Chapter 29: Disease of Never Enough
Mom’s death triggered a series of never-ending binges in a vain attempt to fill the empty hole inside. No matter how much I consumed, it wasn’t enough to numb the pain. I had an illusion that if I ate just a little more, I would find relief. My preferences were for sugar and comfort foods because they reminded me of Mom and my childhood, a time when I had two living parents. For the first time, I felt remorse that I had wasted half my teenage years angry and rebellious, wishing that God had given me different parents. Neither the burnt corner piece of the macaroni and cheese casserole, nor the thick crusty heel of the fresh rye bread with seeds, provided the consolation I was craving. Both were Mom’s favorites, too.
I never felt I had enough of anything: food, attention, love. The irony was that I was getting enough food; that was clear. I was getting enough attention; people had been very solicitous of me when Mom died. I was getting enough love. Jonathan and Adam were affectionate and cuddly and they seemed genuinely happy to see me whenever I walked through the door. That made me wonder if I had a rupture somewhere because even when I received enough, it never felt like enough. I honestly thought I was draining out of the bottom. I would pour food in my mouth, yet my stomach felt empty. I had friends who cared about me, yet I felt lonely and unloved. I knew there was a deficit in my marriage, but that was old news. I had already reconciled years before that our marriage would have its limitations and I didn’t expect Steve to all of a sudden gush with love just because I lost my parents.
I was like a hamster on a treadmill—chasing more, more, more, forever chasing my own tail. I was sure that eventually I would find the right rainbow cookie to fill the pit. Or enough vanilla ice cream custard to cure the itch. Nonetheless, after a while, as with drug addicts, the usual fix was no longer sufficient. To get the same high, I needed to double my dose. The void would scream at me again, “Fill me! More! More! If I don’t have more, I’ll die.” After a few minutes, I would counteract with a bigger, fatter dose to extinguish the fire in my belly. What I did by mistake, was stoke the flame, rather than extinguish the sparks.
The binge often began with a pound of rainbow cookies from Saw Mill Bakery. I’d ask for a bag rather than the white cardboard box because the cookies were part of my covert operation. I headed half a mile down the road to Vinny’s Pizza, an overt and legitimate operation because pizza constituted dinner. On the two miles to home, I consumed half the cookies by dipping my right hand into the bag as I navigated the tricky twists and turns of Snakehill Road with my left. Before I reached home, I made sure to hide the white smushed-up bag with chocolate stains in my pocketbook for later.
At dinner, I ate my two legitimate slices of pizza. As I cleaned the kitchen, I felt entitled to whatever sticky pieces of crust my young boys had left on their plastic Ninja Turtle plates. After the plates were washed and the table and high chair sponged off, everyone left the kitchen except for me. I claimed some last minute cleanup, which turned out to be a grand slam cleanup of all the snacks and leftovers. Surreptitiously, I slinked into my large pocketbook and retrieved the rest of the tri-color cookies. Afraid that I might be found out, I popped three of the four cookies in my mouth in rapid succession, tasting almost nothing. I couldn’t discern between the green, red, and yellow layer. I resolved that on the fourth and final pastry, I would take it apart, layer by layer and eat each color separately, saving the hard chocolate top for last.
Angry with myself that I crammed the first few cookies without luxuriating in them, I resolved to find something else that I could indulge in and savor. As I considered my options, I glimpsed the potato chips in the closet, and surmised I would have one or two in the interim while I decided which food would constitute my grand finale. Standing in the closet, one half-door open, the other one still shut, I pulled the Big Clip off the chip bag, determined to have just one. I folded the bag, and gingerly returned the clip to its rightful position. I shut the cabinet door.
Giving the chips a second thought, it occurred to me that my jaw might need some extra crunching. I returned to the chips, standing in the once again half-opened cupboard, bag in hand, with crumbs all over my face and shirt. I wasn’t a big salt fan but I justified my choice with the adage, “Betcha can’t eat just one.” That was true; I had one and now I was on track to finish the whole bag. I felt disgusted and before the bag was empty, threw it away and walked out of the kitchen into the adjacent dining room. I was mad at myself, because I had obliterated the sugary taste of cookies in my mouth and was headed down a salty trajectory that didn’t even interest me.
Since the sweet sensation had already been trounced, I thought better of the move and returned to the garbage to retrieve the last few chips, realizing that it almost didn’t pay to throw them out with so few left in the bag. I demolished those, wetting my fingertips so I could consume every last morsel in the bottom of the bag. And still my mouth (aka my soul), wanted more. Back in the closet, there wasn’t much of interest. I had already demolished the cookies, the pizza, and now the chips. Foraging through an almost-empty closet, I nabbed raisins, dried fruits, old peanuts, stale crackers. It didn’t matter as long as it was more of something.
All that transpired in less than 30 minutes, sometimes just 15.