I’m currently in Mexico with my husband Wayne. We are lucky enough to be able to travel with our work, which means I can do two of the things I love most in the world- exploring new cultures and trying new foods.
We’re in a beachside restaurant eating nachos and quesadillas by the handfuls - full stomachs and happy hearts. Enjoying the balance of guacamole and salsa, the soft music, the warm air.
Nineteen year old me wouldn’t let herself order this. It would have induced an overwhelm of anxiety in her. There are too many calories. I have to exercise right now. Perhaps I can pretend not to eat it. Or throw it up later tonight.
One of the biggest areas of challenge for women in the West is body image; we all know the social pressure to look a certain way, to buy a certain beauty product that keeps us looking younger, thinner etc.
But my relationship with food went far beyond that.
I was stuck in a pattern of addiction caused by abuse in my early life. As children we aren’t able to distinguish healthy and unhealthy behaviour and we develop mechanisms of response based on those around us because it feels familiar and safe to do so. When you are feeling in a state of high anxiety or anger, you might look for something external to calm you down. If you are low and depressed, you may reach for something to lift you up. Emotions that feel too much might be suppressed and we find ways to temporarily disconnect or regulate the self as a result. Addiction, in turn, allows us to escape the body –and associating the body with pain and suffering is synonymous.
When we’re in environments which are abusive, we can learn to perpetrate that abuse onto ourselves. It isn’t punishment or pleasure, it is a self survival tactic, a coping strategy. For me it was about control. It was self-fulfilling. It was familiar. Its root cause is a dependency on the addiction for a fleeting sense of emotional control or a numbing of intensity.
When younger I oscillated between bulimia and anorexia. Alongside controlling my diet, I was addicted to exercising. It’s like I had this idea of what the perfect body should look like, and I’d constantly try to maintain that image. I would starve myself at times or purge, or over exercise, always with this idea of another Laura who was just out of reach. If I could become her, then I would feel confident and at ease with who I was. Then I would be complete.
I can see now how these are all ways to numb out and disconnect from the body –and that is the addiction. It was never my fault. I look back at photos of me then, in my late teens and honestly, I am beautiful. In so many ways and it makes me sad to think about how I just couldn’t see it. In my mind, everything was wrong with me, including how I looked.
There’s a lot to be said for who we surround ourselves with. If we are around a parent or carer who had an addiction, we might mimic and rely on these mechanisms in later life. Or if we have experienced early trauma, addiction may feel like a way to cope with the overwhelm of emotional intensity that follows. Addiction can be a way to avoid our intuitive awareness when life feels too much.
Reflecting on how different my relationship to food is now and how profoundly different I feel about who I am, I am driven to support others to transcend and transform their relationship to addictions. Be it with food, exercise, alcohol, drugs, relationships, work and or anything else. Wherever we are around an addictive partner, parent or friend, or experiencing or own addiction, we do not have to feel shame. By understanding the mechanisms of response and learning how to feel safe again in the body, we are able to re-connect to it.
I am running a three-day course titled ‘Freedom from Addiction’ on 18th, 19th, 20th September, 1:00 PM-6:30 PM daily, GMT.
In the course you will learn how to change the mechanism of addiction. Eradicate trauma symptoms. Begin healing and stabilising the physical body. Change the relationships to your emotions. Develop a restored trust in yourself. Feel an increased sense of freedom, purpose and vitality. Let go of the past limitations and open to a new abundant and fulfilling future.
Embrace self-love and welcome healthy, nurturing relationships into your life. You can find out more about this course here https://www.lauramason.co.uk/breaking-freedom-from-addictive-behaviours