Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Work is just the best place for me to blog - at least the writing part.  I had every intention of writing a post yesterday afternoon but got carried away with going to lunch with #1 son, a trip to Marshalls and other assorted shopping emporiums, and who knows what else.  One thing for sure, the 'what else' wasn't exercising.  By skipping yesterday, in order to meet my weekly Hot 100 goal, I have to do it the rest of the week.  Shouldn't be a problem if my knees cooperate and the creek don't rise.  So now I'm back at work, and the thoughts are percolatin'!

Once again I'm going to use an AA nugget to post about - so often the wisdom in that program informs my thinking and behaving with food.  There is a saying in AA that once a cucumber is pickled, it can't go back to being a cucumber.  It's essential nature has been changed by the process of being steeped in vinegar, sugar and seasonings.  It isn't possible to take that pickle and remove the essential biochemical changes that occurred within its makeup and render it a simple unfettered cucumber ever again.

So it is with alcoholics.  Not all of us started out drinking alcoholically.  Many of us were able to experience the social lubrication of alcohol, the gentle buzz, the blissy relaxation of a glass or two of alcoholic quaff and even an occasional getting hammered, for months or years before "something" happened, before a line was crossed in some undefinable way, that rendered alcohol more than simple pleasure.  That essentially changed who we were, how we behaved and treated others, how we held up our ends of our responsibilities and relationships.  In AA jargon, (and simplified here to spare you even more paragraphs than my usual), we became pickled, and no matter how long we don't drink, work the aa program, find incredible life-affirming sobriety...if we pick up a drink again we will likely/eventually/inevitably return to destructive drinking. 

Maybe not right away.  They say that the worst thing that can happen to an alcoholic who picks up a drink is nothing.  If nothing happens the first time, then we can think "we're over it", "not really an alcoholic", "were going through a phase back then"...any number of hopeful thoughts.  (Hopeful because it's the dream of many alcoholics to be able to drink successfully.  Long periods of recovery and the rich lives that can ensue over  long periods of sobriety definitely take that dreamstate away from many of us.  Finding new life through aa attendance and working the steps make sobriety its own reward, and the dream of drinking again someday finally disappears.)  But if a recovering person decides to experiement with a drink...all bets are off.

Why?  Because we're pickled and can't go back to not being pickled, even after decades of sobriety.  Once an alky, always an alky. (I'm sure there are people for whom this has not been the case, but the vast majority of recovering folks in the AA rooms believe it to be true, at least for themselves. Including me.) There are zillions of stories of people with 20 years of sobriety and beyond who decided to have a glass of "something"...and within short order found themselves back in the revolving door of alcoholic insanity.  This truth of addiction is widely accepted.  Addiction is progressive.  Abstinence from the object of our addiction doesn't halt the progress of addiction.  It's said that our disease is always in the next room, doing pushups and staying strong.  Lying in wait for an opportune moment to pounce - great sadness or great joy.  A loss, a challenge, or just the noon whistle.  Once someone picks up their substance, their disease of addiction is operating at a more fully developed level than when the individual put the substance down.  So it's off to the races at an even greater intensity - often with devastating consequences.  I hear it all the time.

So.  What about food addiction?  Eating disordered behavior?  Does it fall under this unbrella of the nature of addiction I just discussed?  And if so, does it happen to everyone who dares to reintroduce sugar, or highly processed foods, or salty chips, or "organic ice cream" and "all natural" items after long periods of abstinence from certain trigger foods?  I know that 12 step food programs (which I've waxed on many times in this blog, know to be helpful, but personally hate for their various forms of rigidity) believe that this nature of true addiction DOES apply to sugar, and white flour, and who knows what else --for true food addicts.  And do you know what really gives me a major hitch in my gitalong???  I've proved this to myself again and again.  I speak for myself only when I say that once I again eat certain foods after lengthy periods of leaving them out - I turn into the equivalent of a great white shark going for the diver in the shark proof cage.  Not pretty.  Very ugly, and ultimately very painful.

What got me thinking along these lines is watching some fairly obvious and serious relapse happening to a few bloggers who had attained big weight losses - 100 pounds and more.  It's so hard to watch because I've lived it.  I've been struggling for months myself - for now maintaining a 15-18 pound gain that I'd like very much to reverse and move through, but I'm stuck.  I don't think I'm in denial, but when I keep doing the same things over and over and expecting different results - maybe I am.  I can't handle sugar.  Interestingly, many alcoholics have this problem, especially given that alcohol is immediately converted into sugar by our bodies.  So now I can claim not only alcoholism and food addiction but also sugar metabolism woes?  And finally, whether I decide to use this information and try to do something about it (like giving up sugar and white flour) doesn't lend truth or fiction to all this I've talked about.  It's a matter of me recognizing the exact nature of my body and working with it.  Or not.  I've been on the 'or not' plan in recent months.  As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that workin' for ya?"

A pickle can't show up in a salad claiming to be a cucumber.  Its texture is different; so is its taste and moisture content.  Maybe the flavor is pleasing or not to the consumer - but one thing for sure - it doesn't taste like a cucumber.  And I don't metabolize sugar and related white products like an earth person.

Believe it or not, I have a part 2 to this that I'll post tomorrow.  I think it will be shorter.  It conckerns taking the information and putting it into action.  And guess where part 2 germinated?  In a room full of alcoholics.


  1. Interesting! I go on binges when I allow myself to "eat only one" of something that shouldn't be near my lips. It's such a vicious cycle. Something to really think about.

  2. Oh - you gotta know this is resonating with me today! Have I pickled myself with my years of yo-yo dieting and food issues? Are my red light foods something that I should abstain from eating forever? So many questions; so few answers. Looking forward to part 2!

  3. Wow this post really has me thinking, can't wait to read part 2.

  4. Leslie, I have so much compassion for you if you're a sugar addict. I can't imagine having to accept a sugar-free life any more than those that need to be gluten free, but I guess you learn to adapt when it comes to your health and feeling good. While I'm strong in my conviction to do what I need to do to lose, I feel very blessed that I can do it on my terms since so many can't. When you lost in the beginning, how did you do it ... any differently than what you're doing now. The important thing is that you asking hard questions and it sounds like you're ready to take whatever steps you need to do what needs to be done. My best to you and stay strong!


  5. Great post - sugar and white flour affect me exactly the same way. For some reason I escaped the alcoholism curse, although my father, my father's mother, and my sister all dealt with it. I drank a lot in college, but it was more a situational addiction than a physical one. I wish you well in the battle - we all struggle with you in one way or another!


  6. Excellent post..don't make us wait TOO long for Part 2!!! And your AA info that you share with us always amazes me in how it relates to so many other things in life...far from just alcoholism. I am loving the pickle analogy...I feel like I've been hit between the eyes with that one....which you often do to me with your AA-isms. Keep them coming please. :)

  7. Maybe this existence is not about you, Leslie the self, but about something else, something far greater. Maybe you are a part of something infinitely *bigger* than your self.

    Note the use of "I" throughout your post. A lot of thoughts going on, there, that your mind instantly takes credit for, and identifies as your thoughts, your ideas, your knowledge.

    What if those thoughts are not about You?

    This is no criticism.

    In fact I don't know if this comment will help you or have any influence at all. Doesn't matter. That's not my domain. I guess you could say this might be an invitation from anonymous.

  8. As always, Leslie, you bring the good stuff.

  9. I've never heard that analogy. It really does make sense though!

  10. There is really no "resting on our laurels". That is my most fave AA sayings. Someone told me one time that means victories. I must always be vigalant against this disease. For me it manfests itself in almost every area of my life. It is a consant battle. I put on spiritual armour everyday. And battle on.....

    Thanks for this very thoughtful post.

  11. Hi Leslie! I've been shunning the sugar for 5 months now and I'll admit, a few times it got hard, but once I pushed through (and I didn't think I could), I came out stronger. I've noticed it's after those times that I tend not to have much of an appetite: it's almost like my body is "rewarding" itself...strange but very interesting!

    My husband (who is also low carbing and by the way, he was a drug and alcohol counselor in the Marine Corps), is astonished at what he IS NOT craving! No peanut m&m's (his favorite snack "food") and no ice cream w/cheap cookies (which we ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS had in the house...ALWAYS!). It truly is amazing.

    You can do it Leslie! You're further along than most bcs you aren't making excuses, you're facing reality, truth.

    Kudos to you!!!

  12. Had to crack up over yet one more brave AnonyMouse comment, who was wondering why you said "I" a lot in your post.

    Gee... maybe because this is YOUR blog, about YOUR life, and you are exploring YOUR ideas and thoughts and feelings.... duh!

    (Yep, def hit a hot button here, eh?)

    My name is Loretta, not AnonyMouse, and even if I make a stupid comment, I will at least have the... ahem... cahonies, to put my name to it.

    Great post, Leslie.


  13. Hi Leslie, good to hear the stuff from AA in your post!

    Remember when you first knew that you had to go to AA, or the idea just dawned on you that you had a problem, but you didn't want to go because "live without alcohol - forever? Hell no" was probably your first thought? Of course. No alcoholic walks in AA because they want to give up drinking forever. What happens is they're relieved of the obsession of craving alcohol one day at a time and, if they work the program, can look forward to a true sobriety.

    Well, of course, that's exactly what happens in OA. I'm personally not a white flour/sugar addict and I wouldn't belong to any group that forced that definition upon me, but I will say that the things I "gave up" (like pizza, nuts, fried food, desserts, etc.) were just suddently not part of my vocabulary anymore. I stopped wanting them and I don't mean because I discovered a wellspring of willpower. Trust me, I have no willpower. I worked the program and was relieved of the obsession for them and my other binge foods and now, when I see them, it's like a foreign language I just don't quite understand. It's incomprehensible. It's just like your sobriety. It's simple and amazing, at the same time!

  14. Oh man, I'm late to the party as usual. But so glad I made it because this is good stuff up in here. Really good.

  15. I love this. It is exactly what I'm looking for.
    I've fallen off the wagon again. I know what to do. I've done it before. I want help with the mental/biological/physiological need I have for it in times of extreme stress.

    I don't know if it is the mental health issues, I do notice a surge, and an ability to make it through 3-4 hours of crazy stress. There are times when it feels absolutely necessary. Am I medicating? Am I using it as an upper?

    I will cut back. But in the meantime, I'm delving.

  16. Great post, Leslie!

    I am struggling with the whole food addiction idea. I am convinced that I am a food addict....then I'm certain that I am being absolutely ridiculous....then I am convinced I am a food addict. Uh-hmmm. That could go on for quite a while, but I'll spare you.

    It is quite clear to me that I use food as a coping mechanism. Really do have that concept down.

    And being gluten-free makes a huge difference to me physically. Just undeniably huge. And I have a rash and an MD note to prove it.

    So, now, when anxiety hits, I binge on things without gluten. Don't even need sugar, as a matter of fact. That frantic need to feed has a life all its own.

    As you've seen from my posts, I am really struggling to continue weight loss.

    I loved this post. Despite the irrational, rambling, nonsensical aspect of this post--I haven't imbibed any intoxicating substance. sigh. It's the subject. I become incapable of coherent thought.

    Much like anonymous.


  17. You are so onto something here Leslie. Have you read Kessler's Book "The End of Overeating" it explains how sugar is like a drug to our brains!

    I know sugar cravings are real for me too!

  18. Umm. Ooops. You know that in my comment above, that when I used the word "post" I meant MY COMMENT not your post, right? sigh.

    I'm telling you, the whole food addiction discussion just short-circuits my brain. I think it's the screaming in my head. You know, "No, No, Noooooooo! Don't listen to this!" That's it. That's the problem.



  19. So true, the connection between addictions. Would you mind emailing me links to the bloggers who are regaining? It helps me, in a scared straight kind of way, to read thing like that.