I’ve been working a perfect, squeaky clean, solid recovery program since October, but today was challenging.

I thought by this point food cravings wouldn’t have as strong of a hold on me. I thought my sabetour was quietly hibernating. After all, I made it through months of holidays successfully, happily navigating gatherings filled with food and drinks that I don’t eat anymore by focusing on social connection. I’ve been eating delicious, satisfying food within my bright lines and haven’t felt deprived at all.

But today a situation that I’ve navigated fairly easily in the past was really difficult. My reaction to it was totally unexpected.

My spouse and I take turns choosing Saturday dates to go on, and this week was my turn. He’s got a lot of work to do this weekend and was feeling stressed, so I picked a sort of “working retreat” where we went to a really fun establishment that we’ve both been hearing about and spent the afternoon hanging out there with tea and our respective projects. Then, to be polite to the establishment since we’d been there for hours, he ordered some food for himself – you guessed it – my (old) favorite. My ultimate binge food – the kind that I could not stop putting into my mouth the moment I started until it was all gone, no matter how sick I felt. My greatest nemesis.

He’d ordered things like this before and on other occasions I have assured him that it doesn’t bother me when he orders and eats things I used to like (because so far it hasn’t bothered me). But today, my mind was full of mental chatter. I worried about it coming to the table. When it got there, I fiercely distracted myself with what I was doing, I didn’t let myself look at it, I repeated the mantra in my head “that’s poison to me… don’t eat no matter what … no matter what don’t eat…”, it was torturing me! Sabby was full on AWAKE!

My spouse was totally unaware of my torture, and of course to add some insult to my injury (not on purpose of course) he DIDN’T EVEN EAT IT because he was too full, so it sat there for 30 minutes, waiting to be thrown away, staring at me and wondering if I was going to cave. I wanted to. But I didn’t. ARRGHH.

The rest of the afternoon I found myself irritable, and short with my honey, even though he didn’t do anything wrong. I was grumpy, and drained. I couldn’t believe how much being around this food had affected my mood. This made me even more grumpy.

I got home and became aware of the state that I was in and realized I needed comfort. It hit me that the food has been calling to me so strongly because I just needed some TLC. Work has been stressful in the past couple of days and it’s been taking a toll on me. It’s amazing how just recognizing this put my sabetour to rest. Her stories about how “I deserved a bite” and “what if I just had one” and all of that nonsense suddenly lost their power. I knew what I had to do for the remainder of the afternoon:

  • Tea (Bengal Spice, two teabags. The most comforting, delicious tea in my repertoire)
  • Knitting
  • Pajamas
  • Cozy blanket
  • Couch
  • Feel-good book or movie (often involves something light, superficial, and easy to watch, usually involving Sandra Bullock or Hugh Grant)
  • Candle

This is my recipe for self-soothing, and let me tell you, a couple hours of this will cure anything that’s wrong with me emotionally, and it is a powerful way to STOP ME FROM TURNING TO THE FOOD.

Having a self-care ritual like this serves the same purpose as all of that poison I used to eat when I felt like this, but without the shame afterwards, without feeling physically sick, without breaking my promises to myself that were made for my highest good, without having to admit what happened to my recovery community, without gaining weight, without losing control of what I’m putting in my mouth, without losing my peace of mind… the list goes on. I am so grateful that it’s Saturday and I am able to take out the time and space this evening to do this.

Whew. Crisis averted.

What activities comfort you when you’re stressed, sad, or just plain grumpy?