Are you hungry?
What are you hungry for?
If you are like me, when you hear those questions you start going over a mental list of food options to decide which one will best satisfy your cravings. Italian food? Chinese? Steak? Mac and cheese? What sounds good?
However, I am beginning to realize how often I confuse physical hunger for something else entirely. There are some feelings of emptiness that are only masked by food, and never fulfilled.
I was at a restaurant a few days ago and noticed there was a long list of dishes on the menu under the category “Comfort Foods”. The mere fact that we have foods we eat to comfort us proves that we are expecting food to meet more of our needs that just physical hunger.
I weighed well over a hundred pounds when I entered kindergarten at the age of 5 years old. Obviously, there was some kind of emptiness I was trying to fill inside myself. Some might argue there must have been some kind of emptiness inside my mother that she was trying to fill by overfeeding her infant. (Either opinion works well as an illustration for this discussion, so don’t get sidetracked by finger-pointing.) My parents had attempted twice to adopt children before finally adopting me. In both of those cases, the birth mother changed her mind and took the child back, leaving my mother devastated. So when I came along, my parents were understandably afraid to get emotionally attached to me out of fear of being crushed again. My grandmother once told me that when I was six months old she had to insist that my mother start bonding with me. she told her, “If you knew that child was going to die in a few months, and you would only have him for a little while, you would cherish the time you had. So you just have to love him, even if he won’t be with you forever.”
I have no idea if or how this early experience affected my adult attitudes or my relationship with my parents. However, I can tell you a few things about myself that may or may not be related. When I was a child, I was terrified to be alone. If I woke up from a nap and found myself alone, I would scream in horror and go running through the house looking for someone. I couldn’t even deal with the THOUGHT of someone being left alone. If I was watching television and a character in the show was left alone, I had to stop watching. Even when the Scooby Gang would split up to look for clues , I would panic and cry.
Yeah, I was a mess.
But I outgrew that, thank goodness! By the time I was in High School, I was a loner who preferred to avoid crowds. In my 20’s I spent most of my time alone and loved going to see movies by myself.
Unfortunately, I am starting to understand that I never actually outgrew those feelings. I simply learned how to medicate them. I learned very early that food helped those feelings. As I got older I found other substances and behaviors that could medicate my feelings of loneliness, fear, anger, frustration, and longing. Eventually, I had so successfully masked those feelings that I didn’t even know they existed inside myself. But if I tried to remove any of those “medications” from my life, those feelings would rear their ugly heads, and I couldn’t wait to stuff them back down with anything that would make me feel better. These medications became my addictions and I found myself approaching my 40’s as a 485-pound alcoholic, pill-popping, sex-addict.
And yet, no matter how much I tried to feed my hunger, I wasn’t satisfied. I was like the example of the man in the scriptures:
…even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; (2 Nephi 27:3)
My soul had appetite, but I didn’t even know what I was craving. But whatever I was filling myself with, it wasn’t bringing me satisfaction. At some point I had to do as Enos did and turn to the Lord.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (Enos 1:4)
The hardest part of the recovery process is becoming honest. Honest with yourself and with others. Addicts will do anything to avoid looking inside themselves to discover those issues they have been trying to run away from for so long.
When I find myself being drawn toward addictive behaviors, I have to stop and ask myself what it is I am actually craving. It is amazing how difficult it is to admit when I am craving company, interaction, healthy touch, venting of anger, creative expression, sleep, stress relief, etc.
Most people think of addicts as selfish people who only care about their own short-term desires. The truth is that many of them became addicts from ignoring their own needs.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
Addiction recovery is a process of discovering what it is that you truly crave. What is your True Hunger?
So I ask for your honest input, no matter how difficult it maybe be. Comment and tell me your experiences.
When you seek comfort food, or drink, or addictive behavior, what is the comfort you seek? How do you find true satisfaction? And what is your journey like?