Swallowing needs

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.


10 thoughts on “Swallowing needs

  1. My husband and I were talking tonight about exactly this – that being a responsible functioning adult day in, day out, is goddamn hard. I think we all need “plunges into oblivion” on a regular basis – the hard part is finding non self-destructive plunges. My ultimate is having an entire 24 hours to myself when my husband occasionally takes the kids to see his parents. Funnily enough, I don’t feel like drinking on those weekends, even though I could go hard. I pretty much lie in bed and read for the entire time, maybe watch a dvd (in bed) and every five minutes or so I notice the silence and smile because nobody needs anything from me. Nothing!! When they arrive home, I’m ready and looking forward to it because I’m all filled up again. It’s the daily grind, the weekdays, that’s hard. Even if I get some ‘free’ time, as you say, there’s always a time limit and I feel rushed. Anyway, would love to hear what others do to get that “plunge into oblivion” during ordinary weekdays.

  2. is it weird for me to say that you sound lonely?
    i only say it because i am in the same position, altho i don’t have the kids and the husband mixed in…but the long hours alone, the need for something comforting.
    I don’t usually go for that on the nights I go out with a friend, go to a meeting, take a yoga class, lead one of my grief groups, and walk among the living (HAH!)….i get filled up by other people. The isolation keeps my hand in the bag of crisps (now i am adopting your word, but i like it better than chips!)
    I’m thinking out loud, but maybe call a friend and go to a movie, take a walk…connect IRL, you know?

    that’s what seems to work for me.
    it’s hard being grown-up…we’re all doing a fine job

  3. You don’t sound lonely to me. You sound just like me – or, I guess, i sound like you. Whichever it is, “the abrogation of responsibility” sounds exactly right. Thanks for this post. Perfect.

  4. Right, so you’ve just summed up my life in a blogging nutshell πŸ˜„.
    Since giving up drinking Ive read so many bloggers bang on and on about meditation. Turns out they may actually be onto something (fancy that!). I am in my third week of a daily 15 minute (yes, 15 minutes only) morning ritual of simply breathing in and out deeply and focusing on my breath. After a couple of days I felt that cocooned feeling that I have been missing also and to top it off I feel peaceful, happier and more mindful without actually trying to be mindful – even when it comes to food 😊 The proof for me is the ice cream still sitting in the freezer only 2/3 eaten (c’mon, I’m not perfect!). Ice cream lasts me a day if I am lucky so over a week is a miracle!
    Food for thought, maybe 😊
    ^^ I am seriously quite chuffed with that pun, lol

  5. I think there are a lot of ties between food and drinking. For me, food was a control mechanism that let me feel better when I felt like I was spiralling. Of course, starving myself and eating by elaborate and restrictive rules didn’t help either.

    I don’t see anything wrong with having a planned treat at the end of a day. Or snacking instead of regular meals. But if it makes you feel guilty or regretful, or you are hiding it, then it is worth finding so,done to talk it through with.


  6. We’ve all done well to give up booze and like Anne I feel that as long as we aren’t feeling guilty or tto hide it what is the problem?? I’m not overweight and if I what to eat ice cream I bloody well will and yes it does feel like am abrogation of responsibility but we’ve taken responsibility for being AF so what harm can it do? Absolutely no need to feel any guilt in my opinion. BTW I took up yoga and meditation but can easily still carve out time for ice creamπŸ˜„

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