Maintenance – Day Three

Yesterday was so busy that I forgot to publish my blog. First the insurance exam, and then work was nuts. It is a pre-release week for my software project and the usual scramble to get everything finished and into the release. It’s my first truly Agile project and I find that I love the energy and the flexibility.  Except that I tried to leave a little early to go bowling with my family.  Nuts, right? In the middle of all that was going on, and I was trying to get out at 4:30. I actually made it at 5:00 and it appears from checking my email that nothing catastrophic occurred because I left. Ha ha! Good reminder for me to keep my life balanced and that I am not indispensable.  With the unexpected hours I put in this weekend, I was 4 hours above plan, so I’m glad I took the extra couple of hours yesterday and today. Keeping promises to my son is so important and I didn’t get to spend much time with him this weekend.

I was working with someone yesterday whose signature line says “I do what I can, as well as I can, when I can”. I think that is so sensible an attitude. Not my old mantra, which was “I will do everything perfect and as soon as I can no matter what”. The result of my mantra was missed promises to my family, my friends and my job, since NO ONE can do everything, do it perfectly and keep up the pace I was trying to keep. No wonder I was hard to work with at my old job – my standards were impossible to meet, so I was always disappointed and critically judgemental.

I like the new attitude. I like my new schedule where I get my exercise and health stuff done and then I go into the office. Works out well, since I work with a Seattle-based team. I shoot for 9:30, but if I get in at 10, I can just work until 6 and get my hours in and be there during critical hours. A lot of the time that slips to 7 or later, so I don’t have any guilt about coming in at 10:30 or a couple of times at 11 because I was running behind or pushed my workout a little extra.

All this is good reminders because I didn’t work out yesterday – didn’t even get a walk in. I was planning to ride my bike and didn’t do that. So I’m up at 6 this morning to finish my writing and get to the gym for a solid workout and some good cardio. I’ve got my glass of water and my oatmeal is waiting as soon as I get rehydrated.

I realized yesterday that one of the reasons I’ve been overeating at my desk is that I have a huge bag of almonds at my desk. It makes it easy to grab a handful when I’m hungry, and that’s a great snack for me. But it also makes it too easy to overeat. So I’m going to go back to measuring out and packing my almonds for the day and keep the big bags at home, out of sight in the pantry. I think I had 3 servings yesterday. On a day with no exercise, that’s not good. Okay, part of that was that I went to get my greek yogurt and fruit and while trying to pour off a little extra liquid, I accidentally tipped the entire container of yogurt into the trash. So I had the almonds with the blueberries. But still! The extra handful was pure mindless snacking because I got caught up in a problem solving frenzy. Frankly, if it isn’t there, I can’t eat it. And I think I’ve gotten control of myself enough that I’m not going to go down to the cafe and buy something crappy, I’ll have a protein drink or something I’ve brought from home or fallback on the emergency Rock n Roll protein bar.  It’s a big part of the Weight Watchers program success: you have to prepare your environment for success.

One thing I still have to think about is what I did after bowling last night. Yesterday morning my husband commented that in my current collection of clothes there were a lot of black and white – not as much color as I’d had. So I took that as permission to go to the Goodwill last night – despite my self-imposed and budget-imposed moratorium on shopping. On the one hand, I found 1 jacket, two sweaters and a blouse all in gorgeous colors that look good on me. On the other hand, I spent $30. I have worked a lot of overtime this week, so the budget was more flush than usual, but we’re still in the red, so I really didn’t NEED to do it. I have to admit, I felt a litttle of the same mental feeling I used to get on a binge. It would have been easy to race up and down, grabbing anything that looked good and piling it into the cart and then recklessly ringing it all up, no matter how much it was.

But I didn’t. I piled my cart up and then went to try on everything, then picked the four best pieces. Then my son insisted I add a really gorgeous blue sweater, so I ended up with five. Part of me is thinking that if I’d bought those things new, I would have been lucky to find one of the sweaters on sale for $30. The jacket would have put me out at least $100 and all five pieces would have been more than $300 – easily.

The OTHER part of my brain is thinking, you said you wouldn’t shop. You don’t really need those clothes. You have enough clothes. And here’s the part that’s hard to admit: the reason that my husband saw only black and white in my closet is that all my more colorful clothes, that I like to wear every day, are in the laundry. I just didn’t do laundry this weekend because I worked all weekend. So really, truly, I was lying to him and to myself when I said I NEEDED them. So I made it only eleven days without shopping. Sigh. Two steps forward, one step back. 

So, I start again! Hello, my name is Karen and it’s been one day since I shopped.

Well, it’s getting late and I want to be at the gym by 7, so I’m wrapping up for the day. Have a really special day today – do something you’ve been putting off – you’ll feel better for it!

Hello, My Name is Karen. It’s been 3 days since I shopped

On Friday, I went out to the beforeandafterhelp.com board and posted about my compulsive shopping. I didn’t really wait for any replies, just kind of posted and bolted and haven’t had the courage to go online and look at the responses. I should have known better. Those guys are the best.
The answers I got were supportive and loving and not the harsh, what the heck are you doing things I was thinking to myself. So here’s what I’ve done:
I added up the damage. (Still working on just exactly what I bought)
I figured out how long it will be before I can pay it all off again. (A couple of years)
And finally, I confessed to my husband.

Boy was that hard. The first thing he said was, well, if I have to go back to work, I have to go back to work.
That still makes me cry.

I know how much it means to him to be homeschooling our son. To help him overcome the dyslexia and get his confidence back.
Plus he had the most stressful job – and a mean, nasty boss that made him nuts.

So for the last few days, every time I’ve felt the shopping urge, (and it was a lot more often than I thought it would be) I’ve imagined my husband going back to that and my son going back to school and feeling stupid (his words).
Other great suggestions were to take some of the clothes to a consignment shop and to have a yard sale – all great ideas.

I’m also going to keep any eye out for any other cross addictions, because I noticed that several times yesterday I considered having a drink, a beer or a glass of wine. And I am always scared of that, as alcoholism runs rampant in my family.

Heck – I even had thoughts of gambling yesterday – trying to win it all back. And I can do math – I KNOW that’s a sucker’s dream.

So, no compulsive anything: eating, shopping, drinking, gambling or exercise. (I felt bad after I realized what I was saying, wishing I had an exercise addiction. I know that’s a problem and I was making loose with the jokes – not cool.)

So, one day at a time.
Hello, my name is Karen and I haven’t shopped for 3 days.

Recovering (in more than one way)

I woke up this morning feeling MUCH better! I got a lot sicker before I got better, so I’m glad I decided to rest. I even went to the doctor. They tested me for flu and strep, but apparently I just had a bug or a cold or some other untreatable illness. I treated myself with chicken soup and hot tea with honey. I also used my neti pot and some saline solution to clean out my sinus/nasal passages. When it got really horrible, I succumbed to some over-the-counter decongestant and a big dose of liquid Tylenol, since I can’t take NSAIDS post-WLS.

Now I have to catch up on a whole day of missed work. I guess I’ll be working through the weekend to get those hours back as my budget cannot afford any hits right now. The truth is that in the last 13 months I’ve made a hash of our finances. Last year in September we were out of debt and had money in the bank and now we are in debt thousands of dollars and there are no savings. I got a good kick in the rear from Rebecca on Wednesday. I mentioned something about still shopping when I’m bored or stressed and she let me have it with both barrels.

Cross Addiction or transference occurs when you exchange one bad habit for another. So smokers take up eating when they quit or drinkers start smoking or compulsive eaters start shopping. The result is that you’ve not really made the progress you think you have, you’ve just swapped out one life destroying habit for another. As Rebecca pointed out, financial problems are the number one reason that couples divorce. And I haven’t been exactly keeping my husband in the loop. I pay the bills, so unless he asks, which he doesn’t, he doesn’t really know what is going on. Since we had talked a few months ago about this problem and agreed that he would take over paying the bills, she reminded me that my continuing to pay the bills was a little like asking your alcoholic wife to mind the key to the liqueur cabinet.

So Rebecca made me promise to confess all and sit down together to figure out a plan and what we were going to do. I spent a couple of hours figuring out exactly how bad it was and then told him. He was pretty wonderful. Upset, obviously, but he controlled it manfully and stayed calm. He’s going to get quikbooks setup this weekend and start paying the bills.

I am going to put all my credit cards away and just keep a debit card and checkbook. It’s a lot harder to spend recklessly when you do it with cash. If that doesn’t work, I’m going to take a cash allowance and get rid of the debit card and checkbook as well.

If I can kick the compulsive eating habit, I can kick a compulsive spending habit. I have enough clothes. I have enough shoes. I have enough body care products and makeup. All the things I’ve been buying, using the excuse that it was part of my recovery. Now I need a plan for this like anything else. The good news is that unlike eating, I can quit cold turkey, something you can’t do with food.

I read up on twelve step programs and though I’m not going to be giving myself up to a higher power, there’s a lot of value in some of those steps. So here my version and the 10 steps that I’m going to work on until I feel I have this under control:

  1. Admit that I have a problem and that it has become unmanageable (done)
  2. Make a searching and fearless inventory of my weakness (done – but I suspect there is more lurking beneath the surface)
  3. Make a list of all the outstanding debts I have (done)
  4. Became willing to pay them all, do what it takes to meet those responsibilities (done)
  5. Confessed to my husband (done)
  6. Opened myself up to accountability (done – will have to keep doing this with weekly financial meetings)
  7. Am entirely ready to be guided by my husband and therapist The Twelve Steps. (done – I think this will be the hardest)
  8. Continue to take personal inventory and when I’m wrong promptly admit it.The Twelve Steps.
  9. Add the compulsive spending to my focus in meditation and steps to success
  10. Share what I’ve learned with others

It’s taken me a few days to get my head around all this. I was so mad. I spent a few hours in denial, raging against the idea that I’d taken the easy way out and transferred my emotional eating to emotional spending. But the numbers don’t lie. I’m spending more than we have. I’m putting my family in jeopardy. And if that is true, then I can fix it.  But not alone.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could become an emotional exerciser? Whenever I feel stressed, I would be overcome with the  need to take a walk or run a mile or lift weights. Now that’s a problem I’d like to try for a while.

I’ve got to (virtually) get to work now. Be gentle with yourself today, I know I will be.