The Belly of the Beast

After a full week of making more healthful food choices and avoiding nearly all processed foods, I feel fantastic! My energy level is up. My eyes are sparkling. A song perches on my lips the moment my feet hit the floor! I am practically Cinderella.

Yeah. Right. What a load of crap.

“And the noise was in the beast’s belly like unto the questing of thirty couple hounds” (Book 1, chapter XIX) -Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, circa 1469

“Thirty couple hounds” is, I think, what my mother used to refer to as “forty, ‘leventy dozen.” Ever how many it is, though,  it is still the number of dogs that sound like they’re in my belly looking for something to eat. Maybe not dogs, but something else that’s growling and looking for snackage, for sure. Like Jabba the Hutt’s sarlacc (from its holiday portrait above), my stomach feels like an open pit ringed by teeth and tusks, ready to consume all ice cream, cup cakes, or Kaminoan bounty hunters that happen to come my way. I have been eating whole, plant-based foods all week and am jonesing for an Oreo Blizzard so hard that I’ve even dreamed about it. Seriously, I’m ready to make my way to the Crossroads to make a deal with Ole Scratch. I woke up from the dream feeling guilty even though I hadn’t actually done anything. It reminded me of when I quit smoking seven or eight years ago. I had the same kinds of dreams and the same kinds of guilt.

I was a moderate to heavy smoker for the better part of 20 years. I liked the ritual of tapping a new pack five times on each side before opening it. I liked the smell of the pack when I first opened it, particularly if the cigarettes were really fresh. The tobacco smelled wonderful! Then I’d put that first one between my lips and light it. The sulfer dioxide smell of the match entered my nostrils just as the sound of the sizzling tobacco burning reached my ears. Then I’d inhale and the nicotine would hit the pleasure centers of my brain, lighting them up. Fantastic. Just fantastic.

I know people who are social smokers. They can smoke a whole pack while out drinking with friends, then not pick up another cigarette for months. That’s not me. I’m a nicotine addict. I love the feeling of when that nicotine hits my brain producing the buzz and calming my nerves. (See? At least seven years after my last smoke and I can still remember the exact feeling.) Because I enjoy that feeling so much, I never experimented with hard drugs like heroin, cocaine or ecstasy. I was always afraid that I would like them too much. For the same reason, I steer clear of opioid pain killers. (Even with as bad as my foot and ankle have hurt these months, I’ve stuck to various NSAIDs.) What I have not steered clear of is ice cream. Or cake. Or chocolate. Or pastries. Yet, the sugar in those items hits the pleasure centers of my brain exactly like those other drugs would. And the lack of sugar causes withdrawal issues exactly like the lack of those other drugs would.

I have no doubt that heroin withdrawal is FAR worse than anything I’m going through right now; but, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m still going through my own thing. I’m cranky. I’m hungry. I’m unfocused .But mostly I’m cranky. I want a hit of Phish Food. Badly.

But I’m not going to go get one.

I’m not because I have my eye on my Why – to become able again, rather than remaining disabled by my own hand.

While I may never reach the happy nirvana of our morning songstress Cinderella, I know that my days of feeling like a subterranean Tantooine carnivore are limited. Just as surely as better health and (hopefully) healing are coming, so, too, is relief from the cravings.

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