(CW: talk about food issues, dieting, weight, addiction and drug use, etc.)
Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize the part my addict brain plays in just how “successful” (or not) I am when it comes to eating well.
I guess I should define a few things first:
- Addict brain = the brain of someone prone to addictive behaviors
- Eating well = eating the way I know my body works and feels its best (and that includes my brain)
To lay some groundwork… it’s been a lot of years since I was in active addiction, but even still, to this day, if I have more than two drinks (wine, cocktails, whatever), at some point in the evening the thought will cross my mind, “Boy, some cocaine would sure be nice right about now.” I’ve gotten used to that little voice that shows up, and even laugh about it most times because it’s so predictable, but if I don’t distract myself or laugh it off… if I didn’t have a really strong support system and even stronger resistance built up, then chances are good it might pose a threat. But it doesn’t. And the day that it does is the day I stop drinking and dive back into the work.
All of that to say, I’m not “cured.” I don’t know that there’s any such thing. Even though I can drink normally and have no concerns there, it absolutely could act as a gateway to other things if I ever let myself get back to that point. And knowing how quickly I used to devolve and spiral, there’s no question I would do it again. Whether I wanted to or not.
So, with that insight, I’m going to talk about food, and how my brain has taken to thinking about and reacting to it. I’ve been seeing some addict-type behaviors, and I’m calling it out here because the only way I know to get better is to get honest. Even when it’s embarrassing or whatever (and some of this is absolutely shame-inducing, when I let it be).
Over the last few years, I’ve had times where I felt like I had to hide “bad” food, like in my desk drawer or in the trunk of my car. Things like Cheez-Its, or chocolate, or other things I’ve identified as not in keeping with how I want to eat – or how I want other people to think I eat. I would be embarrassed to admit to my husband or others that I’d been shoveling crap in my face, or ordering from Panera 3 nights in a week to eat enough food (and mac & cheese) for 2 people, so I would either not mention it (and feel ashamed) or I’d downplay it. There’s a reason people think I eat so well… I’ve been managing perception.
And mind you, it’s not an all the time thing, but the fact that I even think or act that way at all is problematic.
Then there’s the current situation of my sweet spouse who has all but made the switch to eating vegan and (mostly) gluten-free, not drinking alcohol, etc. It began while he was on the road a few months ago, and he has been able to maintain it for the last several (6?) months. He’s active, healthy, has lost weight, feels great, and I am incredibly proud of and impressed by him.
I’m also experiencing feelings of being left out, left behind, resentful, scared, threatened, defensive, and a whole host of other shitty feelings. Threatened, because I don’t understand and can’t relate to how he’s eating, and I worry that it’s going to come between us because we’re not eating the same things anymore and not cooking together and I’m having to find ways to accommodate both of our ways of eating (mostly in my head) when we’re together. Resentful because I don’t seem to have it in me to so easily shift how I eat and stick with it, and I also don’t have it in me to be active every day like he does without some major planning and emotional/mental bandwidth expended to get there. And one slight change in ritual/schedule/behavior throws everything off. For months. Defensive because I feel like I’m being judged, even though I’m not – by anyone but me.
A lot of it feels like when you’re an addict in a relationship with an addict, and one of you goes and gets better/clean/sober/healthy. The other one is going to feel threatened and all that other stuff, even as they’re proud of and impressed by the person who recovered. You want that person to succeed, even when you want them to stay sick with you, because that’s what’s comfortable.
And yes, I get that it’s a bit of an extreme example because for the most part I do eat well… but my brain isn’t healthy around any of it. I have to acknowledge that.
I am pissed that I can’t just eat whatever I want without consequence. I am pissed that I have to put in the work to see the results I want. I am pissed that it isn’t easy.
I am also pissed at the social conditioning I’ve been through – we’ve all been through – that says thin = healthy, successful, attractive, etc. Because not only am I battling against addictive behaviors, but I’m also battling that internal voice telling me I’m a failure in all those ways because I’m overweight. Mind you, I don’t ever look at anyone else overweight and think those things, but the bias is obviously there if I’m applying it to myself. It had to come from somewhere, right? Anyway, I’ll save the internal bias talk for another post.
What I’m recognizing now is how my brain likes to work overtime to screw me over. It used to be with drugs, now it’s with food. And I think a lot of former addicts can relate. If you’re not engaging in the original addictive behavior, your brain starts looking for other ways to satisfy that craving and fill that void. Shopping, sex, food, risky behaviors… it all happens, especially when you’re not tending to your emotional and spiritual needs.
So, I don’t know what this is all going to look like, moving forward. I get that I have a chemical reaction to sugar and other things, kicking the craving behaviors into high gear… so it makes sense that I might fare better by cutting all those things out for a while. Like when I got sober for 5 years. I had to wait for the fog to lift before I could see what needed tending to. All I know is I need and want to get to a place where I’m not actively sabotaging myself at every turn, or harboring fear and resentment against the world (and especially my husband, who is nothing but loving and supportive no matter what I do, how I eat, or what I look like).
This may all sound histrionic or like I’m making a much bigger deal out of something that doesn’t need to be, and I get that. But viewing it all through the lens of addiction is, I hope, going to help me know how to address the problematic thought patterns and behaviors that are cropping up. Especially because I love GOOD food so damn much, I don’t want there to be weird thoughts or behaviors around any of it.