Written by Julie Beckerman
December 4, 2019

Eight years ago I was standing on a subway platform, looking down at the tracks and the rats thinking, “I could jump in front of the next train. Or not. Doesn’t matter. I’m dead inside anyway.”

There were many things that led to that point. Some things were big–like when my younger brother died–but mostly it was small things. Lots and lots of small things piling up into a big, heavy mess.

The Best Kept Secret

What’s important to know is that in each one of those moments I looked outside of myself for an answer. A million little moments all shouting at me in unison “you can’t be trusted.”

In one of my journals from high school I’d written, “it seems like everyone else is in on a secret that I’m not in on.”  

I felt that way for most of my life.    

When I was 10 years old, my parents put me in Teen Trim. It was like Weight Watchers for preteens. My mom wrote TT on the kitchen calendar so I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I think I gained weight–but then again, I was 10–I’m pretty sure 10-year-olds are supposed to. 

At 12 or 13, I took diet pills that were under the sink in the bathroom. I hid them in the trunk I was packing to take to sleepaway camp. My mom found them though (She was upset of course). But I didn’t really get it. What was I supposed to do?  

I was always being told that I ate too much; and when I tried to do something to stop, that was wrong, too. I would rip out pages from Seventeen magazine of girls who were thin. I made a scrapbook out of construction paper and would write “STOP EATING” on the front. 

There was a diet program in the classifieds in the back of the magazine promising that you could lose 10-15 pounds! It cost $10 for a pamphlet that came in the mail. I kept it a secret. I was ashamed. But, 10-15 pounds?  

The diet was something like, “Skip the ice cream. Watermelon can be just as sweet and won’t give you a round belly in your favorite bikini.”   

The message was clear. Something was wrong with me and I wasn’t capable of fixing it like everyone else.   

I was diagnosed with ADD in my early 20s and the day I discovered Adderall I was focused, productive, energetic, happy, and best of all, the side effect was no appetite.  

Adderall was the only effective solution to my problem with food thus far. And within a year, not only had I lost a few sizes, I’d gained a promotion and a fiancé. It felt like a miracle. 

I didn’t stand a chance. 

The Momentum

It took a few years to build momentum, but I’d become fully addicted to Adderall, and by the end I was popping close to 30 pills a day. My weight fluctuated in pattern with my pill supply. I’d gain and lose 30, 50 . . . even 100 pounds. 

One time in the middle of the night, I curled up in a ball crying, hugging myself, saying “Poor girl. What are you doing to yourself?” But I kept on doing it. 

I used uppers by day, downers by night and guzzled can after can of Diet Pepsi. I lied about money, lied to doctors, lied about where I was and what I was doing. I was agitated, jumpy, irritable, and angry. My life was completely unmanageable.

My first attempts at sobriety using the 12 Steps felt like another diet I was too much of a failure to follow.  

I remember this guy in NA telling a story about breaking his femur and refusing pain meds. He told us that he was “damn committed to his sobriety” and every second of pain made him more determined. We were all amazed at his strength.  

I remember thinking, “if this is my only option, I’m never gonna make it.” 

I had no idea what to do. My husband was angry, our home was miserable, and my parents were terrified they were going to lose a second child. I hated myself and everything I’d ever tried just reinforced that the problem was me.  

“Don’t eat that. Eat healthy. Why aren’t you eating? Enough already. You have ADD, take these pills. They’re good for you. Don’t take the pills, you’re an addict. That’s bad. Did you lose weight? You look great.”

My life felt at the mercy of a bunch of rules I could never seem to figure out, yet I was constantly in trouble for breaking. 

And I was sick of it. 

The Breaking Point

I remember exactly when something changed in me. I caught a glimpse of myself in my bedroom mirror. It was one of those startling moments when you catch yourself as you are, not as you expect to be.  

And I was so sad. Raw, fragile, vulnerable, broken, and so sad. And at that moment, it wasn’t the pills or the food, and it wasn’t anyone else either. 

At that moment, I slid down to the floor, tears silently streaming. It was just me. And that sadness was mine. 

I can’t tell you exactly what allowed for that moment, except that I was open and ready to receive it.   

I called my parents. I told them I had no idea what would work, but I knew what wouldn’t. I needed to be able to figure out what would help me.  

That day, on the phone, I asked for their trust. And they gave it to me.  

I found a psychiatrist that specialized in addiction. I told him I was afraid of what would happen if I stopped taking pills; afraid I wasn’t able to make myself replace the pill addiction with the food one I had fought against for so long. I told him I’d tried and failed countless times before.  

He explained to me that if a medication makes relapse less likely, then it makes sense to try it. Which is why he prescribed a milder amphetamine used to treat ADD. Two pills two times a day to manage the withdrawal and keep me “from turning into a houseplant.”

Okay Julie, let’s see if you can manage to take two pills a day as prescribed for one week. 

He said “if more would help, I would give you more,” but with the number of amphetamines I had been taking, no amount of pills was going to make a difference.  

That did it for me.  

The way he explains it, everyone is different and needs different things at different times.

The rule is: do what works, do what helps

For the first time in my life, the rules that I needed to follow to be successful, were not only rules that I felt capable of following, but that I had a hand in creating. 

The next day, I took my first pill in the morning and in a quick, planned, and decisive moment, I walked out the front door–leaving the rest at home. 

My pockets were empty of pills for the first time in a very long time and I was okay. More than that, I was doing it. I was doing what I’d set out to do.

A few weeks later, I received a package. A shipment of Xanax that I’d ordered online before I believed I would ever be sober. The shipments cost a few hundred bucks and took months to arrive, if they came at all.   

I stood there, paralyzed, holding the package in both hands. If I brought it inside, I may not come out. If I threw it away, I’d be out later digging through the garbage.  

I called my doctor. “I need help.” He asked, “What does this choice have to do with the kind of person you want to be?” 

It wasn’t about the pills, they were just there. This decision was about me. 

It has nothing to do with the kind of person I want to be.

I disposed of those pills and never looked back.  

The Need

The pills were an addiction, but not like food. We have to eat.

Food was everywhere and with all the times I’d tried and failed over the years, what chance did I have?  

The nutritionist I went to specialized in eating disorders. I went to my first visit quite begrudgingly. Seriously, what would a nutritionist tell me that I hadn’t already heard a thousand times before?  “Skip the ice cream, have watermelon instead?”

But that’s not what we talked about.

Instead, she told me there was no good or bad food.  

One day, I decided to eat at Wendy’s. I ordered what I was craving, ate until I was full and threw away the rest. She celebrated with me. She said what was super healthy was the relationship I chose to have with food at that moment.  

I could have a craving, choose to honor it, enjoy satisfying it, and stop when I’m done. Food wasn’t an enemy. 

I was sitting in Wendy’s with tears streaming down my face (True story). 

“Julie,” she said, “your body knows. Just eat what you need.”

Well, great. But what do I need? 

I started journaling every piece of food that went into my body. I still have the journals. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I know what I ate on this date in 2012. Greek yogurt at 8:30 am. 

At one appointment, looking through my weekly food journals, the nutritionist asked, “What happens at 6:00 pm?”

“My husband gets home from work.”

(Needless to say, we’re divorced now.)

Eight years ago I stood at the edge of a subway platform, feeling too dead inside to contemplate killing myself. Feeling like everything about me was so wrong and so broken, that I was literally beyond repair.

I killed off pieces of myself hoping to obliterate the damage that existed within.  

My journey was focused on finding out what was wrong with me until little by little it became about finding what was right for me.

Some moments in our lives are big, but mostly it’s the collection of small moments that create the journey. Not defined by one big thing, but by every single thing, and therefore, undefinable.

I think the secret is in the small moments that we open ourselves up to. Each moment we open ourselves up and receive what we need to journey on.

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