Right. In the food, not the mood. Or maybe, “in the mood for food?” You get the idea. In light of my recent roller coaster of relapse, I’d like to share what’s so fulfilling about practicing an addiction…and what’s so soul-sucking about it.
If you’ve been tuning into this blog since the beginning, you’ve witnessed the many ups and downs I’ve had as I’ve struggled in recovery. Even if I take steps back (and I always do), I end up a few steps ahead, thank God. But I’d like a steadier course–and I’ll get one–but change, at least this one, takes me through the ringer. The onion ringer? Nope, too soon.
Food, My Friend
It’s easy enough for most people to understand why food is so easy to turn to in times of stress. In case you’re someone who really doesn’t get it, food (especially processed junk food) is an effective go-to for way more than satisfying physical hunger. It can also work for:
- Feeling better or numbing in the midst of pain (even if that pain is mild anxiety while watching a reality TV show or sporting event)
- Making a good feeling feel even better
- Distraction from dealing with real life (money issues, work deadlines, family drama, or parenthood, anyone?!)
- Fun and camaraderie in times of celebration (or really ANY time you’re with family or friends)
- “Just because”
This list could go on and on. For me, when I have one or two of the above going on for me at any given time, I’m very vulnerable to using/abusing food as a remedy. Even though I KNOW it’s not healthy and goes against what I say I want for myself, it’s usually very easy for me to “give in” to something food-related, even if I eat an apple or drink some decaf coffee. The act of consuming food is remarkably soothing, plain and simple, so I do it. Without a line of defense (at this point, I’m sure this is God), I’m screwed.
Non-addicts tend to be able to eat for emotional reasons and then move along. A pizza and ice cream binge happens and it’s no big deal. Back to normal tomorrow. But when I eat for anything other than health/energy, and it resembles a binge, I’m sitting on top of a greased slide, and man oh man, do I want to slide down!
Anyone who struggles with alcohol can relate, for obvious reasons. An alcoholic who suffers immensely after a drinking episode has a hard time saying “no” next time, hence 12-step programs and other spiritual approaches to recovering from addiction. But I’m not here to talk about this today…just making the point that the mind and experiences of an addict are unique. Words like “moderation” are meaningless.
Food, My Enemy
What’s so difficult for me to accept is that as an addict, I will keep going back to old eating behaviors–getting back into the food–even when I know what they do to me. Remember that line of defense I referenced? Yeah, that’s the answer, but it goes deeper. That’s why I’m here, learning about myself and addiction, seeking a workable recovery program, supplementing the 12 steps with a fuller understanding and appreciation for psychology, nutrition, etc. Once again, I digress.
I know that to call food an “enemy” isn’t smart–but it’s proving a point. When I’m “in the food,” I’m….
- Compulsively thinking about where I’m going to get my next hit
- Feeling broken, down, sad, or some combo of negative emotions
- Acting like a crab or a b*tch, depending on whom you ask
- Not energized
- Not positive
- Not aligned spiritually with anything
- Popping Pepcid for heartburn
- Soothing myself from the self-abuse, sometimes with more food
- Not present with my family or friends
It’s not all bad, of course. I mean, it could be worse, right? And for many people with addictions and eating disorders, it IS way worse. But I’ll get there if I don’t find lasting recovery, as addiction is progressive.
I imagine it’s really difficult for the non-addict reading this to relate. They/you may be thinking, “She’s a hot mess!” Maybe so. Up until about four years ago, I could moderate while using food for emotional reasons. Today, unfortunately, I’m too often sitting on the top of that greased slide. That’s why today I’d argue, “No, she’s not a hot mess. She’s actually quite productive. Just a human with a food addiction.”
If you’re in agreement with me that getting back “in the food” after being out of it (i.e. practicing abstinence, temporarily recovered) I would love some feedback to this post. I’m interested in the reasons WHY food is so great (despite it not being so great!) and what it does to hurt you when your’e back in it. If you’re in active recovery from food addiction, I’m sure your advice would be to focus on the solution, not the problem. Point taken! I don’t disagree, but I’m a student of the problem so I can help others find the solution. (Does your head hurt now?!)
Thanks for reading!