Monday, June 27, 2011

am I REALLY a morning person?

I've always considered myself a morning person.  As a tot, tween, teen and beyond I've never been one to sleep in much, often to my mom's consternation in the tot and tween years.  I remember her dropping me off at sleep overs and warning the host mom that I was an early riser, which helped me feel like some kind weirdo about my morning perkiness.  It's not like when I was at sleepovers I'd get up and roam the family's house or raid the fridge or anything...I'd just lay there and make conspicuous noises and such, trying to awaken my friend.  Anyway - this tendency to awaken early has only increased and gotten earlier in the last 6 years or so, maybe related to the demise of my visits from Aunt Flo.

On the flip side of the day - I've also never had any trouble falling asleep at night.  I'm " a sleeping before my head hits the pillow" kind of gal and always have been.  "Early to bed, early to rise..." is the way I'm hard-wired, and I'm pretty happy about that. 

My difficulty these days is staying awake much past 8:30, and my snarky kids and husband would snicker at me claiming 8:30 as my witching hour. It's partially because I'm up well before the butt-crack of dawn everyday - think 4:30-4:45.  Unless I'm out at night doing something (other than sitting in a darkened theater watching a movie, which I don't do for this reason), I feel heaviness collect in my eyelids around 8, (okay, 7:30) compelling me to horizontilize myself, which signals a very short descent into the land of Morpheus.  This aspect of my Benjamin Franklin lifestyle is frustrating at times, because it's genuinely hard for me to make it up for a show that airs at 9 pm or later.  Starbux helps - tho I've been known to fall asleep without difficulty after a double shot latte at 5 p.m.!

Back in the days when I stayed up later, or half the night even, I still tended to wake up early.  And always, ALWAYS, I've been uber-productive and perky in the mornings.  Not crazed, not manic, just very productive.  Literally and figuratively.  Under the literal category, I get things done.  I have energy and don't mind countless trips down to the basement to throw in a load of clothes, then up 2 flights to put done clothes away.  Then back downto straighten up, do something related to the dinner hour that will inevitably come later, sort recycling, endless tasks that don't bother me one bit in the the morning.  Not one bit.

Alright then.  The #1 confounding aspect of being a morning person is that all these same tasks, regardless how simple, mindless or even appealing they were between 5 and 8 a.m. become way beyond my interest, ability or desire to perform once the clock inches past about 2:30 in the afternoon, which is the time I get off work each day.  Given my lengthy commute of 5 mintues, I enter through the kitchen door by 2:35, at which time the dog rouses himself from his 4th or 5th daily power nap to greet me, receive his babylove and remind me to take him for a walk.  For this I have energy and interest - even desire.  When it's freezing cold, my desire to trek more than a mile or so wanes, but generally the dog walk is a go.

After that - forget it.  Anything other than chores absolutely necessary to survival seems monumental or impossible at worst, expendable at best.  Even things I really wanted and planned to do that morning.  Planned and INTENDED to do.  Of course I can muster up the ooomph to jump into what I'd planned to do instead of an answering the call of the couch and my book, knitting or the remote control - but more often than not I don't.

Don't get me wrong - leisure engineering isn't a bad thing, and I don't harbor any notion I need to be productive every waking moment.  I can build in down time for myself with the best of 'em.  But it's frustrating to plan with all my heart to do something I want to do and needs to be done only find my bio-rhythms or some cosmic glitch renders me in need of a virtual kick in the ass to get into gear after my work day.  And this brings me to the #2 confounding aspect of being a morning person...the figurative part.

During my productive early mornings when I'm physically engaged in tasks and chores, my mind and soul are active as well.  I plan, desire and fervently intend to have a clean healthy day with food.  To meditate.  To not overeat, or binge.  Pray more.  Exercise.  I feel full of hope, enthusiasm and optimism that I can and will "live my best day"  (thanks, Oprah), and stay the course, keeping my desires for wholeness, health and abundant living at the front of my mind.

But as the day progresses beyond my work hours, just like the plan to scrub the toilets, my personal intentions and focus diminish.  I do great and follow my intentions until those late afternoon hours when I find it difficult to remember that I really don't love my body at its current weight; that I do want to have a clean, sugar free day; that I want to exercise, pray, meditate, tend to my soul...whatever.  This happens day after day, ad nauseum.  I think I could accept my tendency to not be able to engage in the planned household chores later in the day if I didn't also become murky and fuzzy about my plans for the less concrete but more important personal goals.

You all know AA uses the Serenity Prayer as one of its main tenets; "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  There are things about myself I KNOW I can change.  I just need to remember I want to change them when I'm tired, lazy or unmotivated.  Or when something is gnawing at me from within that I'm not even aware of.  I need to remember that when I try to convince myself I don't really want what I know I'll want again tomorrow morning and definitely definitely wanted this morning, I still do want it and some unrealized emotion or struggle is trying to sabotage me.  I need to find a way to keep my intentions alive and on the front burner when I "forget" them temporarily.  This is a work in progress, like I am.

The good news is that I get a chance to revisit this each day.  Each day begins with a morning, and I am, afterall, a morning person.

Friday, June 24, 2011

One lousy bite

I had a good day yesterday that was 100% binge-free.  There was absolutely no overeating involved either.  I got a 3 mile walk in with a friend as well.  All in all, a hell of a lot better day than many I've had of late.  I think finally starting to write in the blog in more detail about my food addiction was therapeutic.  I felt somehow lighter - cleansed if you will, in the way that a gut wrenching therapy session can be so cathartic.

It's always good to have a "good" day, but it felt like even more of an accomplishment as we went out to dinner as it was my daughter's last night home before she goes back to the Dominican Republic today.  We did a lot of good healthy cooking while she was here, so eating out freed us up from planning, shopping, preparing, and CLEANING UP.  Also, my husband belongs to a golf club that requires a certain amount of $ to be spent in their dining facility, and if you don't use it that way, you pay anyway.  So we killed several birds with one stone last night...and I behaved and made excellent choices.  Yay Me!

First - I did not have even a molecule of their good hot bread, which I always us as a vehicle upon which to get too much yummy butter into my mouth.  Ahh butter - one of life's pleasures, right up there with bacon!  Good choice #1.  Second, I ordered a wonderful salad that had slivered green apples, chopped roasted pecans, tons of spring mix greens, and crumbled bleu cheese with an orange vinaigrette dressing.  I never use more than a tsp. of dressing, which makes it one of the few potential land mines I don't have to worry about.

Good choice #3 - I didn't see a whole lot on the menu that I was interested in, so I asked if they had salmon that could just be baked...and they did!  It was excellent, served over fresh spinach and lightly coated on top with pesto.  A large ice-cream scoop plop of white rice came on the side, which I gave to my son.  I'm not a huge rice person, and white rice is totally expendable in my book.  I cut my salmon portion in half to bring home for my lunch salad today, and wouldn't you know I left it at the restaurant :-(.  No big deal, but I was disappointed with my forgetful self.

Good choice #4 - No dessert.  This place has some great desserts - they bring out a tray with an array of available desserts, and last night out of 5 selections, 4 had booze in them in one way or another.  It was easy to say no.  Hubby and son brought their blackberry bottomed cheese cake home to eat while watching the Phillies get their asses kicked out of St. Louis.

The one thing I did have that I said I'm going to omit was a regular size water ice at Rita's.  Jean and I decided she needed one final Rita's visit before leaving the USA.  I had key lime ice, and that was it.  Water ice does not ever set off craving for more sugar - not sure why, but it's always been safe for me.  Still, it's my intention to omit all sugar.  That was the only sugar I had yesterday, and it was just right and just enough.

Sounds like a honeymoom phase, yes?  We'll see.  One day at a time.  I feel strong and food thought free so far today - but we all know that a food obsession can literally emerge from nowhere and insistently begin gnawing at one's resolve and determination.  I have plenty of resources and tools to resist, if I choose to use them.  My tool du jour that I've been reflecting on is:
"Remember you only have to abstain from the first compulsive bite.  One bite only."  Without the first compulsive, unplanned, risky bite, it's much less likely that a really strong hard craving will set in that is hell to try and resist.  I don't have to resist and leave out a whole sleeve of cookies or a quart of icecream...I only have to not have the first bite.  This advice is the equivalent of not setting foot in an arena with a lion on the loose.  I won't have to fight him (it) off if I don't enter the ring. 

And really, after the first bite, the rest never tastes like much.  It becomes just a stuffing of food with the resultant stuffing and numbing of feelings and thoughts.  Once that first bite is on board, for this addict, I've already lost. 

That's it from me today.  I hope to keep it clean, healthy and real so I can come back tomorrow and report it.  Have a great w/e everyone.

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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quickie resurfacing, and NOT from the abyss

This is literally a fly by post to say I'm here, I'm doing pretty well and still a blogger!  My daughter and younger son are both home now, plus we had one of Jean's Peace Corps friends for a few days, so life has been busy.  I'm yearning to get back to regular blogging of both the giving and receiving kinds, but between work and home busy-ness, it's just not happening. 

I have a lot to share about, including my impression of an OA meeting I attended Saturday.  I continue to have new insights about the exact nature of my eating dysfunction, and am having better food days.  Slooowly and entirely without perfection.  It feels good to sense a deep shifting and new acceptance about food, eating, my appearance, and other assorted and related body, mind and spirit matters.  Definitely painful (emotionally) at times - but it feels right, honest and real.

Unfortunately, I can't stay on for too long (sounds like we're having a phone chat!), but I just wanted to make a brief appearance so you guys don't unfriend me or write me off or think I've fallen head first into a vat of sugary murk.  Hopefully I'll get back by the end of the week with one of my usual yawn inducing, over-sharing and epic-length posts.  Til then - hasta la vista, and hopefully sooner than "la vista"!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A reconnection fly-by

When I wrote my last post (about food addiction), I was going to vow to post at least a couple of sentences every day about how I'm doing as I begin to emerge from the warm fuzzy womb of denial and strive to at last accept and navigate my disordered eating once and for all.  Good thing I didn't make that pledge, huh?  I honestly haven't had free chunks of time sufficient to journal all my crap for you to read.  But know that I have been thinking about it all a lot, doing a little better with eating, and "hearing" differently the things that are discussed in AA meetings about alcoholism. 

Food as substitute for booze.  Doesn't give the same buzz, but does provide a body suit (literally as well as figuratively - oops, there's another "no pun intended"!) of anesthesia and blurring of reality that must be doing something for me - else why would I continue with the ingestion of mass quantities when hunger is no where on the horizon, much less in my stomach?...

The biggest thing I've done since writing that post is that I've talked to a couple of good friends about it - trying to admit the exact nature of my eating behavior.  It's very difficult, because for this blogger, overeating and abusing food is so SHAMEFUL.  My shame about it is huge, and even typing that causes my eyes to moisten. 

Some internal shift has happened that has brought me to a new bottom emotionally with this issue.  I've weighed as much as 22 pounds more than I do now.  I've been more out of control with food.  I don't know why I have been blessed with this clarity at this juncture.  But I'm grateful; I have a wonderful connection with the 12 step program of AA that has everything I need to begin to address my dysfunctional relationship with food at virtually every level.  I don't want to slip back under the covers with my myriad binge foods and say to myself, "THIS IS THE LAST TIME I'M DOING THIS". 

I don't think I have the emotional where with all to continue the insanity with food - but I also know my addictive self and my limitless capacity to self-inflict pain and sabotage.  So just like I wouldn't say, "I'll never drink again" even though I feel very strong in my alcohol recovery, I also won't say it wouldn't be possible for me to lapse back into full on eating insanity.  For today I'm good.  I'll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.

This is longer than I planned but I wanted to catch up a bit.  I do plan on posting more frequently now that the wedding from last weekend (wonderful) is over and we're back to life in the medium lane.  I 'm looking forward to not trying to sound better than I am.  I'm going for real now - it's time.

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.