Recently, in an effort to educate others about my food addiction and binge eating recovery, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with a sense of shame – shame that I could feel so powerless over something so small.

Shame that I centered my entire existence around something that caused me such harm.

Shame that I will never, as long as I live, be able to completely escape my particular food addiction because I need food in order to survive.

Images of losing control began to flood my mind, as a false sense of calm washed over me.

There’s a Dollar General down the road from my home that I haven’t been able to walk into for months, that I avert my eyes from every time I drive past it. If food was my drug, that store was my dealer.

I used to joke that some outside force took control of my car, steering me right into the parking lot. That same force would pull me from my car and into the store. To me, that is what my addiction felt like, a force outside of myself that I could not fight off.

Dollar General was the place where “everybody knew my name,” or at least my face and my usual purchases. I was there several times a week, even with a kitchen full of healthier options from my weekly

food shopping. I NEEDED to go there, to get those snacks: shredded cheese, Edy’s Cookies and Cream, various king-sized candy bars, the imitation Samoa cookies.

It took three minutes to drive home from the store, yet I was already eating some of my treats as soon as I got into the car, because three minutes was just too long to wait. If I tried to wait, the anxiety and urges built up with such veracity I wanted to scream.

Binge eating is consuming a large quantity of food in a short time period, well past the point of physical discomfort. The aches, the cramps, the bloating, the acid reflux weren’t strong enough deterrents for me.

That euphoria I felt with each bite was just too strong to resist. And in that gluttonous moment I felt a freedom from any ugliness I had faced that day.

The irony is I fell into complete chaos over what I had sought to give me peace.

The point of all of this is to explain that recovery is not a part-time job. Recovery from addiction is every day, every food temptation, every meal, every moment.

I have been in recovery four months now, yet I can still find my mind drifting away to thoughts of food as my heart begins to race and my mouth salivate. My addiction exists deep within me, yet it is not the sum of who I am as a person.

Recovery from addiction is not a sprint, it’s a long slow steady race with various hurdles along the way.

It is true I will always have this addiction in one form or another; however, I will not allow this addiction to have me. That is the difference.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).