Zen: (noun) A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Trading Addictions

Well duh...

My life prior to recovery was all about control.  Controlling my thoughts, controlling my eating habits, my drinking habits, my smoking habits, my home, my family, my children, my finances.  In other words, controlling my addictions.  Some of these things are good (finances for example) and some are not.  But for most of my life I had a clenched fist, white knuckle hold on my life.  As I got older, I learned to chill the hell out a little and the only thing I maintained control over were cigarettes, food, alcohol and money. 

Then shit got real.

First, I quit smoking.  This was in 2001.  The year I turned 40.  The year we took the kids to Disney World. 

The year those bastards hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and killed thousands of innocent people. 

We practically lived next door to Andrews AFB at the time so the impact to us was palpable.  In the aftermath, our local economy tanked and my husband, a sub-contractor and small business owner, saw his company begin the slow descent to its demise.  For a year that started so well, it ended horribly and signaled a pivotal turning point in my life.

That's the year I lost control.

I had quit smoking, so while we were losing money and the world seemed to be crumbling around us and, at the time, God didn't seem to be listening, I didn't have anywhere to turn for an outlet for my feelings.  No where to go to numb.  Yes I did yoga, I exercised, I had long conversations with the hubs - but none of it could touch the feeling of lighting up and making things go away for awhile.

Well...that is...except for wine.

I always had a hard and fast rule that I didn't drink at home.  Ever.  In 2001, I started drinking at home...on Thursday nights...one (large) glass of wine while I watched House Hunters on HGTV.  That lasted about three months.  It quickly became a bottle on Thursday night, then on other nights, then more than one bottle at a time, then every night.  Over the course of the next 8 years my drinking took off and soon became the full blown alcoholism from which I am now recovering.

I had traded the feeling I got from smoking for the feeling I got from drinking.  That feeling of ahhhhh...and the world goes away for a little while.  Life is happy and carefree, if only for a minute.  During this time I also flirted with spending way too much and that threatened to get out of control as well.  Thank God I had the good sense to turn the finances over to the hubs.  I still get a thrill out of just walking into a Target or Nordstrom.  Sometimes I'll go to Target and just walk around and look at things...just to get my fix.

Then I got sober.  Now what.

Food.  Sugar most specifically but really, it's just eating that does it for me.  Since puberty I have had a hard time keeping weight off.  In my 30's I figured out the perfect combination of food and exercise that kept me fit, healthy and within a good BMI range.  I maintained control.  I seldom ate candy, never ate chips, regularly turned down birthday cake and would rather die than eat at a fast food restaurant.   I exercised good portion control and never went back for seconds.  I worked out seven nights a week with a combination of yoga, cardio and strength.  AND I LOVED IT.

Then I got sober.

Now I eat candy (chocolate) almost every day.  I keep milk chocolate chips in the cabinet so that I can have them after dinner at night.  I go to the little store in our building at work and get mini candy bars in the afternoon (three of them...because I don't want to eat a whole candy bar...really?).  I eat chips on a regular basis.  I still try to practice portion control but consistently overeat when it comes to pizza and pasta.  I bake...and I eat what I bake and I bake what I like.  I've even started dipping into ice cream and I'm a little lactose intolerant.

It's not enough to "just say no".  First of all, I have to eat.  It's not like with cigarettes and alcohol where I could dig in, make my mind up and go with it.  I must have sustanance.  Secondly, I have the same exact dialog going on in my head when it comes to food that I did when it came to cigarettes or alcohol.  The same exact rationalizations go on and on and on.  The same excuses. 

The same result.

And as a result, I've gained 50 lbs over the last 5 years.  Some of it came from the booze but most came after the booze left.  I have a long standing account on My Fitness Pal where I log calories in and calories out.  I've lost about 15 pounds doing that...which I gained right back two or three times over the years.  I've signed up to Jenny Craig twice.  Lost those same 15 pounds only to gain them back...both times.  I've done Weight Watchers both online and in person.  Same result, lose some...gain it back.  All the while beating myself up for my failure...over and over and over.

Then an angel, Annette over at Just For Today, mentioned a book in this blog post about a woman who battles mental illness and addiction.  Hmmm...sound familiar?  I devoured that book and came to a startling revelation.

I am never going to conquer this thing on my own.

I need to surrender.

I need help.

So I surrendered.  I prayed and turned it over to God.  I admitted defeat and that I am no longer in control.  Okay...I'm still working on this part but I'll get there.  What I did do right away was also significant to my recovery.

I made an appointment with my psychiatrist.

I've been clinically depressed for 18 years.   Except for a few misguided attempts to ditch the meds, I've been medicated successfully all of that time.  I've had good shrinks and bad ones (this current one is great) but overall I've been lucky and I've guided my own mental health journey.  This is a lot of work for me AND my family but it's better than the alternative.

What this book did for me however, was to educate me on my illness.  My depression could also be related to my compulsions and lack of impulse control.  The neurotransmitters that fire in my brain may not be doing their job correctly and I may not be helping them all that I can.  Who knew?

So I'm going to talk to an expert (August 20th...it was the first available appointment...ugh.)  I'm going to see if I need therapy or just a medication change.  I'm tired of being a slave to my addictions and my compulsions and my impulses.

It's time to get control...for reals yo.



  1. Awwww, I am glad you liked the book. It really really spoke to me too. I have had crazy PMS for years and now my girls have it too. Which was another thing she talked about in this book. Addiction, crazy PMS, OCD, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, compulsive overeating (which counts as an eating "disorder!!" These are all things that flit in and out of our families lives. Various people, various times, various amounts, but its always there...always hovering or burrowing right beneath the surface. This book explained so much to me, and it made it just seem like, "yeah, it happens." Normal. So we find what tools work for us and we do them. She also writes a blog....http://thereseborchardblog.com/
    if your interested.

  2. Wow. It seems we have quite a bit in common. I need to make an appointment with my psychiatrist too. Problem is, I'm not ready to be honest with him about my alcoholism/addiction. Not because I plan on manipulating him for meds (although it is always a nice thing to keep on the table) but because I don't want it on my permanent medical record. I think boys were my first addiction... and I've been trading up ever since. Anything to feel. Anything to not feel. Anything to control how I feel.


  3. Proud of you Sherry. I am such an addict too--just in my personality I guess. The key is awareness and control, and I love that you are taking both in your hands. Good on ya, girlie! C