National Eating Disorders Association

Stories of Hope

"I Am an Overcomer"
By Nikki DuBose

There is so much hope in life. I am an overcomer, and if you don’t think that you have anything to hope or live for, please understand that the complete opposite is true. You are a miracle, and you are someone else’s miracle, if you choose to believe it.

“Oh, a model with an eating disorder”, the annoyed lady blurted out at the recovery center last year where my mother was in treatment for a long battle with alcoholism. I quickly assured her that although I had been modeling for the past few years; my eating disorder had nothing to do with my career. My mom went on to explain to her that I been battling the disease since childhood, and shot me a sympathetic look.  “Oh”, I’m so sorry, Nikki, I didn’t know, I just assumed...you know...model...eating disorder...” the woman replied empathetically. “Don’t worry about it,” I said, “I understand”. 

I did understand her point of view. Having been immersed in the modeling and entertainment world for the past five years, I had seen plenty of girls and boys struggle with body, self-esteem and food issues. However my nightmare with food started long before my career, lasted for 17 years, and reshaped all that I knew about life, beauty and my own self-worth. 

I was sexually abused at the age of eight by a couple of people that I trusted, and this is the same time in my life that I started to compulsively overeat. The eating became my world, and my escape from the pain of my everyday life. Instead of dealing with my emotions, I stuffed them down with food, whether they were happy feelings, sad, angry, or neutral; it didn’t matter. I just learned early on to cope with my abusive environment by using food as my drug.

Unfortunately right before I hit puberty, I became increasingly preoccupied with my weight gain as a result of my bad eating habits, and I began to force myself to purge. By the age of ten I was a full blown bulimic and I had become accustomed to my behaviors. I also began to live life hard, already hitting the bars late at night with my mom- at the tender age of thirteen.

Alcohol, eating disorders, and living hard, it just doesn’t mix well. By my early twenties, I was modeling professionally and while my career was going exceptionally well, my private life was falling apart. My mental and emotional health was in shambles, and because I had never learned how to eat properly and to love myself, I went from one extreme to the other to meet weight requirements for photo shoots, and quickly fell into anorexia nervosa. At the beginning I felt proud of my weight loss, but it quickly spiraled out of control. At times I struggled to survive, beginning to abuse diet pills as a way to achieve the figure that my agents were pushing me to have for fashion shoots. 

In 2010, it all kind of came to a head as one of my agents in NYC confronted my mother and me about my eating disorder and my overall health. Some of the agents and fellow models knew that I had a severe problem, and it was not only affecting my work but also putting my life at risk. I agreed to seek treatment and soon I found myself in therapy, in a twelve step program and on medication for bulimia. To this day I take medication for the maintenance of my bulimia, communicate with my mentor, and sponsor people privately who are recovering from their own eating disorder issues. I personally stopped focusing on my weight, and I do not own a scale. I measure my success on my inner recovery, emotional and mental health, and abstinence. I don’t make my life about food. My life is now about living and after spending so many years being sick; this is a priceless feeling that I am forever grateful for. 

So how did I get recovery? By not giving up- EVER. Even when my mother died last year from alcoholism, I did not give up on my own recovery. Even when I’ve slipped and relapsed so many, many times, I refuse to give up. I had to dig deep inside myself from day one and decide that I was a worthy person, capable of overcoming any obstacle, with God, which life throws at me. I may have not had a great start in life, but I have victory now. Every day I wake up and choose life, and choose to help other people have a new beginning too. This is what my beauty is all about. 

 

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