I used to hide food in the dark: backs of drawers, under the bed, corners of the closet and in zipped pockets of purses. Now all my food is in kitchen cabinets, where the light can find it.
When I think of all the food I used to hide, for some reason the first, and sometimes only, thing that comes to mind is Ritz crackers. I can still taste the first bite — crisp then crumbly, salty then buttery. Sometimes I would eat them so quickly that they would get stuck in my throat. I’d have to then take a minute, maybe two, to generate some extra saliva so I could mash it all up, and then I’d have a big ball of cracker remnants to swallow down. That, too, was enjoyable. Gross, I know, but so satisfying in the moment.
Once I went to therapy years later, I learned that binging is a way to numb out. And that mostly made sense to me. But lately I’ve been wondering if it was so much a way to feel nothing as a way to feel everything: the daring of how quietly I could open the package, opening my drawer a crack to see the promise awaiting me, the feel of the food in my hand just before I took the first bite, the rich smell of what was to come and the kaleidoscope of taste. All of my senses were not only engaged, but acutely alive — at least before the process really got going.
As it ramped up, of course, everything quieted. It was just me and the chewing, bite after bite after bite after bite. After that, it was all about the moment: stuff, chew, swallow; stuff, chew, swallow. This was my first experience of presence and oneness. In retrospect, of course, I wish I hadn’t had to initially get that feeling from compulsion, but the impulse for feeling and connection was right. I just needed a different door to go through.
Later, I found the door of yoga and meditation. Through it, I again found that in-the-moment bliss I’d experienced from binging, but without the shame hangover of a distended stomach, digestive problems, and evidence to get rid of.
What a gift it is to realize I wasn’t wrong or broken to go through that first door all those years ago. Something inside me knew what I needed, and it is strong and good and human that I found it the best way I knew how at the time, even if in retrospect I sometimes wish I hadn’t had to see what was behind that first door. The blessing of the passage of time is that we get to see there are other ways, too. And bring ourselves and our stories into the light.