Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baby's first addiction (caution: LONG post)

It's not my intention to become a weekly blogger, but that seems to be how this is playing out for now.  My work has gotten busier as we add more clients to our program, and there is the added sword of Damocles that is our annual licensing by the state of PA the will occur next Tuesday and Wednesday.  It is a very big deal because without their "approval", we can be shut down.  We'll be fine, but it's always a stressful time.

I have done 75% of my posting from work over the last 3 years, but that is just not possible now unless I shut my door and refuse to respond to the persistent knocks and phone calls!  Not the best action plan for a nurse.  I've been starting posts on a daily basis in my head, but they haven't made it to the computer screen much less the publish button.  Today I decided to not go to my 7 a.m. meeting so I could have some time to breathe, slow down and at least begin a post.  Wouldn't you know my coffee pot decided to have a mission failure this morning and cause coffee grounds and water to overflow all over my counter and on to the floor?!

Anyway, the best way to start is simply to say something related to my food addiction.  How about, "I'm Leslie and I'm a food addict."  (As Chris M. says, Thank  you Captain Obvious!)  That's the most important thing for me to know, if not to say.  And in the last couple of months I've come to KNOW this at a much deeper level than before.  In the last month we've had a family wedding/inevitable family reunion in Kentucky that was great. There was food galore, emotions galore and many gatherings and events in which to watch myself operate from my place of chronic feelings of "less than" with this family of whom I am an essential and well loved member.  I can take in my place of belonging, and know that I'm loved and appreciated.  I believe it in my head - completely.  But at a deeper level, vapors of "less than" and "apart from" still haunt, and distort reality.  I've operated from this place my whole life, though have gotten better and better over the years, especially since I began recovery in AA.

You hear similar things in AA rooms often - recovering folks talking about how they always felt different from everyone else, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary.  That sense of being different is neither accurate nor rational.  But it's very real. 

Are addicts wired that way?  Is it programmed into our hard drives, or even more fundamentally...our DNA?  Were we mistreated or neglected in childhood?  It doesn't really matter.  What does matter is that feeling shitty about oneself is a bad feeling, and human ingenuity has helped addicts (as well as plenty of non-addicts) discover ways of tamping down bad feelings, even before you actually experience them.  In fact, it's very possible to totally obliterate those bad feelings so well that you really "forget" you have them.  I've said before that food was my first addiction, though obviously I didn't identify it as such. 

After many years of sobriety, while knowing that I have "issues" with food, I am seeing that my issues are more than a collection of bad habits around food.  My thinking and behavior related to eating and food is really kinda nutty.  Not all the time, but often.  Binges are ugly things to live through, though at their beginning is often a heady sense of relief - an "ahhhhhhh" that for the next 5 minutes, or hour, evening or even a whole day and beyond, I won't have to wrestle with the annoying and bedeviling thoughts that come with food obsession and any addictive process.  I've seen it clearly in myself in the last couple of months more clearly than ever before, and so it's in the forefront of my consciousness. 

At AA meetings when we're reading AA literature (there's a lot of it, but especially the Big Book, which is the basic text of the program), where we're reading about the "exact nature" of alcoholism, I now can truly substitute food and eating and relate.  Just the way I did about booze in the beginning.  For example, we read about someone sneaking away from a lovely gathering of family and friends so they can do some "real" drinking unobserved by the gathered, then to return in an altered and numb state.  Did it with booze.  With food?  Check. 

Just this week I was hanging out with my daughter, son and husband in our den - having a good time, laughing our asses off.  I think a feeling began to emerge about dreading Jean's departure back to the Peace Corps later in the week.  Or something...because suddenly my actual presence with them in the moment was derailed by wanting to do some "real eating", that they didn't see.  Now realize my family has NEVER ONE TIME "noticed" or criticized my eating - EVER.  No need to hide - except my addictive mind felt the associated shame of an impending binge.  I was already doing a little noshing of chips and salsa (big mistake as there aren't enough chips in the world to fill the hole in the soul - which I forgot because I was pretending I was a normal eater, and once I introduced chips into my body the inevitable reaction was set in motion). 

What did I do?  I invented an errand "I remembered", and went out to the local convenience store and bought 2 Tasty Kakes and ate them right up.  Then came back home and rejoined the already in progress chillaxin' that I'd just left - but with the aforementioned "ahhhhhhh" that sort of paved the way for the rest of the day to be food obsession free, because I just ate what I wanted the rest of the day.  I didn't do any more crazy eating, but was unshackled from my mind chatter of "do it", "don't do it".

(One little example from an encyclopedia of them - I'm sure it sounds like I'm ready to shipped off to the loony bin - but trust me when I say that's addiction.  It's embarrassing to admit.  It's the truth.  And allegedly the truth will set me free.)

Here's the rub...I knew what I was doing as I did it, especially given my new found acceptance of the fact that I'm not normal when it comes to eating.  Once you know something, you can't NOT know it.  So I did my little binge thing with full awareness, a bit of shame, and increasing awareness that I really need to address this.  And that I'm getting closer to addressing it in the best way I know of to deal with addiction - a 12 step based approach that begins with abstinence from offending substances. 

I've mentioned a post or 2 back that I did go to an OA meeting.  It was okay - less awful and annoying than I remembered.  It is one that I believe I could go back to for reasons I'll talk about in another post.  For now, it is my intention to give up sugar in all forms and white flour for starters, and go to that one meeting a week.  I can't wrap myself around weighing and measuring everything I put in the temple, though I already do that with certain things because it's convenient and helps with portion control.  I still hate rigidity, but several people, including blogger Vickie from BabyStepsV have noted that my aversion to "rigidity" may be another of my addiction's tactics for keeping me away from true recovery.  Striving to keep an open mind on that one.  I appreciate honest reactions from others about my schtick...when it comes to food, my thinking is distorted.  I may not like being called on my bullshit, but I genuinely appreciate when it's honest and well-intentioned.

Finally - I do intend to begin posting each day, even if it's just a paragraph or 2, to chronicle this new phase of my journey.  I'm having a hard time building my own momentum with honest blogging when I'm so sporadic.  This time it's really for me.  And that means it may not be pretty.  But I can't not know the truth of myself now that I've been given the gift of true awareness of the status of my relationship with food.  I know I can be freed from that obsession just as I've been freed from alcohol obsession, and that's what I want.


  1. Anonymous23 June, 2011

    Sadly, none of what you wrote sounds like your're ready for the looney bin to me. :} It, of course, sounds exactly like what I think and do. sighhhhhh.

    Funny about the chips. I am not, really not, a chips person. A bag of any kind of chips could sit in my cupboard and I'd never be tempted to touch it. Sooooo, you'd think that when I went to a function the other day, that eating a few tortilla chips would be okay, huh? Well, you'd be wrong.

    It was one of those perfect storm things that had a very odd twist to me and became a tornado. It was a social function at church. A women's thing. (Rread a situation in which I am totally uncomfortable and want to run scrreaming from the room.)

    They did not have a dinner, but they had a table of appetizers and desserts.

    Mistake #1. I did not check the talbe first before I took my insulin.

    Instead, I checked my glucose and found that it was 98. Good, but I was about to eat food that would be higher in carbs than I ordianrily woud eat, so I took a mini dose of insulin. Then went to the table.

    Ack. EVERYTHING had guten or mucho sugar (not one low cal dish? really?) The only low gluten thing were tortilla chips and salsa.

    Well, I had already taken the insulin on a low read, so I HAD TO EAT. The chips would be safe.

    Except that they weren't. I mean it, Leslie, the minute a chewed the first chip--I felt this rush along with a fired-up impulse to eat. I noticed it as it happened. I even looked to see if I had a super caffeine drink in front of me by mistake.

    And then you know what I did? I ATE. Made sevral--I mean SEVERAL--trips back to the table putting a couple cookies or a piece of cake on my plate at a time. Made excuses to go past the table and picked up a cookie and popped it in my mouth before I got back to my seat. I was embarrassing! I completely lost control.

    And I am NEVER embarrassing in public--especially in regard to eating. I am the serious closet eater. Just soooo bizarre. I'm still a little shaken re: that event.

    Uh-hmm. So I guess the fact that you didn't sound looney to me doesn't mean much, huh? }

    I'm looking forward to more of these posts. Obviously, I need the info.


  2. You are soo NOT a looney! Today I nearly had to pull my own arm back from reaching out to buy a candy bar at Walmart! Food addiction is real! AND scary. Because honestly, when I just keep eating and eating and being aware of the fact that I'm doing it, but not stopping myself is just a scary feeling!

    So glad you'll be back posting more! :)

  3. Saw your note. you are too cute.

    Yes, I am here to say there will be things which will be deal breakers for you (if you do them, you will be setting yourself up for a crash) and then there will be other things which are not an issue for you, but would be an issue for someone else. The skill is in putting away the ego and knowing which is truly which for you.

    Maybe instead of 'rigid' you need to think "help", as in how can you help yourself the same way you would help your very best friend with these same issues.

    My biggest help (for myself) is whole foods, portions, balance between food groups, and eating at meal time***. And then I have all the other non-food help items: regular sleep habits, writing regularly on my blog, water, exercise, living proactively, having grace and clarity, being kind.

    It took me a full year to train myself to do just the food part. A full year. And I had to deal with a lot of emotions that year. But it was a year well spent.

    I really understand how hard it is to have kids moving in and out of your hearth/home on a regular basis. We just get used to having them back and they are gone again. When they were little it was sort of an adjustment in the summer and then an adjustment again in the fall (school). And now it is on a much bigger scale as they physically leave for long periods of time.

    I can really understand needing a time out (that is how I see your trip to the store). wonder if, now that you recognize it, you will be able to teach yourself another (nonfood) time out tactic?

    that first year, mine was not very nice, I put myself in front of a blank wall and cried. It was like a time out corner. And the crying varied hugely. Sometimes it was relief, sometimes it was shame, sometimes it was a 2 year old's tantrum. If it was too strong to be contained in the corner, I would strip and get in the hot tub with the water running and bawl.

    Sometimes you gotta go through it to come out the other side. The muck gets really old after a while. And really exhausting.

    ***I don't like to calculate/track (personally). So I very happily measure things (I simply think of the measuring cup as a big spoon) as the trade off (for not having to track is so worth it). anyone reading this who is trying to figure out how that works, kay sheppard's web site has easy to understand information. I don't get hung up on each point with Kay. I am okay with tree nuts, but don't do artifical sweetners, Kay is the opposite. but I still like her basic meal format. when someone pointed her out to me, and I realized it all sort of average out in the end if it was whole food based, it was very welcome and freeing. It was not rigid to me, as I said, it was a fabulous trade off.

  4. I was so glad to see this post because I have been thinking about and missing you. It never ceases to amaze me that you and I are so different yet sometimes so the same. I have come to some of my own realizations this year and while I still don't know if I am officially an addict, it is very clear that I have something screwy when it comes to food and eating. I get that part about the beginning of a binge. I get not wanting to pay attention to what everything weights or watch every portion. That is part of what I have always liked about the South Beach Diet - no counting anything! It has helped me so much to give up sugar and white flour. Science says those things are... drum roll... addictive!

  5. @ Deb - Thanks SO much for your comment and your own honest sharing. It helps a lot to know there are other people who teeter on the brink of wackiness with food. That's one of the nicest parts of a 12 step fellowship, though I'm still at a point where I feel like most of THEM are a lot sicker than me! HAHAHA :-D

    @ Vickie - you gave me some good food for thought, as always, in your comment. I have Kay Sheppard's book and will check out her web site. The key is finding, through trial and error, what foods really do set us off and which we can succesfully navigate.

    @ Karen - You know I always appreciate your comments. I'm with you that the measuring thing is something I don't see myself signing on for in this incarnation! Maybe by avoiding the land mines of sugar and white flour, I can still be be reasonable with most other portions.

  6. This is so powerful to read. I hope that you found it as cathartic to write out.

    I will be cheering you on

  7. Great start, Leslie. I am so much like you in terms of my food issues. I could have written this post. Keep moving forward....

  8. I am rooting for you, Leslie!

  9. Anonymous24 June, 2011

    Bingeing....sigh...yep know a bit about that!! Hang in there. Try not to beat yourself up...

  10. Here is the really cool thing, you have so much awareness about what is going on with you. This feeling of needing to engage in some "real eating" may have been triggered by thoughts of your daughter leaving again. That's huge Leslie! You can look back at it and see what happened. Perhaps next time you will be able to deal with the feelings with out the food-I think this is a major step.

    I can relate as I have been a closet eater for years! There is so much shame associated with that kind of behavior and even if I don't engage in the behavior just thinking about wanting to do it brings up feelings of shame.

    Karen makes a good point that simple carbs are like crack - our brain likes it and craves more. Eating fruit or veggies never sends me down the path to a binge!

  11. All I gotta say is .. I totally get this. I just had a visualized memory of being a kid and escaping to the darkened living room to binge through a few Hershy's kisses to get through the night (something akin to chuggin a beer or shooting up I guess).