This morning I plodded the trek of the shameful and the guilty. As I made the journey from our bedroom to the bathroom, which seemed to drag on forever, trying to find my way through the cavernous expanses of hallway, my head was spinning and nausea threatened to overwhelm me. When I finally made it into the tiled room, it was to with disgust, look at the disheveled woman peering at me from the cabinet mirror.

Who are you and what are you doing in my bathroom?’

Bloodshot eyes glared at me from underneath a mob of tangled hair. Her skin was a pasty pallor with a cold, clammy feel to my fingertips when I reached out to touch her cheek. With shock I retracted my hand from my own cheek.

‘Holy mackerel, what did you do to yourself?’

Echo’s of last night’s overindulgence thunder through my skull and filled me with guilt and self-loathing.

‘How can you do this to yourself? Don’t you have any self-control? Can’t you say no? Shame on you, shame on you I say!’

Angrily I splashed cold water onto my face and stomped off to the kitchen in search for a remedy for my predicament. I hate it when I do this, when I cannot say no to myself or control a craving or burning desire.

Last night it was bread. Not just any bread – the temptation came in the guise of tiny slices of lightly buttered soft rye bread rubbing shoulders with hearty chunks of fluffy white seeded bread on an ornate glass plate. But that is not where my undoing originated. This was the culmination of a three day binge which started with an innocent gift on Sunday. Okay, truth to be told, the gift, a large bar of Top Deck chocolate, was also just a means to an end and not the inception of this hideous downward spiral.

By the time the chocolate found its way into our home and into my hand, I have been emotionally hurting for days already. I have done all the responsible things and adult ways of dealing with emotional discomfort and pain, but the cloud of sadness would not lift. I became desperate, in search for that one thing that would bring a modicum of comfort and relief, even if it was to be only for a moment.  As I spend hours listening to the music of Jakob Dylan, the simple but powerful lyrics tugging at the crow’s nest of my tangled emotions, repressed feelings were granted permission to surface where they could, face to face, be dealt with. But the harsh edges of reality sometimes need to be smoothed over so as to make the admission and acceptance thereof, go down easier and the large chocolate bar sitting on the vanity table, practically begging me to be put to good use, was found to be an exceptional ‘edge smoother’. Well, at least for an hour or so. As soon as the sugar rush wore off, uncomfortable feelings started tucking at the frayed edges of my subconscious again. Luckily, self medication comes in many socially accepted ways.


The next day I managed to talk my partner into an afternoon at the movies and we entered the dusky theater with me lugging a bag of snacks behind me. What more can a bruised heart ask for than a good movie and an armful of comfort food?

Last week I had a temporary lapse in my kitchen knife skills which left me with a bloody cutting board and a gash in the thumb and all of a sudden, that thumb became the lead singer in a one man band. From there on it did not matter what I wanted to do but that thumb was the only finger available, able or willing for the job. Every time I used it though, the cut would open up and start bleeding again. Seated in the dark movie theater, larger than life images flooding the screen, I suddenly felt the lapse in multiple skills as I now was the lead singer in my own one man band. Is medication of any kind meant to do this to the user? Instead of collaborating with the snacks in soothing my raw and frazzled emotions, the plight of the movie characters became personal and as I cried my way through the film I was not sure whether I was crying for myself or for them.  It did not matter to what side the plot twisted or turned, I was left feeling vulnerable and exposed. As the credits rolled over the screen, I sneaked out of the movie house with my eyes puffy and my face blotched from crying, the empty food wrappers left behind like an after birth.

A good cry does have cathartic value and although I felt emotionally drained, I also felt lighter and my emotions cleaner and unclouded for the first time in days. I was crystal clear on what I was feeling as well as why, as clarity needled its way into my consciousness.  Oh, the exquisite agony of realization, the beauty of dying illusions and lies, when truth stripped naked offers itself unconditionally to you. In the face of such magnificence, who wants to deny? Gladly one agrees to be engulfed in the fiery furnace of illumination that leads to the conception of new ideas and thoughts which in turn, becomes new life. So, all is well that ends well – or maybe not.

Elated with my new insights and understanding, I spent Wednesday with my partner, celebrating his birthday and life in general. But on the periphery of my subconscious a pesky bird of prey perched, waiting for its time to strike. As the day progressed, its squawking became more incessant, demanding to be fed. Late afternoon I went to the store to buy bread to serve with soup, as friends were to visit us for dinner.  As we have eliminated wheat products from our diet because of its harmful effect on our health, bread consequently does not usually find its way into our kitchen.  The last dice that would lead to my downfall was rolled. At dinner, all I could and wanted to see was the plate with the bread. At first I was holding my ground against the gentle tug from an old friend from my previous life, but as the evening continued the tug became a yank, a jerk, a drag and then a clutch. I was back in the arms of my favorite consoler and with unbridled passion I gave myself over to the pleasure and delight of old sentiments as slice after slice of delicate white bread made its way into my mouth. Even the recollection of what the toll of this gluttony could be, did not stop me. I single handedly ate through a whole loaf of bread.

Sparing you the detail of what came after that, it suffices to say that my consoler turned out to be a soothsayer, a teller of my near future and things did not look good for me. My greedy consumption of wheat and gluten came back at me with a vengeance, leaving me weak in its wake. It also left me rock bottom, which is a good place to make a fresh start from.

As the loud whirring sound of the juicer vibrated through my skull (a desperate effort in salvaging a bit of my health through anti-inflammatory shakes) it jiggled my brain slowly back into activity and a new feeling made its way into my chest. Empathy and her cousin compassion came to set up camp with me.

I recalled a conversation I had with a friend only a couple of weeks before, where I tried to make sense of his excessive alcohol intake at times. At first my friend became defensive when I broached the subject, but when I explained that I did not judge the actions but only was looking for insight and understanding as to the reason and motivation for the behavior, he volunteered his reason for the occasional overindulgence, with which I then could sympathize. At the time I could however, not quite understand the specific choice of self-medication in face of the effect that it had on the lives of the people close to my friend. After my three day binge, everything unexpectedly fell into place for me.

It is not about the substance of choice, but the choice of a substance, whatever that may be. The medium is but a means to an end and the end is universal…to be free from the pain of being human.

As I poured the green liquid into a glass, I whispered an apology to myself for being hard on myself and to all those that I might have and had judged in the past for surrendering to the promise of a pain free moment. I also uttered a word of mindfulness – may we treat ourselves and others with gentleness, kindness and compassion in our mutual affliction.

©Copyright Micelle Coetsee 2016












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