Category Archives: Eating disorders

Recovery Rocks – Debra Solberg

Debra Solberg is a professional singer and speaker who is passionate about following the path that God has laid out for her. She is a wife and mom of two lovely and amazing girls. Debra is drawn to helping others in food addiction by speaking, singing and blogging about her personal journey with recovery. Debra is currently studying for her Nutrition and Wellness Certification to further her knowledge in this area. On top of all this she is a songwriter and lead singer for the Nashville based band Dust and Daises. You can read Debra’s excellent blog on recovery from food addiction here.

Debra Solberg

Debra Solberg

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
1992. My band was opening for Quiet Riot at a club in Minneapolis, MN where we used to live. The entire show was videotaped. After I saw it I absolutely hit bottom. I isolated myself and wouldn’t talk to anyone-including my husband for 3 days because of the deep shame and embarrassment. I was horrified by what I looked like. Somehow seeing it on video was more “absolute” than stepping on the scale or looking in the mirror. I was 250 lbs and a size 22. I was already so broken and unhappy and seeing that image sent me down further.


2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Food addiction is tough. At the point I hit bottom, I didn’t even know I was a food addict! I had never heard of Binge Eating Disorder which is what I struggle with. So all I knew how to do at that point was go on a diet and start exercising. I did lose weight (and gained and lost and gained..)but it was only until about 4 years ago that I realized I was actually an addict, after I had kind of backed into a 12 step program in my community (another story). So it had previously been a cycle of bingeing, running, starving, dieting, until I started that recovery program. The first 30 days were tough- determining how to recover as a food addict can be a little confusing. We all need food, so I just had to sort out which foods I needed to stay abstinent from. There was a lot of questioning myself about foods I loved but ate way too much of; “so are you SURE you want to take that away from yourself?” I initially thought abstinence was deprivation but now I know it is life-giving!

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
The very best things are freedom from obsession with food and freedom from a lot of extra weight. My 12 step program is not a diet club. I needed to work on my mind first, and then the weight came off. So I am getting the best of both worlds. I don’t even think about bingeing anymore and I don’t care that I can’t eat certain things. I would not trade this freedom for anything! My mind is so much clearer and I am so much more close to God that I have clarity on what He has out there for me! I am less angry, less anxious and fearful, and I have a lot more energy and confidence to just go out and “do”, instead of merely existing. So I get to go out and speak and at my concerts for some audiences I can talk about it too since some of my songs are about my journey.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were using what would you tell yourself? First of all, the disease is not your fault. But you are accountable. And it IS possible to recover. You aren’t just “stuck with a weight and body image problem”. There will be a day when you don’t plan, obsess, crave, hate yourself and your body.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That my body has been a focus of shame for almost my entire life. From being called “fat” names by family and peers since the 4th grade, to getting “way to gos” in my adulthood when I would lose weight on the most recent diet I was on. The praise was even a source of shame; it was like people were saying, “you are finally worthy!” My body always carried my identity depending on what it looked like.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I started a blog www.dustanddaisies.com/blog about my recovery. I get emails from people all over the world and I get an opportunity to try to plant a seed of hope in someone’s life. I also get to do the same thing by going out and speaking about food addiction and telling my story at my concerts.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans? “nothing changes if nothing changes”, “it is what it is”, “action precedes motivation”.

Debra and her husband

Debra and her husband

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’ Because you get to be the whole person God created you to be and you get to experience all that this life has to offer without the disease crippling you! Complete freedom!

Recovery Rocks – Alison Smela

Most alcoholics have been warned over and over that if they don’t stop drinking and get help their partner/spouse will leave them. That’s what it took for Alison Smela to realize she had a drinking problem and eating disorder. Her marriage was in tatters and she was still in denial about the seriousness of her alcoholism when she got on a plane to rehab.
Alison had spent over 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, she thought she was a success even though her personal life was broken.
However with help not only did Alison overcome her alcoholism she also had to face up to the fact she had been anorexic most of her adult life.

Alison Smela

Alison Smela


11 years later her marriage is stronger than ever and she works as a coach helping other women rebuild there lives. She is active in the recovering community and her story has been featured in many different publications.

Alson’s story is one of great courage and hope, she proves that it’s never too late to save your marriage and that recovery from alcoholism and anorexia are possible.

Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
For over 30 years I was never far from a glass of wine. In January of 2002, that glass of wine and my life finally went empty.

On the day before what I hope to be my last drink, my husband left for work as usual. And as usual, after waving goodbye, I grabbed my keys to go get my wine supply at whichever store I hadn’t visited the day before. When I got home I had a few glasses of wine without eating anything and thought I’d have time for a quick nap before I began hiding what I’d just purchased. I woke up to see my husband at the foot of our bed with 16 still-full, airplane-sized wine bottles surrounding me. The next morning, as I pried my eyes open, for the first few seconds I’d forgotten what had happened the night before. And then I remembered. This time I had no idea how I was going to talk my way out of what he saw and what I had done.
All the possible scenarios quickly ran through my head. I couldn’t string together any of the words I’d used in the past to get me out of a jam … this time I doubted they would work. After he finished getting ready for work and walked into our bedroom, I studied my husband’s face. I looked for any type of body language that would give me a clue into what he was feeling. Nothing offered me a hint. As he sat down next to me, my blood ran cold. He was looking straight ahead rather than at me.
I knew from experience he was orchestrating what he wanted to say. When he finally turned to look at me I still could not read the face I’d looked at for years. There was no anger. There were no tears. There was nothing. He was emotionless. He took a deep breath and said, “Don’t be here when I get home.” He stood up, walked to the doorway and without looking back at me said, “I hope you find the help you need.” As his words resonated I heard the back door slam shut. He was not only gone, he was done. I could not move from the edge of my bed. Not knowing what else to do I went to my closet, found a self-hidden bottle, poured wine into the glass next to my bed and called a woman I’d been talking with about sobriety. In rapid fire, the story tumbled from my lips as the tears slowly fell. She listened with full intention. When I finished she gave me the phone number for a treatment center. I hung up with her and hung onto hope. I haven’t found a good enough reason to have a drink since.

What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Sitting on the plane heading toward treatment, I remember thinking, “I have no idea what’s on the other side of this flight but whatever that may be, it’s got to be better than the life I was living up until now.” When asked how much I drank each day during the admitting process I responded with, “Oh, not that much”. The very kind and caring intake administrator said, “Um, well I have your liver count and I think you may not be telling me the truth.” Perhaps that’s why I spent the first 3-4 days of treatment in detox. Armed with a bit more clarity, I entered the mainstream program and did nothing but compare myself to the other women. I looked for differences not similarities. I resisted the truth, denied the severity of my issues and fought like hell to hang onto the long-held beliefs about myself that were beginning to shine a truth I did not want to see. The tears fell faster than the words were spoken. During one of the very rare pay phone conversations with him, my husband told me he was talking with a divorce lawyer and putting our house up for sale. That call led me to focus on all I had lost or was losing and straight to the doorway of surrender. When I emerged from treatment after 30 days I was determined never to step back through those doors again.

What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
The wonderful thing about this question is the answer has been one of the most fluid elements of my sobriety. The gifts I’ve received as the result of getting sober continue to present themselves because I remain teachable and willing to change. My recovery keeps shifting, evolving and expanding as do the awakenings to the everyday miracles surrounding me. However to answer the question directly, one of the best things for me is that the obsession to numb out from life, to escape from situations, emotions and people and to turn a blind eye to what I’m responsible for, has been lifted. The ability to face life head-on is extraordinary. Moreover, the confidence I now have believing that no matter what happens, I’ll be OK. I’ve learned and now fully understand that while there may be consequences or actions I may not want to do I need to do. I’ve gained the experience to know that which I resist will keep me stuck or worse yet, complacent. To have the willingness to accept what I want is perhaps not what I need is profound. Another significant gift for me has been the re-emergence of relationships with those I love; particularly my husband. We’ve gone from lawyers and “for sale” signs in front of our house to the mutual acknowledgement we cannot do this thing called life without each other. From the anger and emotional chaos following treatment to the rekindling of our trust for one another and being be able to accept each other as we truly are, is perhaps what one might consider a miracle. I, on the other hand, attribute this solely to my continued willingness to do whatever it takes to remain sober and honest.

If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
I’d tell myself I am enough. I’d tell myself to trust my instincts more and that I don’t need to work so hard to impress anyone. I’d tell myself how important slowing down can be, to stop reacting and start responding by taking the time to stop, breathe and then take action. I’d tell myself to see people beyond what they can do for me, give me or promise me. I’d tell myself to try not living in what’s imagined as truth but in what is the truth. I’d tell myself the more I judge others the more I feel judged. I’d tell myself people don’t think about me nearly as much as I think they do. I’d tell myself trying to change my outsides isn’t going to fix what needs changing inside.

What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
I’m capable of far more than I had allowed myself to believe possible. I’m a survivor. I’m brave. I’m able to be courageously uncomfortable in order to do the right thing. And my gratitude for what I’ve been able to overcome keeps me moving forward on the path of foundational, sustainable change.

Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I was able to be fully present when my father took his last breath and then, seven months later, when my brother took his. I had the chance to talk privately, candidly and lovingly with my father moments before he lost complete clarity. I heard the words I’d longed to hear from the man I so deeply admire. I felt the love flow through his hand to mine as he looked me in the eyes and told me how proud he was of me and spoke of the hope he held for my future. There is no doubt had I not been sober I would not have remembered that conversation or the many moments of beautiful transition from life to death. I would not have recalled faces of sadness and then smiles shared as my family quietly talked about the amazing life my father led just as the machines confirmed that life over. Had I been drunk, I would have caused more emotional upset by my inconsistent and no doubt inappropriate behavior which no one in my family would have deserved.

What are your favorite recovery slogans?
You are not responsible for your first thought, only your first action.
People don’t think about you nearly as much as you think they do.
Just for today, one day at a time.
This too shall pass.
We are only as sick as our secrets,
More will be revealed.
Willingness is the key.
You are not alone.

And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Recovery has provided me the way to finally meet myself, to understand who Alison truly is and how to respect myself holistically. Recovery has provided me the pathway to feeling content no matter what chaos swirls around me. Prior to recovery I thought I knew who I was, what I wanted, where my life was going and why. Today I have a far better understanding of who I am. I’m willing to continue learning so I can find out more. I’m better in tune with what I want may not be what I need and why that’s significant. I’m leading the kind of life I never dreamed I’d be satisfied with. I found money, prestige, and power is not what will make me happy or content with my life. I’m loved, I’m respected and I’m enough just as I am. And for all this, I’m truly grateful.

Recovery Rocks – Brian Cuban

My goal with the Recovery Rocks interviews is to keep showing the world how awesome recovery is whilst also sharing stories that sometimes get overlooked. Brian Cuban is a lawyer and activist, he hosts his own TV show ‘Brian Cuban’s legal briefs’ on Eyeopener TV and runs his blog The Cuban Revolution.
He is in recovery for addiction, an eating disorder and Body Dysmorphia Disorder(BDD). There is a misconception that eating disorders can be more of a female problem when the truth is many men suffer in silence from food disorders too.
Brian is hoping to shatter that myth by revealing his struggles and how he overcame them.
He wrote the number 1 selling book ‘Shattered Image’ based on his experiences. Hopefully his story will help other men and women recognise their own struggles with food.

Brian Cuban

Brian Cuban

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

“Rock bottom for me what standing in the parking lot of a Dallas psychiatric facility for the 2nd time (the first time was after sticking a .45 automatic in my mouth about a 1 and ½ years earlier. My girlfriend had taken me there after a two day cocaine, ambien and Jack Daniels fueled binge and blackout. During that blackout it was clear that I had been unfaithful to her. As I stood in that parking, lot I came to the realization that there would be no more trips to the facility. One more time and I would be dead. I was also in danger of losing the people that mattered the most to be in addition to my girlfriend. My family. Family may love you unconditionally but their tolerance to watch someone they love slowly kill himself has limits. They would distance. I would be alone or dead. The realization in that moment is what fueled me to take the first steps to recovery. I never looked back.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
The first 30 days were hard. I had walked into treatment for the first time the day after my “moment of clarity? , I was scared of the future. I was scared of not having drugs and alcohol to fuel the false Brian I had created. I was scared of being alone with my true distorted Body Dysmorphic thoughts about my appearance without any artificial crutches to soothe the shame. The shame I had struggled with since I was 10 years old as a result of bullying and fat shaming over my weight.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

The absolutely best thing that has happened to me is that I have become better with my thoughts and acceptance of body image. This has helped me deal with the body dysmorphic disorder, it’s attendant drug and alcohol issues and eating disorders( I was bulimic for 27 years) I have been free of all these behaviors since April 8th 2007. I have accomplished more in the almost 7 years of my sobriety than in the previous sum total of my entire life.

The most recent accomplishment is that I wrote about book about my recovery, “Shattered Image, that became the #1 selling Eating Disorder Book on Amazon. This has provided me a platform to help others in their struggles.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself that its ok to be flawed and to be ok with those flaws. We are all uniquely beautiful in our own body type and personalities. There is no need to compare.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

That I can be loved. That I can love.

6) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Your lowest moment in life can be your most triumphant if you survive it and learn from it.

7) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?

8 years ago, I could not have envisioned the happy and fulfilling life of love, loving and personal accomplishment that recovery has given me. Where there was darkness and loss of hope, there is now only opportunity to achieve.

Recovery Rocks – Tebby B

My goal with the Recovery Rocks interviews is to include as many different types of people and addictions that I can. This weeks interview is with Tebby who has recovered from an eating disorder.

The hardest thing about eating disorders is that you have to eat, you don’t have to drink alcohol or smoke crack. So it is hard for people to understand what abstinence means when it comes to an eating disorder, because we have to eat.
With eating disorder, abstinence usually means being abstinent from the behaviour and sometimes particular foods.
That would mean abstinence from binging, purging, starving and for some people they have to remain abstinent from particular foods like sugar and white flour.
Tebby B
This may sound hard, but having an eating disorder is a lot harder. Like any addiction it is all consuming.

Tebby was binging and purging for many years until one day she realised she couldn’t carry on. Finally her life changed when she started down a path to recovery. She met her husband, had children and a wonderful career. All addictions are lonely but eating disorders are particularly lonely. Binging and purging are hardly group activities.

Tebby understands this and would like anyone who has questions about overcoming an eating disorder to tweet her at: @TEB2350
Please share this with anyone struggling with an eating disorder. Recovery is possible.

Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
At the height of my eating disorder (at the age of 30) I can remember binging and purging as many as 10-15 times a day. I used to drink water and continue to vomit until it came out clear in the toilet so I knew I had gotten all the “bad” food out of my system (like pasta). One night, I was alone and got very drunk. It was two days before Valentine’s Day and I felt so lonely. I remember thinking to myself. “No more….. this can’t continue.” That is when I started to look for help because I knew I couldn’t defeat this beast on my own anymore.

What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’
Watching “Girl, Interrupted” that night I described in previous question. I am not sure why it spoke to me (I’ve never watched it since. For some reason, I don’t want to ‘go back’ to that place I was that night and I feel watching it would make me relive the pain. I’m enjoying my happiness to much.


What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Unlike booze, you can’t live without eating so I was forced to face my demons at every meal. I went to my therapist once a week and I was very open with my friends about my struggles. Everyone was very supportive and helped me get through those tough days. I wasn’t perfect- I was out of the hospital in May but it was August before I had stopped all purging completely.

What are the best things that have happened to you since you got healthy?
I don’t think its coincidence that I had stopped all purging at the beginning of August 2001, and I met my husband the next month. I love not having the burden and shame of such a terrible disease hanging over my head. I feel free and alive and I’m so much happier.

If you could go back in time to you when you were binging/purging what would you tell yourself?
Life doesn’t have to be this hard. The effort that you put into this disease is the problem. You can be happy and alive if you get that monkey off your back.

What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting healthy?
I am worth it. I have value. And I am so blessed to have my husband/kids as well as some fantastic and supportive friends. Life is GOOD!!
Tebby B Family

What are your favourite recovery slogans?
Sorry- can’t think of any

And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
I think recovery rocks because of how great life becomes once you start actually living it and not waiting until you beat the demons before you let yourself begin to live it. When you are happy with yourself, others become attracted to your confidence and amazing things happen

Must read alcoholism blogs

This week I wanted to give you a round up of some of the cool stuff on the web that relates to alcoholism and addiction. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Spirituality
Russell Brand talks about how yoga has helped change his life and fill the void that he used drugs and sex addiction to before. As usual, he talks eloquently and humorously about his addiction and how his spiritual journey has changed him. It’s only a brief video and you can watch him here.
Russell is also the patron of Focus12 treatment centre in Suffolk, England. I will be donating a percentage of the profits from my UK sales of ‘Why you drink and how to stop: journey to freedom’ to Focus12. I trained there as a therapist and can personally attest to the amazing work they do with addicts.

Recovery tools
Beth Burgess’s blog on how to deal with difficult people has some great strategies to use. She rightly identifies that alcoholics (drunk or sober) sometimes have trouble dealing with other people. Unless you want to go and live in a cave somewhere it’s a skill we have to learn. The most important takeaway being; ‘don’t take it personally.’ You can read more about what she has to say here.

Eating disorders and hating our bodies
I posted this on my Facebook page (if you click ‘Like’ you’ll see what I post in your newsfeed). I just thought it hit the nail on the head regarding women, food and body image. Nearly every female client I have ever worked with (and a lot of men) have had food issues to deal with as well as alcoholism/addiction. It’s so sad that so many women just hate their bodies. As the mother of a little boy I want him to grow up with a love of his own body and physicality as well as an understanding and appreciation of what a healthy female body is, i.e not half starved.

Alcoholism myths
I’m a big fan of Carrie Armstrong‘s blog on the HuffPost UK. I did a post about her a last week, if you missed it you can read it here.

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Caroline Armstrong, Life after the chair, www.lifeafterthechair.com, photographed by Yohannes Miller, www.mydigitaleye.com, www.yohannesmiller.com, my digital eye, makeup by Thamina Akther

Carrie is carving out a niche for herself as a Sober Girl who challenges the myths and stereotypes around alcoholism and alcoholics. In her blog this week she challenges the story of ‘rock bottom’s,’ she argues that a rock bottom actually just means death. Because lots of people believe that to be an alcoholic things have to be really, really bad before they stop drinking and get help, this myth is then preventing people getting help. I also think the ‘inspiration to get sober’ or moment of clarity’ is a much more positive and empowering statement. I think she’s on to something. What do you think?

Does food addiction exist?

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There was a very interesting program about food addiction on BBC Radio 4 today. New research is revealing some very interesting stuff about brain chemistry and how this effects addictive behaviour. The most compelling testimony though is from two food addicts who describe the misery of their addiction. The way they describe their experience is no different from an alcohol or addict. After many attempts to get help they both found Overeaters Anonymous helped them the most.
An interesting listen for anyone dealing with food issues and/or addiction.
The link to the programme is here.