My in-laws are here again this week and I've fallen into old ways yet another time: using sugar as a drug to cope with stress, anxiety, anger, resentment. I don't need to go into details about how much I hate their visits and why, because the real issue that is plaguing me is my inability to deal with unpleasantness without numbing myself via unhealthy and excessive food.
I no longer meet the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder, but I feel despair over my continued emotional eating and overeating (and of course, my weight). And there are so many habits and behaviors that go into this that I hate. I hate that I still feel a pull to buy whatever Limited Edition bullshit that is being rolled out each week by the Oreo people, the Ben & Jerry's people, or the Haagen Dazs bastards. I hate that I'll go weeks without McDonald's and then fall into again, because that stuff is utter trash and when the smiling worker at the drive-thru window hands me my bag, I often sarcastically think "assisted suicide, hooray!"
I hate that today, I went to the supermarket to buy a stash of cheap candy bars to keep in my closet to get me through the rest of the in-law visit--an old bingey behavior and the exact same thing as your average pothead squirreling away his or her stash--and that I bought my 5 month-old organic pureed baby food in the same visit. I felt utterly ridiculous unloading my cart onto the conveyor belt at checkout. And I felt like a horrible mother. I'm looking at my beautiful baby girl in her carseat and she's wearing a onesie that says "mommy loves me", and mommy can't get herself under control enough to ensure that she won't die of a heart attack in the next 10 years and leave her child without a mother. I feel very much like an addict.
I am an addict, basically.
I think I need drugs. I know that's funny, given the statement I just made. But the bottle of Percocet I brought home from the hospital after my C-section has given me some perspective.
A little over five months ago, I came home with a dozen Percocet. And I LOVE how they made me feel--they chill you out, block all pain, and make you feel like your limbs are turning into liquid gold. Because I only had 12 pills and knew I wouldn't be able to get a refill, I typically only used them on nights when physical pain (usually a terrible headache) coincided with extreme emotional pain and severe anxiety. And they wiped ALL the pain away, physical and mental/emotional. More than once after taking them I thought, "if I had access to these all the time, I'd have no need to abuse food. I'd be downright skinny."
I'm not saying that abusing prescription drugs is any better than abusing food, or that I ACTUALLY WANT to trade one addiction for another. (I took my last remaining Percocet yesterday, incidentally.) What I'm really trying to say is that Percocet showed me the effect I've been trying to achieve with food, for years and years: relaxed, mildly good-humored, free of pain. And it showed me that food doesn't do as good a job creating this state as drugs designed for this very purpose do. No surprise there!
I've been trying to drug myself with food for a long time, when perhaps what I really need is ACTUAL DRUGS. Appropriate drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist that can help me with the mental states that keep knocking me off my feet. A few years ago, I took Prozac for a few months, but stopped when it became clear that I'd have to up the dose to continue reaping the benefits of the drug. At the time, that didn't sound good to me, and furthermore, I was starting to get interested in having a baby and didn't want antidepressants in my system. But I have to admit that I'm not making progress by drugging myself with sugar and that my current drug of choice has horrible side effects too (can you call "keeping oneself on the brink of diabetes at all times" a side effect?). I have to admit that my meditation practice has helped, but it's not enough at this point.
The understanding that I'm drugging myself with food and sugar has always been there, but a willingness replace this with actual prescription drugs instead hasn't. Until now. The hunt for a good psychiatrist is on.
Maybe a psychiatrist can help me sort out the question of moderation versus abstinence. That question has spun me around and around, and when it recurs I feel like I've made no progress at all. I mean, just a post or two ago I spoke about how the 5:2 diet doesn't require you to give up dessert and how that's better for me, given "how I'm wired." And here I am again, questioning.
ALL ABOARD THE CRAZY TRAIN!!!
On one hand, there are several people whose intelligence and experience I really respect that advocate moderation. They say you aren't really at ease and therefore haven't really solved your problem until you can be moderate around sugar and other indulgent foods. This makes sense to me.
Add to this the fact that I've never succeeded at abstinence for more than a few weeks at a time, and that involved much white knuckling, and there was usually crazed consumption of sugar afterwards that undid any good that was achieved.
Add to this my past experience with OA, which preaches sugar abstinence. I didn't see many success stories in those church basements. There were a few abstinent people, and they seemed batshit crazy with OA-speak...and the rest had been struggling for years but kept coming back to the meetings, believing it to be their only hope.
And then there are my stints in "treat legalization", which I have found really does decrease my desire for sweets. (ETA: It decreases my desire for the specific treats I legalize. I wouldn't say it decreases my desire in general.) And mindful eating has shown me that I can be satisfied with less of something at a sitting: a smaller slice of cake, fewer cookies, whatever. So I have experienced other modes of eating treats that give me some hope.
Taken together, that's a lot in favor of moderation.
But then there's the reality that I'm so often NOT moderate. I overdo it, over and over again, and I'm hurting my health. My bloodwork and the way I feel day-to-day is proof enough of that.
And so often, my thought while buying and eating crappy foods is "I hate this. I'm sick of this." I'm not even enjoying it, or paying attention to the food...because all I'm after is the high, anyway, and half the crap I buy disappoints when it comes to flavor. So yeah, I *know* how to eat mindfully, sure, but I usually don't do it, because eating mindfully interferes with the pursuit of a drugged state...which is what I'm after 90% of the time I eat sweets. Even now, even though I no longer binge like before. I'm still after that altered state.
Lastly, I've been studying the dharma for a year and half now, and it has helped my life in various ways. Many Buddhists would advocate giving up anything that makes you suffer--sense pleasures, relationships, pursuit of status or fame...really anything you grasp at desperately that leads to repetitive suffering. For me, sweets surely fall into that category. I suffer because of them, in a way that many other people don't. And so often I think my life would be happier and more peaceful if I could let go of them completely and be free of the suffering they cause.
So taken together, that's a lot in favor of abstinence.
Conclusion: I need help to get out of this confusing abyss I've been in for too long.