Desperate to Fit In

Desperate to Fit In

I wanted to be popular so badly that I let my life get out of control.
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I'm not exactly sure when I realized my life was spinning out of control. Maybe it was that night in the police car. I'd just been caught shoplifting, and they were taking me down to the police station.

Maybe it was the night my parents found an empty wine bottle in my closet. They'd suspected I'd been drinking, but when they found that bottle, they knew it was serious.

Or maybe it was the day one of my friends caught me throwing up. No, I wasn't hung over. I was just obsessed with being thin; I wanted to look good for my friends, so I'd fallen into a cycle of binge-and-purge, eat-and-vomit.

It was disgusting. And I was disgusted with myself.

How had it come to this, anyway?

I'd grown up in a Christian family. I thought I had my act together … until I hit high school. That's when things started happening, things that led to some major changes in my life—and some bad decisions on my part.

First, we started building a new house, and the only time we could work on it was on weekends. We stopped going to church regularly. Eventually, we spent less and less time praying and reading the Bible.

Second, my best friend moved away the summer before I started ninth grade. I felt really lost and alone, so when school started that fall, I was desperate for some new friends. And it was that desperation, my intense desire to "fit in" with the right group, that ultimately led me down the path of self-destruction.

I met Kathy during the first week of ninth grade. She was one of the most popular students, so when she befriended me, I was pretty excited. I'd never been part of the "in" group before.

It wasn't long before Kathy invited me to spend the night with her at another friend's house. But that night turned out to be much more than I'd expected. It was a major party, with lots of alcohol.

I'd never been to anything like that before. And before the night was over, I started feeling excited about everything—the sense of freedom, of having no limits, of trying something new and grown-up.

I didn't get drunk that night, but a pattern had begun. Before long, I was partying and getting drunk every weekend. I was staying out later and later. And since our house was still under construction, we didn't have a phone. So I would stay out as late as I wanted, then I'd lie about where I'd been. What could my folks do? They couldn't say, "Well, you should have called."

By that time, I wanted to be as thin as the other girls in my group of friends. So I started forcing myself to throw up after meals. In fact, I became so obsessed with my weight that when I was at a party, I'd drink until I'd get sick and throw up, just so those calories wouldn't be in my body.

And then there was shoplifting. Since it was a part of the "fun" my friends were into, I felt I had to join in, too. I enjoyed the thrill of getting away with it. At first, I mostly took small things that didn't cost much. But soon, I was taking clothes and other expensive things.

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