(Warning: this post contains graphic and specific descriptions of food binges that may be triggering)
It is Monday evening. I write this after a three-day binge that I’m calling my “Last Binge.” I do this for two reasons: (1) because it was literally my last binge and (2) because I would like this to be my last-ever binge.
The binge began Friday evening and ended Monday, in the early hours on the same day I’m writing this.
Here’s what happened.
A friend wanted me to meet her new boyfriend, so I’d arranged for them to come over for dinner at my place. Since I live and work alone, I was excited for the company and exchanged my usual sweats and bare-faced look for a cute outfit of skinny jeans, a striped long-sleeved asymmetrical top and fancy eye makeup, including a sassy “wing.”
My friends arrived and we ordered from the only local place that delivers, an expensive gourmet-pizza restaurant, which I’ll refer to as “Overpriced Pizza.” They ordered a pizza and I got a Chicken Caesar salad. After the food arrived, we sat around laughing and talking and, even though I was having a great time, I kept getting distracted by the pizza.
Because, you see, I had some history with Overpriced Pizza.
Just the weekend before, on a binge, I’d ordered and eaten an entire large meatball pizza from Overpriced Pizza. The pie had cost me $40 – an outrageous sum since I’m used to paying half that for a pizza.
But I have to say … it was the best fucking pizza I ever had. To this day, I have no idea how Overpriced Pizza can use the same ingredients of every other pizza in the world – dough, tomato sauce, cheese, toppings – but somehow mix it together in a way that results in every mouthful being an exercise in outrageous deliciousness but they did.
Hence, the price tag.
(On an aside … I’m not a gourmet eater, especially when it comes to binge-eating. I go for quantity, not quality, and like to go as low-brow as possible. Think Hostess and Little Debbie quality.)
But that damn Overpriced Pizza had opened my eyes to a whole new world of quality, so I suppose it was understandable that I felt resentful watching my friends eat slice after slice, mumbling between bites, “Wow, this is really good” and “This is amazing” as I sat there unhappily eating my lame-ass salad.
The obsession to binge kicked in about 8:00 pm, so by the time they were ready to leave at 8:30 pm, I was practically shoving them out the door. As soon I was sure they’d cleared the parking lot, I threw on a jacket and drove to the nearest grocery store (Overpriced Pizza was now closed), grabbed a cart, and filled it with my normal arsenal of binge food: breakfast cereal, ice cream, pudding, kettle corn. I drove home as quickly as I safely could and started shoveling food into my mouth before I’d even fully unpacked. I binged until all the food was gone and then lurched into the bedroom, hands on swollen stomach. I slid between the sheets, still in my clothes, without washing my face or brushing my teeth.
I woke up mid-morning, sweaty and nauseated. I had social plans on the calendar but knew I wasn’t going to make it. I texted my friend a lie, explaining my cancellation – “Not feeling great – I’m so sorry – better safe than sorry these days!!!” – and walked into the kitchen, looking for food among the empty containers and wrappers. It was all gone. Despite my nausea, I still wanted more food, not just to satiate my physical cravings but also to drown out the feelings of self-hatred, demoralization, and disgust.
I logged in to Postmates, found a local breakfast place, and ordered almost $70 worth of pancakes for delivery, which was scheduled to arrive in 60 minutes. An hour? I couldn’t wait that long.
I put on shoes – still wearing the same clothes from the night before – and drove to the same grocery store as last night and bought more food, most of which I finished before the doorbell rang with my delivery.
I unpacked the large brown bag left on my doorstep, feeling stuffed and sick, but I still managed to eat for another forty minutes before my stomach refused to accept any more. I was having trouble breathing and returned to bed, lying on my side and panting.
I woke up a few hours later and spent the rest of the beautiful day alternating between sleeping and bingeing … bingeing and sleeping. I passed out for the night around 7:00 pm, still wearing the outfit from Friday, which now felt sticky and stiff with sweat. My still unwashed face was smeared with makeup – the “wing” long gone – and felt greasy to the point of slimy. I smelled bad.
Immediately upon awakening mid-morning, I wanted to eat. I was astounded at the relentlessness of the craving; normally, it would have long passed, but drive to consume was just as demanding and incessant as when I started it two day prior. Again, I texted lies to a friend cancelling the day’s social plans – I would be doing nothing but eating today.
I finished the remaining binge food in the kitchen while ordering more pancakes for delivery. I drove to the grocery store, bought more binge food, and ate and slept for the rest of the day before passing out around 6:00 pm.
I woke up in the pitch black, unable to tell what time it was. My mouth was coated in slime and I turned on the light. 12:30 am. My skinny jeans felt as grimy as my face, which hadn’t been washed since Friday afternoon. My striped shirt clung to my body with two days’ worth of sweat and my stomach ached with sharp pains whenever I inhaled.
I walked out of the bedroom, into the kitchen and blanched at the scene in front of me. My condo looked like it had been invaded by a classroom of five-year-olds who’d thrown themselves a sugar party: empty half-gallon cartons lay in sticky pools of melted ice cream, blobs of syrup and smears of butter covered countertops, popcorn kernels littered the floor and every surface was covered in trash plastic packages, cellophane wrappers, crumpled aluminum foil and soiled napkins.
Although this was not the first time I’d woken up to a post-binge mess, for some reason, this scene hit me hard; I felt an acute sense of failure and disgust. There was no classroom of five-year-olds. I had done this. And if something didn’t change, I would do it again.
“You don’t deserve to live like this.”
The thought came out of nowhere and I would have cried had I not been so numb.
You’re right, I replied silently. I don’t deserve this.
I didn’t know what to do so I did what was in front of me: I began cleaning up. I stuffed trash into bags and wiped off counters. I swept debris from the floor and scraped petrified food from the microwave. I took off my Friday outfit and put on fresh pajamas. I brushed my teeth and washed my face. I straightened out my tangled sheets, crawled back into bed and set my alarm for 6:00 am so I had time to drink enough coffee to allow me to function for work that day.
I made it through my workday, grateful that I could work from home as I surely would have had to call in sick yet again if I was still required to go into the office.
I managed to eat some real food mid-day, but it was hard as I was still stuffed. I was also shocked at enormity of volume of food I’d eaten – and kept down. I’m not a purger so three days’ worth food – including seven servings of pancakes – sat in my gut, hard as a rock. I drank as much water as I could, but it hurt my stomach, distending it further still.
So why am I writing this? There’s a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous: If you don’t remember your last drunk, you’re bound to repeat it.
I don’t ever, ever want to repeat this horrible weekend, so I am writing it down. I am putting down in harsh black and white the reality of active food addiction. It’s gross. It’s brutal. It’s ugly. And it’s deadly.
I have thoughts on what set this terrible bender in motion and I’ll share that in a later blog. Writing this is part of the healing. I don’t want to die from this illness.
May my Last Binge be my last binge, ever.
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