Case Study

Compulsive eater – Case study

A.B., 43 year-old female – Beirut, Lebanon.

I’m a compulsive eater; initially I was overweight and then I became obese. I tried many diets and consulted dietitians but I was never able to overcome the problem.

With Sana I had a different experience; it was no longer a question of dieting, but rather, about changing my attitude towards food. It is a long road. I have to accept that I have a problem to solve. A problem that I have carried with me throughout my life and that cannot be solved in a day. After a whole year of eating junk food and all kind of sweets I was afraid to do the laboratory tests but Sana encouraged me to do them. I decided that I could no longer remain passive and finally I had to address this issue irrespective of what the results would be. I realised that it was not just a matter of stopping eating the way I used to, but more about learning to understand my behaviour and the underlying stimuli that make me eat and regard food as my comfort zone.

Sana taught me to ask myself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to eat?
  • Am I hungry or thirsty?
  • Is it emotional?

She also made me realize that when you stop and think before eating you don’t solve the eating disorder but you can instead solve the problem hiding inside you.

I had long talks with her and she taught me to write down what I felt after binging. In this way she also helped me to get to know myself better.

She gave me lot of her time, without ever being judgmental. She understands me, and has always analysed and interacted with me.

This means that I have never felt alone and have always had great support from her.

Like when she told me to sleep on the idea of binging and to try to give it time. Sometimes by doing this I was able to stop the binge episode, other times I failed, but I liked the idea she gave me about not giving up on myself, of being courageous and facing the problem head on.

I have lost 8 kg, not by going on a diet, but instead by trying to eat what I want and need without binging.

I have my slips but I’m still fighting.

Whenever I think about binging, I think of Sana, about all the effort she put into helping me and raising my awareness, I remember our discussions and her tips and that helps me a lot.

My experience with Sana has been unique and I can see improvement not only in my attitude towards food, but also deep inside me.

I now have a greater understanding of myself and see every day as a new beginning for dealing more successfully with my weak points and insecurities.

I would recommend her to every overeater who wants to adopt a healthy lifestyle with a tailor-made program. In order to obtain better results I have to be more committed, courageous, responsible and put abstinence as my priority.


Out of the tunnel- Case study

A true story, with a happy ending, about the journey of a woman with an addiction in the company of her therapist.

In these time when daily horrors seems to wipe out all our hopes and dreams, it is wonderful to come across a happy, stirring and above all, true story about personal recovery entailing the recovery of relational, affective and working abilities. In a word, the capacity to live.

The story we want to tell is about an intelligent, skilled woman we’ll call Anna, and from whom alcohol had robbed everything: her feelings, her abilities and even her self respect. A woman who was lost until another woman showed her the right road to go down to free herself from addiction, accompanying and supporting her day after day until she reached the finishing line.

Anna’s travelling companion answers to the name of Sana Barada, a pharmacologist specialised in addiction, who with well-deserved pride describes her patient as a determined, positive woman with whom she was able to live a truly extraordinary professional experience.


How did this story begin?

With our first meeting. Anna, aware of her problem, came to see me. Aged 45, with two children, she realised she couldn’t go on like she was, destroying herself and the people who loved her.

And what did you tell her?

Simply to have faith. During out meetings we devised and agreed upon a programme defining the points to be worked on.

Quite a demanding journey, I imagine.

Sure. I knew there would be ups and downs and also relapses which I preferred to call "slips” from which she would have to pick herself up with a smile and strengthened awareness of the need to continue the journey.


Can you tell us what methods you used?

Of course. In short, at every meeting we discussed one aspect of the problem. Starting off with the prevention of a relapse, supported by motivational therapy, we established a strategy for reducing the damage through training to become aware of the relapses and at the same time, to learn how to pick herself up again.

In order to improve Anna’s compliance with the programme, a toxicologist was consulted to carry out all the investigations necessary for accurately defining her clinical conditions and reducing the degree of physical addiction.


And what else?

I invited her to devote more time to meditation, and also to realise what happens inside us, to be aware of what comes to us without thinking, and instead to take note of her thoughts. I suggested she share her meals with the children and engage in more physical exercise. And so on.


And?

 We then decided that Anna should keep a diary in which to note all the temptations to have a drink and the inevitable "slips”. This increased her awareness and helped her understand what the real reasons were that triggered the impulse to drink and what really happened whenever she gave in.

The last step was represented by a real dissection of the temptations she was subjected to. This made it possible for me to recognise two different types of temptation, one emerging as a reaction to anger or stress, and the one stemming from a physical need. For each of these situations we studied a specific response.


At this point did you have a precise idea of the personality and needs of your patient?

Yes, it was as though her traits were revealed little by little until I was able to "see her” clearly.  I remember writing: "Anna is a very good patient who interacts well with her therapist in a satisfactory manner by complying with the prescriptions and collaborating. However, she seems to be blocked in some way due to her mood swings/ depression/hypersensitivity/tendency to cry, etc. So Anna also had several sessions with the team psychiatrist. This led to an increase in her positivity and her ability to raise the threshold of her resistance to temptation and relapses”.


And speaking about writing, you mentioned that Anna kept a diary.

A wonderful diary, filled with humanity. There’s everything inside it – hope, pain, anxiety, the desire to react. Slipping and climbing back up again. It is very significant reading. We can go through a bit of it if you like.


Yes please! Where shall we start?

From total darkness. From her apparently irreversible situation until the moment she suddenly felt a small spark of conscience, albeit very weak, just a hint, which represented an alternative to self-destruction. That spark was the bright light, the way out, which Anna, without knowing it, saw at the end of the tunnel. This is what she wrote about herself and her journey.

My name’s Anna and I’m an addict

My addiction is alcohol but it doesn’t really matter what type of addiction it is. Alcohol, food, drugs, betting… one day you wake up and realise that something has taken hold of your life.

This happened to me four years ago. I initially started drinking at the weekends only, then it became every night and finally every afternoon and evening. For the first two years I more or less managed to control my days, my work, my children, my commitments, with realising that I was walking towards an abyss. Then I hit the bottom.

My days were marked by the times I had a drink. My emotional, social and work life no longer mattered. I lied, I hid, and I ran risks.

The only thing that really mattered was drinking. I drank if I was happy but also if I was sad, angry, or confused. I blamed my drinking on all my moods swings.

Only a small voice inside of me was still able to tell me every now and then that I should reduce the amount of alcohol and prolong the times between one glass and the next. But this voice was not strong enough. I was simply unable to stop, and this made me get angry with myself.

I kept wasting my days locked inside the house, at times thinking of how to put an end to such a useless life. The thought of my children and the suffering I would have caused them was the only thing that kept me going.

So many times I thought that only with the help of someone else would I have been able to try to throw off this curse. But who could help me? Who? Nobody. Nobody. Nobody.

Then one day I met Sana. She listened to my story and when I asked her what I could do, she replied "It’s no longer your job”. At that moment I was suddenly filled with a spark of hope. So I started off on my journey with Sana and her team. At last I was no longer alone.

Sana has been a professional figure for me, but above all a friend who is always present. She encouraged me at difficult times when I was afraid I wasn’t going to make it, when depression took over. And she took care of me in such a way that I never gave up.

I started going out with my children again, I even went on holiday with them, but it was tough, really tough. Drinking was always on my mind, ever-present, it seemed invincible. Finally, for the next step Sana suggested I visit the SERT and so I entered the Alcoholics Anonymous group which became a real family for me. People like me, with similar tales of suffering, smiles, stories of resurrection. In the end I understood that what I really had was a mental, physical, spiritual and above all, progressive disease. I also realised however, that with a strong will, honesty and an open mind, it is possible to kick the habit.

And that’s what I have done. I’ve kicked the habit. Six months have passed since my last drink and the taste in my mouth is now a wonderful taste of sobriety. A taste that I can no longer do without.

When I think about the past year I have to thank so many people. First and foremost, my thanks go to Sana, a professional and a woman filled with so much humanity who has always stayed by my side. Thanks also to Alcoholics Anonymous, a fantastic group that makes you realise you are not alone. But above all, thanks to my disease which has allowed me to be reborn again: an incredible chance and a gift.

Now I can really say that life is wonderful!