Whilst listening to a Facebook live from the Page Women Who Don’t Drink the representative was talking about eating habits and giving some great advice, it made me really consider “Why do we make recovery so hard for ourselves?”
Initially putting down the alcohol felt like the most enormous task that was too huge for me to comprehend. It was like pushing away my best friend, my confidant and my one reliable companion all at the same time. I even remember having the thoughts that I just wasn’t ready to stop – but how did I manage to form such a strong attachment to a toxin that was destroying me.
“It was like a friend who stabbed me in the liver every time we met.”
After about a week into sobriety I started to notice my eating habits becoming almost as toxic as my drinking. Sugar became my new best friend and I would eat packets of biscuits at a time filling myself over and and over, sometimes going out at 9 at night to get more (remind you of anything?) I just couldn’t get enough bad food in me and thus the weight crept on – 2 stone for the record.
Luckily, I am not a smoker, but I do see a lot of people beating themselves up for not being able to stop smoking by their third meeting. Or going on a diet to lose the weight they had put on whilst drinking. Now don’t get me wrong these are admirable ambitions but trying to lose weight, give up smoking and put down alcohol all at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Although I do envy the people who get addicted to exercise, that is not a bad one but was not something I picked up unfortunately.
For me my eating got so bad that eighteen months in I was told by the hospital that I was suffering from malnutrition. This didn’t happen to me in the traditional sense as I wasn’t super skinny, in fact I was still overweight, but I most definitely didn’t have the right vitamins and nutrition that my body needed. My skin was dull, my stomach in permanent pain and I had a huge crack down the centre of my tongue. If I drank tea or a soft drink it tasted fizzy; I even once argued with a waiter that he had put fizzy water in my cranberry juice. It was quite embarrassing when my sons both took and sip, they confirmed it was flat as flat can be.
I get applauded for my resolve to have not picked up an alcoholic drink so far, yet I am more concerned about the size of my stomach than the fact I have not picked up an alcoholic drink in this time. I have gone through so much in sobriety; I got divorced and family members have passed, all of this I have managed with my program but my relationship with food continues to deteriorate.
Initially when we find our will to be sober, I do believe that this is all we should focus on. Eat and smoke until you have a solid program behind you, and you know how to manage your triggers and feelings. Then you can tackle the next most important addiction to you – follow the same strategy as you do with alcohol, but only ever face one addiction at a time.
I believe that there are some rules to this firstly if you slip up don’t give up. As addicts we are the worst at being hard on ourselves, we feel like if we slip up, we have failed and have let everyone down. The reality is that addiction is hard to kick, and we should applaud ourselves for the success and if we do take a backward step it is just a bump along the way. If you are told you are a failure or selfish or any other put down, that I have heard people say, ignore it as it says more about the person uttering the words than the person receiving them. Being kind to ourselves is the only way to tackle addiction.
Secondly go gentle – we have been addicts for a long time and as such it takes a long time to change engrained behaviours. I’ve read that you have to repeat an action 25 times for a new neural path to be formed in your brain, never mind then embedded and learned. Don’t think that you can grasp anything day one and suddenly you are cured. It takes time and slow dedication to be the person you want to be.
That then takes me nicely to my final rule – do this for you. Friends and family can be well intended and plant the seed but only you can grow the flower. Be the best that you can be, have no expectations and certainly don’t look at other addicts in recovery and try to mimic them. You can want what they have, and you can ask how they do it, but this is your journey and you have to find your way to the best you that you can be.
This all sounds incredibly simple and it absolutely is, what it isn’t is easy. You can’t change overnight. If you want to lose weight you don’t expect it all to fall away in a week, and the same applies to getting sober. There are no quick fixes to addiction you have to work at it, listen and learn and change your behaviour. All of this takes time and support from a good network that you can build around yourself.