I currently weigh 192 pounds. 45 days ago, at the end of my last meth binge, I weighed 165 pounds. That’s a substantial weight gain in a very short period of time, and it’s freaking me out, so I’m doing what I now do to deal with feelings that scare me: I’m going to write about them, humiliation be damned.
I discovered bingeing and purging back in the early 90’s, when alcohol was still my drug of choice.
It happened by accident, sort of…following a wild night of sweaty, shirt-off dancing at West Hollywood clubs like Rage or the now-defunct Studio One, I’d cruise through a Taco Bell drive through on the way home and hunger-order a bag full of food. Back at my apartment, I’d gorge myself on the carb-fest, trying to soak up some of the alcohol still in my stomach.
The first time, I vomited because I had to. Just too much to keep down while in a horizontal sleeping position. I noticed, however, that in the morning I felt better physically then I usually did following my previous booze and taco supreme over-indulgences. Less bloated, less headache-y. And remembering how easily it had all come up the night before, with just a minimum of effort on my part, I wrote a brain-note to myself: try that again next weekend.
And I did.
My addict brain assured that within weeks, I was bingeing and purging with alarming frequency, and not just following nights out at the bar.
I was twenty-seven years old, and was just beginning to discover that my body could no longer live on a diet of Pepsi and fast food without gaining weight, the way it had done in the past.
I was also in the midst of dating, and frequently. As an insecure gay man shopping in the frequently appearance-is-everything meat market of Southern California, I fretted and obsessed (more addict behavior) about every pound that I would gain, certain that my love handles would be the one obstacle that would prevent me from finding the true love I was sure I deserved.
And so it went, crash dieting, failing at the crash diet, bingeing, eating gluttonous quantities of McDonald’s french fries and Hostess Sno-balls and anything else I could get my mouth on, an alternating out-of-control ,savory-sweet-savory-sweet mastication orgy of self-loathing and despair, followed by the violent, shameful but “I’m back in control” retch of the purge.
This went on for years, though, like much of my addictive behavior, it would subside for periods, often for several months in duration. But it would always return when the insecurities resurfaced.
I became obsessed with the unattainable goal of physical perfection, and the shallowness of that pursuit gradually replaced any concept of spiritual evolution that might have existed before. I began to value myself more for how I looked than for how I behaved.
In other words, my body became more important than my soul.
Even after I was officially rescued from the choppy waters of the dating pool by my wonderful partner Patrick, the old bulimia demon would occasionally pay me a visit during times of intense stress or when I went to pull on a pair of pants that were suddenly so tight they’d make my legs feel like giant polish sausages. That feeling of disgust at myself, that inner monologue would assert itself, loud and on repeat:
“you’re disgusting. You’re fat. You eat too much, you eat more than normal people eat. You are so weak, did you have to have three helpings of macaroni and cheese last night? What are you, a fucking child?”
“GET RID OF IT.”
I went to therapy, at Patrick’s insistence, and it provided a measure of relief, though never total remission. I learned some tools that I would occasionally utilize, and more frequently ignore. My weight would fluctuate from bone-thin to stout to chubby, and back again, over and over. I fucked up my body in profound ways, my metabolism never quite being able to assess its base line and constantly trying to compensate for my self-destructive behavior.
At one point, I even resorted to undergoing liposuction: one of the most painful and truly unnecessary tortures I’ve ever put my body through. I can barely write about that ordeal without cringing, both from embarrassment and recalled discomfort.
Finally though, I found a cure for my bulimia: crystal meth.
I didn’t start using meth as a method of controlling my bingeing and purging, it was simply a positive side-effect of not having any appetite at all. The pounds dropped away, I would pick like a finicky child at any food on my plate.
While my weight stayed low, and the voice of the binge and purge demon was temporarily muffled, other…and more vicious…demons took its place, setting in motion the chain reaction of decades-long damage that inspired this blog in the first place.
The nature of meth abuse is that one rarely eats at all while using, so when one ceases using, the body is in starvation mode and instantly begins to cling to every calorie, every drop of moisture, and bloat and instant weight gain is the result.
Today, I have 45 days of recovery under my belt following my last relapse. They’ve been 45 incredibly difficult days, filled with residual fear and paranoia, self-hatred over my seeming inability to grasp my programs of recovery, and a sense of desperate clarity that this is perhaps my last chance to get it right.
They’ve also been filled with a new sense of God in my life, of hope, of rigorous honesty, and of an often-overwhelming sense of gratitude for those around me who have supported me – and continue to support me – regardless of my cataclysmic fuck-ups.
I am also now battling the binge-and-purge demon once again: that voice that is telling me that the 160 pound, meth-addled Andy is the better, more attractive Andy. The voice that is telling me that I have no self-control, that I will never amount to anything If I can’t even control my eating. The voice that silently whispers to me “do a little speed. no one has to know, and you’ll be able to fit into those jeans again in no time. You’ll be fine, just manage it a little better this time.” Of course, that voice is lying to me, because I am utterly incapable of doing speed without anyone knowing, and of course I have absolutely zero ability to manage my meth use. I am powerless over that addiction, and manageability is the very hallmark of my drug use, whether I’m using it to get high, to lose weight, or for any other bullshit reason my tricky brain comes up with.
I’ve been steadily climbing up out of the pit of relapse, hand over hand, feet finding tentative purchase from which to push myself up higher towards the Sunlight of the Spirit. I will not let the binge-and-purge demon drag me back down.
I still have the tools I learned in therapy a long time ago that will help me deal with my body issues today, to find peace with this nearly 25 pound weight-gain I’ve achieved in only forty-five days off the pipe. I’ve been reading voraciously the stories of those who have also battled eating disorders, and am currently in the middle of actress Maureen McCormick’s brave memoir, “Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding my True Voice.” These stories, and the inspiration I glean from them, are another of my tools to combat my bulimia.
But I have an even better tool, one that I’ve learned in the programs of recovery I use for my other addictions: prayer.
Today, I pray that I can love myself exactly as I am. Today, I pray that I can set myself free from the bondage of self. Today, I pray that I can stop comparing myself to others negatively. Today, I pray for the ability to recognize that I am fine just the way I am, and to understand that there are those who struggle with weight because of medical conditions, genetic pre-dispositions or other factors, and that my obsession with body-image is just as self-destructive as any chemical I put into my body.
I pray for constant appreciation of the fact that who I am far outweighs what I look like.
Today, I offer a prayer of gratitude that I still have a body that functions, that is healthy and that has not only been the mode of conveyance for my spirit for 49 years, but has also weathered and survived the punishments I’ve long inflicted upon it.
Today, I am 192 pounds of pure gratitude.