God is not found in the bottom of a potato chip bag, yet we continue to search every greasy morsel until we come out empty handed. There is a spiritual epidemic going around, and the first place to see it reflected is in the mirror. The question today is: how do you feed yourself?
For years, a hoagie bun filled with turkey, shredded lettuce, and diced tomato, accompanied by a single serving bag of chips and a Coca-Cola was my go-to staple when hunger overtook work in the middle of the day. One would think that meals were an established necessity, and still I did not plan ahead or prepare. In fact, after shopping, I generally stowed everything in the freezer so it would not rot; crystallized bread peered out from every shelf. The cupboards were stocked with cans that patiently watched, like children waiting to be picked for the team as the cupboard slammed shut and the scavenger hunt began for food outside the home.
One could ask, how is it that a chef could be so ill prepared in the area of meal planning? Was it laziness or lack of self-care? Perhaps it was habit. For years this chef ran a kitchen where the staff was expected to prepare meals while a different pattern was instilled at home. This would be a plausible answer; however, should an audience appear at the table, the knives would come out to perform magic and acrobatics, joyfully preparing masterful creations.
Many times in this cook's journey, spirit has put a question mark on my relationship to food. First and foremost was tripping over grace to discover an innate gift for blending ingredients like an artist mixes paints on his palette. Later, several years into this discovery, my pot scorched dry and I was placed in a food disorder unit at the hospital (see Pearls of Wisdom: 30 Inspirational Ideas to Live your Best Life!). During my recovery, my service work included leading an Overeaters Anonymous group for two years. Still, it never dawned on me that perhaps I, too, had soured my relationship to food and self.
This curdled milk floating on top of the fragrant coffee was all too apparent to everyone but me. This is the truth about our addictions; everyone around us can see what blinds us. Recently I had a client giggling as she shared her story about digging into the trash after a bag of chips that she swore off the night before. To me, this was no different than my own addictions, which appeared as a tiger in a cage 25 years ago that needed cocaine so desperately that it stalked the city slums. Or the same look that a gambler has in his eyes, check in hand, heading towards the casino ready to flush down the drain any sense of dignity and self-worth. Although laughter came from her lips, the shame drooled down from her eyes.
When asked how this was funny, she went blank. After we spoke a while longer and I read to her pages from "The Dr.’s Story" in the Big Book of Alcoholic’s Anonymous, (in the preamble it states that the tools have usefulness for us all) she crumbled. At last there was a glimmer of hope when she “got it” and felt that she was powerless over controlling her behavior. From this place of absolute surrender and desperation, the healing can begin. Dear God, please help me to see the truth and grant me freedom from reaching for the crumbs.
Today I cook for myself. I shop, and I even have fresh food ready to prepare. While controlling food was not my drug of choice it is a critical element of self-care. From the vantage point of my cutting board, I can see how good my current spiritual condition is at any given moment. Days when the genie is granting me all my wishes, the house smells of great flavors, and healthy meals are prepared with love. Other days when a dark mood rings the doorbell, water and frostbitten bread were shared; a meager feast for this chef’s guest.
Becoming aware of how I eat and how the food choices I make correspond to my moods has allowed me to make better choices when I look at a menu. It has been six months since I have indulged in chips. However, the movie theater has been off limits, because, like an addict recovering from alcohol, it was necessary to change the people, places, and things for a while. I cannot bear previews without a coke and popcorn. Soon I will be ready for this test, or maybe allow myself a treat. God willing.
If you or someone you know struggles with addiction or recovery, they should consider The Practical Shaman’s 12 weeks to self mastery coaching program or her three day intensive this summer. Personal Retreat.