Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stopping sugar...

This week we have a Guest Post regarding getting off sugar. Thank you, Jill, for sharing your story. 

Getting off sugar as a part of my long-term sobriety

Two years ago, 25 years after I got sober, I admitted that I was powerless over sugar and flour and that my eating was unmanageable.

Sugar was my first addiction. I started self-medicating with sugar and white flour as a child, and when I got sober in 1989, I went right back to sugar. It helped me numb out from the uncomfortable feelings of early sobriety. It helped me relax. It wasn’t as good at that as alcohol had been, but it worked. Over the next decades, I didn’t drink but I gained 120 pounds that I didn’t need and my eating compulsions began to erode my health.

I finally gave up pretending I could eat sugar and flour products in moderation, just like I had to stop pretending I could drink like a normal person. I’d resisted taking that first step with sugar because I didn’t want another addiction. Alcoholism seemed like plenty to have to stay away from. But I couldn’t stay in denial.

So I took that first step, I found a food program that works for me, and I stepped into an even fuller recovery applying the 12 Steps to my powerlessness over sugar and flour. I learned that in order to give up this last and primary addiction, I needed to find support and make more life changes so I could stay sober with food. And for two years I’ve been doing that. I’ve lost 85 pounds and found a new freedom and a new happiness.

If you also struggle with sugar and other demon foods, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to stop self-medicating with food and create a sweeter, sober life.  

Jill K, is the author of a how-to book, Candy Girl: How I Gave up Sugar and Created a Sweeter Life between Meals, and a memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest WomanConnect with her at www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Powerlessness sometimes sucks.

Last week would've been my mother's 90th birthday. She's been gone for a little over 4 years now, and that first birthday, just 4 months after she died, found me drowning in grief, so much so that I didn't even phone my step-dad to see how he was doing. I still feel badly about that, and since then, have made it a point to get together with him on her birthday. He's living in a senior residence these days, and gave up driving last year after one more fender bender that was his fault, and could've been a lot worse.

Jer is on oxygen now, 24/7, and as he struggled to catch his breath after the effort required to get in and out of the car for our dinner date, I found myself angry - at tobacco, cigarettes in particular, and the havoc they've wrought on my family. Two grandparents, both parents, an uncle, an aunt, and now Jer, losing the battle. And it is a battle, this suffocating slowly over time. We definitely have alcoholics in our lineage, but that tobacco demon is the mother of all addictions. I'm angry at my mom for not stopping smoking after my dad died, at Jer not stopping after mom died, at RJ Reynolds for pushing nicotine. I know (I know, I know) that I am powerless over someone else's addictions, and it still pisses me off.

I lately realize, on perhaps a deeper level than whatever surface knowledge I've lived with until now, that I am powerless over the passage of time. There was a period in early sobriety when I figured I'd wasted my entire life by not getting clean until age 31. I was mistaken, and at 32, 42, and even 52, it felt like I had all the time in the world to make up for lost opportunities. And then one day I woke up and was 60 and wondered if I'd made a mistake in not having children. I woke up and was 60, then 61 and 62, thinking about my potential time left on this planet, in this form. Will I ever get to India? Will I write a second book? How long do my husband and I have together before one of us dies? Will I keep my health?

I am powerless over the passage of time and how that shows up in my life and the lives of others - my step-dad's breathing issues, a friend's diagnosis, another friend's exciting road trip, someone else's 70th birthday... All I can really do, and believe me, I am a do-er, is sit still and pay attention, both to their processes and my own.

Life on life's terms shifts and changes over time. When I was younger, I was a striver - another degree, a promotion, a 3rd, 4th and 5th marathon. With this passage of time business, which really does freak me out a bit (wasn't it just a short time ago that we sat in Wilshire Park passing around a bottle of Bali Hai?) I've noticed an ever so slight shifting inward with less focus on attending every opening, seeing every show, saying "yes" to every invitation. I'm in process with this change - at times it feels odd, like I should be maintaining past momentum. What I've been encouraged to do is pay attention to what calls to me, whether that be a new book or a new place to run. If I have a finite amount of time ahead of me, what do I really want to do with it?

Powerlessness can be a blessing and a curse. When I first learned that alcoholism is a disease, and that I would struggle to recover unless I admitted that I was powerless, I felt a wave of relief. I'd always thought that I was supposed to be strong enough to quit with will-power, so learning about the paradox of strength through surrender was literally a life-saver. I don't always feel that same gratitude about my powerlessness over people, places and things, at least not initially. It breaks my heart that my step dad can't breathe. I am powerless over that, but not over how I show up for him.  I am definitely powerless over the passage of time, but not over my attitude. I can sit in fear, or I can be grateful to be on the brink of a new adventure.

I have the choice to either celebrate powerlessness or curse it.  How do you accept life on life's terms?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We will intuitively know...

Returning to the 9th step promises, we are told that "we will intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us." Everything used to baffle me, from getting through the day sober to interpersonal interactions. Especially interpersonal interactions.

Early on, as I lounged in my backyard enjoying a sunny day, the across-the-fence neighbor leaned over and asked if I'd like a cold beer. My mind raced - do I tell him I've been to treatment? Do I say that I'm an alcoholic, and if I have one cold beer I'll want six? What do I say? What do I say? I was able to take a deep breath and simply answer, "No thanks," and that was that. From within had come the recollection that "no is a complete sentence." Oh yes. I don't need to tell everyone everything.

The intuitive knowing isn't always subtle. Again in the early days, and I only tell this unsavory tale because it happened decades ago, I'd connected with a younger guy who bordered on being an inappropriate choice. But, he was cute and fun, so for a brief time I tried to convince myself that it was OK to hang out, in secret, behind closed doors. And, a nagging little voice wouldn't let go of me until I uttered the prayer, "God, should I be seeing this guy?" The problem with that still, small voice is that it isn't always still or small, and usually, if I get to the point of asking God the question, I already know the answer. So, even knowing the answer, I accepted the guy's invitation to attend a large group picnic. I was smart enough to take a friend, and dumb enough to be surprised that he was there with a woman and a baby. OK, Higher Power, go ahead and hit me with a 2x4. Rather than feeling hurt, I laughed that HP had answered my prayer so directly. As they say, don't ask the question unless you're prepared to hear the answer.

As I've learned the hard way, don't try to outrun your intuition, whether you know the answer or not. Within weeks of my 17th sobriety anniversary, the man I'd been with for nearly 10 years left me for a younger woman. Within that year, 7 people I knew died, and the company I worked for abruptly shut the doors, which was on the front page of the local papers the day before I signed a mortgage on my house. It got almost comical, with me finally saying, "OK God, what is it exactly that you want?" It took a while to get quiet enough to listen, but the answer to that prayer was that I needed to pay attention to the inner wisdom that realized this man and I are better off as friends, that I didn't really feel good about my job, that I should tell those I care about that I love them because you never know how long we've got. And, that I won't usually understand the lessons while I'm in the middle of the course.

A gift of long term recovery is the ability to slow down enough to acknowledge my intuitive awareness. I was long the person in a new relationship who wanted to know the ending before it had really begun: tell me you'll love me forever, or move along cowboy. Living with uncertainty is not my strong suit. But, having done a LOT of work around letting go of outcomes in the romance department, and making a conscious decision to let the Higher Power choose my next relationship, I was able to hold still after I met my husband, curious about what might happen instead of trying to figure it out. In another instance, intuition told me, through a dream, to pull my application for a particular position, which in a round about way, landed me in the perfect job I now enjoy.

Intuitively knowing how to handle situations that used to baffle me is a quiet gift of sobriety. Which doesn't necessarily mean that there are specific answers to my questions. During my dear mother's last  months and days, I was certain that I didn't know what to do. But, I knew to reach out, to ask for help, to seek those who had walked the same path. I knew what I needed to know, when I needed to know it, and not a moment sooner.  

Intuitive knowing, the quiet understanding, isn't really a mystery, but it has to do with letting go of drama, of finally knowing at the deepest level, that I am OK. Knowing "how to handle situations that used to baffle" me is a reminder that life has a way of working itself out; that I can take my time; that there is enough time for all I need to accomplish. And that sometimes, taking a side street, or speaking to a stranger, offers gifts I never could've planned. I am grateful that, over time, my instincts don't go awry as often, or as far, as they did when I was just becoming acquainted with the sober lifestyle. I don't question myself as much as I used to. I trust, in myself and in the Power Greater than myself that speaks to me through others, through my dreams, through my journal, through meditation, through our program. How does Inner Wisdom speak to you?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Just a human...

As I rounded a corner on my morning run yesterday, a feisty yapper lunged at me and made a racket much louder than 6am called for. "Oh stop it," his owner scolded, as she pulled in his leash. "It's just a human!"

Just a human, in all my glory. This week, that included eating large amounts of everything in sight in preparation for the initial weigh-in at work today for a "biggest loser" challenge. By my thinking, I should bulk up a bit and wear heavy clothes on this first day, because it will make my eventual loss all the greater and, I might be hungry tomorrow. Optimistic, and just a tad alcoholic - some things don't change.

I generally take pretty good care of my physical needs - this week I've gotten a haircut, had a mammogram, and a massage. Where I can fall short is with my emotional need for connection. I can get wrapped up in "things to do," or crummy weather, or general busy-ness until I find myself in a funk and realize that I haven't talked to anyone that I don't work with for a while. If my only friend contact is on a screen (texting or social media), I'm in trouble, because that is basically talking to myself. I'm the boss at work, so while I talk "to" people all day, I'm not often talking "with" anyone. With my spouse's schedule, I have a fair amount of time to myself, which is both good and bad for this introvert, and with my perception of all that's been going on in the world, I've gotten into some serious doom & gloom.

And, I'm just a human, with moods and quirks and sometimes, a harebrained idea or two. It's when I expect myself to be otherwise that I'm headed down the trail to perfectionism. When self-judgement flares, usually with a few well-placed "shoulds" or "should nots," I'm taking myself out of the human race. One time, during an especially poignant share during a group I was facilitating, I started to cry. It happens. Later, one of the guys said, "Mrs B is not a robot!" I do sometimes censor myself. At work, that is appropriate. At home, or when it is just me talking to my Higher Power, not so much. When I'm trying to will myself into, or more often, out of, a particular feeling, I'm denying myself this messy, sometime sloppy, often joyous human experience.

So, as I bounce off the most recent news feed, or sit with my cat at the vet, or settle into my meditation chair, I will do my best to remember that I'm human. Not "just a human," because being human is an amazing thing. I will remember that the ups and downs are part of that experience; that sometimes I cry with pain or sadness, and sometimes with happiness. When I shift the dial to "gratitude," I'm reminded that "progress not perfection" is not a destination, but a way of life.

Thanks for reading...