Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Insanity is insane. You may quote me.

I'm having another early "Friday" because we're leaving early tomorrow to drive to Berea, KY for a family wedding, so this was a very non-taxing 2 day work week.  I think if I ever run for political office, my platform will be "A 2 day work week for all!"  Wouldn't that just be dandy?  Of course, under my reign, all salaries and compensation would be unaffected by the shorter week.  Surely that would be doable?

Truth be told, I'm a person who needs the structure of a full work week.  I always enjoy a week or two off, not to mention an occasional mental health day when the going gets tough.  But overall, my regular full time job keeps me anchored in the big picture of each week, and I'm grateful for that, as well as for having a good job in the first place.  Too much unstructured free time can make Leslie a wacky woman, and I'm not kidding.  Endless free time invariably renders me immobile to get started doing all the things I fantasize about doing "if I only had time" I don't do anything because the possibilities overwhelm me.  But when I have a week off ever few months or so, I can be more productive and focused.  Part time leisure engineering is all I can handle!

Enough "intro" meandering.  I'm going to talk about addiction here;  if you're not really a food addict you may want to skip this. For the last week and a half, I've been struggling with food - or rather with wanting to eat.  Hunger has nothing to do with this wanting, so I know my food addiction is alive and well.  I've mostly done okay - not having crazy binges but also eating more than I need for nourishment and optimal physical functioning.  And the struggle - the not giving in to the overwhelming food thoughts, makes me restless, irritable and discontent.  Bitchy?  Oh yeah - and I've got witnesses.  Obsession of the mind, which is a hallmark of addiction.  I simply think about food all the time.  Which makes NOT OVEREATING very hard.

My AA sponsor, Lisa, who has had food issues in her past, said to me last week, "If, when you eat, it's not meal time and/or your not hungry, you're eating emotion."   She's right.

The thing about having long term recovery in a 12 step program like AA is that you come to KNOW, that recovery is not just about not drinking (or engaging in whatever is your poison) though of course it's first and foremost always about not drinking..  Early on that's ONLY what it's about, but the whole 12 step program is about learning to LIVE happily, joyously and freely WITHOUT using.  You can be physically clean of alcohol for decades, but if you're crabby, restless, feeling deprived and haven't changed anything BUT not using your substance,  you're not really LIVING SOBER, nor reaping the immense rewards of living free from a previous obsession that was powerful, omnipresent and destructive in your existence.

Whenever I have a period of sanity with food (and I've had many over the last 30 years), I am always aware of what I'm not eating, or I'm missing having a load of junk food to just graze over; and knowing that I'll likely return to that binge way of life eventually...with the delusion that I'll be able to control it THIS TIME, because of the lost weight, my happiness over getting in better shape, I'm certain I've finally licked the "food problem"...fill in the delusional blank.  What a crock of horse manure.

Now this is very similar to giving up drinking - where you crave alcohol - either physically, psychologically or both.  And then you miss it - like grieving the loss of a friend, because for many of us who have given up drinking, we essentially have lost a best friend in the bottle. And you start feeling the pull of the booze..."come back, Leslie, I'm still here waiting for you.  Come on, you know you want to."

This is where having a program of recovery is so helpful, if not essential, for an addict - steps and strategies to get through the loss of booze as 1) fixer of all things in life  2) an always available companion, 3) effective way go away without leaving the room, etc .  And  a huge fellowship of similarly afflicted souls trying to navigate the common enemy.  That's the greatest aspect of AA - the people.  Most trying to do the same thing.

Where I'm going with all this is that I'm aware that while I'm a beacon of recovery when it comes to alcoholism, I'm a work in progress AT BEST regarding my food addiction.  I'm not getting better - I'm floundering and hanging on by the skin of my teeth (on the rare occasions when they aren't chewing something decadent).  And THAT'S when I'm doing well.  Not good.  Not happy, joyous and free.

It doesn't have to be that way.   I know that from AA.  Anyone who's read my blog for awhile knows I have a history of trying 12 step food recovery programs, like OA and FAA, and that I really have hated them and their rigid serious buzzkilling members.  But I'm starting to realize that the biggest buzzkiller in my life right now is my food addiction.  Where most of my life is in good shape with a great family, many friends, some solid spiritual grounding, when it comes to food and overeating I'm a mess.  I'm not getting better and I want to.
In AA they talk about being willing to go to any lengths to stay sober.  I'm hitting a place where I'm becoming willing to consider being will to go to any lengths to stop overeating.

With that in mind, I've been talking to a woman in OA who has long term food recovery.  That is to say that she has abstained from her trigger foods, one day at a time, for over 20 years.  She still eats lots of good food.  She just doesn't eat what she can't handle successfully.  At all.  It sounds rigid, but when I get honest, is my life really going to be negatively impacted if I don't eat sugar or white flour?  Will the quality of my days diminish drastically?  Unlikely.

I've clung forever to my schtick that I will never give up things I "enjoy" - I will learn how to have a small amount only.  More bullshit.  I will never want one brownie.  One cookie.  One small handful of kettle chips.  One, or one serving, will never satisfy me.  One always has become more.  Lot's more, and then the quest for a different taste or texture, and then another, ad nauseum.  Except I never get nauseous.  My capacity is cavernous.  That old definition of insanity comes to mind...doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I'm aware today that my choice is to accept and continue to be ruled my affliction and its resultant consequences - overweight, Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension.  OR, try to open my mind to the possibility that I could find as much peace with food as I've found with alcohol, by using the same tools to help me break out of the prison of food addiction.  I don't want this anymore.  It's one thing to say I'm never giving up.  It's another to surrender to my truth and pick up tools that have helped me in the past.

Writing this is one way I'm striving to acquire the willingness to go to any length to get well.  Many of you have read me long enough to have heard this before.  What I've been doing still isn't giving me the desired results.  Imagine that.


  1. "...if you're crabby, restless, feeling deprived and haven't changed anything BUT not using your substance, you're not really LIVING SOBER, nor reaping the immense rewards of living free from a previous obsession that was powerful, omnipresent and destructive in your existence."

    Thank you very much for this. I am a recovering compulsive/binge eater, and these thoughts are very important to keep in mind, especially with recent struggles.

  2. hey friend..i think I should re -read this actually. I struggle with OA amd currently I'm not going to meetings. still reading some of the literature. I relate my food issues to the see saw. The seat plops in the down on ground position and I'm and white, no trigger foods or places, feeling deprived, at times joyous when things are going well but it never lasts for too long. Then the seat see saws all the way up. Eating out of control or eating out at restaurants and indulging in foods that are not in sync with the weight loss concept or even experiencing binges. Then starting over. the one leads to the other. I'm working with an eating disorder dietition and basically Intuitive Eating is the recommendation..basically balancing out the see saw-nearly impossible unless you have parts on both sides. scares me. I'm trying to eat a diabetic exchange diet basically and not depriving myself which will result in rebound eating but not going too out of control,

    It's going to take a while. A long while. DIETING or out of control. I need middle. Still working on this. But it makes sense.

  3. Leslie (I'd vote for you on that platform!)
    I think I might need to go to Leslie's blog readers anonymous because I've been craving a post from you for a while!! I am so much like you when I have too much time I get nothing done, but if I have a short span of time I can get everything done and done well. Thank you always for your honesty in your blog. People can say that Food is not the enemy, but it sure can be a conqueror. Here's hoping that tomorrow will be a better day when you can win a battle.

  4. GREAT post. more later

  5. Anonymous01 June, 2011

    "...about how to live happily and joyously and freely without using..."

    Leslie, when I read that, I though, "Really? You can DO that?"

    I so identified with this post. You have expressed exactly what I am/have experienced and felt but did not know how to say.

    In fact, I mentioned beinge eating and AA in my post today. I've just been so aware that this food thing is more than..well, you've already spelled it out. I won't do it again.

    I've marked this post as a favorite so that I can reread it. Please continue to share with us on this subject. Although you are struggling in your attempt to get to the same place with food as you have with alcohol, you are still a light in a dark place to some of us.

    Thank you. And you've given me hope.


  6. Have you ever tried Renee Stephens' "Inside Out Weight Loss" podcasts? I listen to her on my walks. I think her tag line is "helping you on the inner journey to outer transformation." She recently used one of the exact phrases from your post about eating when not hungry. I forget how I found her originally (I've been listening for over a year, and I can vouch that the "mental" part of my dieting is much easier!). You can find her podcasts on iTunes. I don't think they list all of them anymore, but she recently started a "back to the basics" series. Good luck. P. S. I really enjoy your blog. You write very well and do a wonderful job of getting the heart/mind on paper (or on computer screen : ) Barbara C.

  7. Though I do not struggle in the same way as you Leslie, I completely identify because of a family member who is a many years sober alcholic who turned his addition to food. I give you credit simply for putting it out there my friend.

    If you run on the Shortened Workweek/Full Pay Party Ticket I will not only vote for you, I will be your campaign manager.

    Have a great time at the wedding!

  8. I often feel such similar things to what you write. Just the other day I was thinking about how I was eating when I wasn't hungry and how my thoughts so often go to food. As for that abstinence thing... I've debated it too. I vacillate in my opinion. I know for sure that the longer I go without certain foods, like bread or peanut butter, the less I crave them. I love them. But I can live without them. I think I can honestly say that I'm happier and like myself more when I don't eat them. So, why not be abstinent? Seems so drastic. What happened to moderation? Well, I guess maybe some of us just need to kiss moderation of certain foods goodbye. Anyhoo, long winded, sorry. But where I'm going with this is that I think you have found great success with abstinence and alcohol so why not try it with food too. If it works - awesome.

  9. Wow. There's just so much to read and digest here, I can't really think of anything to say. But I love this. And I'm glad you're blogging it out because I really think that this will help someone. Me. And so many others.


  10. Today is the first day I could leave you a comment!

    first, here is my link to a collection of 4 links which I think you will want to read:


    what a wonderful post this was.

    What you said - "You can be physically clean of alcohol for decades, but if you're crabby, restless, feeling deprived and haven't changed anything BUT not using your substance, you're not really LIVING SOBER, nor reaping the immense rewards of living free from a previous obsession that was powerful, omnipresent and destructive in your existence"

    I think of in two ways - "is it really working?" and "is one spending most of their time beating their head against a brick wall and wondering why they always have blood in their eyes and a really bad headache?"

    You used the word 'rigid' to describe a life of whole foods. Would you use the word 'rigid' to describe a life with no alcohol?

    I see that word, 'rigid', used a LOT by people who are very determined that they should be able to eat small amounts of anything they want as they write post after post about gaining and struggling. Years worth of posts about gaining and struggling. I am beginning to think that use of that word 'rigid' is a neon light of denial.

  11. And absolutely I think there are people out there who simply got carried away and have a slight weight problem and CAN eat processed in moderation and do just fine.

    the difference is -
    what do I mean to be doing?
    what am I actually doing?
    is it working?

    because for the food addiction person or person with metabolic issues (insulin resistance for example) 'it isn't working' and they are usually miserable. that is the difference (in my opinion).

  12. Anonymous07 June, 2011

    I know it is really hard to cook very good food when you are super busy working and having a life, but I have found that when I cook a very "fresh" meal with fresh herbs, spices, good cuts of meat, vegetables or fruit, that I can have actually more restraint from over eating. My husband and I have been trying this for over a month now, and it has really helped with my weight loss. I am not talking about chicken, with brown rice and broccoli here. I am talking about a very flavorful meal with lots of fresh herbs and spices. I just feel like I really savor it, and think about how I am eating for nourishment and pleasure.

  13. You struck a chord with so many of us! I have had so many of those same thoughts. Food is my drug of choice as I am an emotional eater and have been for years! I have to work at managing it and sometimes I am very good at it. Other times it can be a struggle.

    There are some foods I just don't choose to eat very often as they are triggers for me. I am super carb sensitive.

    I learn so much form your sharing. Thanks Leslie.

  14. Wow! I can imagine this post hit home with so many followers. Addiction is addiction, no matter how you dice it, whether it be with food, alcohol, gambling, you name it. Control is the key factor for getting your life back. Without it, how can you conquer the beast? I am a brand new follower (found your link on Fat Girl Dives In) and plan on going back and reading your blog from the beginning. Just with this one post, you've hooked me! I too, feel like food has a grip on me and have been trying to break free for YEARS. I have just re-rededicated myself to getting healthy (this week) because I saw the scale hit the highest number I have seen to date. But I refuse to be beaten by this thing any longer. I wish you much success in your journey and look forward to reading your blog!
    Please feel free to visit me too, at:
    All my best,