No matter how “on top of the world” we feel, sometimes it only takes one small breeze to knock us off our pedestal. And the higher up you are, the harder you fall.
It’s Tuesday night. I had just spent a fantastic weekend with the love of my life moving into our new apartment. I had just started my second week of treatment earlier that day. I had four days of “sobriety” under my belt and, by dinner time, was still looking good for five days. My stepmom had cooked a fantastic dinner: pasta, turkey meatballs, freshly baked bread, and a garden salad – delicious AND healthy. To top it all off, we were actually going to attempt a sit down dinner at our dining room table. During the summer, everyone needs to be in a different place at a different time. Normally each one of us files through the kitchen whenever our schedules allow, serve ourselves, and rush off to our various nooks: usually either the TV trays by the couch, or off to a bedroom. But this night, all of us were home: myself, my dad, my stepmom Holly, my stepbrother Nik (well, almost all of us… stepbrother #2, Cam, was not present), and Nik’s girlfriend Beth.
Holly, my dad, and I had all served and seated ourselves. Nik and Beth had not yet joined us at the table, though they had been issued the traditional “dinner’s ready!” prompting. It looks like it’s just going to be the three of us… or at least for a while until Nik and Beth join us. But the food’s not going anywhere, we might as well start if they’re going to be tardy… several bites in and my father reminds us, “aren’t we going to wait for everyone to be seated?” Holly and I exchange looks. “They’ll get here when they get here, Peter,” she laughs. “We’re going to have dinner as a family.” Apparently, we are waiting.
My anxiety skyrockets. It seems so silly… why am I stressing out about something so trivial? I may be waiting five minutes, tops. Is that so bad? It is. It’s HORRIBLE. I just want to eat my food. It is what I am supposed
to do. I already compromised my meal plan by waiting an extra two hours after I was supposed
to eat to have this family sit-down feast. And it’s not even the whole family!
: “This was such a waste. They made you starve yourself for two hours just so you could eat as a family, and now they’re STILL keeping you from eating, and the whole family won’t even be here.”
: “They didn’t starve me. I volunteered to wait an extra little bit so I could enjoy my family’s company. I had an afternoon snack to tie me over.”
: “That was over five hours ago. Now your meal plan is ruined. They are setting you up for failure. You might as well give it to them. Binge.”
I stare at my plate in silence. But in my head, the conversation is deafening.
Nik comes to the kitchen, serves himself, and sits down. Bethany is nowhere to be seen. Ah, so close…
I continue to stew, staring at my food. What once looked so wholesome and healthy now seemed so ominous. I am hungry, and I can’t eat my food. Hungry and angry are a recipe for Ed. Have you ever said an everyday, ordinary word over and over to yourself until it starts to sound completely peculiar? Or similarly, stared at something so long that it seems the dimensions are playing tricks on your eyes? In this way, I have found that food grows, on my plate, when I pay too much attention to it.
: “You took too much. But you have to eat it all, because that’s what normal people do; they clear their plates.”
: “I’ll eat until I’m not hungry anymore.”
: “Who are you kidding? We both know you don’t have that kind of will-power.”
: “My family is here to support me. I don’t have to listen to you.”
: “If that’s so, why am I still here?”
Beth finally joins us. What had probably only been 10 minutes seemed like an hour. I feel like I can breathe again. More importantly, I can EAT again.
: “Stuff it in. There are tons of leftovers you can binge on later.”
: “You stuff it, Ed.”
I’ve got a good pace going. Bite, chew no less than 15 times, take a sip of water, deep breath in and out. Repeat. It’s my greatest defense mechanism against Ed while eating. Not two cycles in…
Holly: “So Nikky, I saw you brought a piece of cake home from the BBQ yesterday?”
Cake? I didn’t know there was cake. There’s CAKE in the house?!
As if Ed hadn’t already been yelling in my ear that my recovery was falling to pieces and I might as well give up and give in, now he was ecstatic.
Allie: “I hate you. I will focus on my food and just breathe.”
The cake talk doesn’t stop. What kind of cake? Double, or triple, or some other ridiculous multiple of chocolate! How much is there? Just on piece. You should have brought home more so we could all have some! Yes, you should have brought home more, so I could have it all. What other food was there at the BBQ? Why, there was this! And that! And every other thing! Have you ever realized how much we talk about food? Even when we’re EATING food, we can’t stop talking about it. Several times I almost had the courage to politely ask if we could change the subject, but who gets their knickers in a twist over a piece of cake? I’ll just wait it out…
To any other individual it would have seemed like a perfectly normal conversation. To me, it was torture. If Ed had a body other than mine, he would be jumping in circles all around me, making faces, taunting jeers, poking and pushing every weak spot he could find.
Time was not flowing for me today. In reality, the cake talk probably only lasted 5 minutes. It felt like forever. Eventually the conversation shifted to something else, but I honestly couldn’t tell you what. I thought about that cake for the entire rest of the meal.
Nor did I binge. I didn't even eat everything on my plate. I listened to my body cues and stopped when I was full. I even had an evening snack, just like my meal plan said, and that was that.
But it’s a good thing my birthday doesn’t roll around for another seven months. It’s going to take me a while to get used to cake…