How I Turned Orange in Sobriety

By Hannah Sward 05/31/17

With sobriety, my fear of getting fat was back.

Regular healthy snacking is a good tool for recovering addicts with oral fixations

I often hear that our susceptibility exists long before we start using or drinking. For me, it began with the body. I worried about my body when I was seven. My little sister and I would balance on the rim of the bathtub with our backs to the mirror above the sink and inspect our bums.

“I’ll kill myself if I have a bum like mom’s,” we’d say.

Our mom didn’t have a fat butt or fat anything. She too must have had a fear of fat because the only things I remember in our fridge were nail polish and Red Zinger tea.

My sister and I were immersed in dance classes where we felt we had to be thin. We’d fast before a performance. In high school we started dieting.

We went through many different phases with our diets. The potato diet. Peeling a dozen potatoes at a time. Boil, cut, fry. We ate six a day with ketchup and I Can't Believe it's Not Butter spray.

The egg white diet. Egg whites, as many as we wanted all week and one chocolate cake on the weekend.

We tried Weight Watchers.

You have to be a certain weight to join,” the lady said as she weighed us in. “You don’t qualify.

We went to another location where we arrived with weights strapped to our ankles and bandaged to our stomachs and wore baggy sweatshirts. That worked, the following week, we didn’t wear the weights.

This is astonishing,” the lady said, as she adjusted the scale. “You both lost ten pounds.”

Weight Watchers was hard. We couldn’t keep to the point system and we were always hungry. No frozen yogurt, too many points. That was a problem because we lived for frozen yogurt. Calling in to Penguins and The Big Chill every morning to hear the recorded message.

Today, Tuesday, December 8th, the flavors of the day are peppermint palm, vanilla bean . . . "

We drove an hour every day from Los Feliz to Westwood and if the flavors in the Valley were good, then to Studio City. Cookies N’ Cream and Heath Bar Crunch meant two trips.

Body and diet offered a distraction. It offered an escape from my world. If I was constantly thinking about what I was going to eat or not eat I didn’t have to feel as much.

In my mid-twenties I started stripping with my sister at The Gentleman’s Club on San Fernando Boulevard. We were curvier than the other girls and when we noticed they never shared their clothes with us the way they did with each other we decided we needed to lose weight fast. We tried crystal meth. Lost weight. Made less money. My sister stopped using. I didn’t. For seven years I did meth everyday and ignored my weight. Until I got sober.

With sobriety, my fear of getting fat was back.

“Everybody gains ten pounds in the beginning,” people said. “You’ll eat a lot of ice cream and cookies.”

I promised myself that would not be me. Ever. But I am an addict. When I got sober, my instinct was to gravitate to another addiction. Like sex, gambling, smoking. It can be anything. For me, it was baby carrots. At first it was like the beginning with meth. Just a little. Just one small baggie of crystals a week. Just a small bag of carrots for a week. Soon it was a baggie of crystals a day and with the carrots, a pound a day. Seven pounds of carrots a week. As I counted sober days I munched away. If Trader Joe’s ran out of baby carrots I’d go to Ralph’s. With meth if one dealer was out I’d call another. I felt weird about my carrot intake and started talking about it in meetings.

“I’ve got to stop with the carrots.”

“Honey, as long as you get that head of yours to the pillow sober every night, eat all the carrots you want,” they would tell me.

So I did. Until I started to turn orange. I mean really orange, to the point people started pointing it out. I remember riding my bike to a meeting. As I was locking it to a lamppost, a friend came up to say hi. He looked at me strangely.

“Looks like you went ahead and got yourself a spray tan,” he said. “Where did you go?”

“Nowhere. I’ve never even gotten a spray tan.”

“Well, girl, have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? I hate to tell you but you are seriously orange.”

I had noticed there was a certain glow about my skin but it must have been so gradual that I had no sense of what I really looked like.

“Let me see your palms,” he said.

I held them out.

“Look at the color! That’s nuts. Just how many carrots have you been eating?”

Vanity made me stop. But from carrots I turned to cauliflower, then apples, broccoli and now I am on a brussels sprout kick. I have noticed over time though, the amount has lessened and if Trader Joe’s is out of brussels, I don’t panic and go to another store. For me, that’s progress. It may not be perfection, but I am sober, no longer orange and I never did gain that ten pounds.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix