Yesterday I pulled a jar of peanut butter out of the cabinet and began to eat it. As a kid, I did this many days after I got home from school. I opened the cabinet or the refrigerator door like I was turning on the television: OK, what’s going to entertain me today?
I was a binge eating kid. A lonely kid. A kid who struggled with weight and still does. But one of the reliefs of my late 30s, and sobriety, was that I rarely found myself in such a reckless shame spiral. In the grips of a nasty hangover, I could eat my weight in macaroni and cheese. Not hungover, I prefer sunshine and seltzer.
But yesterday was a big old backslide. I can’t really explain it, except to say that I was stuck on a piece of writing, and I felt terrible about it, and it was 6pm, the magic hour at which I so often cracked the seal on a bottle of wine, and a thought came into my head: Isn’t there some JIF in that cabinet?
I called Mary to tell her about it today (note: I did not call her then, when it was happening). Mary understands a binge. “Did you use your finger to eat the peanut butter?” she asks.
“I started that way, but I switched to a spoon. I needed leverage.” And then the peanut butter was a little one-note, so I added honey.
“Did you add oatmeal? That’s the binge eating trifecta.”
I had no idea. I usually add toast. Peanut butter and honey on toast is one of my favorite things in the world, but at this particular moment I could not be bothered to mess with bread. I needed the stuff directly in my veins.
At 11pm, I lay in bed with stomach cramps. What had I done? I have spent a lot of hours hating myself for being this way, or that. I don’t know why I’m like this. It is a peculiar compulsion to eat past all reason, a funny self-punishment — joy turned into pain.
“The good news is, I finished,” I told Mary.
“The peanut butter?”
No, silly. The story. I woke up this morning and pushed through my mental block. The peanut butter is back in the cabinet. I’ll pass for today.