I honestly never believed this day would come. Despite my major strides in recovery, I thought that food would always be there for me if I ever needed it. In fact, knowing that food would help me in times of great need is part of what made the process of letting go a bit easier. It was like my own less-fatal cyanide capsule stored under my tongue, ready to take me out if the pain got too much.
And yet there I sat still full from dinner contemplating a return to the kitchen for a snack when I realized that even if I ate it I would not feel better. At that point, I was almost two years into recovery. I had made major strides in releasing myself from food bondage, but I had always told myself that my emergency fall back relief was just a few feet away.
I no longer ate any kind of sugars or flours or processed foods, but I did feed my anxieties from time to time with fresh fruits and other whole foods. It was a habit I had yet to break entirely. But this night, while I worried about my nephew’s well being, where I would get the money to pay my son’s tuition bill, and how to make my marriage stronger, I called out to the food, and I got no answer.
Something in my head and heart and stomach told me that even if I ate that whole pineapple sitting on my counter waiting to be cut that I would still feel the way I felt right then. And I would feel physically uncomfortable too. Instead of rolling the tape myself, the tape rolled on by itself. I would eat my drug of choice, feel so bloated that I couldn’t sit comfortably, get irritable, maybe eat something else to see if that would help with the bloat, then stay up all night worried about everything that had me on edge to begin with AND my now-jeopardized recovery.
I was stunned. At every moment before that when I was faced between eating compulsively and not, I had to force myself to engage in the process. I had to make myself see the consequences of my actions. This time, it happened for me.
And I was sad.
It might sound unusual coming from someone who desperately wanted this type of automatic response to a compulsive eating behavior, but I felt crushed by this newest development. If food no longer worked, then what would I do when I was overwhelmed by reality?
Instead of running from that question by changing the channel in my head, I sat with it for a long, long time. I realized at some point during my rumination that this is where many food addicts probably switch to a different form of self abuse: alcohol, gambling, smoking, sex, heroin, and so on. When one drug fails, it is time to move on to another one.
I knew I didn’t want to pick up another addiction, so I sat with those feelings even longer.
What do I do now that food doesn’t work? It doesn’t transport me to another place. It no longer frees me from my worries.
At that point, and even now, I have no real answers. I know that food no longer works for me the way that it used to. I know that my new routines and thinking patterns are largely responsible for that shift. But does this mean I am cured from binge eating disorder? Does this mean that I am no longer a food addict?
No. What I think it means when the food no longer works is that I have gained incredible ground in my recovery journey. It is another step in the long process of healing.
I have overeaten since then. I have even grabbed a snack when I wasn’t hungry, but it is as clear to me as my own name that food is no longer the drug I used to rely on for leaving the planet for awhile.
And although I was initially sad, I have accepted this new development as a good one. It is very, very good. If food no longer serves me, then there is no longer a reason to abuse it.
What do I do now? Adjust to it. Get used to food not being my savior. Get used to food not fulfilling its old purpose.
Pre-recovery me would have hustled to try and find something to fill the gap that food left behind. But now, I am going to just let it all settle in. Lean back. Let it go for awhile. This is a new place for me. I am still learning.
For now, I am content with this new way of living. Where it will take me is anybody’s guess, but as always, I am willing to go along for the ride, and I promise to tell you all about it.
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