The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined

Spoiler Alert #1:  I normally will not write a post until I have some semblance of a solution worked out.  Absolutely not the case with this one, read on at your own risk

Spoiler Alert #2:  I have a lot to say, this will be longer than usual

I’ve spent some time recently contemplating the various ways I am an all-or-nothing gal.  Turns out, there’s almost no way I’m not all or nothing.  In other words, I’m all or nothing about being all or nothing.  I do not have to search far to give you an example, this is how my day went yesterday:

I have a general cleaning routine that has been disrupted by recent life events, and I realized yesterday that I need to clean all the major areas of the house (probably the minor areas too, I just don’t care about them).  So I pick the area I think needs it the most, which is my bathroom, and figure I’d get that knocked out with no problem.  So I go in, gather the rugs to bring to the laundry room, and I realize that the towels probably need to be done too, which of course means the kids’ towels need it as well.  Which leads me to the conclusion that sheets must need to be washed, and now I’m realizing I am starting to grow this project bigger than I originally intended.  Then again, all of these things do need to be done.  So all of that goes downstairs, and I start cleaning the bathroom.  I realize some of the cleaning supplies I need are in the kids’ bathroom, so I go into a cabinet to retrieve them.  To my dismay I uncover a nightmare of things thrown into that cabinet, which knocked over cleaning supplies, which created a huge mess (my reaction to that is for another post).  I clean that up, and now I am significantly behind on a project that I’ve made bigger than I intended in the first place, but I’ve started, so simply stopping this process is inconceivable.  I am back and forth between laundry and the bathroom, now my sheets are done, and I’m thinking I can’t possibly put clean sheets on a bed (with surrounding furniture) that hasn’t been dusted, so out comes the Pledge.  This project takes very little time, and then I make the bed.  I realize at this point my bedroom is all but clean if I just vacuum, but I can’t do that if there are clothes in a basket on the floor, so I quick fold them up and put them away.  Then I vacuum, but really, the carpet doesn’t end at my bedroom, right?  There’s a hallway connected to it, and, connected to that hallway are three other rooms.  Finish that up, feeling good about how the upstairs looks, and then take a look around my downstairs.  I am appalled by the difference.  It’s as if I did nothing at all!  So, guess what happens?  You got it, room by room, the exact same process.

Now, I’m re-reading the paragraph above, and I feel like I am #humblebragging.  Let’s round it out with another story:

It’s the middle of April.  Through a series of events, I have embarked on several adventures that I think will all work towards the same goal of improved fitness.  I have joined Weight Watchers online with my cousin, I have purchased a Fitbit to track my activity, and I am training for an upcoming 5K.  Healthy goals, practical tools, lots of accountability, teamwork and support.  In the first 10 days, I have an absolutely banner week, lost an incredible amount of weight, exercised every single day, and improved my Fitbit stats each day I used it.  I was also pretty early into my self-directed smoking cessation program as well.

Anyway, weigh in day falls on a Thursday (although who am I kidding, I was checking myself at least twice a day every day), which also happened to be my husband’s birthday.  So I happily report the good news to my cousin who is doing this with me, and I let her know that I will be having a “fun” day since it is his birthday.  Which I did.

The next day, a Friday, my husband took off work and we went and got spa treatments and had a nice lunch.  I guess two days of not tracking are okay, right?  And exercise, well, I’ll just get back on it over the weekend.

Except that I didn’t, and the eating continued to devolve.  Points counting is a thing of the past, as is exercise.  Monday rolls around, and this happens to be the biggest trigger day of the week for me to want to smoke.  But there is no way I am backtracking on that progress, so I think that I will give myself one more free-for-all day so that I don’t smoke.  Here’s what a free-for-all day looks like:

First off, I will plan for my favorite food in the world:  a soft pretzel.  Where I like to buy pretzels you save money by buying two.  And while I’m at it, better pick the saltiest ones they’ve got, in case the salt falls off in the bag (which I will wind up eating anyway).  Round that off with a 32 ounce soda.

Once I’ve eaten all of this, is there really a point to stopping?  I might as well go for all my favorite foods, which tend towards crunchy and salty.  Eat them as the mood strikes.

If I’m eating like this, do I really feel like moving at this point?  Let’s just make it a fun day all around, and watch some mindless television.  And so that day continues on, with very little productive to show for it.

So there’s the other side of the all or nothing lifestyle.  Of course, I could paint a much grimmer picture, were I to go back a few years and describe a day in the life of active addiction.

And it’s not just about eating, exercising and cleaning.  Here are some other categories:

Television:  It is a point of pride that I have never missed an episode of Survivor.  My husband will corroborate this story… he did not watch it with me Season one, in fact mocked the concept, and I remind him on a very regular basis of this fact.  There have been something like 28 seasons of this show, and I will watch it no matter what.

Reading:  I am either obsessively reading, or I cannot locate my electronic reader.  Absolutely no middle ground.  I am on the latter side right now, and yet I still go to my book club lunches (they should excommunicate me right about now).

Apparel Shopping:  if I find something I like, I need it in every color.  That or I’m wearing the same pajamas like it is my uniform.  Seriously, I will wait for the dryer before I get changed for the evening.

Organization as it Relates to the Basement:  I am either all about it, and the basement looks like it did last summer after the garage sale, or I abandon it and the basement looks like it does right now (Editorial comment:  I do not live alone in my house, and I REFUSE to take sole responsibility for the state of the basement.  On the other hand, it seems to bother only me, and my choice when I’m on this end of the organizational spectrum is to just avoid it at all costs.  But I digress…)

Free Refills:  If I dine at a restaurant that offers free refills of my favorite beverage in this world (Diet Pepsi)… well, I’m sure I don’t have to finish this sentence!

Don’t Touch My Pitcher:  Last summer I wrote about a plan for improving my fitness by introducing things into my life, rather than taking things away.  Interestingly, these things have managed to hang around for what’s coming up on a year now (if interested, read here).  One of those things was increasing my water intake.  Now, believe me, there are days when I drink none (of course, all or nothing, right?), but most days I am habitual about drinking 10 glasses of water.  The process has evolved to the point that I bought my own pitcher with one of those cages in the middle that I can put lemon and lime in to infuse the water, and I drink it until it is gone, then refill it for the next day.  Great practice, right?  Until another family member attempts to drink from this pitcher, then all hell’s breaking loose.  Because I am selfish and don’t want to share?  Not a chance… because then I can’t keep track of my water intake!

So obviously I could add to these categories ad infinitum (I’m sure it feels like I already have), but I think I’ve made my point.

I am sure that, if you could, you would finish reading this, walk over to me, give me a hug, tell me I am not alone, and that I just need to work towards finding some balance in my life.  And I would sincerely agree with you, but if you looked closely into my eyes, you would see somewhat of a vacant stare.  Not because I’m ignoring your great advice, but because those words truly mean nothing to me.

As in, I get it theoretically, but have no idea how to practically apply the concept to real-life scenarios.  Curiously, I remember having similar thoughts about some of the steps in my 12-step recovery program.

My good friend Lisa over at Sober Identity once posed to me this challenge:  Figure out what you are gaining from holding on to a behavior you wish to change.  Because you ARE gaining something from it, whether you want to admit it or not.  If you can figure it out, you can work to meet this need in more positive ways.

So what is the gain to living my life like this?  To be continued in The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined


 Today’s Miracle:

Who knew I had so much to say on this subject?  Not me! 


Posted on June 5, 2014, in Recovery, Self-Care and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Throughout your entire post I kept wondering if you ever got back to cleaning your bathroom! That’s how my obsessive mind works. 😉


    • Man, 8 million words I just wrote, and I never even said that I finished cleaning the bathroom?!? Yes, that I did, it is my LEAST favorite room of the house to clean, and so there was no way I wasn’t getting it done once I started!

      I appreciate the comment, and the knowledge that I’m not alone in the OCD department:)


  2. Quitting smoking is massive. It’s a big deal, it’s tough, it’s so important for your health, more so than a few extra pounds, pretty much more than anything, so first and foremost, well done on quitting! It’s impossible to do everything at once. You’re brilliant for quitting and you’re doing well, so big pat on the back for that. But oh, man, I am with you on the cleaning thing. Once you peer into the dark corners, you start to gauge the size of the job. It always grows. And it’s never done. Enjoy the clean bathroom while it lasts 🙂 🙂 xx


    • Thank you for the commendation on the smoking, I needed to hear that. Once I’ve accomplished something, I am often just on to the next task, and it’s important to feel good about the accomplishment!

      And, thanks to this wonderful comment, I consciously admired my bathroom, which is already not as clean, but I guess that’s the nature of the best 🙂



    Yes, how much of the house did you get cleaned?

    Well, I’m finally caught up with the past month. Geez I have so much to say and absolutely nothing to say. I think the B&W describes many of us in the program. Our gray DNA seems to be defective. I see me in every single one of your examples. I take everything to the nth degree. The interesting thing for me now, is that I have come to accept that this is part of my make-up and I make concessions for it. I know up front how I’ll be so I try and accommodate my natural state of black-and-whiteness. It’s not perfect, but it sure beats the heck out of beating myself up for my screw-ups. And the more I get okay with Lisa, the better I get at being Lisa.

    You are an incredible woman—regardless. You bring so much to my life. And you always have. From the first day I read you blog posts until today. So what if you’re all or nothing. When you’re ready to make changes you will and if you’re never ready so what. I have so much room to grow it’s ridiculous, but I’m not going to lose my self love for more than a few moments over what I have yet to learn.

    Big love from me to you.


    • Holy mackerel, have I missed you Lisa. I just read your last paragraph, and tears came to my eyes. I guess I needed to write this out and have you let me know it’s okay before I could exhale. Seriously, I don’t have the words to let you know what this comment meant to me. I am taking the following sentence with me: SO WHAT IF YOU’RE ALL OR NOTHING!!!!


      You are seriously brilliant!


  4. I identify with you. Food is the biggest arena in which it plays out for me, and it can be exacerbated by the bipolar thing, but I think it’s a very human thing for us to do. Sometimes, when I’m in “productive mode” I try to consciously stop and take a break…but it doesn’t always work.


    • You are I share many traits, I actually thought of you as I was doing my 5K this weekend, because I know you and I feel the same level of accomplishment on this task! I agree, food is definitely the biggest arena for me as well, I have really come to believe that is truly is my “drug of choice,” to use some recovery lingo.

      Thanks for the comment!


  5. OMG…I LOVE you even more than I did yesterday. I will read and again and again…or walk away and chase the shiny object that just floated across my desk.
    Seriously, you are adorable and my long lost sister. I started cleaning the bathrooms this morning and ended up re-programming the weather radio, but not until I took a toothbrush to the baseboards. End result: bathrooms forgotten, weather radio without batteries and the baseboards? Sparkling.


    • MMT, I read this, turned around, looked at my baseboards, and gasped. Holy crap, do I need to tackle this project!!! I guess this would fall in the “minor areas” section of the home cleaning projects!

      Thanks for this comment, it truly helps to know that I am not alone with this crazy mindset. Time to go chase a shiny object… 🙂


  6. I love what everyone here has said already. And I can relate totally to what you say, Josie. I am sure you know that I do – we are very much alike. And you know what, I completely agree with Lisa on two things:

    1) What are you gaining from this all-or-nothingness? It’s that old Dr. Phil line of his – what are you getting out of this? I have to look at this stuff too. Inventory it. The all-or-nothing is a symptom of something deeper, yes? I know it is for me. Still haven’t figured it out, or haven’t decided to look at it yet. The latter no doubt 🙂 But there is something about that behaviour that I get out of – as do you. I think it depends on the situation. For the cleaning, it’s about being the martyr. Self-seeking. For the food, it’s not feeling worthy. And so on. So I have to look at these too.

    2) Accepting that it’s part of me and making concessions. Love that. Because I get to a point now where I just say to myself (or to the wife) – well, you know that I am going to (fill in blank) because I will certainly (fill in blank). I try not to judge it, or label it. it’s just me…at this moment in time. neither good nor bad, but just is. I do let things slide, and sometimes it bothers me, sometimes not. That’s progress, because it ALL used to bother me. So there is that, ya know?

    Don’t be hard on yourself, Josie. We’re our worst enemy and don’t give ourselves enough pats on the backs. Ya gotta clean house, at least 🙂



    • Paul, I have been waiting for your comment, because I know how alike we think. I am going to follow up on this post, but really take some time to ponder the gains (plural, as I can think of a few just off the top of my head). I’m telling you, writing this was cathartic, and I think it really did open the door to something, because I’m in agreement with you… this particular issue ties it all together for me with respect to addiction, so if I can come to some sort of peace with it, I will feel like some kind of corner has been turned. I’m rambling again!

      Oh, and yes to number 2 as well… I have never considered acceptance of this character trait until Lisa’s, and now your comments. I will say it felt like a huge weight had been lifted at the mere possibility of accepting it, so I need to ponder the concept some more. In any event, I am so grateful to you for the advice, encouragement, support, camaraderie, I could go on and on but I am blathering again 🙂


  7. OMG! I just did this today! I have a friend coming to visit on Saturday and I went in a panic mode, next thing you know I stared 10 cleaning projects including the laundry. I always laugh at myself for this in the end. I say I AM MULTITASKING! Lol! I think this is some part of the addictive mind, though I am not an expert! But I cook the same way, I work the same way, and I drank the same way – trust me, worst thing to keep losing your drink at a party, or start 5 different conversations and never finish any! Lol! And, yes, I talk the same way, though I have managed to stop, and not open my mind and just let it all flow out any more. Sometimes all this is good, like trying to get 3 kids out the door in the morning, I can actually attend to each one with their own need at the time they need it. Sometimes it’s not, like I lose track of stuff all the time.!

    What I have learned to help me is to create patterns and do the whatever, the same way every time. Also I make lists and focus on one thing at a time. There is an app I use for work now, called Pomidoro, it’s a timer, you work for 30 min on one task, without interruptions, and then take 10 min break, then you can continue with the same task or switch for the next 30 min, and again take 10 min break, an so on. This has been a huge help! I used to be swamped busy and got nothing done. Not anymore!

    Anyway, Josie! Love this post! Had me laughing and nodding yes, yes, yes! I think we also try, and feel like we have to do it all and we don’t! Give yourself a break, you are doing great! Hugs!


    • Hi Maggie, thanks so much for the comment, I figured that you would relate, we have similar mindsets on other issues! Thank you so much for this advice, I do use the patterns and lists in other areas, I just never thought to apply it to some of my “problem areas.” Now you have me thinking, and I feel like it might just work. Really appreciate it!

      And I am checking out that app as well, love getting these kinds of suggestions, I am so not tech savvy!


  8. I have many of those same quirks too! In fact, I think most people do, not just those of us in recovery. We have the tendency to envy people who don’t need recovery but I know a lot of “normies” who are totally stuck in bad habits and behaviors. At least in recovery, we ask if these things serve us or not. You sound like you’re on the right track to me!


    • It’s so true, Karen, since writing this I have come to realize this has very little to do with being in recovery or not. It’s funny how sharing these quirks opens the door with people, I am just so grateful for the support network we have formed here 🙂

      Thanks for all of your support!


  9. I can see myself in your post so clearly, matter of fact I started to clean out my socks and pantyhose drawer while I was in the process of reading another of your posts on your blog,by the time I got to reading this post I have managed to go through my entire wardrobe and drawers and have boxes and bags full of throw aways and charity items stacked in my hallway.
    Thank you for your post, Im stopping right now!


    • Is it wrong to say that you are my hero? How in the world can you read and clean at the same time?!? We are truly kindred spirits that you are doing this, and I am admiring it (I’m now thinking about my closet and what I “should” be doing to organize it right now) 🙂

      Thanks for the comment!


  1. Pingback: The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined | themiracleisaroundthecorner

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