Experience has taught me I have an addictive personality. I find a new hobby and do it to excess and then abruptly stop, moving on to the next new thing. Sewing? Yup. Papercrafts? Yup. Cross-stitch? Yup. Projects are started and I go gangbusters on it until I am bored or distracted and then I move on to something else. It took me over a year to refinish a piece of furniture. There is a project piece currently in my back yard that I am “working on”. I started it last summer. I keep telling myself and The Hubs it will get finished as soon as the weather is stable, and I can work outside. The truth is I lost my steam and moved on to something else. Those are just examples of how my addictive personality reveals itself.
I have an addictive personality. My Dad was an addict too. I bet my Mom is to a certain extent as well. Cocaine was removed from my roster in 1987. I began smoking at 15. I’ve stopped smoking at least a dozen times in my life, the most recent being 1 November of last year. Every hour of every day I want a cigarette and it has been 6 months of not smoking. Unlike other people who can be “social smokers”, I cannot. I am either all in, or all out. In my dreams I am smoking, and laughing, like an old school cigarette commercial. And then there is THIS ad…
I stopped smoking and then what happened? I replaced smoking with food and promptly gained 15 pounds. In other words, I substituted one addiction for another. (Moment of truth – I keep asking myself, which is worse for my cardiovascular health, carrying around the equivalent of a 15 lb bowling ball all day, every day, or smoking…?). The only hobby that has remained and morphed into something solid is cooking. Why? Because it feeds my addiction.
Having the abundance to eat whatever and whenever I want makes it so easy to feed my addiction. That’s a real problem there. Think about it. I know I have an addiction. I can financially support that addiction. My addiction is socially acceptable, unlike the drugs of my past, and doesn’t harm anyone…anyone except me. My addiction supports small businesses, and grocery stores, and farmers’ markets. No one gives me side-eye when I drive thru Popeye’s to get some fried chicken, like they did when I was snorting lines in the ladies’ room. No one feigns a cough when I grab a couple of tacos from a food truck like they did when I smoked near them. Food is a perfectly normal and accepted vice. As long as I keep my shit together and stay at a “socially accepted size”, no one cares.
Several years ago, I was diagnosed as, and I quote, “borderline bipolar”. I suffer from depression and then I have manic mood swings that I can’t control. They prescribed meds and all of them made me feel like a zombie. There was no depression, but I didn’t feel happiness either. I felt nothing. Except hunger. So I stopped taking them. I eat my feelings. I know I do and still, I can’t stop myself. Addiction. Happy? Have a cookie! Sad? Have some chips. Bored? What’s in the cabinet? Angry? Excited? Anxious? Let’s see what’s in the fridge! It seems food solves all the problems…for a while, just like the cocaine did. And then I can’t zip my jeans.
Dining out can be a real challenge for me. I want to try at least half the menu in most places. We can afford it, why not? Then the leftovers come home, and I find myself in the middle of the night, after The Hubs is in bed, noshing on leftovers by myself. They say if you drink alone, or hide your drinking, you might be an alcoholic, but what if you eat alone or sneak food, or eat all the leftovers? What does that make you?
When I am at my lowest, food gets shoved in my face in a fog. Am I hungry? Probably not. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am actually eating until the dishes are piled in the sink, or the trash bin is full of empty containers. There are only two brownies in that big container, let’s get rid of that. Just a handful of tater tots in that bowl in the fridge, let’s make some room. That ice cream container is taking up too much space in the freezer! Let me get rid of that. Why is this large container in here with only a small amount of fried rice? Let’s fix that.
Did I even taste the food? Who knows? I tell myself that I am not wasting food. I convince myself that I am cleaning out the fridge, eating things that no one else wants (hello there are only two people in my house…), or making room for new leftovers. The lies I tell myself about food are astounding! It’s disgusting. I am disgusted and ashamed of myself. Does that stop me? Do I do it again? Of course I do because I have an addiction!
It’s more than the act of chewing that I want. And no, gum will not suffice. You don’t swallow gum. I eat until my belly is beyond full. I eat to the point of being uncomfortable, and I unbutton the fly of my jeans. Hell, I go upstairs and put my pajamas on. It doesn’t matter what time of the day. Sometimes I fall into a carb coma on the couch. When I wake, I am disgusted with myself.
The other day I was in the grocery store and somehow ended up in the chip aisle. Lay’s were on sale $1.99 each if you bought 4 or more. One bag was $4.79. I convinced myself I was saving money buying 4 when all I really wanted was to try the Dill Pickle Flavor. I eat potato chips until the bag is empty. For the record, it doesn’t matter what size the bag is. Five ounces or 500 ounces, once that bag is open, I will not stop until it is empty. Once the bag is open, I eat mindlessly until they are gone because those chips sing a siren song that I cannot ignore. They are my personal kryptonite. If the bag stays closed, I can resist them…for a short bit of time.
I remember as a kid the rare package of real Oreos would magically appear at the house. My sisters and I would eat them with milk virtually all in one sitting, afraid we wouldn’t get our fair share. Worried if we would get them again. I KNOW I am going to get potato chips again, so WHY the fuck do I eat them all at once? Because I am a glutton. And then I am disgusted with myself over this behavior. What do I do? I eat even more! I already blew my diet for the day, so who gives a shit?! Then I can’t zip my jeans and feel even worse about myself…and it starts all over again. It’s a vicious circle.
Does my past experience with scarcity color my actions now? Probably. I can remember the first time I self-medicated with food. We were sitting around the table having baked ziti for dinner. I can see the kitchen of the trailer as clear as day in my mind and I can tell you what position at the table I was seated. The phone rang. There was a death in the family. Everyone else sat stunned and stopped eating, I took the entire pan of baked ziti and began eating directly from the pan. I can’t remember the year, but I am guessing it was 1975 or ’76. I was 10 or 11.
Next? Culinary School and how I learned to really cook.