I’ve always thought I’d make a pretty good drug addict. I think that fear is the reason I’ve never done drugs. I remember Roger Ebert asking an alcoholic how much he drank. He didn’t understand the question.
“All of it,” he said.
This past weekend I gave into my junk food craving and whipped up a box of blueberry muffins. I ate half a dozen, feeling sick after the first two. Before I went to bed I threw the other six in the garbage. That is my thought process. There is all, and there is nothing. I’ve been a vegan for almost two months, but I’m still a recovering junk food addict.
I used to buy a pack of Oreos, get sick on one row of them, then go into a panic imagining having them in my house in the morning. It’s gonna mess up my whole day. I’ve gotta eat healthy tomorrow. So I’d finish the package, not even enjoying them. That mindset doesn’t just go away. It’s a fucked up way of thinking.
I once contemplated becoming a junkie to lose weight. I was half-joking, but seriously, have you ever seen a heroine addict or meth-head who isn’t rail-thin? I figured it would be like trading one addiction for another. But every time that thought would cross my mind, I’d feel embarrassed. Just stop eating, you fat fuck, I’d say. It’s not like stuffing your face with Oreos is some chemical dependency.
But the mindset was there. Like the alcoholic, the junkie, any addict really, I didn’t understand the question.
How much? All of it.
Then comes the shame and the self-hatred. Then the promises of a better tomorrow, blood still pumping with sugar and grease and other poison. Then the next day another breakdown and another score in the dark night, this time at a different fast food joint in case the same girl was working the drive-thru and she gave you that sad look you hoped you’d never see. The cycle repeats.
People love watching addiction. Rehab, interventions, withdrawals, and angry tirades are the hallmarks of half the shows on television. I used to think it was sad, or at least predatory, to turn these dark moments into must-see TV. As I get older and deal with my own demons, I understand the appeal. Everyone has demons. It may be shopping or booze or sex or pornography or even just food. Watching others struggle is therapeutic, hopeful even.
I remember the first time I heard Tom Waits in college. He sang songs that scared the shit out of you, songs about people ravaged by life and love lost with hard lines on their face and hope in their hearts. I’ve always thought those people were more interesting, but I never knew why.
Now I know. They’re just like me. They’re all of us. We all have bad days.
“This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some little bad days, and I kept them in a little box. And one day, I threw them out into the yard. “Oh, it’s just a couple little innocent bad days.” Well, we had a big rain. I don’t know what it was growing in but I think we used to put eggshells out there and coffee grounds, too. Don’t plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me. Choke those little bad days. Choke ’em down to nothin’. They’re your days. Choke ’em!”
― Tom Waits
I was doing just fine with no sugar at all. Then, like an addict thinking just one little hit won’t hurt, I took a bite. Three days later I’m still scouring the fridge for anything sugar related. All it takes is a few sugary snacks, and it’s all downhill. More, more, more.
I’ve got to start treating some foods like the addiction they are for me. I’ve got to choke away these bad days and start fresh each morning.
Everybody’s got a secret sonny
Yeah, something that they just can’t face
Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it
They carry it with them every step that they take
–Bruce Springsteen, “Darkness in the Edge of Town”
Hello, my name is Jeff and I’m a junk food addict. That sounds stupid even as I write it, but there’s got to be something wrong with anyone who’s made a habit of binge-eating cheeseburgers in a fast food parking lot with tears in their eyes, then stopping at a store afterwards to pick up a half-dozen donuts.
I’ve come a long way since then, but keeping muffins in my house? I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.
Good thing I ate them all, at least. Tomorrow I gotta eat healthy.