No More Nighttime Eating – Thank you, OA!


May 14, 2024

No More Nighttime Eating – Thank you, OA!

Although I never admitted to this before coming to Overeaters Anonymous, I struggled for decades with uncontrollable nighttime eating.

Recovery from compulsive eating and sugar addiction was but a far-fetched dream for the vast majority of my life. It was a secret longing, but never something I would talk about out loud – especially not with my seemingly normal friends, family, and co-workers. Heaven forbid that they should ever come to find out who I REALLY turned into after dark – a sugar obsessed compulsive eater that would go out into the darkest, scariest night, even in the worst of storms, just to get more of the foods I craved, and could certainly NOT live without!

When grocery stores and fast-food places began to stay open late, or all-night, I was secretly THRILLED! No longer would I need to ‘stock up’ before everything closed, and then hide the food I would later come to binge upon so no one in my household would ever know my dirty secret!

Although I was a predominantly ‘clean’ eater during daylight hours, choosing modest meals for breakfast, perhaps a light salad for lunch, and a moderate early dinner, my food cravings for sugar and other junk kicked into overdrive late at night, when I was alone with my ruminating thoughts and overwhelming feelings.

My near daily routine was a relentless pattern of ‘after work’ or weekend stops at my various ‘food places’ to fill the trunk of my car with the crazy concoctions I would binge-eat late into the night, and often into the wee hours of the morning. The advent of home delivery only made it easier to get those sugary, junky foods I craved and would always cram into my mouth when no one else was around and the rest of the house was silent and dark.

I had every intention of eating healthy and did subscribe to regular exercise and healthy (daylight) food consumption, but if I didn’t binge something before bed, I would wake up and raid the frig or cupboard, clean out the trunk of my car (of the all the foodstuffs I had hidden there), or would run back out into the pitch black of the night for more of the same unhealthy junk that seemed to soothe something within me that was wild and impossible to tame – at least until the food entered my mouth. Then, and only then, my persistent feelings of dread, grief, or overwhelm would subside and be replaced by either a (short-lived) numbed-out or euphoric feeling, depending on whether it was the starches or the sugar that I was gobbling down in that moment.

As a result of my poor diet (and sleep deprivation), my moods would swing wildly from extreme heights of ecstasy to ridiculously depressing lows – I was on a rollercoaster of emotions that I could not tame and was truly afraid to face because I thought I must certainly be insane!

I rationalized that I would not do it ‘this time’ – that ‘this time’ things would somehow be different. But, they never were any different. Not until I walked through the doors of OA.

In OA, I found people who seemed to have no judgment about who I was or what I did with food. In fact, they completely understood the obsession, and they shared their own stories about eating all kinds of foods at strange hours of the night, or throughout the day. Each was a little bit different, but each had that same awful compulsion to consume foods they could not stop eating once they started, so each had their own particular battle with food addiction and eating disorders.

What I came to understand is that I had a disease – a mental obsession combined with a physical allergy. According to the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, page xxx, “All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: They cannot start <eating> without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence.”

Entire abstinence? Could I ever actually do this – totally abstain from nighttime eating and binging, sometimes until the sun came up or I fell asleep with food in my mouth and empty bags, boxes, or cartons strewn all over me?

While I didn’t believe it was possible, I am now living proof that even the worst compulsive nighttime eater can find recovery.

What I could never imagine doing for a week, let alone a lifetime, I am able to do one day at a time. It did take going to meetings, listening to other compulsive eaters in recovery share their experience, strength, and hope, and then working the Twelve Steps myself, with my wonderful sponsor, and with the loving support of our amazing program (which I chose to make my Higher Power given all the love and acceptance I came to find in the rooms of OA) to effect the necessary changes that would make my long-held dream an actual reality!

Today, I am capable of eating three moderate meals and nothing in between – or late at night! What was once impossible, is now my living reality!

I did need to seek outside help. At the encouragement of my sponsor, I found a psychotherapist to help me uncover the really painful stuff that I had been buried deep inside me that had ignited the nighttime binges. Like some members, I had a tough childhood, and a not-so-easy young adulthood. I had been a single Mom and things were tough for a long while. However, that has also changed. I now know how to admit when I need help – and I’ve stopped being afraid about asking for it!

For some years now, I’ve been working with a therapist, my sponsor, and a registered dietician to ensure that my mind, body, and spirit are getting everything they need. I never thought about addressing my problem by admitting my weakness and surrendering my attempts to control. Letting go and letting my Higher Power help me now just simply makes perfect sense!

We can, and we do, get better together! I was so hellbent on hiding my dirty secret, remaining in utter isolation, and never letting anyone know how bad it was – talk about PAINFULLY FOOLISH! Now, I realize I was so sick because I was trying to keep my secret nighttime eating in the dark, yet all the while wanting so desperately to live in the light.

After working the steps and having had a spiritual awakening, I can now walk in what is referred to as the ‘sunlight of the spirit’ – a state of grace that allows me to be who I am without harsh judgment or criticism. I am a compulsive eater who did the majority of my binge eating at nighttime. It feels so very good to be living in the light, and to know that I am only a phone call away from people who get me, and who have never judged me for how I ate or how long I had to struggle with food and my nighttime eating addiction, until I fully surrendered.

OA is not about diets, willpower, restricting, or exercising like mad. It’s about people who are kind, compassionate, and get that we have a common disease, and an amazing Twelve Step solution that truly works.

Thank you, OA, for allowing me to find my way back to food sanity and back into the living my life in the light!

– Gratefully Recovered Nighttime Eater and Sugar Addict