When I went through treatment for my food addiction 25 years ago, I was told that during my abstinent years ahead I would have times when I experience “euphoric recall,” thinking about all those foods that I used to binge on and how yummy and soothing they were. These thoughts would likely trigger cravings and could lead me down a slippery slope. I was told that whenever I started to experience euphoric recall, I needed to immediately go into what they called “unmanageability recall.” I need to come up with an experience or situation I had while I was in my disease that caused me intense shame and self-loathing. This would be my unmanageability recall. They told me to decide at that time, during treatment, what that memory will be, so that I’ll have it ready when I need it. Well, I didn’t have to think long or hard to find the perfect one.
When I was 22 and newly married, long before recovery, my husband David and I only had one car. (I should say my “former” husband – our marriage never had a chance since there were 3 of us in it: David, myself and my disease.) I wasn’t working, so I would take him to work in the morning and pick him up after work. Most mornings, after dropping him off, I would stop at my favorite pizza place and take out a large pizza which I would devour once I got home. Of course I couldn’t put the empty pizza box in our trash can because David might see it and wonder who ate that entire pizza. Did I mention I was a closet food addict? In my disease, I was constantly eating, but my usual snack food wrappers were easier to hide or dispose of.
We lived in a townhouse complex and there was a big public trash bin only a few yards from our door, but to take the box outside would require me to walk outside. (Did I mention that laziness was a major character defect?) So I decided that I would hide the box now and take it outside tomorrow. (Did I mention I also have a problem with procrastination?) Now where am I going to hide a large pizza box? Our townhouse had a guest bedroom upstairs that we never went into. The bed had a dust ruffle, so even if you went into the room, you couldn’t see anything that was under the bed. I decided to put the box under there for that night. Of course the next day, after devouring another pizza, I had the same thought as yesterday: I’ll hide the new box and take them both outside tomorrow.
About 6 weeks later, I’m sitting downstairs watching TV and David is upstairs, when I hear him start screaming. I run upstairs and he’s in the guest bedroom, on his knees, pulling pizza boxes out from under the bed. What in the world he was doing in the guest bedroom, let alone on his knees looking under the bed, I’ll never know, but there he was flinging box after box out from under the bed and looking up at me like I was an alien from outer space. All told, there ended up being 35 pizza boxes under there. You might be able to imagine the intense shame I felt, especially seeing the look of horror and disgust in his eyes. What possible explanation could I give? I’d never heard of food addiction at that point in my life, so I couldn’t even throw that out to him.
Once I got into recovery, whenever I’d think of how good something might taste, all I have to do is remember my pizza box experience and all those old feelings of shame and disgust and self-loathing return and those “romancing food thoughts” disappear pretty quickly.
I’m very grateful for my 25+ years of abstinence and my 12-Step recovery. Abstinence is the most important thing in my life, without exception, because I know that if I don’t keep taking it seriously, I’m just another pizza box waiting to happen.