At my third treatment center in Newport Beach, CA, we, the residents, were taken to the grocery store once a week to stock up on groceries. There were four of us to each apartment, which meant that only four of us used the refrigerator in our kitchen. One day, I picked out and bought a particularly delicious looking 1/2 gallon container of chocolate chip ice cream. Once we all got back to the treatment center, I promptly placed it in the freezer and forgot about it.
The following morning, as I sat on the front porch journaling before our house group meeting, a counselor approached me with one of the residents. When I looked up from my notebook, and after the counselor apologized for the interruption, she indicated that the resident with her had something to say.
“I stole your ice cream.” A young woman named Petunia blurted.
I blinked at her and then at the counselor. I’d only had one cup of coffee and was hardly prepared for a confession of this magnitude.
“What?” I asked them both.
“Jennifer, Petunia here stole and ate the ice cream you bought at the store yesterday.”
I looked to Petunia and I could tell by the look on her face that what the counselor said was true.
“But I just bought it.” I said, thoughtlessly. “Really?” I sat back. “Why?” And then with disbelief, “You ate the WHOLE CONTAINER?!” I didn’t know what to think. This was totally new territory for me. No one had ever stolen my ice cream before, much less confessed to having eating all of it.
“I stole your ice cream and I’m sorry.” Petunia looked everywhere but at me.
She was there in treatment because she had an eating disorder – something I knew nothing about. She was bulimic. Petunia tossed a $10.00 bill on the table next to my pen. “That’s to replace the ice cream.”
I honestly didn’t care near as much about the ice cream as I did about the fact that she not only stole it, she had to sneak into our apartment to get it. I should have known to always lock our doors, but – jeez. It wasn’t a top priority of mine as I was there to address my alcoholism. I’d not given any thought to eating disorders or to thieves. I’d never been a victim of theft before.
“How did you know I even had ice cream?” I finally asked. And then, catching up to myself, I continued, “You snuck into my apartment and went through our fridge?” How did you manage to do that without anyone seeing you? Where was I?!” I asked, knowing I’d been there all night. I suddenly began to feel very creeped out.
“I think you were in the shower.”
“She’s really sorry, Jennifer.” The counselor added. Petunia nodded in agreement.
FUCK ME! This was too weird. I really didn’t know what to say other than, “You are not allowed inside my apartment again – ever. I don’t care if you’re invited. I will let my housemates know what you did here and tell them that you are not allowed inside.”
“Okay.” She said, staring at her shoes. “Sorry.”
“YEAH! ME TOO!” I finally bellowed. More confused by the whole situation than I was with her. I couldn’t reasonably blame myself for what she had done while I was in the shower, but for some reason I decided I should have known better. Someone should have warned me that this could happen. This was not how I expected to find out that I was in treatment with women who suffered from eating disorders. Who else might be afflicted by such a disorder? Who else couldn’t I trust?!
The above is an excerpt from my memoir, Saturation.