Can’t you just stop?

Bulimia, What Made Me Feel So Much Better?

Those days I didn’t feel alone, I just wanted to be left alone. Something about binging then purging my food calmed me, but why?

Hayley Rose 2006

It was years before I got a better understanding of it all. Between years of doing it and not doing it, the issue began to dwindle. It was during the times my bulimia seemed to be non-existent and then spontaneously seemed to start up again that I gained my best insight. When the binging and purging would return after long periods of normal eating/living, the psychology became clear.

Was I dating someone that was wrong for me? Or hanging out with the wrong people? In a job that made me miserable? It seemed that whenever I was making or living poor choices, I’d find myself in the bathroom vomiting sometimes four or five times a day.

Finally, after more than a decade of living like this, I began to see the pattern. My behavior was similar to the behavior of an alcoholic who turned to drink. Rather than confront my issue I ignored it through the mind-numbing compulsion that is the disease bulimia.

This I did despite knowing how dangerous anorexia or bulimia can be.

It was during the final and worst romantic relationship of my life that I began to see these patterns. Why was I throwing up again? Wasn’t I suppose to be happy that I was with a nice guy for once? Nice is an adjective far from what he truly was. I think even then I knew the truth, but by then it was too late; I was already on my way down a landslide without any footing. The red flags were there and I didn’t want to see them. The longer I stayed, the more I threw up.

At the height of my vomiting, when our relationship finally began to unravel, we got into an argument over it. It disgusted him, I disgusted him, but even that wasn’t what the fight was about. “You could just stop but you don’t want to!” he shouted.

“What are you talking about?” I demanded.

“Just don’t do it anymore!”

“Excuse me?”

“Just stop!”

“You make it sound so easy! Don’t you think I’ve been trying to do that since I started? It’s not that easy to just stop. Bulimia is a disease.”

“Ha,” he scoffed, “it’s not a disease. You could stop at anytime, if you wanted to.”

“Are you serious?” I asked. He seemed unmoved on his stance. “Um, no you’re wrong.” He didn’t like hearing that he was wrong although he was wrong often, “It is an addiction and addictions are considered diseases of the mind.”

“That’s bullshit. Lupus is a disease. Cancer is a disease. But bulimia is not a disease! It’s bullshit and you can stop at any time! Like I said, you just don’t want to!” Right then, I sat down at his desk and went to my trustiest source, Google. Sure enough I was right: it was a disease and he was as still and always will be wrong among other things.

Hayley Rose 2006

It wasn’t the argument that hurt so much as the contempt he had for my situation. “Just stop.” Right. Tell that to the alcoholic or drug addict who faithfully peruse the revolving doors of rehab or to someone suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. Just stop is not the solution but the grand finale of a long process of occurrences and efforts; of work and focus; of often therapy and the support of others; of incidents and instances that sometimes take years. When struggling with something like this for a lengthy period of time, it is obvious why you can’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m never doing that again!” Not to say that doesn’t happen, but even when it does, in some of the best cases, the road to recovery is complex and potholed with nasty things called relapses.

When your addiction or disease revolves around food, relapses can happen at any time.

If you were trying to break a substance addiction, physically, it would be simpler. It is easier to avoid, alcohol, for example, than an every day thing like food. You don’t need alcohol to live but food is a necessity. Recovery for a bulimic differs greatly from the instructions given to the recovering alcoholics that attend alcoholics anonymous or even drug addicts that attend Narcotics Anonymous. At AA they suggest that you stay away from the people you hung out with when you were drinking, that you stay out of bars, and that you abstain from buying alcohol or keeping it in your home. Additionally, they recommend abstaining from situations in which you may be tempted to drink, holiday parties for example.

If you tried to treat an eating disorder in the same way as alcoholism, the suggestions would sound something like this, “Don’t hang around with your friends or family anymore, stay out of all grocery and convenience stores (anywhere where food is sold, really), and whatever you do, do not purchase food or keep it in your house.” This in not realistic. You cannot abstain from food without inevitably meeting your mortality. This idea to just stop, sounds much easier than it actually is.

Though the suggestions of how to abstain from alcohol differ greatly from the steps for a recovering bulimic or wanna-be-recovering bulimic, similarities can be found. The recovering alcoholics in AA recognize that recovery from this disease called addiction is a process. They attend weekly meetings. They have sponsors that they can call at any moment of weakness. They do and live by the virtues of The 12-Step Program.

By Hayley Rose 2006

Below I’ve posted an adapted version of 12 Steps. It has been reworked to suit any type of dysfunction or disordered behavior (i.e. not just alcoholism like the 12 Steps were designed for). When just stop isn’t an option, there are lots of free resources online and in the community that can help you break your unhealthy patterns and addictions. The 12 Steps is just one of them. My favorite of these steps would be step 12 “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” I don’t claim to be awakened, but I have been through my own personal hell and have shared as much of it as possible via my writing. I will continue to do so in hopes to help other survivor’s of rape and domestic violence as well as those of us with addictions and those of us who could just use a dose of optimism and positivity.

By Hayley Rose 2006

 Just stop, is not helpful advice. Do not hang around someone who says something like that to you, rather surround yourself with supportive and empathetic people. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Like street lamps on a dark night, there is help all around you illuminating your path, you just need to know what it looks like and when to ask for it.

You can read about Nicole, one person who’s making a big difference in the lives of those suffering and recovering from eating disorders, at her blog (one of my faves!) Nicole and Gwendolyn: Blogging about Life After Bulimia


                                             The 12 Steps for Recovery

Hayley Rose 2006

  Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable

  • Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
  • Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God
  • Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
  • Step 5 – Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
  • Step 6 – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
  • Step 7 – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
  • Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
  • Step 9 – Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others
  • Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it
  • Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out
  • Step 12 – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs



Filed under Addiction, Life Lessons, Motivation, relationships

9 Responses to Can’t you just stop?

  1. Paul Roese

    the just stop attitude is most often taken by assholes who have no idea about the struggles people go through. doesn’t matter if it’s an addiction to alcohol, drugs or behavior like bulimia. they will be the ones posting on stories about the unemployed that they need to just get a job or an education as if it was just a lack of will power that was in their way. smug self satisfied pricks! consider the source and tell em to get bent. it doesn’t happen often enough but it’s wonderful to see people who have these attitudes get hit with a shit storm i.e. lose their job, get dumped by their spouse, contract a disease. listen to them whine then. i know it’s not right but i don’t feel one iota of sympathy for them. they had none to spare for anyone else so they are not getting any of mine.

    • Hayley Rose

      Your frustration is just one example of how irritable their comments can be- when people wield their words and opinions in this way it always hits right on the nerve doesn’t it? These are the people who typically end up with children who are addicted, or have a problem that they have set themselves up so rigidly against understanding. you know what they say about karma…

  2. i am so flattered that you mentioned me in this article. and i am so extremely privileged to have earned your friendship! i am so much looking forward to your book’s release on the 14th of february! i think that i’ve shared this with you before, but valentine’s day was my “d-day.” that’s when my eating disorder started in 1999. so that date is very special to me, and i can think of nothing more than wine/sushi with my dog + reading your newly released book to celebrate an otherwise dreaded day. very well written article. your boyfriend was a d-bag. reminds me of my sir henry. you are so fabulous, and i’m so glad that you’ve grown beyond this garbage. lots of love to you. always and forever! <3 xxx

    • Hayley Rose

      Thanks Nicole-haha d bag yes that is being too nice- glad I will be a happy part of your difficult day this year! That means a lot to me thanks!

  3. Paul Roese

    i have to say it simply astounds me all the crap you lovely intelligent young women have had to deal with. glad you have both come through and are doing well. you have my best wishes and i am sure those of many others. WMA

  4. am

    Thank you for everything you wrote in this post.

    I’m here by way of Nicole’s blog and have been in recovery from bulimia since 1987 as well as from Vietnam War-related domestic violence that occurred in 1970. I am 62 years old. My disordered eating began in very early childhood, and it not until I was 36 years old that I found any relief.

    My recovery began when I went to an A.A. meeting because I had a new boyfriend who was 2 years sober in A.A. My goal was to buy a Big Book and find out more about my boyfriend’s life. It was at that meeting and after reading the Big Book that I realized that if hopeless alcoholics could stop drinking one day at a time, I could recover from bulimia and anorexia one day at a time, and that is exactly what has happened over the last 24+ years. My recovery date is September 26, 1987. My recovery has had its up and downs, but I have not gone back to the hell that came before recovery.

    Because it was clear to me was that whenever I drank, I could stop drinking after one drink but became absolutely powerless to stop eating, I have not had any alcohol since that day. When I drank, I experienced the craving that is the hallmark of a real alcoholic. I do have the disease of bulimia and alcoholism AND have experienced recovery for many years. Of course, it has not been easy, but I have not had to do it alone.

    As was your experience, my bulimia was at its worst when I was in relationships that were unhealthy.

    Through finding Nicole’s blog a few days ago, I am discovering how many people around the world are sharing their eating disorder recovery through blogging.

    My blog is mostly about art, music, literature, films, and photography, but I write from time to time about my recovery from bulimia and anorexia and Vietnam War-related domestic violence.

    The man I met and loved when we were 17 years old was not the same person when he returned from Vietnam in December of 1970 when we were 21, much like many of the current veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our love did not die, but we separated because of one night’s terrifying episode of violence when he was in a PTSD flashback. He stopped assaulting me when in finding my voice after some moments of stunned sickened silence, I yelled as loud as I could, “YOU CAN’T HIT ME!!!!,” and he never hit me again. The next morning, we decided to separate but remained in touch on and off until his death in 2008 from complications of alcoholism and drug addiction. I was with him in the ICU in the week before he died.

    I didn’t know that I had so much to say. I hope my experience will help others.

    Your painting titled “Angel” is quite moving. I am looking forward to reading your book.

    Kind wishes,

    • Hayley Rose

      Hi Am,
      I can’t wait to check out your website. Thanks for sharing your very interesting and touching story. The entire thing is interesting- I find it interesting that your turning point happened during an AA meeting- perhaps the 12 steps and AA structured programs are the key to remission and recovery (or at least jump starting it) for bulimics. I would like to read more about the domestic violence you experienced via your Vietnam vet ex-boyfriend. What I find very interesting is the fact that your bulimia too was worst when you were in poor relationships. For me it almost became a lifesaver at times- alerting me to things I was not consciously aware of- like why am I throwing up? Something must be wrong…or I’m doing something I really do not want to be doing…Hayley

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