Still, VOICE pre-production
During a TV history show today, Big History
on the History Channel, the narrator referred to the evidence that all addictions originate in salt addiction. I had never heard that before this morning, even though there are references to it all over the Web. I immediately began to madly process what I’d heard, something that I’ve been trying to understand for years. Not addiction itself – but “why addiction.”
I binged and purged from age 15 to age 33. I was just fine with it really until I met the man to whom I’ve now been married for 28 years. One day after running five miles and then downing 3 cartons of yogurt, 2 bananas and a peach, I was of course barely able to move while I waited for my brand of purge to process itself (let’s just say I still have beautiful teeth). I was fine with it really until I thought, “What if Mike came to the door right now? You couldn’t even get up to let him in.” I lay like that, fermenting in the same position, half lying on the floor, for two hours until I was completely cramped.
Within a few weeks I had researched bulimia “cures” and within a few months I had stopped purging (which for me drastically cut down on my binging, though only in body, not in mind). Three months later, I was going to individual therapy 2 to 3 times per week in order to be cleared for entering a group therapy program for bulimics at the University of Nebraska. Six months later, I had binged for the last time (ever).
What I have been trying to understand for years is why I was able to stop purging and binging on my own and maintain my abstinence while none of the other 5 women group could. One of my acting teachers worked as a psychiatric social worker when he didn’t have an acting gig. While he was coaching me on my show about bipolar disorder, I mentioned I had been treated for bulimia. When I told him I didn’t do “that” anymore, he told me that I wasn’t a true bulimic if I was able to quit by myself without following up with psychotropic therapy.
Yeah. Sure. He never witnessed me living in an apartment in Hoboken for years with no refrigerator nor food in the cupboards because if there was more than the meal I had brought home for dinner, I would eat it – ALL of it. And then I would call in sick the next day, run five miles, come home and take a shower, go hit tennis balls until I had a migraine, go home and take painkillers and then go back to hit tennis balls until I was totally crashed.
I had an eating disorder that I quit on my own just like I quit sucking my thumb when I was seven, quit biting my fingernails in junior high and quit smoking forever and ever two weeks after I met the nonsmoker I intended to marry.
I have definitely, like a lot of other functional people, had addictions. Like a lot of other functional people and also unlike a lot of other functional people, I quit my addictions. The process of quitting really sucked, especially quitting binging and purging, but when it was over, it was over.
So this morning watching the documentary that raised the theory of salt being at the heart of addiction and scenes depicting ancient man seeking and harvesting salt, three words zapped to the front of my brain: “The never enough.”
As I had lain immobile fermenting yogurt, bananas and a peach months earlier, during my last binge, which was a 20-minute Waterloo of a gorge on Juicy Fruit chewing gum (look it up
, binge endorphins result from a chemical process, regardless of the amount of food consumed during the binge), I sat immovably, precariously and extremely uncomfortably for 2-1/2 hours on the edge of the bathtub. Legs full of needles, aching back, migraine, teeth gnashing uncontrollably in rebellion against giving up my addiction – it was really awful. Really. And then it hit me: “No matter how much I binge, it is never going to be enough. Never. The need, the drive, the urge is inside my head and has no connection to anything else and never will. And it will never be anything other than the way it is because it can’t. I have to learn to live with it – the never enough. Walk away.”
Walk away. It was a relief, even though at the time I thought the hole in my life from giving up 18 years of binging and purging would always be raw and bloody. And I think it was, for quite a while, I think. But as long as I could feel that horrific bloody rawness, I would not replace my bulimia with another addiction. And now, in my 60’s after learning so much about myself and a lot of other people, I wonder whether the never enough is just another part of the human condition around which an adjustment is necessary for everyone, not just people who have difficulty dealing with it.