Wagon, ho!

One of the most common metaphors for being abstinent is ‘on the wagon’. I am not on the wagon. I can see the wagon, but it’s a ways down the trail at this point. A bumpy, rutted, muddy trail that makes it hard to run and catch up. I’m hoping for a straight stretch, maybe downhill, that’s a little smoother so I can jump back on or at least grab it and hang on and be dragged behind it.

This morning I’ve been abstinent. I’ve been up for four hours and managed to stay on track. Currently – and it changes frequently – I am defining abstinent as:

  • 3 moderate, healthy meals
  • 1-3 small, healthy snacks
  • Eating when I’m hungry
  • Stopping when I’m full

This morning I’ve been plagued with food thoughts. I know exactly where they are coming from. I’m job hunting and there’s nothing like the stress, waiting, frustration and disappointment of job hunting to send me straight to the refrigerator. So I’m trying a technique I like to call clock watching. When a food thought pops up, I look at the clock and agree to wait 20 minutes before I do anything about it. I’m not hungry, so to be abstinent, I can’t eat anything. So far this morning, I’ve managed to wait almost an hour and can feel the first, faint, not really serious hunger pains, so that’s a victory.

So is writing again. I haven’t done any writing for a while. I miss it, but haven’t been able to really get back to it. I wrote a paragraph last week and stopped. Mostly I’ve been writing cover letters and emails and tweaking resumes. So exhausting that I’ve been hiding in distractions. Food that not only distracts me, but numbs me and gives me self-loathing and guilt to focus on instead of the stress of job hunting. Endless games of solitaire on my phone. I swear, I think that thing is surgically attached. Between solitaire, obsessively checking email, linkedin, facebook and for non-existent phone messages, I have rarely put it down. I even sleep with it. Sigh.

When I do put it down it is only to pick up a book – usually a romance novel I’ve read before – wouldn’t want any excitement or stress to crop up. Or binge watching Netflix – again, rarely anything new. It’s been a crazy few weeks, but I think I’m starting to come out of it. The Day in OA on Saturday helped. Being around people are live the life, know the pain and the joy of abstinence. So thank you to my friends for helping me start back after the wagon.

My Life in Comedy

donut

For everyone out there who is fighting the Friday donut assault, I salute your bravery and courage. We can do this.  Every time you pass the box (left conveniently right outside your office) think this:

“That’s not my food.”

“I don’t need that.”

“I deserve more than sugar and fat.”

“I will NOT run them down with my car after work.” (oops! Did I say that out loud?)

I think I could do a pretty good standup routine about compulsive overeating. I wonder if it would be funny to anyone else?

Food Plan – Take 10,000

 

“And I said to my body. Softly. “I want to be your friend.”

It took a long breath.

And replied “I have been waiting my whole life for this.”

– Nayyirah Waheed

So it turns out, I don’t know how to eat.

I think I know how to diet. I mean, I can take off weight like nobody’s business. Despite the fact that this has never worked for long and that I started telling myself that “diets don’t work”, I still joined OA and went on a diet.

When I really started tracking again, I found that I was only eating around 1100 calories a day. (That’s on days I was on program. Other days I was racking up 5-7 times that.) That’s an okay total if I was lying in a hospital bed all day, but I’m walking 5+ miles a day and doing pilates five hours a week. I need fuel for that.

So I asked my sponsor and the other folks in my meeting for help and even – gasp – asked my higher power for guidance. I got a resounding “Google it” which might have been me talking but then the quote above showed up and I figured I was on the right track.

OA doesn’t not dictate or even really recommend a diet. They have different plans of eating that are very generic and you can modify to suit your needs. Everyone one of us is different and reacts to different trigger foods. We have different body types, weight, exercise and so many variables.

When you think about it, anyone writing a diet book is pretty bodacious to say that this diet will work for everyone (please consult your doctor before beginning…..)

So I Googled and I made a list of super foods and power foods and nutritionally dense foods. Then I looked at the OA Dignity of Choice pamphlet to get more ideas. Then I played around with the food tracking module on FitBit for a couple of hours. I finally came up with something that was under calorie recommendations for me, but only slightly, and seemed like it was simple enough to work and hit the high points for protein, carbs and fat. I added in fruit and grain and dairy (which I NEVER eat when I’m dieting.)

That was a little scary so I sent the plan over to my sponsor to see if my compulsive brain was on the right track and really listening to my higher power. Asking for help is new to me. So is the idea that just researching isn’t enough to make me 100% positive I am on the right track. Freaky.

So my plan of eating is this: 12 ounces of protein, 1 fruit, 1 dairy, 1 starch, no more than 32 grams of fat, 2 cups of cooked vegetables, 4  cups of raw vegetables and 96 ounces of water, plus vitamins. Since I have diabetes and had WLS, I decided to split these up into 6 meals/snacks. To get that many veggies, I’m going to have to make vegetable soup and smoothies and drink my veggies.

I am still avoiding my trigger foods, so in general avoiding processed food, junk food, soda, candy, sugar, etc, etc, etc.

Trying to eat at the table, put my fork down between bites, don’t drink with right before, during or right after my meals, be mindful. It’s a lot, but I don’t have to be perfect and I’m going to stop expecting that.

Step 2

Humility

I was comforted to learn that it is not unusual for people to come to OA and be scared away by the “God thing”. I have never had a problem with God, just religions which dictate what that is supposed to mean. I used that as an excuse to walk away. When I came back, maybe twenty years later, that was the biggest obstacle for me. I was ready to brazen it out and pretend, if that was what it took.

What I found was that I had it all wrong. OA doesn’t care if you believe in God or not, or that you belong to any religion.  The phrase “God, as I understand him” is now prominent in all the literature. What a relief! What that emphasizes is that compulsive over eating, like a lot of addictions, is an emotional disease with physical symptoms and a spiritual cure. They don’t care if your idea of God is a doorpost or an omnipotent (but loving) deity.

It turns out that my own idea of God had changed many times in the last 50+ years. It still isn’t something that would lead me to a church. Or temple, since we are Jewish.  We haven’t really gone to temple since my son was bar mitzvah’d last year. I think of myself as a social Jew. We light the candles, say the prayers and get out the good dishes for the high holidays.

What that gives me is a sense of connection to the other Jews across the planet. And that connection is what I believe in and forms the basis for my own spirituality. I feel my “higher power” when I reach out my empathy to feel what the people around me are feeling. When I am part of a group – from two to a thousand – all thinking about the same thing or doing the same thing. Saying the national anthem, praying, holding hands, singing a song – as long as I can get a sense that others are focused on the same thing that I am focused on, then I feel connected.

When I was young, that sense of empathy was too painful and I shut it down. For years I pretended that I didn’t feel anything – except anger. I refused to let myself cry – except in anger. I was big on anger. Anger felt powerful. Anger felt just. Anger felt strong.

But then, I worked a lot on feeling my emotions and dealing with them over the years. I’ve had some amazing therapists over the last 40 years and I’ve made a lot of progress, I just forgot to let myself have a spiritual life.

Despite that, I believe that God (as I understand him) has been working in my life anyway. My religious friends are all going “DUH!”.

How else can you explain the things that have happened in my life? Not the bad ones, the amazing ones.  As I work on Step 4, I’m also going to work on making a list of all the ways that being part of the spiritual universe (I really gotta work on my phrasing.)

So, for all my 12 step buddies out there, here you go: I have come to to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. For me, this just means I can’t do it alone (I have 50+ years of clear proof) but I think that help is available. Some way, some where, some how.

Step 1

journey1000miles

One of the things I came to understand and accept after the workshop March 19th is that Steps 1 = 3 are decisions, not actions. I was trying to figure out how to do them but it turns out, it was a little like the ruby slippers – I just had to click my heels together and believe.

Step One says “We admitted we were powerless over food ~ that our lives had become unmanageable.”

I I struggled with that because powerless meant helpless to me. I am not helpless. I am strong. I can and have done so many things. It helped to hear others that said the same thing – that they had to just admit that this was one area where steamrolling ahead just didn’t work.

I also really struggled with feeling that my life was not that unmanageable.  I have a family, friends, a job and a house. I’m very fortunate that all of those are pretty top notch. So what is so unmanageable?

What I learned in the last month was that food was the oil that made my life manageable and when I was trying to get “on plan” or falling off my plan, then I was often impatient, inattentive or just plain mean. If I was stressed about family or friends or work or money or ANYTHING, I had food as a crutch. Credit card bills too high? Have a cookie. Crazy day at work? Where’s the ice cream? No retirement plan? Bring on the fried chicken.

Sounds funny, doesn’t it?

For the last few months I would get so angry with people who kept saying they had to reach rock bottom before OA worked for them. I’m not at rock bottom. I’ve seen rock bottom and this ain’t it. It’s far from rock bottom. So OA won’t work for me? I have to keep suffering and hating myself. No. That was just my compulsive brain finding one more excuse not to jump on board.

Finally I could admit that I WAS at the end of my willingness to accept that that’s just the way my life was always going to be. That I was tired of the same yo-yo life of working to remake myself and my body, then sinking (or diving head first) back into the abyss.

I actually wrote this down on a sticky and taped it to my computer at work:  “If I am feeling overwhelming emotions of any kind and I turn to food instead of allowing myself to feel those emotions, that is INSANITY.”

It seems to help.  All the tools help. Having a sponsor. Going to meetings. Writing. Making phone calls.

Laying off my “alcoholic foods” helps the most, but the exercise helps a LOT. I’ve been taking brisk walks around the building when I feel like hitting the donuts or candy that lies around every freaking office in the world. I walk inside when the weather isn’t good, but try to get outside if the sidewalks are at all clear and I don’t think I’m going to bust my butt on the ice. This helps keep the stress to a minimum.

I’m also trying to be more of a listener instead of a talker. Ask, not tell is my new motto. What do you guys think? I say that so much I should have a sign printed up. Maybe a t-shirt.