I didn’t understand a thing about addiction when I was a kid. I mean, I had a concept of my mother’s alcoholism, because it was pretty obvious, what with bottles being around, and mom often being incapacitated. I knew a couple of her brothers also had serious drug and alcohol problems, too. I knew, but I didn’t really understand. I saw the symptoms, but I didn’t get what they felt like.
There was this liquor store/market that was around the corner from our house, and it was closer than the 7/11 which was down on the corner of Mission Gorge Rd and Fanita Drive. The man that ran the store was also the slumlord that rented the crappy little duplexes behind the store (which are still there, and still crappy–the landlord is long dead, though), and he did something the 7/11 wouldn’t have even thought about doing–he allowed my mother to run a tab. This was especially convenient, because when my father was not working (masonry had its lulls), she could still get what she needed. Sometimes it was groceries, but more often than not, it was very cheap bottles of wine, and lots of them. There were several occasions when the bottles were chosen over food, and we ended up eating eggs for dinner a few times when my dad was out of town working.
I was generally a pretty good kid, and accepted these circumstances as the way things were. For all I knew, everyone had the same problems. Which wouldn’t have necessarily been bad, but it taught me that food was way more important than it actually was. When you had it, you really needed to pound it down, because you didn’t know if it was going to be there later. Additionally, for as long as I could remember, food was how comfort was given in my house, usually more often than affection.
I can actually remember the first time this ever happened. I was sent to the store I mentioned above with a dollar and some change. I was supposed to get a candy bar or something for my sister and a bottle of coke for myself. I ran all the way there, and about half of the way back. Right as I got to the corner of Prospect and Fanita, I stumbled and fell flat on my face. The candy and bottle of Coke went flying out of my hands. The bottle shattered on a rock, sending out an explosion of soda. I’d scraped both of my palms up, along with one of my knees. I remember running home in tears, clutching my sister’s candy bar. She ended up giving it to me, and I think I even ended up getting another Coke. And it seemed to happen more frequently after that. If I cried, or was hurt, or was rewarded for something I’d done, I would be given something to eat. Usually it was something sweet, or sometimes my sisters would take me out for some fast food. Jack In The Box was, and remains, one of my favorites.
That stuck with me my entire life, and I still struggle with it to this day. Done something good? I deserve a treat. Feel crappy about something? A nice big portion of something will make me feel better. And it did. It does. It also was a good way to numb pain, much like alcohol would be for alcoholics. Although since I’ve been aware of my family’s tendency to addiction, I’ve tried to avoid regular consumption of alcohol. Avoidance worked for a while, but in my mid-twenties, I discovered that alcohol worked even better than food at numbing. I never became a “Leaving Las Vegas” style alcoholic, but there was a time not too long ago that when I did indulge, I binged like a maniac. My buddy and I would go to Padres games, each with a twelve pack of something, and not go into the game until the beer was gone.
I do the same with food. I didn’t exhibit a lot of the behavior that food addicts do, so I convinced myself I wasn’t one for the longest time. I don’t eat in secret. I don’t often eat when I’m not hungry (but when I am hungry, I eat way, way more than I should). Seldom is the meal when I have only one serving of anything. I try not to eat many dessert-type foods, but when I do, it’s usually like I did with the beer at those Padres games. I would often consume a pint of Ben & Jerry’s all in one sitting—all thousand plus calories of it.
My problem, I think, is that I struggle doing anything in moderation–whether it be drinking, or eating, or anything at all, really. My weight, and consequently my health, has been a lifelong problem for me, and sometimes it seems like it always will be. I guess it’s the “once an addict, always an addict” philosophy. But an addict in recovery is of course preferable to one in full bloom. I guess the problem right now is that I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon and broken both my legs.
I have made progress on and off over the years, mostly just from stubbornness and restricting the almighty heck out of my diet. A few years ago, I lost nearly 50 pounds, about 30 of which I’ve put back on. It’s slightly better than it was, of course, but still not where I want to be. I’d like to see if it’s possible to get my blood pressure down enough through diet and exercise that I don’t need to take medication for it anymore. I hate taking those damn pills.
I think my main problem is that I’ve always tried to go it alone, even to the extent of not spending any real time in prayer over my diet, and weight, and health. This is an area I’ve never truly given to God. Confessing weakness is not an easy thing for me. But in this area, I am tremendously weak.
Today, this moment, I can see that my health problems, and weight problems, were brought on not by God, but by me. My problems are because of me, and the consequences of my bad decisions (and not just the dietary problems). I choose to eat food that’s bad for me, in extremely unhealthy portions. I would choose to drink excessively (when I did drink), occasionally to the point of making myself sick. I choose to not exercise enough. A lifetime of this has left me with the very high blood pressure I mentioned a minute ago, which nearly killed me before I saw a doctor for it. Now, I have the pleasure of taking two different medications every day. I’ll probably have to do this for the rest of my life, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.
What am I getting at? I just wanted to lay the groundwork for where I am. But I also realize that changing my life is not something I’ll be able to do easily, or by myself. I need to involve God, and seek the accountability of others like myself, and people who have been through what I am only just beginning. To that end, I was briefly involved with a program called “Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.” Very similar to AA, but different from Overeaters Anonymous, mostly in its methods. FA’s path to health and weight loss is very strict, to start, and involves abstinence from all flour and sugar. You eat three weighed and measured meals with nothing in between. It was tough, and I think I did it for a month or two. It worked, but at the time the discipline became far more than I was willing to deal with, as it required me to attend AA meetings besides the once a week FA meeting. I was not down with that, and I crapped out pretty early on.
From what I can tell from the website, OA mainly consists of accountability, and planned menus, without the extremely strict nature of FA. We’ll see, I guess. I found one that meets in Yuma, and I was thinking about checking it out, and seeing if my wife would go with me.
So short term, what I’d like to do now is to attend an OA meeting and see what that’s like, and if I am more suited to its disciplines. In that regard, to those of you who pray, please pray that I am able to maintain the discipline I need to get healthy, whether or not I take part in a program.
The truth is, I’m tired of feeling bad, and tired of not being healthier. I know what I need to do, but in trying to do it on my own, I’ve failed miserably. And of late, I’ve felt myself sinking back into old thought patterns, and sin patters, I suppose. The way I’ve been treating myself feels like sin, and I’m tired of feeling all crudded up again. I guess talking about it like this is the first step. One of the guys in my small group mentioned being available to talk about this stuff, and I may take him up on it. But the very first thing I need to do, is give all of the stuff I’m feeling to God, and trust him to be in control. I think of that quote from Romeo & Juliet. “he that hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail.”
So please pray–whatever God puts on your heart to ask for on my behalf. And while I feel like I’m at peace about whatever happens with the work thing, it has been the source of a fair amount of stress lately, and more than a few large meals over the past week. In that regard, I have a meeting with the accident review board today at 3:20, and I will be very glad to get it over with and find out what my fate at work ultimately is. I’ve been on suspension since last Friday, and it’s the first time in my life I’ve felt like a discipline case. Though I suppose it’s probably standard operating procedure when you utterly destroy a government vehicle, and almost destroy yourself along with it.