“What’s that smell coming out of the vents?” I ask my business coach, Diane, as we sit on her office couch perusing logos.
“Can’t you smell that? It smells like cinnamon raisin bagels and it’s driving me crazy. I am so distracted right now.”
She bursts into roars of laughter.
This is what it’s like to be a food addict. Sometimes, there’s nowhere to run.
When you’re addicted to hard drugs and looking to get clean, I imagine most public places are pretty safe to visit without becoming triggered (Again, I would think. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong). When you’re looking to stop drinking and want to get away from alcohol, well, it’s a little trickier.
But food is a whole other level of challenge.
“Our whole fucking country smells like Panera!” I rant to Diane, who’s still lovingly letting out delighted peels of laughter at my plight. “I swear, I have to go off into the Wilderness designation of the National Forest to get any respite!”
We joke but it’s true.
Being a food addict poses so many challenges that are hardly ever talked about because eating indiscriminately is the norm in our culture. Being “normal” seems to mean having no dietary restrictions.
When I was trying to get clean, some of the most ordinary situations would get me into serious trouble.
Packing snack for my kids’ lunch, or a potluck at their school. Conferences (there are always plates of something in the mingling area). Friends’ work parties. Grocery shopping and even – at times – driving by a grocery store. After all, that’s where I used to get my fix.
When I started to get clean in earnest, I had to form whole new relationships with many of the familiar places in my town. It was like I was rewiring my brain to see everything differently. The grocery store was no longer a fun recreation with promising rewards, but a purely practical affair – though I must admit that practical can be satisfying.
And of course, over time, recovery offered up its own rewards, which I’ll list sometime in another post.
In those very early days, though, one of the greatest challenges was that I felt I was surrounded by people who did not understand. Even if I described my food addiction, for many, it seemed (based on their reaction) very difficult to empathize or understand what it might be like.
It was a huge relief when I began to make frequent, deliberate contact with other self-identified food addicts. In fact, it saves me every day.
The world experienced through the lens of a recovering food addict is a trippy place. John Douillard would say that not too long ago there was nothing available on earth that was sweeter than a carrot.
Today, sometimes, scents of freshly baked cinnamon raisin bagels randomly waft through the vent.
But we gotta keep on keepin’ on. There is a whole vista out there that, as we walk the path of recovery, gradually and magnificently comes into view. A vista that could have never been available when we were in our addiction. A vista more beautiful than anything we have ever tasted.
And we have each other.