I was talking with a friend recently about some of our family history; we have a great deal in common. We are both adult children of addict/s and we’ve lived our life with varying degrees of success and failure in battling our own demons. We too are addicts, but our drug of choice is food. I have written about this previously on many occasions. This was actually really huge for me to own and talk about, as it’s something I’ve done my best to keep secret and hidden for most of my life.
One of the big issues, and believe me there are many others when it comes to food addiction, is that it is the most socially acceptable form of addiction. Most people aren’t necessarily comfortable speaking about it and it is often incredible private and painful, but the reality is that our addiction is just as difficult to live with and overcome as any other and that includes legal and illicit drugs. Sure people joke about being carb junkies and sugar addicts, but true food addiction is no joke. We don’t stick our cakes and chocolates up our arms, but we certainly eat ourselves into varying states of unconsciousness. Food comas are real. I have put myself into many of them. All of us have hidden the volumes we eat and have hidden wrappers and packets and eaten in our car in moments of pain.
I remember in a previous life I used to buy TeeVee snacks as a treat for my ex. He would have one or two and put the box in the fridge. The next day I would eat the entire box, although that was never my intention to begin with. I would buy another, open it and remove one or two and put it back. This could go on for a week or more, as he rarely went back to have any. Eventually I would stop buying the box and he would feel like a biscuit a week later (who the hell can have one or two chocolate biscuits by the way?!?!?) and would casually ask where the biscuits where. I wanted to reply with “which box?” but I would remark that after a week they eventually all got eaten. This happened many times.
I have been in a gazillion training courses as that’s what I do for a living and morning tea is usually provided. I never cease to look in wonder and amazement when I see a person take one biscuit. In fact I wrote one day in an accountability group I started that I just saw a woman take one biscuit. My accountability partners instantly replied with comments such as there must be something wrong with her, don’t trust her etc. Sure we were joking, but deep in our soul, that is our reality.
The problem is, that in order to live, we can’t just stop eating. I am not saying that giving up alcohol or drugs is easy, but one of the many approaches to recovery from addiction is abstinence. Abstinence works and eventually some people can find they live happy and fulfilling lives without their substance of choice. That’s not to say that they aren’t tempted, not at all, but abstinence is certainly helpful in order to avoid over consumption of anything. Abstinence from food is impossible. We can do our best to avoid triggers and trigger foods, but the reality is we need to eat. Every. Single. Day.
I have come to some realisations lately (perhaps the wisdom of being a certain age, who knows) and one is no matter who we are and where we come from, we all face demons in life, and we’re all just a little messed up. It might be that some people are battling bigger demons than others, and some do it in spectacular full colour and others in quiet agony, but not one single one of us doesn’t struggle with something. Not one.
As a kid like most of us, I used to love watching TV shows that had perfect families in them with problems that were so easily and promptly fixed. The Brady Bunch was an old favourite, and I still have the boxed set. No problem was so great that a chat in Mike’s office couldn’t solve it, or a family pow-wow at the orange laminex kitchen table with cookies and milk couldn’t fix. I also loved Eight is Enough, oh man I wanted to be part of that family and I had a recurring dream that I was. Not that I didn’t love mine, but they were perfect. Oh and another thing, on TV, everybody is up early and dressed for the day before breakfast. I don’t think this has ever happened one single day in my life.
Now not everyone who uses any kind of substance is an addict, but most people have some way of numbing pain and emotions, whether they are conscious of it or not. There are countless ways that we can numb. People choose alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, pain killers, and then there are other less obvious ways such as shopping, food, procrastination, busy-ness, working long hours, watching TV, scrolling through social media, playing games, sex, unhealthy relationships, being attached to our phones…I could go on and on, it’s all a way for us to distract ourselves and avoid our stuff.
So, what do we do about it? I really don’t have the answer when it comes to managing and overcoming addiction, as it’s something I face every single day, but I think the twelve step programs got it right when they say we can only do it one day at a time. I would even break it down to one hour, one minute and one second at a time.
We all have our demons, issues, shit, stuff or whatever name you choose to give it. The secret to a somewhat balanced and successful life is admitting that none of us is perfect. We must learn to embrace our imperfections and vulnerabilities and live with them the best way we can. Sitting with pain and discomfort is not easy, and it’s something I have spent a lifetime avoiding, but I am working on it. In order to heal we need to feel.
One moment at a time.