The Thing About Addiction ~ And a Poem

Bambi was a waif,

Bambi was a crier.

She raged in my college locker room

About the boy who dumped her.

Bambi was distraught

Over being treated dirty.

Mostly she was mortified

His new girl weighed One-Thirty.


I am obviously no poet.

But, this is creative non-fiction anyway.  Bambi is real. She was the 105 pound blonde in my Phys Ed 101 class; aka Aerobics. Complete with leg warmers and spandex. Thank you, 1982!

This was a defining moment for me. The way she said “A hundred and thirty pounds” was like the girl had a third eye. Like she was obviously a disgusting human being.

My first diet started in that moment. I was blissfully enjoying putting on my “freshman fifteen” when Bambi had her meltdown. I weighed 130. I did not steal her boyfriend. Of that, I was completely innocent.

For the next 30 days, I lived on a Malto Meal muffin, a pork chop and a can of green beans a day.  Every. Single. Day. I Aerobicized, ran everywhere; Forest Gump style,  and I lost fifteen pounds. Well now, THAT was easy.

Here is the disclaimer for Bambi. She didn’t cause my dieting frenzy. I was well on my way to an eating disorder before I was a freshman at that Community College. At the time, I was actually grateful that she held up the mirror. I had no idea I was so gross. I’m joking of course, but at the time I had no idea some people would judge me so harshly based on my weight. My eyes have been opened to the reality of how I feel about my body and how it is judged by others many times over the thirty-five years that followed the Bambi debacle.

I was talking to a friend the other day and heard myself say “I don’t drink anymore because I just don’t like the feeling of being impaired.”

It was as if time slowed down and I could see those words floating in the air between us. I could really see how ludicrous that statement was for me.

Of course I like the feeling of being impaired! That’s the feeling I’m looking for when I reach for that cookie ~ or box of cookies.  In uncomfortable moments, I use food to take the edge off. Up until a few years ago, I used exercise to take the edge off. That was much sexier. People actually find it amusing when you tell them the reason you run is to “run off the crazy”. But, I am kidding myself if I think that I don’t like the feeling of being slightly buzzed or numb. My drug of choice is just more subtle. Some call it a soft addiction. So far, the only thing soft about it is the place where my abs used to be.

I know I could change my body if I chose to. I’ve done it a hundred times. I can punish my body with the best of them. I once had myself convinced that I could thrive on a bagel and sixteen mini-pretzels a day. After teaching two aerobics classes and doing a four mile power walk.

But, if I do that… if I just hit the gym and change my eating, without looking into the reasons behind this need for comfort, for invisibility, that would be like throwing away my crutches and walking on my broken leg, right? Pretty soon, it’s going to hurt like hell and I’ll be looking around for those damn crutches again. And they will be there. They’re always there. So easy. So effective. Like home.

It really doesn’t matter what we choose to help us take a bit of weight off our broken leg. I choose cookies. If I’d chosen drugs or alcohol, I would still have to figure out what was the actual problem. I don’t think just stopping a behavior would work for me. I guess I’m a pretty determined addict. It’s going to take some serious work to truly be willing to give up the crutches.

I think for me one of the first things that needs to happen… just did. I said all of this. Out loud. To everyone I know and a bunch of people I don’t. It isn’t fun, either. I would like everyone to see me as pretty effing amazing and like I’ve got my shit together. Maybe that shit just needs to be scattered out and investigated a bit.

This is where shame lives for me. It is my longest running script. Body image. Who I am being all wrapped up in this ridiculous package. That can’t be right, can it? I don’t know what exactly I’ll find when I start poking around. I have some suspicions. I know some of the places where I turned left instead of right and my decisions about my body and my worth got all jumbled up. I do know that it’s not just one thing. It’s layers of things. Small and large divides where things happened and decisions were made. Some of them unconscious. Some deliberate. I’m thinking it’ll be just as fun as peeling an onion.

This could take a while. Sometimes my self doesn’t like to be investigated. She would rather just fix what she thinks is “wrong” ~ the body ~ and then worry about what might have driven her to those damn cookies. So far, this approach has not worked for the long term. It’s a stupid approach. For any addict, in my opinion. Sure, there are times when a person just has to get off the drug in order to save their life. But then, there’s so much more to be done. Digging deep to figure out those places where we decided we’re not okay. And finding a way to make ourselves hear, believe and feel the truth… That we ARE okay.

Top Photo: Bob Huff



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