Of all the addictions, food has to be one of the most elusive. Let’s face it: we don’t really need tobacco, heroin, cocaine, booze, shopping, sex, religion and so forth in order to survive — although we may think we do. It’s hard to convince an addict who’s shaking it off cold turkey, or an alcoholic who’s in the midst of an unsupervised detox*, but people do survive these things every day and, despite how it may feel, no one is going to die if he doesn’t get laid today.
Food — well, that’s a different issue. Generally speaking, people who don’t eat don’t survive for very long, or remain comfortable for more than a few hours. Furthermore, I can’t say that the next meal could easily kill me, unlike the theoretical next drink, and that makes it sort of hard to moderate my consumption. Someone once said that there’s nothing that will concentrate your attention like knowing you are going to hang in the morning. On the other hand, knowing that there’s a possibility that you will get caught, tried, and hanged at some future date isn’t much of a deterrent at all.
We have to eat.
For many years, I paid little or no attention to what I ate. I went through all the trendy stuff like vegetarianism, but essentially I ate whatever and however much I wanted at the time, and if I didn’t it was because I chose not to. Even when my weight and BMI crept upward slowly over the years, it wasn’t, you know, like the next mouthful mattered very much overall. Then I was diagnosed diabetic.
Suddenly, the next few mouthfuls mattered. The effects of being overweight mattered. Any number of things began to matter, including moderation and selection in my diet. Just as when I stopped drinking and drugging, I not only had to modify my intake, I had to change my attitude and behavior as well.
I’m still working on it. Although I wouldn’t have called myself a compulsive eater (Was I?) I certainly had to begin behaving as though I were recovering from an addiction. The only difference — and it is a big one — is that, rather than going cold turkey, or chicken, or duck, or roast beef, or whatever, I’ve had to become the equivalent of a “social” eater.
‘Cause you’ve still gotta eat.
I was never much for sweets, and had been avoiding fats for years. But once I had to avoid both, to help control my body chemistry, I suddenly became a connoisseur! Butter is better. Sweets? How about some chocolate? Better yet, let’s combine them and have fudge! Tell my addict mind that something’s a no-no, and I’m right back to the first step. So, it’s again back to the program of recovery. It did the job with booze, drugs and cigarettes, and it’s helping with the behavior modification needed to live this new life too.
The cool thing about having a lot of tools in the tool kit is, all you have to do is find the right wrench and start turning the nut.
*Parenthetically, however, I need to add that cold turkey detoxes are not medically recommended, and that unsupervised alcohol detox is extremely dangerous due to the possibility of seizures. That is especially true if the person has been using tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium, which is often the case.
I know you hear the old mustache petes at meetings say that you don’t need detox but, trust me, a lot more folks have failed unsupervised than have succeeded. Just because those guys know how to stay clean and sober doesn’t make them experts when it comes to getting the chemicals out of your system. When I get stung by a bee, I just remove the stinger and cuss a lot. When my brother gets stung, he uses an epinephrine syrette so he won’t die. Everyone’s different, and you can’t tell ahead of time.
You can believe this or not, but I have to say it for liability reasons (and also because it’s true).