I had always been the high-achieving good-girl with everything looking great from the outside, but some bad things had happened over the years and I didn’t know how to deal with it. In response, I said hello to what I considered a moderate eating disorder.
It started innocently enough -- here’s a journal entry from that time:
“I just read two books; Go Ask Alice and The Best Little Girl in the World -– Go Ask Alice was about drugs and Best Little Girl was about a girl with anorexia nervosa. I’m fasting today! Wish me luck!”
Then I discovered bingeing and purging. I know now that it was a way of managing emotions, but at the time it felt like a magic bullet to control my weight. Sometimes it was better, sometimes worse, but I kept the secret well.
And it all still looked good for a long time. Good grades, athlete, cheerleader, homecoming queen, prom princess, a successful college career, and a killer job in my chosen profession after graduation. And yet, with all the "good" going on in my life I always felt it would be "better" if I were a little thinner.
At one point in my 20s, I thought it would be a good idea to get just a little crystal meth in order to lose 10 pounds. It just made sense.
I had heard of people doing speed as an awesome way to lose weight without even trying. I called my good friend in San Francisco (everyone needs a good friend in SFO) and asked her to send me some. She was resistant at first and warned that it was HIGHLY addictive and had ruined friends’ lives.
Having no fear, I insisted that wouldn’t happen to me -– I would only use it when I was hungry and NEVER to party. So she sent it. And I mostly kept to my promise.
I didn’t think of it as “crystal meth.” No way. Meth was a dirty street drug cut with battery acid, baby formula and who knows what. This was just “speed” (said in a friendly and helpful voice) -- a higher-strength Dexatrim than I could buy at the store.
I began by rationing it out and only doing very small amounts -– teeny, tiny amounts -- every day. For a year.
My friend sent it a few more times until I could find a dealer (not a word I would have used) of my own. I found someone local but it felt so gross to go and make small talk until I could get out of there and continue with my "dieting." So I found someone who would deliver. I bought in bulk so I could pretend that it wasn’t happening –- I would leave money under the front mat and he would leave the drugs. And I wouldn’t have to worry about it for another month or two.
Then I found out that you could smoke it. You know, as an appetite suppressant.
So that’s what I did. For seven years.
And no one knew.
The bulimia was mostly gone, I started working and having success in a new career, had lots of friends, romance, traveled the world (although I had enough sense to never buy or bring drugs on my trips), and generally was living a pretty fabulous life.
I lost the 10 pounds -- maybe 10 more -- but was never a scary -ooking tweaker and most nights I slept.
I was very organized and did a lot of craft projects –- my elaborate custom hand-painted calendars for everyone every Christmas were a hit for years -- and my apartment was very tidy.
I still looked like the good girl -- in fact I got my dream job being on a nightly national TV show for two years.
No one knew. I didn't party with anyone. I didn't think I was getting high. No. Seriously. I didn’t think I was getting high.
I knew one day I was going to have to stop but I was also in complete denial that it was a problem. It wasn’t, “Oh, I know I'm a drug addict and will have to stop one day” kind of denial but, “Sure, this is just something I should stop before having a family,” and because I didn’t like the stress of getting more when I was running out.
But that stress should have been a big clue that it was indeed a problem. Did I stress when the cereal box was empty? When there were no more Q-Tips? When the laundry detergent ran out? A big fat: No. No. No.
Just to make things interesting, during this seven-year "diet program," I started to drink a lot more than I had in the past and yet didn’t feel drunk or out of control. Speed will do that.
The TV show ended and my world started to get smaller. I didn’t know why I couldn’t get out of my own way. I felt like I had so much potential but was having a hard time getting into action. The jobs got less glamorous and everything started taking more time. By the end it was taking me an hour to compose a two-paragraph email. I mostly hid it by working long hours and staying later than everyone so I could finish my work.
There were other indicators that things were not quite right that I chose to ignore:
- Bringing sake to work in a water bottle and pairing it with edamame and thinking I was clever and sophisticated.
- Plucking and picking excessively and then buying expensive skin care regimes to repair the damage.
- Getting a storage unit to transfer the "found" items that were stacked up in my apartment with which I was going to create amazing art projects.
- Spending thousands of dollars on Internet slot machines.
It was getting harder to show up on time anywhere but work. A boyfriend at the time wondered if I was “digging ditches and filling them up again." It seemed I was always busy doing something but didn’t have much to show for it.
At some point, toward the end, I researched “quitting crystal meth.” It wasn’t pretty, and although I printed out dozens of pages and compiled a handy info binder, I still didn’t think I was really “addicted.”
It wasn’t until the bottom dropped out and the boyfriend broke up with me. We had been going out nearly four years and while I’m sure I wasn’t the best girlfriend in the world, he did not end it because I was using drugs -– he had NO idea. My latest production job had also just ended and it felt like my tiny world had gotten even smaller.
I felt like a complete failure.
And, unbelievably, I wanted to lose 10 pounds.
Thankfully, later that day I had the sense to confess to my therapist of seven years what I had been doing (that she too had not detected). To her credit, she gently suggested I check out a 12-step program, which honestly seemed like the last place I should be going. Remember? I wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic.
Or maybe I was.
I went to my first meeting and heard hope and a way out of the disaster I had slowly made of my life. I realized that I had turned to drugs to solve a problem, never imagining that drugs would become the problem. I jumped into recovery and did the work required to repair my relationships, confidence, self-esteem and to find a spiritual connection -- essentially, to rebuild my life.
That was 12 years ago. I’ve been sober ever since.
In recovery, I’ve found a career that truly lights me up, married an amazing man and had a little boy who is remarkable in every way. None of this would have been possible if I had stayed on the path I was going down.