Coming Out as a Food Addict in AA

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Jul 2nd, 2016
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Coming Out as a Food Addict in AA

I’ve written about my feeling of being an imposter when I attend AA meetings, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times, the last time quite recently.  Despite feeling “less than”, I go anyway because it’s the only option I have for face-to-face meetings here on Martha’s Vineyard.  Food addicts certainly exist in every city and hamlet in the U.S., but apparently we aren’t as organized as people with the liquid version of our disease.


It’s a large AA meeting that I attend daily at 6:45am.  On a slow day there are about 50-60 people.


The people are lovely and I’ve felt welcomed.  I’ve shared, beginning each share with “Hi, I’m Kathryn, I’m an addict.”  Then I give my two minutes of thoughts on whatever the reading of the day is. But it’s stressful to share because I’m always careful to edit my thoughts and words so as to not reveal the nature of my addiction.  Not everyone “gets” food addiction, I think, in much the same way that most people in the 1940’s didn’t understand alcoholism.  Just as drunks were then viewed as lacking in discipline, and maybe morally corrupt; we who medicate our unmanageable feelings with bingeing are sometimes told to “just push away from the table.”  I once talked to a nutritionist about my inability to have a bag of cookies in my house.  “I have to eat them until they are gone,” I said.  She scrunched up her skinny self and asked me, “Why would you do that?”


All that said, I understand that more and more people understand and accept the disease of food addiction and that others still don’t believe that drunks are gripped by a real disease.


But back to my dilemma of feeling scared of being judged by a room of alcoholics, at least a few of whom may think my disease is bogus.  My strategy has been to talk with people after meetings, and if the chatting turns in to a real conversation, I have shared, with one person at a time, that I identify as a food addict, not an alcoholic.  As of yesterday, I’d told 4-5 women and one guy.  All were extremely supportive and felt I’d find widespread support in the meeting.  I planned to continue on this path and find a way to out myself publicly by the end of the summer.


Today, on the Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend, the meeting was packed.  One person said she’d counted how many we were and it was a few shy of 100.  Even for this meeting, it was BIG.  The meeting opened with a request for visitors or newcomers to  identify themselves if they wished.  Immediately a woman I didn’t recognize stood up and said, “I’m -, and I’m a food addict.”  Wow!  I didn’t see that coming.  Gutsy and brave!


After all those who wished to had introduced themselves, the daily reading was read out loud.  The first sentence was something like: “Am I willing to be truthful about who I am, and to share that truth with others?”  At that, my hands got clammy and the room was suddenly very hot.  Then the sharing started, and I could see that I was going to be among the first 20 or so people to share or pass.  I was definitely going to have to be brave, or not.


As the two-minute spotlight moved my way, a woman said, “You know, I can be addicted to anything.  It started with marijuana, moved to alcohol, then drugs.  But I ended up with food addiction.”   Now you have to understand, the phrase “food addiction” had not been said once in the 18 times I’ve attended this meeting.  And now, twice in one day, on a day when the reading was about sharing one’s truth with others?


Really?  Was the Spirit who drives the joystick of the universe going to push me to the edge of the high dive on on a day with nearly one hundred witnesses?


It seemed clear that She/It/He was. And then the guy to my right, said, “And that’s all I got.”  It was my turn.


I opened my share by saying, “I read the first line of today’s reading and thought, OH SHIT.”  That got a laugh.  Then I read the line out loud about sharing one’s truth with others.  DEEP BREATH.  Then I thanked the two people who had the courage to mention food addiction, as that was my method of self-destruction.  I said that I found it scary to out myself in a room of alcoholics because it had been my experience that OA’ers were not always welcomed in some AA meetings, even open meetings.  Then I talked about how when I was a child and a teenager reeling with unmanageable feelings, I didn’t have access to drugs or alcohol.  But early on – I didn’t remember how or when – I discovered I could numb myself with food, check out, black out. That I’d done it for decades before finding a 12-step program for people like me, 12 years earlier.  I closed by saying, “I love 12 step life so much, I did my master’s thesis on the Big Book.  It has transformed my life in so many ways.” And then I passed.


The guy next to me shared, then after he passed he leaned over and whispered, “I started with food addiction.”


After the meeting?  Several people came up and said, “I’m a food addict, too.”  One took all our phone numbers and said she was going to organize a meeting at her house.  Then a guy approached me and asked about my thesis.  It sounds like he’s some kind of Big Book Black Belt who’s been running BB study groups for 25 years, and he asked if he could read my thesis.    I said sure, and then he told me about being invited to lead a step study at an early OA meeting, back when OA didn’t have its own literature.  He said that some of the OA’ers resented having an alcoholic come to their meeting, so he understood my trepidation about identifying myself in an AA meeting.


WooHoo!  I’m out!  Life is beautiful this 4th of July weekend.  Hope it is for you, too.


Let’s all hang together as we navigate the “everyone-bring-a-dish” picnics, potlucks, and parties.  Tomorrow, as people share their trepidation about all the drinking they will encounter at Fourth of July parties,  I may share what we recovering food addicts call Thanksgiving:  Thursday.


So I won’t close with “Happy Fourth of July.”  I’ll say, “Happy Monday.”






  • Margy

    That was such a Higher Powered moment! It gives me the chills to see how skillfully your HP engineered the moment you had been hoping for and dreading all at the same time. Thank you for seizing the Good Orderly Direcrtion The Grreat Mystery provided. High five for courage! I salute you.

  • Ellen

    Thank you so much Kathryn! I so needed the shot of faith this story brought me today. In Gratitude, Love and Peace, Ellen p.s. I would Love to read your thesis too.

    • Kathryn

      As soon as I dig it out of the archives of my overstuffed computer, I’ll send it to you! Thanks for reading….XO

  • Kathy T

    Fabulous! What an incredible gift to be able to share openly about our addiction. Wonderful to hear about the pace of your recovery in your summer home. Thanks!

  • Linda

    Just wonderful!

  • Kathryn

    Every day I keep making meaningful connections with people here who have rock solid recovery. I’m so grateful to now have two communities in which I feel at supported and cared for.

    Thank you all for the love….I miss all of you!

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