Z Zoccolante is an LA-based writer and a grad student specializing in substance and behavioral addiction. Z tells her story of addiction to an eating disorder that began at the age of fifteen. Her mission is to help others gain freedom from similar disorders and addictions. She now works at a drug and alcohol rehab.
Z has so much knowledge, experience, love and compassion to share. You haven’t heard this kind of advice on SHAIR before. This episode will inspire many aha moments, so make sure you listen and take notes.
Listen to Z’s story now!
Here are a few highlights from our interview. There is so much wisdom and resources in this show. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Z’s schedule depends on her internship at a drug and alcohol rehab and her work. She’s not an early riser, but she wakes up early on her full days with the help of her latte machine. Then she makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and walks her dog. On her way to work, she listens to music and podcasts to help her decompress and be present with how she is feeling that day. Sometimes she feels gratitude, and sometimes she cries in her car. It’s all about feeling her feelings.
In her work at the drug and alcohol rehab, Z finds that whatever tools she uses for her patients, she also incorporates into her own recovery.
Z was married, but she is now divorced and lives in a community house she created with her best friend. They do dinners together. They watch Netflix or movies at night to relax. Every evening, Z goes to the grassy knoll to throw the ball with her dog. This is her way of connecting with nature.
Connection is important to me now.
Z journals. She prays, and she knows to seek out a therapist if she starts going down a troubled road. She is vigilant about her weaknesses.
Z’s parents were hippies who migrated from Massachusetts. On their way to Europe, they stopped in Hawaii. They never left.
Z developed her eating disorder when she was 15. She was the good girl – the straight-A student, the athlete, and the peacekeeper in her family. She was a perfectionist. Her addiction to anorexia and bulimia began when her dad started a diet because of high blood pressure. She was afraid he was going to die, so she tried all his diets on herself.
At the time, she was a junior life guard. She was in the sun, swimming all day. She was happy. Then she and her friends made a bet that they could stop eating sweets for a month. Z passed the month goal, but she kept going sweet-free. She liked the changes in her body and the sense of control. This seemingly innocent wager was a precursor to the eating disorder that would progress into a horrific addiction.
When she got to high school, things changed. She didn’t have a social group. She was awkward and shy. She was uncomfortable talking to people because in her family, her mother would talk for her. Negative emotions were avoided, and conflict was not dealt with. Z stopped wanting to share her feelings with her parents or anybody.
Her isolation made her sink into anorexia. She didn’t realize she had a problem, even when she’d stay up late at night, in the dark to work off anything she ate using an ab roller.
She voided dessert completely, but she always loved sweets and missed them. She thought if she threw up just dessert, she’d get just get rid of the bad stuff. Of course, this progressed into regular binging and purging. Her parents discovered what was going on, but that only inspired her to invent better ways to hide it.
Eating disorders are never about the food, similar to drug addiction.
As Z grew up and fell in love, she thought her disorder went away. She and her husband got married without him really knowing about her problem. At first they were happy and always laughing, but then the honeymoon stage wore off, and she realized her compulsion had only gone into hiding. It resurfaced and began to cause problems in the marriage. She also hadn’t fully matured into her femininity yet. Her sexuality had been stunted by her addiction. Her desire wasn’t there.
Finally, her husband confronted her. He poured his heart out to her. He cried. She couldn’t let herself show her emotions. She stared at the side of his ear during the entire conversation. He asked her if she would see a therapist. She said agreed, but the only reason she went was because he loved her.
The therapist quickly realized that she needed to be put into an inpatient facility. The hospital was a weird, summer-camp, alternate reality. She couldn’t keep her secret any longer and met other people who were just like her. She didn’t recover there, but she did realize that maybe she could recover one day. That flicker of hope was all she needed.
When Z came out and returned to her husband, he didn’t trust her, and they had lots of fights. They moved back to Hawaii, and she started seeing another therapist. She wished that someone would have prepared her for the disaster after recovery. She thought all her relationships, everything would be great, and it wasn’t. She felt the urge to travel and explore. Her husband wanted her home, but she was afraid if she stayed with him she would fall back into her addiction.
He kicked her out. Her parents were angry about the way she had treated him. They stayed apart for 6 months, only to end up back together. They never went into therapy together. She never worked on her sexuality issues. They drifted apart, but they didn’t want to give up on marriage. They stayed together for another 5 years.
Addiction makes your partner feel invisible.
Z prayed for her marriage for an hour every day. She would sob her eyes out, but in the end, God said no.
Without her husband, she was lost. She walked around like a zombie for months. She didn’t understand how important he was to her. She struggled as her dark side fought to take back over. At times, she wanted to die, but her spiritual beliefs prevented her from thinking about suicide.
She finally found comfort and strength when she received a vision that she was a tiny creature curled up in God’s palm. That image reminds her that He is supporting her at all times.
Whatever happens, God’s got me. Whatever happens, I’m held.
What kept Z from getting clean?
Z felt she was a terrible person. She was not worthy of recovery. Why bother when she failed every time she tried? She didn’t want to be a failure again and again and again.
It’s scary to think that you could be different and not be able to deliver.
The aha moment
When Z was in inpatient treatment, she had a moment with her therapist when she was angry because she kept being asked about her family and her childhood. Z thought her family was great and her childhood was fine, but something clicked. She realized that if other factors were involved in the development of her disorder, then it wasn’t all just about her being a stupid, terrible person.
Without being honest, you can never really recover.
For the newcomer
Love yourself fiercely. Pray, even if you don’t believe in God, pray. You will find something.
See you then!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.