When Rebecca Cooper was four years old, her father was killed in an automobile accident. A year later, her mother could not take care of Rebecca and her little sister. Her mother left her and her sister with a babysitter and never came back! She lived in foster care and then with her aging grandparents. This proved to be more of a care-giving situation than a nurturing one for Rebecca.
Her grandfather died while she was in 6th grade. That grief was a contributing factor for Rebecca trying to find a way to numb her feelings. She would think about her weight, diets, food, and body image as a diversion. Food became a coping mechanism for her and a way to increase self-esteem through a slim outer appearance. She would overeat and then restrict food. This put her on a roller coaster of diets and binges that sent her into the vortex of an eating disorder that consumed many years of her life. Rebecca was eating and restricting food, which is commonly identified as compulsive overeating or binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia.
Her grandmother died on her 16th birthday leaving her and her sister homeless. She lived with neighbors, distant relatives, and finally, her high school teacher until she went to college. Rebecca was working her way through college dealing with the financial, academic and emotional stress with food.
She found drugs to control her overwhelming appetite and cravings. She started adding alcohol to her addictions and finally hit her bottom on February 25, 1986. Rebecca has been clean and sober since then.
Her first year of recovery was so precarious because of the eating disorder. At that time no one understood eating disorders. “I just wanted to be thin. I hated the person I saw in the mirror. The scale determined how I felt; depressed, out of control, and hopeless. I just couldn’t stop thinking about food, diets, and my weight. I ate when I didn’t want to. No one knew. I was so anxious thinking about how I would get the food, get rid of it or being found out. I didn’t think I could live without the temporary stress relief that my eating disorder provided,” Rebecca said. After almost a year of sobriety, Rebecca was freed from the merry go round of yo-yo dieting and eating disorders.
In recovery Rebecca had many obstacles to work through. Rebecca’s low self-esteem attracted her to abusive relationships. She picked men who validated her own self-contempt. During her destructive marriage she wanted to be loved so bad that she thought to have a baby would make a happy family that she never experienced. She stayed clean and sober through 6 miscarriages. Along with her 12-Step work, she did the recovery work of ‘coming home to her Self.’ This process allowed her to enter into a loving, nurturing, healthy marriage for over 20 years.
Today, she finds her experience invaluable as she helps people change their eating habits and abstain from other addictive behaviors.
After a thirty year separation Rebecca found her mother. It would never be the mother-daughter relationship she had hoped for because her mother could not forgive herself for leaving her girls so long ago. Rebecca’s mother died a few years after that. The doctor used the term “morbid obesity” with regard to her mother’s demise. Her mother still didn’t believe she had a problem with food. When Rebecca went back to her home in Ohio, she found half-eaten boxes of cookies, donuts, cake and gallons of ice cream. Right up to the day she went to the hospital Rebecca’s mother was trying to comfort herself the best way she knew how—with food. Rebecca became even more devoted to her cause. “I’ve always believed that good comes out of bad. However, I never felt that belief applied to the suffering I experienced as a result of my addictions. But today, when I see a young woman recovering from the same disease that plagued me for so long, I realize that God has a plan that is bigger than I could have ever imagined it should be”.