I’m eating like I drank. Not in dramatic binges, followed by remorse and purging, but compulsively nonetheless.
I’m a snacker. I mean, everybody is a snacker, but when I’m in this particular place, I skimp on meals and find excuses to be alone, so that I can snack instead of sharing dinner with a loved one. Alone with a book, or – unfortunately, more likely – a screen, hand dipping into the bag of crisps over and over and over again. It sets up a rhythm that is soothing, like the old ritual of glass to lips, sip, set it down, repeat.
Some mornings I wake up and contemplate the day ahead of me. Negotiate with Little Girl over what she’s willing to wear, nag Big Girl about putting on her socks. Her socks. Put. On. Your…you’ve got distracted again, look at your feet, you only have one sock on, I don’t CARE if you want to read Brambly Hedge to the cat, GO AND GET YOUR SOCK ON NOW, what do they want for breakfast, Christ I forgot to pack lunches the night before did I put the uniforms in the dryer or are they damp on the line, will I get them to school on time, what do I have to do today, do I have too many deadlines or not enough (will I be able to pay the mortgage this month)… And then I think to myself, do I have something treaty to eat tonight? Once the kids are in bed, what can I settle down with?
I realise that’s not normal. Lying in bed at 7 am planning what to eat that evening. It’s not about the food, of course. It’s a reward, something to look forward to.
But I don’t think it’s even just about a reward. It really is the soothing repetition of the whole snacking ritual. The way that, with the right combination of sensory input, the world disappears and I’m cocooned.
And there it is, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the desire for a cocoon again. The same thing that drove me into the bottle. Inside those curved glass walls, sounds grow mute and colours blur, the world is not so much with us. Without the alcohol, and I’ve written about this before, the colours grow sharp and the joys more intense. And I’m grateful for that.
But sometimes I need the solitude and the cocoon. It’s a peculiar type of solitude, though; I work alone, from home, and on days when I am fortunate enough to have childcare I don’t see, or talk, to anyone at all between school hours. And yet I crave more than that.
I crave, I think, switching off. One of the things that I don’t get, no matter how lonely my days, is the abrogation of responsibility – because I may be alone, but I’m still watching the hours tick down to school pick up, hustling for work, tallying earnings and word counts in my head like the world’s most stressful metronome.
That was something that wine gave me – that abrogation. Eventually I would be too drunk to be a responsible parent or a functioning human being, and nobody could rely on me for a while, and that is what I wanted. It was selfish. It was especially selfish because I did – I do – have small children. But we all need to go off duty sometimes.
That’s what I seek, when I curl up with a book and a tub of ice cream. The sort of solitude that lets me immerse myself in it, as if – like a child playing hide-and-seek by putting her hands over her eyes – if I forget where I am, everybody else will as well.
So. After all that, a diagnosis. I am suffering from acute Adultitis. I prescribe clean sheets, a fluffy novel and an enormous pot of peppermint tea.