This may be funny to no one but me, I am about to write a post on change, and I am typing this on some “new, easier way to create” on WordPress.com (please read the part in quotes with the sarcasm I am intending). I already hate it, which probably is an indication of where this post is going.
I think about the changes going on in my life right now, and the word that comes to mind is “layers.” When I first started thinking about the content of this post, my initial thought was not to write it at all; after all, isn’t anyone with kids going through change right now? Mine is a bit more complex than years past in that both kids are attending new schools, and the schedule change is dramatic for everyone in the house, but other than that, who doesn’t experience change this time of year?
Plus we just got a dog, which in my life I never thought we’d have, so there’s change with fitting Dimple’s schedule into the mix.
Plus the usual rigmarole of sports, and no one wants to listen to me talk about that nonsense.
So this week has been a hectic one, filled with missed buses, forgotten alarms, lost lunch boxes, but, and maybe this is the recovery talking, but… I can put all of that into perspective fairly easily. It is week one, and sooner or later this stuff will become as habitual as getting ready for the pool was a week ago.
The change that has me a bit more unsettled in within me, and I’m not sure I’ve diagnosed it properly myself, much less found an answer to it that settles me.
I used to look forward to the beginning of the school year the way a child looks forward to Christmas morning. I’m sure if I were to go back to last summer’s posts, August would be filled with countdowns, and rants about the kids driving me crazy. I’m sure if I went back to the first day of school last year there would be some sort of celebratory post.
Not so this year, and I’m still trying to figure out why.
I can, with no small amount of shame, confess to some of the realizations that occurred to me as I puzzled over this non-excitement. The first: I was, until a few shorts months ago, a secret smoker, most especially secret from the kids (well, secret in my own mind, anyway). So kids in school meant the ability to smoke with relative freedom. Sounds ludicrous, but bear with me, I’m getting to a point.
Another obsession from which I’ve recently disentangled myself: soft pretzels. I have been threatening to write a post about my feelings on soft pretzels for years, and I may still find it within me to do so. I was obsessed to the point that I knew the one and only place I wanted them from, the people knew me there, and it was almost a ceremony the way I sat down to eat them (Recovery-minded readers: remember the ritual of getting that bottle of wine and your favorite glass? Not far off of that, seriously).
And, like the progression that alcoholism takes, I preferred to eat my pretzels uninterrupted. So, again, kids running around, asking to share the pretzel, etc = not fun. Kids in school = pretzel-eating fun.
And as I considered all of this, I got that “someone walked over my grave” shiver, because all of this was exactly as I behaved in active addiction. Because those substances, in addition to being mind-altering, were my little secret, my reward for… well for what exactly, I don’t know. Waking up that morning?
So this day one of school season felt really, really different, and I really can’t give it a label like “good” different or “bad” different. I guess the word I can best come up with: uncomfortable. On the one hand, I consciously recognize that there are a bunch of unhealthy coping mechanisms that I have risen above, evolved past, what have you, and that is obviously to the good. On the other hand, there’s this vaguely empty, “now what?” feeling going on. I have learned enough from my recovery experience that I can sit with it, and realize that it will pass, but there’s this nagging voice telling me, “You’re not working hard enough to figure out what you have to learn, come on, just get there!” And then there’s the counter voice, “Come on, you may have given up all of those things, but can’t we find something to replace them?!?”
One theory has occurred to me as I’m typing: in addition to having all of the external changes going on that I listed above, I am on the cusp of some personal change as well. I am on the tail end of the “clean-up process” of the consequences of active addiction… the finish line is in sight. So perhaps this uncomfortable feeling is the set-up for the next chapter of my life, preparing me for, God willing, a professional change. Although the finish line is in sight, it’s still far enough away that it’s not yet time for me to write a whole lot about it, there will inevitably be more to come on this subject.
Other than that possibility, I’ve got no other thoughts, but I’m open to possible solutions. Which, now that I think about it, is another big change: being open and willing to consider anything other than my own opinions. Because, no matter what happens, I am alive, and I am sober. Everything after those facts is icing on the cake.
That I typed for as long as I did in the “new editor” of WordPress. I have no idea where spell check is, so I now have to switch to classic mode, but still, I lasted a lot longer than I thought I would!
Two weeks ago I wrote a rather despondent post bemoaning my relationship with food. As always, shining the light on my fears and troubles diminishes them. The comments I received turned my negativity around almost instantaneously, and the support from my “in person” friends was the icing on the cake (the cake, of course, being gluten-free, sugar-free, and calorie-free). I came to find out, once again, that I am indeed not alone in my troubling thoughts, and that, sharing the load truly lessens the burden.
One friend and I, who both have a trip booked for roughly the same time frame, have concocted a plan: let’s grab some of the most effective tools from the recovery toolbox with which I have been blessed, and put them to work in constructing a healthier lifestyle. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:
Goal: Take the next six weeks, and make small, incremental changes to our current diet and fitness lifestyle, and see if we can’t feel and look better in time for our trips.
Okay, so there’s the big picture goal, how will the next 6 weeks play out? One of the biggest “tricks” to my success in recovery, especially in the early days, was that I had a to-do list of four things, and only four things, that I needed to accomplish in any given day, and if I went to bed having accomplished them, the day was a success. I’ve written about this ad nauseam, no need to revisit the specifics. So what I hope to do is use the same blueprint for improving my health. I took a long, hard look (cringing A LOT) at all my bad habits, and I concluded that, to start, I could commit to 4 things each and every day, and I was (am) hopeful that in time, I can add/modify/eliminate as needed to continue on a positive path. But for now, forget everything else, and commit to the following:
1. Eliminate the 4 worst foods in my current diet that lead to binge eating (again using the number because it worked so effectively in the past for me)
2. Commit to replacement foods that are healthier than existing foods
3. 20 minutes of dedicated physical activity
4. Communication/progress reports each evening (She has her own four, and reciprocates with her own progress reports)
That is it. Here’s what I am NOT going to do: beat myself up over anything else that I do or don’t do during a given day… if I go to bed having accomplished those four things, that day is a success.
Saturday, February 22nd was our start date; today is March 6, roughly 2 weeks in. How is it going?
Week one had its emotional ups and downs, but I successfully completed the week as laid out above. Each day I would wake up, absolutely convinced that I would not, could not, make it through the day without giving in to one temptation or another (sound familiar, friends in recovery?). Each night that I made it through, the exhilaration was palpable.
A surprising tool from recovery came in very handy during the first week. Each time I refrained from eating something, or chose something healthy, a pessimistic voice in my head would taunt me, “Big deal… you made it through this one, tiny hurdle? Do you REALLY think you are going to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE doing this?”
Here’s the surprise answer I had at the ready, and it comes directly from all the lessons learned through recovery: “Who cares about the rest of your life? Can you make it through the rest of this day?”
And would you believe that response was as calming, as soothing, and as positive, as when I used it in the early days of sobriety? So that was a really fun bonus. And the voice has since quieted down, it’s almost inaudible!
Other positives: the exercise thing, having committed to it effectively about 6 months ago but have since lapsed, was like riding a bike, in that making it a part of my daily life became routine fairly quickly. Without getting too far ahead of myself, I do find myself pushing myself a bit further, here and there, and I suspect that as time goes on I will continue to do so.
The regular “checking in” process has loads of benefits, the main one being accountability. There were several days that I turned away from one bad choice or another for the simple reason that I did not want to report I ate it.
Another huge milestone for me: sharing about the foods that tempt me. In the past, I would have been as secretive about this information as I was with every part of my active addiction. I attach shame to eating certain foods, and thus do it privately, and fail to disclose it to anyone. In order to have this communication with my friend be meaningful, I had to get real about the temptations in my life. Unsurprisingly, my revelations did not raise an eyebrow, and since that time I’ve opened up with more people about it, getting similar results.
I did not recognize this shift until a few days ago. I am a Catholic, and Lent is currently underway. In preparation for this religious event, I was contemplating what I would sacrifice, and decided that it would be one of the foods on my list above… Lent would simply give me a few added weeks of abstinence. However, tradition would have it that on “Fat Tuesday,” you celebrate with one last hoorah, and so I made the decision that I would break one of my four commitments. I communicated this to my friend, in advance, explaining what I was going to do, and how I intend to not let it derail me permanently (as has so often happened in the past). I finished explaining it in email, and when I sat back to review, I realized what an amazing accomplishment that was for me… that kind of unreserved honesty, as far as eating habits are concerned, is a first for me, and it felt really good to see the progress as it’s happening.
Last but not least, I am experiencing tangible results: my clothes feel a tad looser, the numbers on the scale are down, 10 pounds the first week! I am actually going to talk a little more about that, but it will have to wait for another post, since this one is running too long as it is! Finally, my mood overall is more positive and optimistic.
All great stuff, and I will post again in two weeks on this subject and let you know where I’m at!
Having good news of any kind to report is a miracle!