It’s a slippery slope

recovery-ants

Ants in recovery-unaware of the direction but aware of the path.

I got sober in January of 2015 and I’ve been in recovery from an eating disorder since November of 2015. Yep, 2015 was a big year. The action of being in recovery looks different every day. Today, alcohol and I do not struggle. On occasion I’ll have a fleeting thought that a drink might be nice or something will happen that makes me crave the relief from just one drink. Usually when I think that way about booze I remember I am sober, check myself and move on. The eating thing…that is an entirely different beast.

Last year at this time, I was educated by a team of very smart therapists, doctors, and nutritionists about eating disorders – specifically binge eating disorder. I was taught how to go through a day of planned eating with scheduled snacks. With this plan, I  moved swiftly through the days…even with the  emotional turmoil that is life as a working mom, friend and wife. I was able to have loads of snack foods at my disposal, even in my pantry (the favorites were peanut butter pretzels, peanut butter M&Ms and chocolate peanut butter ice cream.) I divided these snacks into normalized portions in little plastic baggies. (except for the ice cream of course ) At snack time I would eat a portion and move on. I was done eating and THINKING about eating.

My disease has morphed. It tries to sabotage me. I tricks me into thinking I am normal. I have noticed in the past few weeks that I grab at the peanut butter pretzels at  will and I ask the husband to head to the store to pick up chocolate peanut butter ice cream whenever I want it. These foods in and of themselves are not bad. I don’t vilify food. But, unplanned eating is dangerous to me.  If I pre-commit to a snack – whatever it is – I can eat it without judgement.

When I grab the unplanned food, I know this is not what recovery looks like. But what I tell myself is that “I am WAY far in recovery and I don’t need to plan and pre-commit. I can eat whenever and whatever I want.”

Last night, after I had gone through the day of planned eating, I absentmindedly/knowingly grabbed a handful of peanut butter pretzels, realized what I was doing and still proceeded to shove some in my mouth. I did this knowing that the action was counter to my recovery. In the next few minutes, I started to feel the guilt and shame of being “owned” by a food. Why wasn’t I as strong as I was a year ago?

Instead of finishing off the rest of the bag, I took the remaining peanut butter pretzels, put them in the sink, got them super wet and soggy (cause you know, if they were dry and crispy I might chase them down later) and washed them down the drain. After that, I felt safer.

It’s true, a year ago I could keep those foods around and they wouldn’t faze me. Recovery looks different today from how it looked it did last year. It will be different three weeks from now. What I have to do today is make sure I create a safe space around food. Today, I can’t have my obsessive foods in my house. I have to be intentional and aware with food because we need it to survive.

These are some rules I try to follow to stay present and active in recovery.

  1. I do not pay  for alcohol…it’s a slippery slope.
  2. I don’t hang out in bars…unless there is a group and I have control of leaving.
  3. I do plan my  meals and snacks….it’s a slippery slope.
  4. I do stick to this plan…it makes life so much less complicated.
  5. I do reach out to people who struggle like me…they have saved my life…over and over.

Our shit just might be connected…

I miss sharing my experiences of spinning out of control and the day to day nonsense that is my life.

I stopped blogging this summer because a good friend read my blog post and thought I was targeting her. This devastated me. I never intended to hurt anyone with this blog. Please know that while I can’t guarantee that things I write won’t hurt, I promise I will never write to hurt you, to call you out, to pick on you for something you said, to shame you or to make you feel less than. I promise that I will write about my shit and only mine. It is possible that your shit and my shit will occasionally collide and that’s what makes us able to relate. That’s what helps us connect. This is an amazing image, connected shit. Like shit cars on a train track or a linked shit necklace…I digress.

img_1651

Shit train cars.

I can understand how this happened. We’ve reached a point using social media as a main method of communication that we post things that we would never say to a person directly. Admit it, I know I have shared articles and stories on Facebook knowing that the content would needle THAT person. It is so much easier to click the share button than it is to look someone in the face and tell them that they hurt you, or tell them you think their opinions about applesauce are offensive.

I hope that if you decide to read this you will give me the benefit of the doubt.

middle school parenting and feeling alone

I reached out to the mother of that kid, you know, the one from last week. It was the best thing I did last week. I am torn between having my middle school boy figure things out on his own and helping him. How do I decide if I am being too much of a mother hen? I was lucky to have a friend prod me along.

This other mother was amazing. We shared our experiences. Talked about the struggles we are having raising strong, dependent, sensitive, kind men. She told me how her kid had been bullied last year and how hard that was for him.We shared our stories and I felt connected to another parent for the first time in a long time. I can’t make your child like mine. I realize that. But if you and I connect, we can guide our kids through the difficult decisions.

I am disconnected with the community of parents that I had in elementary school and I feel alone.Because of that disconnection, it is hard to be vulnerable with all of you and explain to you that my child is hurting. He is having a hard time navigating the world of middle school. The tiers of friends, the groups, the gangs, and the mentality. I worry for him every day. There are scary stats out there about what our kids do when they feel helpless, hopeless and alone.

I need middle school fucker training

I am not going to deny that there is definite chance, okay a CERTAINTY that mine has been a fucker. I’m not talking about him though, cause here is the deal. I DEAL with him all of the time. When he treats other kids like crap, he is compelled to tell me the truth about it. (he tells me the truth to a fault) When he’s mean to someone, we have brutal discussions about how he made the other kid feel. I then proceed to shame him into submission. (good parent) There are a couple of parents out there who have received apology phone calls and surprise front door apologies for his behavior.

I remember how this all feels. I also know I can’t control other people. I know I can’t control other middle schooler kids for sure. But what do I do? How do I deal with the assholes at school taunting him, teasing him, making him challenge his worth. He is vulnerable, sad, and very low. I know, I know, we all got through it. But, I don’t remember how I did it. Even when I give him advice I sound like Andy Griffith without the eloquence or accent.

Pretty sure you are in the same boat. I just wanted to be honest here. Cause truthfully, I am just so very sad that there are bullies, fuck faces that  hurt my child. Can’t wait for the girl to start middle school next year.

comparisonblog

Me>You

comparisonblogSince January, I have tried to eliminate binging and overeating from my life. I recognize that completely stopping is not realistic. Relapsing from an eating disorder isn’t like relapsing from alcohol. If I have one drink, that is considered a relapse. One binging episode isn’t a relapse as long as I get back to a pattern or regular planned eating pretty quickly. With the elimination of alcohol over a year ago and now this “no relief from food” thing….these past couple of months have been crazy.

My hormones and emotions have been WILD. (Just ask the others who live in my house). My eating disorder is alive and active. It has morphed itself into this inner voice that whispers things like, “Just have one more cookie, it won’t kill you”, “You’ve been doing so well you DESERVE a treat.”, “No matter how hard you work at this you will fail, you always do.”, and finally my disorder tries to lure me into complete restriction or purging if I’ve gone “off plan”.  In that moment, it doesn’t matter that people die from purging and restriction. My mind can trick me into thinking that being thin and dead is better than being fat and alive. In my conscious mind, I do not believe any aspect of that statement. But if I let the disordered voice get loud enough, it can drown out the words of reason.

Separately but not completely different are my emotional responses seeing how happy and successful you are.  I want to be happy for you when I hear you’ve joined a new gym and have been there 10 times in a week, but instead I am engaging my inner brain calculator to see how my fitness activities compare to yours. When you post that you bought a new fit bit/applewatch/caloriecounting/miletracker, I can go from having no interest in owning one to ordering it next day delivery and reading the entire owner’s manual online before it arrives. It doesn’t matter that I know tracking and counting eventually shatter me. It doesn’t matter that I know and understand the dangers of dieting and counting steps to my disordered behaviors.  For some reason, no matter how much I love you, no matter how much I want you to succeed, I will try to figure out how we measure up, side-by-side. I will hope that I am “better” than you. I will compare myself to you and that is deadly.

This shit is hard, I have to admit that and surrender to it every day. I refuse to pretend that eating on plan, exercising without tracking, eating without guilt or shame and calming my ever spinning brain are easy. Being honest with you and connecting on this uncomfortable level is hard. In order to live, I have to connect with you and people who understand my diseases. I have to connect to the person who has the spinning brain of an alcoholic.  I also have to connect to someone who undereats, overeats, purges, binges, over workouts, or populates spreadsheets with calories and workout data. Each of these types of people are my partners in disordered thinking.  There are days I am blowing up people’s phones because of my struggles.

In the midst of the struggle…I breathe.  I also laugh…cause if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry.

My final thought is this: my mental health does not depend on a lower BMI. I have to accept who I am, addictions and all.  I can be fucking crazy thin, fat, lazy or active. What I can’t do is relapse. Thank you for helping me not relapse today.  💙 Jen

My addicted mind

cry for webNot too long ago, I woke up on a Saturday morning, walked downstairs to find piles of things on the counter, dishes piled in the sink and trash strewn around the floor. At that moment I was overwhelmed with stress and guilt. I went from a messy kitchen to fears that my kids might go to prison. You see, my mind is not like yours. A messy dish in the sink is not what it appears to be. It transforms, like in a horror/sci-fi movie into a symbol for all things I have failed.

Here is how it went:

“Oh my god, I can’t believe how messy this kitchen is, why didn’t someone take care of it. Well, Jennifer, you could have done something about it if you hadn’t gone to bed at 8:30. Normal people stay awake till 10 or 11. Why didn’t someone else get these dishes taken care of? Your husband tried to do his best but you never seem to appreciate what he does, only criticize him when he doesn’t do things your way. I wish someone would see the value of having a clean kitchen in the morning. Well, if you had taught you kids to be responsible, you would have a clean kitchen. You have never been able to stick to a plan. You give them consequences and don’t follow through. These poor kids, you haven’t even successfully given them chores. They just tend to get what they want. How are they going to navigate life? What will they do once they go off to college. Hah, they might not even be able to handle that since you have been so remiss in teaching them responsibility. They will probably end up in prison some day because you were never able to teach them the importance of doing dishes.”

On a good day, this is the point at which the insanity stops. I can start walking back these issues, evaluating them on what is subjective and what is fact. Fact is, the dishes are dirty. That doesn’t mean they don’t respect me, that doesn’t mean anyone is going to prison, it just means that the dishes are dirty. Frankly, that doesn’t even mean that the dishes MUST be done. I could leave them there. I could throw them away and buy new dishes. There are a lot of options. My mind just tends to go to the most dramatic. I catastrophize everything. If my husband is late from work, it isn’t because traffic is bad or because he left a little late. He has certainly been killed on the way home.

All of this is part of my addicted mind. These are the reasons I drank. These are the reasons I binged. Today I can settle my brain from spinning out of control and not turn to a coping mechanism that forces me to forget. My most reliable, in the moment release is to cry. Today I cry more like I did when I was 13, but that’s okay. Crying probably won’t kill me. Though, I could probably weave a scenario that makes that a possibility.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

The 8th grade was horrible. My emotions were so strong and I had so much sorrow every day that I cried nearly every day at school. Kids made fun of me and singled me out, including my two best friends. I was ostracized by my entire group of girlfriends for nearly ½ of the school year. Years later my mother told me she worried whether I would make it through the year without taking my own life. The feelings I’ve had this week remind me of the 8th grade.

letting go darkHeavy intense emotions. End of the world sorrows. Little comments from my kids, my husband, and my daughter are slaying me. My son said to me the other morning, that one of the happiest times of his life was when he was in daycare. In daycare the provider’s son chose HIM, every day, over all of the other kids, to take upstairs to play. My heart broke for him. I am not sure that he has had a friendship like that since then. One that he is the center, he is the chosen friend. I wish this so much for him.

My daughter is going through a rough time. My husband and I were talking and we admitted that we worried so much about our son, we always thought our daughter wouldn’t be a problem. I then realized that for years, I had been drinking while my daughter was hiding out in her room by herself or with friends. I was more often than not, too busy searching out the next bottle, encouraging her to put on a movie, or play a video game as opposed to playing with her. This is my negative mind that can bring me to my knees in an instant.

I’ve walked around with puffy eyes all day. I am reminded that “I shall not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it…” But I am heavy with regrets and sorrows today. I wish I could hold that little girl who wanted just wanted her mommy. I am so sorry I turned her away.

img_4814-1

366 days ago

I took my last drink. Because I knew it would be my last drink, I finished off a bottle of fireball whiskey I had in my pantry. I woke up with a horrible headache, texted a few friends and family members for accountability purposes, and went to get help for recovery.

Since then, I have been given many gifts, opportunities, and challenges. I haven’t had to experience one of them with a hangover. That, in and of itself is a gift.

Sobriety has given me emotions. Raw emotions that I am forced to sit in without numbing. Sometimes,honestly, they suck. This past year I suffered the loss of two friends to depression, my dog, and at times my sanity. And in the midst of all of that I had the ability to feel the pain, the sorrow, the grief, and the emptiness that comes along with life and living. 

One surprise was….I picked up a skill along the way. I can draw. Who flipping knew? I bought myself a sketchbook on August 22 and finished the sketchbook on October 7. I have a Facebook page and I have a small webpage set up to display my works. I use this as a major coping mechanism. And I love every single piece.

I am blessed with amazing friends from all different times in my life. In this past year I have continued  to meet people that fascinate me, inspire me, and compel me to be the best person I can be. I am grateful. So grateful.

I am reconnecting with my older sister in a way that we haven’t been able to connect in a few years. I’m not exactly sure why it’s been so difficult in the past, but I do know that in the past few times we’ve been together I have removed a lense that I have been using to listen to her with. As opposed to assuming that things she is saying are intended to hurt me, I’ve decided to choose to believe that the last thing she would want to do is hurt me. 

My kids have approached me with unbelievable topics to talk about over the course of this year. This is not something they could’ve done in the past. I don’t think they could’ve trusted me. First of all, I probably would’ve forgotten what we talked about. I mean I used to forget our conversations all of the time. But not anymore.

I’m going to be honest with you, and this past year I have been HONEST with you. Getting sober was the best decision I ever made. Period. 

painting with my sobriety date i did this summer with my gals

  

some one decorated for my 1 yr anniversary

 

Somewhere along the way I stopped trying to figure out why

hurts a bitwmAs a person who struggles with addiction I can feel pretty put upon at times, I will spin myself into epic Tasmanian clouds trying to get to the bottom of it all. I ask all sorts of questions. Why me? Why can’t I drink like other people? Why can’t I be the person sipping on a glass of champagne for  ½ an hour? Why can’t I stop when I felt tipsy? (this is just ridiculous) Why can’t I politely pass the basket of bread without eating the whole loaf?

Sometime in the past few weeks the “why” became irrelevant. All that was left was truth. The truth is I am flawed, scarred, and wounded. I’ve got to move on from that. I don’t need to go deeper into the reasons behind my behavior because frankly, I have lived my lifetime thousands of times in my mind trying to dissect the choices that led me to where I am today. I make myself physically ill from why I stayed at the party in 1987 instead of going home. I spin and spin whirling around choices, conversations, mistakes and wounds all to end up each time exactly where I am right now. HERE.

So today I choose not to look back. I will embrace the sorrowful losses and lean into this discomfort, armed and shrouded by community love and support.

I should be just fine.

Shaking the Tree of Disordered Eating

treeeatingdisorderAt some point in my life I started to challenge my fundamental belief that my self-worth is tied to how much I weigh. I believed that if I lost weight I was good. If I gained it I was bad. That might sound ridiculous, but I share this belief with millions of people. Ask a friend if she can relate to this, my bet is she can. We are sent thousands of messages each day confirming this idea. I sit in a room full of FABULOUSLY BRILLIANT women 9 hours every week talking about removing this core belief from the shelves of our souls and chucking it into the ethereal compost bin. I can’t get the Peter Gabriel song Shaking the Tree out of my mind. That’s what we are doing, shaking the tree of disorder and throwing away the rotten fruit. This core value, core belief is not fair, it is not true, and it is deadly.

Our culture praises weight loss and thinness and loathes fat. Imagine someone saying, “Your ass looks so much bigger in those jeans than it did last week.” How do you think that would go over? But for some reason the opposite statement is ok. We justify it by talking about the health impacts of weight, makes us feel all “doctor like” as we criticize someone else’s food choices and weight gain. If I lose weight, it doesn’t mean I am healthy, it could mean I have cancer! But ultimately, it is my body, my business.

I don’t know a thing about how healthy you are based on what size you wear. I don’t know your blood sugar, A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol levels or when you had your last period just by looking at you. Are there negative consequences to being overweight? Yes and there are medical professionals available to help you. I don’t happen to be one. It can also be dangerous to be underweight which is why there are health professionals for that too. Call one. Please. Quickly.

A couple of years ago when my blood sugar levels were getting dangerously close to pre diabetic, my doctor advised me to lose weight. She told me it was easy, I just needed to keep the carbs out of the house. In that moment I almost lost. I was dejected, I knew I had an eating disorder but I had already “dealt” with it. My doctor, my trusted advisor had invalidated my struggle. It was so simple, why couldn’t I just do it? I kept going up and down and up and down with weight loss and gain. I am fortunate she saw my despair and put me in touch with mental health professionals for eating disorders.

With that I ask you to remember that giving weight loss and dieting tips to someone with disordered eating is like giving an open case of beer to an alcoholic. Just don’t.

Resources and Links:

  • Ascend CHC offers the Midwest’s most comprehensive behavioral health treatment.
  • Insight Behavioral Health Centers provide specialized treatment for eating disorders, mood and anxiety disorders and obesity at five Chicago, Illinois treatment centers.
  • Dr. Lisa Oldson “…an Obesity Medicine physician coming from a Primary Care background, I understand the impact of obesity on health as well as on self-esteem, employment, relationships, mood and productivity.”