August 2, 2020

How to Use Self-Destructive Behavior as your Check Engine Light.

I hadn’t binged on food since my 30s.

But here I was, eating the last cracker from the sleeve while contemplating the gelato in the fridge. Earlier, I’d had a nice, hot bowl of buttered popcorn and half a box of cereal at some point before that. I asked the universe, what the heck is going on with me?

I don’t consider an extra cookie or too much on holidays a binge. That’s just plain old overeating.

A binge is when you can’t get enough and you don’t stop until you feel sick. It’s when the only thing you can do is crawl into bed and sleep it off like you would a few too many cocktails, because the purposeful mission of numbing one’s self with food puts you in a trance-like, exhausted physical state.

Maybe you can relate.

Lying in bed you ask yourself yet again, what is going on? At first, you cannot figure it out. Slowly, random feelings and thoughts creep into your psyche, alerting you to sit up and take notice.

You intellectualize the situation, assessing that this was just a rare occurrence and you’ll be fine when you wake up. It will be like a bad dream. And it won’t happen again. Until it does.

The emotions take hold, all the while you remain calm on the outside, smiling for the world.

A food binge? Really? Something I worked so hard to overcome so many years ago—and with great success? 

The question still looms because, at this stage in the game, we know better. We have the experience to bank on and lessons that have been learned. Binge eating was an emotional response to when something was wrong. Whether it was feelings that we didn’t want to acknowledge, anger that we refused to let loose, hurt that we chose to ignore, or worry that we wanted to be in control of, all were triggers for out of control eating, numbing, and continuous recovery from both.

So the cycle goes.

There are times in our lives when we may do things to excess—eat, exercise, drink, smoke, spend money, or any other habitual escape that serves to distract us from reality. I’ve participated in them all. The overeating can turn into bingeing, the exercise turns into a form of punishment and torture, and spending money turns into needless purchases and wasted income.

Sometimes we fall into this behavior for a brief time here and there and don’t think twice about it. We don’t see it as a problem or worry about the outcome. We don’t spiral into a vicious, self-destructive cycle; we simply go about our lives, doing no harm. And if we’re these people, we are the lucky ones.

But then there are we who harbor self-defeating, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive behaviors that consume us when one of them (or all at once) sets sail.

And then in the back of our minds, we ask: Why did I smoke those cigarettes? Why did I finish that bottle of wine? Why am I overspending? Why am I starving myself and pounding the treadmill so hard? 

It is then—when we begin asking ourselves these questions—that we recognize we have a problem. Or is it that we want to have a problem? Because if we identify with a certain group—the alcoholic, the smoker, the overeater, the splurge buyer— maybe we can find solace in their self-help communities.

So we join. We jump in. We look for the missing piece of the puzzle only to learn that the piece is not missing.

The only thing I can share is what I’ve learned over the years: my soul is my guiding light. Only I have the answers for me. Only I have the power to stop.

If I’m acting out, something is brewing deep beneath the surface that I’ve yet to figure out. My heart believes; my mind disagrees. It’s a signal that my supposed intellect is overriding my intuition and my soul is suffering. I am suffering.

My gut fuels my soul.

So why the binge? When I couldn’t get enough of those crackers, I knew something was wrong.

When I paused to process, my question of what is going on with me was answered.

I had been in a long-term relationship that was saying all the right things, but the actions were showing the truth. I wanted to believe, but my experience showed me why I couldn’t.

So I rebelled against my automatic patterns. I stopped stuffing down what I needed to release. I put down the food and picked up my emotions.

And when I did? Admittedly, it wasn’t graceful. I am disappointed in myself and embarrassed by the way I handled things. But in reality? I’m glad that I did move forward in a chaotic, angry, hurt, and passionate manner because in that moment of release, I validated that what I was attempting to deny by muffling myself with food was real: the relationship wasn’t meant for me.

Don’t ignore what so loudly screams at you. Self-destructive behavior is your check engine light. Pay attention. Listen. And respond. Peace awaits you.


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