I have a history of finding sweetness in food when life gets hard. But I’ve learned that chocolate isn’t a solution. It certainly can’t solve the pain I feel as I lose my mother to Alzheimers. By staying present, instead of numbing out, I am finding light in the darkness.
A few years ago I received the news that my mother was in the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease and had less than three years to live. The disease started to take my mother when she was only fifty-five years old. Within a decade, it viciously stole her mind, memory, voice and identity.
I had known for a while that I would lose her too early. She wouldn’t see my children grow up. She wouldn’t be there to give me parenting advice. We wouldn’t go out for lunch and shopping at the mall. But the news from the doctor hit like bomb, shattering my heart and leaving me in a suspended state of shock for a while.
Just after I got the news, I started to crave sugar. I have a history of finding sweetness in food when life gets tough. At Whole Foods, a perfectly adequate lunch filled my stomach, but left my heart hungry. I found myself wandering aimlessly among the chocolate looking for something to soothe my soul.
But a gentle voice inside brought me back to reality, “Alison, you know that what you’re looking for won’t be found on these shelves.”
Suddenly, I came back to reality. Chocolate wasn’t what I needed. I needed to mourn.
So, I pulled myself away from the chocolate bars and went to my car without the chocolate. There, I cried. The feelings that had been frozen into cold, hard ice began to thaw and soon a river of pain was pouring out of me.
“Tears are a river that take you somewhere…Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it downriver to someplace better.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Dr. Estes is wise. The chocolate might have kept me in shock, suspended in air, far from the feelings that swirl in our bodies when there is emotional work to do. But the tears helped me to find my oars. In the sadness, I found new insight. My thoughts shifted from death to life as I realized that I still had some time with my mom. I have an opportunity to be the daughter I always wanted to be.
I wanted chocolate to solve this problem. But it couldn’t. Sometimes life is hard but if we stay present, we just might find a little something we need to help us through the darkest of moments.
Instead of emotional eating, I got on the phone and bought a plane ticket. Mom, I’m coming home to see you.
Want help making the shift into a healthier mindset and body? Join us at Center for Eating Recovery for an 8-Week Eating Psychotherapy Group, Heal the Hungry Brain, or for Repair Your Reflection, our monthly, body image workshop where you will update the lens through which your see your body and start to build body esteem.
Alison Ross is the founder of Center for Eating Recovery in Agoura Hills, California. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in eating and body image. Alison was inspired to start the Center after healing her relationship with food and her body. Her mission is to help others rise above the obsessive and self-hating diet mentality in our culture to find true health through empowerment, awareness, love and self-care. The Center offers treatment for eating and body image problems across the spectrum including food addiction, binge-eating, emotional overeating, yo-yo dieting, bulimia and anorexia.