team could pull themselves back up on to the pontoon (there was no ladder) but me. I tried again and again to lift my large body onto the boat but I couldn’t do it. We all laughed at first but after awhile it turned to awkward silence and some looks of pity. Finally, three people from my team came over and pulled me onto the boat. I distinctly remember feeling like a big fat whale. I was so ashamed.
  • In the months preceding my wedding, I made so many goals and plans to be a skinny bride. Since food was my drug of choice and what I used to comfort myself when I felt stressed and insecure, that goal quickly disappeared. The day of dress shopping was not fun and magical like every little girl dreams of. I was so ashamed of my size I didn’t want anyone to come with me. When I finally found a dress I wanted and they were measuring me, one employee whispered to another, “she’s a size 20. “She was trying to be kind so no one else in the store could hear, but I was so embarrassed. And then, when the final fitting came, I found I had gained a whole size! I was now a 22 and had to get the dress expanded.

So, although I haven’t forgotten about those shameful moments and others like them, I will not let them define me. It is good to remember them to remind myself that addiction always waits and I could go right back there again.

I now believe God when he says “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. (Jeremiah 29:11.) And although that Deb of my past was always adored by God, loved by my husband and my family, I was making my own plans; harming myself physically and mentally through my addiction by turning away from God and not trusting that HE will take care of my future and my emotional needs. NOT the food. What I wanted from food was pleasure, numbed emotions, and a sense of control over my life. But what food actually gave me was misery, fear, anxiety and self-loathing

It was only when I turned my trust to God, worked on the recovery of the mind, body and spirit, the weight started coming off. And the fear, the misery, anger and the self loathing started to come off with it. As long as I stay in recovery and use all of the tools of the 12-step food addiction program I am in, I know this is my permanent solution to make peace with my body and my mind. It is not a diet, which is really just a misguided attempt at controlling something we aren’t equipped to control. It freaks me out a little to think that I never lost permanent weight on any diet, but without dieting I am now several sizes smaller!

Although my story is one of hope and healing, it is definitely far from over, and the struggles continue. The holidays were a struggle with all of the stress and sugar, but I survived without relapse or damage. Our tour overseas and here in the states was not without huge temptations to comfort myself because of sickness, strife and moments where I should have been a mess but God was right by me, keeping me steady. By using my recovery tools and trusting God with outcomes, I was able to weather those storms and finish out the year “sober”.

There is still a voice that calls to me every so often, and especially around this time of year to make a New Year’s resolution to lose more weight by restricting and trying to control my own results. I know that this is my addiction knocking at the door, begging to come in. Before I answer, I run the scenario through my head; diet, obsess, weigh in, get frustrated because expectations aren’t met, eat for comfort and because of deprivation, get frustrated some more, believe I am a failure, eat more, lose my recovery. No, thank you. Addiction, you can stay outside.

Because of my freedom today from addiction I can now sing and deliver with confidence. I don’t have “the perfect body” but I am also no longer concerned with what others think of that. And I don’t put those ridiculous expectations on myself any longer of what I am “supposed” to look like.

And it feels good to have my only New Year’s resolution be to keep my abstinence, just for today ☺.

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