Still Missing My Buddy, Buddy

Buddy copyIt has been over one month since we put my buddy, Buddy to sleep.  As I noted in that earlier post, it was time for him to go.  As early as last summer he would go a couple of days without even getting up off of his bed.  I began noticing about six months ago that his vision was pretty well shot and he could only chase thrown toys by following the sound of them hitting the ground.  The last few times I took him for a walk he kept walking into things on the street.  His last walk around the block was clearly distressful for him.  He could physically handle the walk, but was clearly disoriented and unable to really see or sense where he was.  His last few days he got up only a couple of times.  I had waited for my wife to get back home to Memphis so that we could both take him on his last car ride, this time to the vet.

The vet was his least favorite place in the world.  He was scared to death in there.  The first thing he would always do when the vet walked into the examination room was relieve himself out of fear.  He had to be muzzled because he did not want those strange hands poking and prodding.  However, this time, there was no argument from him.  There was no nervous shaking from him, nor did he lose control of his bodily functions.

It was time.

But I am finding that I am missing him even more now than when we left the vets office with only his collar and leash, or when I spread his ashes in our back yard a few days later.  Or when I threw his squeaky toys over the fence for our neighbors dogs, and they promptly took them up.  Our remaining two rescue dogs never got the hang of fetch like Buddy did.

Buddy could be a real pain in the ass.  He was big, too big.  He could not be left around folks that he did not know because he might snap at them.  We could not take him to the dog park because he just did not want to be messed with when other dogs came up to him.  He would go on these incessant barking kicks at 3:00 in the morning for no clear reason.

As we are getting ready to move to New Orleans, it is better in some ways that Buddy is gone.  I knew full well that the unadaptable creature of habit that he was would not have allowed him at his advanced age to adjust to the real deep south.  His last month could not have been much fun for him in any way.  Instead of chasing the little yippie dogs along the fence, when he heard them, the best he could do those last couple of weeks was call it in by barking from his bed in the sun/dog room.

So as I write this, our two remaining rescue dogs – Abbie the aging Irish Setter, and Grace our completely insane three-year old alleged Golden Retriever are lying on the floor by our bed.  They have had a few rough days being locked up in bedrooms and bathrooms while folks painted the inside of our house and worked outside.  They distressed by the fact that most of the stuff in the house is packed up as we get ready for the move.  And today, if Buddy were not just guarding the perimeter with his ashes, he would be completely and totally freaking out.  But I really miss not being able to comfort him today as when he would put his big slobbery head in my lap where he just absolutely never ever got tired of having his ears and head massaged.  I miss that the most.

What does this have to do with recovery?  Living life on life’s terms without drinking or eating over it.  But I sure do still miss my buddy, Buddy.

90 Days of Food Sobriety

IMG_0325So at the Overeaters Anonymous meeting I attended last night I received my 90-day coin for food sobriety.  For me that means that I have not had any sugar, have not eaten more than three meals and an evening snack each day – and specifically, I have not binged on any food at any point in the past three months.

From a food consumption end of things, the past three months have gone well.  Abstaining from sugar has been surprisingly easy.  At first, I was most concerned about not eating ice cream or a birthday cake – coming up in a couple of days – but that has proven largely a nonissue.

Binge eating surprisingly has been less an issue than I thought as well.  I have stayed away from the salty snack stuff that has been my typical downfall.

Some of my plates of food at meals have been slightly bigger than they should.  The eating out issue is a bit less perfect than I would like as well.

In 90 days I have lost a bit over 30 pounds.  But, I have also been quite clear in my head that I am not doing a diet.  I have played the diet weight loss game before.  I know how to lose weight, and in fact have lost it more quickly in the past than this time.

What is different this time is that for the first time I am very much seeing this as a 12-Step recovery process, the same way I have been sober for over 30 years and the same way I have been nicotine free for almost 20 years.

In this way, I treat sugar and bingeing as I would nicotine, alcohol and mind altering drugs.  If I don’t take the first drink, smoke, hit, or whatever, then I can begin to address the issue of living life on life’s terms.  In the same way that one drink, smoke, or hit, is both never enough and too many, so is one candy bar.

I am particularly enjoying in this 90-day period that my working through the first three steps in Overeaters Anonymous has provided me with a more visceral less intellectual approach to 12-Step recovery than in my past 30 plus years of sobriety.  I am not completely certain what that is all about.  I am not certain if it is because food is in many ways more of a core issue for me, as I have posted about before, having picked up sugar long before the alcohol.  Perhaps at the age of 63 I am ready to hear or engage with a deeper level of recovery.  As the title of this blog states, I am committed to the understanding that recovery is truly a process and not an event.

When I first got sober, I clung to my commitment of 90 meetings in 90 days – if after that 90 days I still wanted to drink, the bars would still be there.  I have found the same to be true in OA.  After 90 days, La Sucre and Michoacan, my two favorite sugar stores are still in business, but they are not calling my name these days.  I know that the binge issue is going to be rearing its head and is not permanently put to rest.  But today, it is less the physical, and more the spiritual and emotional recovery as a compulsive overeater that will keep me coming back.  I suppose another way of looking at it is that if I maintain the physical, I will be around to grow in the other.

So, I am launched and committed on another recovery adventure, one day at a time!

Why Food Has Little To Do With My Eating Disorder

uptreeThis past week I remained “food sober” along with having an important learning experience.  I have long understood that my alcohol recovery has little to do with drinking and more with living life on life’s terms.  However, with compulsive overeating (coe) what and how much I am putting in my mouth can take on a greater weight (no pun intended) in recovery, at least early on, than the living life on life’s terms.

I participated in an interesting discussion on FB this past week where folks discussed at what point an abstinence is considered “broken” and one starts counting days over again.  I was pleasantly surprised that the overriding response was that in coe recovery, a person can end up replacing one compulsion (overeating) with another (counting days, weighing and measuring food, counting calories, and so forth).

I find the insights I experience in coe recovery seem at a more core or visceral level than in my previous 30 years of alcohol recovery.  A key lesson I picked up from my past three months of coe recovery is that the cravings to binge eat or consume sugar have little or nothing to do with my hunger, what others around me are eating, and often, how well or not I have planned my food for the day.  Cravings to binge have everything to do with where I am at emotionally and spiritually.

This past week I had a higher stress level than I would like, did not read as much recovery literature, wrote less, and I began to push the boundaries of my plan for eating.  And like in AA recovery, I believe that coe relapse is a process and not an event.  I am grateful to have drawn on that understanding – not just so that I continue toward my goal weight, but to better live life on life’s terms.

I find this understanding particularly important because when I reach my goal weight in the next month, that is where the real recovery will need to engage on a completely visceral and gut level.  Then, weight loss definitely takes the back seat, and even more recovery becomes about dealing with the isms of which coe is only a symptom.

Grief and Recovery: Whether Alcohol or Food

buddysnowYesterday we took our buddy, Buddy to the vet for the last time and he was “put to sleep” as the popular and acceptable version of euthanized is stated.  Regardless of how you say it, Buddy is now dead.  He was old, blind, all sorts of skin and cancer problems.  He was one of our three current rescue dogs.  We had Buddy since he was about 3 months old.  His brother had died of hip dysplasia many years ago.  Buddy was the runt of the litter but the biggest dog I have ever had.  The comment from vet set yesterday, besides the recommendation that Buddy be put to sleep was “he is big.”

Although my wife and I never claim any dog as our own, folks often referred to Buddy as my dog – much for his physical appearance and demeanor.  Buddy was big, and I am tallish at 6’1″ and though my bulk is reduced of late, I am not a wiry build at all.  Buddy was quite standoffish till you got to know him, but then could be your absolute best friend in the world – a sort of gentle giant.  In that way, he could be quite “scary” at first, as has been said of me on more than one occasion.

I am getting more experience with this grief issue in recovery.  When our first dog Greta died nearly 15 years ago, I was completely dysfunctional over the event.  All I could do was stand in the front year and feed squirrels.  A few years before when I was told that Spike my cat from a previous relationship had died, I was similarly grief stricken.  I recognize that part of that reaction was the first time in recovery I had ever truly grieved the loss of someone close to me.

buddyThose couple of events led to me truly grieve for the first time the loss of my grandmother who had died in 1979.  I posted a while ago on that process.  These experiences in recovery have led me to focus less on the loss and more on celebrating the lives lived with family and friends – whether primate or canine.  When Sophia our Boxer died a few years ago from a rather brief but intensive battle with cancer, the grief was less and the celebration was more than with Spike or Greta.  Yesterday with Buddy, the celebration of life overshadowed the passing in death.  He had been a phenomenal friend for nearly a decade and I am truly grateful for that time together.

And that leads me to the point of this post that is not really about dogs but issues of addiction.  I have stopped thinking “and I did not drink over it” or “drinking would not have made it any better” – as now not drinking or using drugs is the norm for events such as the death of someone close.  Early in recovery I wondered if I really lived such a charmed life that all of this stuff that happened to everyone else and became their issues for relapse were somehow greater than what I faced.  I don’t know the answer to that question, but for the past 30 plus years, I have not found the issue, circumstance, or event that, one-day-at-a-time, I have chosen to drink over as a solution.

I was pleased that two nights ago when we made the decision to take Buddy on his last ride to the vet, and I could not sleep, the thought of bingeing on some food crossed my mind as the sedative that would knock me out.  But then I quickly realized that food was not going to make that situation any better.  I opted instead for just getting 4 hours sleep that night.  Sitting back with Buddy while he snored away was a better choice.

In sum for me, the Twelve Step Programs of recovery, whether through Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous continue to be the solution to my addiction and life problems.  I am grateful as I think back to August 4, 1984 when I walked into the Detox Center on Glendora Avenue in Cincinnati Ohio and took Step 1 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.”

 

Alcoholism, Compulsive Overeating, and Craving

mardisgrasI preface this post by saying, I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  

 

Also, below I talk about specific foods which in some ED circles is a definite no-no because of possible trigger effects.

I have been food sober since December 20, 2015 – which also means I have not had any refined sugar – or sugary dessert stuff.  I am pleased that today I am not craving sugar.

But I had an interesting sugar experience the other day that got me to thinking.  My eating plan is three meals a day and a couple of “snacks” if I want them.  At night a snack might consist of Sugar free jello or pudding.  The Sugar-Free stuff also gets a bad rap from some in the ED world – I think because of the chemical additives, and that Sugar-Free might be the alcoholics equivalent of near-beer and set-up craving the real thing.  I have not found that is the case for me, at all.

For breakfast I often have a farina type something or the other with raisins – we had that every Thursday morning when I was kid – along with a piece of fruit.  In my food sober life I actually enjoy, cook, and taste food, as opposed to just shoveling it in. When I was at the store, I notice some dried blueberries and thought that might be a nice switch from the raisins in my farina.  So I bought some, and a couple of mornings later, dutifully measured out the 1/4 cup of dried blueberries for my farina.

With the first bite, that familiar taste hit me.  I looked at the package and sure enough, the third ingredient listed for these dried blueberries is sugar.  I looked at the ingredient list for the raisins – no sugar.  Now, I was a bit put off, but certainly was not in the least bit tempted to go over to the sugar bowl that still sits on the counter and shovel it in.

But I got to thinking – I thought back to the mid-1980s when I was sober for one year or so, while taking my mother to Joplin, Missouri to visit her aunt.  At dinner the first night we had some stew dish that tasted so familiar, but I could not put my finger on it – turns out it was beef bourguignon.  The aunt assured me all the wine was cooked out.  The taste did not set-up a craving in me to head to the liquor store for a half-gallon of my favorite burgundy gut rot stuff – but there was just a real familiarity in the tasting.  In the same way, I was in a store one time and could not get over how much I liked the smell of the lime after shave and again, could not put my finger on it until the clerk commented “Yeah, it has a really strong alcohol smell but that goes away after a while.”  Or the factory loading dock with the barrels of distilled alcohol I walked through when newly sober.

And that got me to thinking about how 25 years ago, if the spring breeze was blowing and the temperature was just right, the bar across the street would be calling my name, and not for going in and having a coke either.

Today, I don’t knowingly eat any food cooked with alcohol regardless of the actual content when consumed – I just am not interested.  Today too, as I wrote before, I am blown away how mangos taste so sweet yet do not set me up to want to get the sugar desserty thing that I know will set me on a binge.

Today, I choose to error on the side of caution with food in the same way I did when newly sober from alcohol and drugs.  The only thing I truly miss is not having sugar in my hot tea.  I find it interesting that my refusal to consume any alcohol related stuff has only gotten stronger over the past 30 years.  I used to do a drop of communion wine in the distant past, but have not done so for five or more years.  I am curious where the sugar issue will go.  I am comfortable, one day-at-a-time, of not consuming sugar in the form of desserts, candy, and so forth – not even any King Cake for me this Mardis Gras!!  And that just got me to thinking about pralines – but I’ll deal with that another day.

Since this past December 20, I have not had a craving for any food, and have had what I think is a reasonably easy time with my eating plan.  In the next 30 days or so I will hit my goal weight and then the real work begins – maintenance.  I have lost weight before – multiple times – it is not really that hard.  But this time, I am extremely grateful that for the first time, I am working a 12-Step program and not dieting away the weight.  The 12-Step program approach has allowed me for the first time to deal with my compulsive overeating beyond the food and weight issue.  Instead, through a 12-Step program I understand how I use sugar the same way as alcohol and drugs to not live life on life’s terms.

Losses and New Understandings in Recovery

St. LouisThis last week has been one of loss and new insights.  Our house in Memphis was broken into for the second time in three years.  Nothing was taken because we don’t have the electronics, jewelry and guns that the typical burglars are after.  Then, a couple of days later, my bicycle was stolen from the place I had locked it up in the French Quarter of New Orleans where I had ridden to take my regular couple hour stroll.  Nevermind the bike was 15 years old, been wrecked a couple of times and had definitely seen its better days.  I kept the bike specifically for urban transportation because I knew it would get stolen someday.

So, without my wheels, I then had (chose) to walk the 50 plus blocks home.  Besides just the physical exercise, there are lots of benefits to doing a long walk like that.  It gives you a lot of time to think and observe.  When I am walking along the same city streets I usually ride on my bike, I more notice and engage folks I pass by; I stop and look at the menus posted on the windows of restaurants and go into small shops I have only ridden past on my bike; more thoroughly enjoy sitting and having a coffee about 2/3 of the way home; and I was just truly grateful that at the age of 63, a five-mile unplanned walk is not a big deal, physically.

I thought too about what I have gotten out of these thefts.  I have been very pleased that in both instances, I very intentionally thought “and bingeing on food is not going to make this any better.”  On further reflection, I thought that perhaps some 30 years ago when I was new in sobriety, I would have thought “and going out and getting drunk is not going to make this any better.”

Food sobriety as a compulsive overeater is a new process for me.  I relate very much to the idea that bingeing on sugar, salt, grease as the answer to all life’s problems, celebrations, and anything in between.  I am pleased to be getting to the understanding that I have used food in the same way I used alcohol and drugs to escape living life on life’s terms.

Recovery is truly a process and not an event.

The Sweetness of Mangos & Yucca

elizAs a compulsive overeater, I have been food sober since December 20, 2015.  Today, what that means for me is I am eating three meals per day, one snack sort of thing in the evening, and fruit and vegetables during the day if biking/hiking and a commitment to no refined sugar.  I have relayed in the past how I have come to understand that I used sugar to escape long before I picked up my first drink and was off on my active career as an alcoholic.

Over the past several weeks, I had several “aha” experiences with foods I have eaten and not eaten:

  • I have been a bit nervous about the long-term abstinence from sugar.  But one day at a time, I have not had a craving for the substance in the past few weeks.  In fact, I am surprised at the incredible natural sweetness of other foods, like mangos.  When eating boiled yucca the other night, I had a similar experience.  I am pleased that to the extent “sweet” is a taste I am after, I can get it from something other than refined sugar.  In the same way, “thirst” can be addressed with liquids other than beer.
  • In general, over the past several weeks I have enjoyed the taste of foods like never before.  I attribute this largely to not simply eating till the food was gone.  I have enjoyed cooking and have taken care to do it right, and not just get the food cooked or fixed so I could eat.
  • For the first time in I don’t know when, at supper last night, despite being very intentional about the amount of food I was putting on my plate, I was struck that the amount was perhaps too much.  When in restaurants of late, I have not judged the wisdom of my order based on the volume on my plate compared to others at the table.

Here are a couple of other changes in the past few weeks:

  • In attending OA meetings online or listening to speaker podcasts, when folks qualify as “compulsive overeaters” there is a more visceral or gut recognition on my part – that yes, I am too.  I am not just a recovering alcoholic with food issues.  In fact, the overeating as early as I can remember came before my first experience with getting an alcoholic high at the age of 10.
  • Perhaps most significantly, although I would certainly describe myself as an adherent/member of Alcoholics Anonymous in the past 30 plus years of continuous sobriety, the Twelve-Step program have taken on a more profound and heartfelt meaning for me in recovery from my compulsive overeating.  A point of departure for me is moving from the intellectual to the visceral.