That old inner voice
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Some people here in Sparkpeople and out in the rest of the world too have made comments along the lines of, "You sobered up and you quit smoking. Just do the same thing about losing weight."
There's a variety of reasons why it's not that simple. You may be tempted to think, "He's just rationalizing to explain his lack of success." To be fair, I cannot with 100% honesty say that's wrong. I mean, part of rationalization is being unaware of it. But putting that aside, there are real differences that are of major significance.
The number one, overwhelming difference is that quitting smoking means "NO" smoking. It does not mean, cutting down on smoking or controlling smoking. It means quitting. Similarly, AA seeks to quit drinking. Not manage drinking or bring it down to an acceptable level In fact in AA they even state that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) could stand for "Absolute Abstinence". Abstain from ingesting alcohol.
So you see where I'm going with this. Not only is it not possible to "quit" eating, but it's also not even desirable. I do eat multiple times a day. My goal here IS to manage, control, reduce it to an acceptable level. All the things that quitting alcohol and tobacco were not about.
Honestly, I don't think I could have been successful in quitting drinking and smoking if I had tried to reduce but continue to practice. It truly had to be absolute abstinence -- All or Nothing.
You may counter with, "Yes, but alcohol and tobacco are both physically and psychologically addictive." True. The comparison is not exact. Those two have more in common with cocaine or heroin or other drugs than they do with food in general. But it really does all come down to chemistry. Every food is just a chemical composition. Our bodies react differently to different chemical combinations. There is a significant difference between "liking" a food -- even liking it a LOT -- and being addicted. I know we often joke about being addicted to some food. Chocoholic is a term we're probably all heard. But there's very little evidence of real addiction, in the medical / clinical sense, to foods.
Probably one of the closest where that line get blurry is with sugar. In America, we have an abundance of sugar added to almost all processed food, so we do develop a taste, a preference for foods containing sugar. Caffeine is another chemical in some foods that does become mildly addictive.
Both sugar and caffeine addiction can be broken without recourse to rehab or other programs. The cases of job loss and social problems stemming from these is not on the scale of alcohol or tobacco-related issues.
But on a personal level, even though I am not "addicted" to food like I was alcohol and tobacco, I do require it. So the techniques that helped me totally avoid alcohol aren't that helpful when it comes to food. They were geared around a "None at all" approach, not moderation.
Alcoholics are famous for having a poor handle on moderation. As a drinker, I didn't want a little drink, I wanted a LOT. I used to be genuinely amazed when I'd be out with someone who, when asked "Do you want another drink," would reply, "No, I've had enough. I'm beginning to feel it."
FEEL IT!!! That's what I wanted! I wanted to feel it.
So moderation and self-control were alien concepts for me. Many of my fellow alcoholics express similar feelings.
Learning to eat sensibly and moderately is a truly new experience for me. It's certainly nothing I've mastered. I make mistakes.
When I quit drinking, I never had a single "slip". When I quit, I quit. Nothing in moderation about it. It was ALL . . . or . . .NOTHING. I could do extremes. That's a concept I understand.
But for food, to be moderate, to be sensible, to exercise self-regulating control?!?! Wow. That's just like telling me to try to fly. "Just try harder." Yeah, right.
I am getting better at it. I've made significant progress.
I have to confess -- and this is HUGELY significant -- my success in moderating my eating has triggered old, crazy alcoholic manipulative thought. My inner voice goes like this:
"You're doing well with eating. You're showing signs of being an adult, capable of making sensible decisions. I bet you could even have a drink. Go ahead. Probably, you could have one beer and nothing would happen. It's been almost 35 years. You're probably past all that now." And on and on.
That is literally insane in the deepest meaning of the word - unhealthy.
It's not unusual for alcoholics to have such a thought now and then. The dangerous part is to turn that over in the mind - to actually consider it. And that, my friends, has happened.
I'm not doing it. Don't get excited. This isn't a pre-suicide note or anything like that. But it is an honest acknowledgement that my old, crazy alcoholism is still in me and I'd be a fool to think otherwise or to forget about it.
Food, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sex, other compulsive behaviors have their similarities, but they are not identical - not interchangeable.