Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You Can't Go Home Again


<Deep Breath>

I figure that if I'm going to write about the highlights, the successes, that I need to be equally open about the setbacks and heartaches.  A one dimensional picture is hardly useful in trying to describe a three dimensional world, and nothing is as easy as it sounds when you only describe the times when it's easy.

<Deep Breath>

Over the past couple of weeks I've been struggling.  My reasons are personal and specific, but they'd be recognizable to anyone who's ever read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, or ever attended any kind of 12 Step meeting, or known anyone with addiction issues.  Really they'd be recognizable to anyone who's ever done any kind of deep spiritual exploration and discovered anything important about how the human mind and heart work when operating under the control of the small-s "self" rather than the large-s "Self."

The reasons aren't that important; the results, on the other hand, are.  I ate some junk food.  Actually, I ate a lot of junk food.  Had some McDonald's for lunch one day.  Then Burger King for breakfast the next.  I wolfed down a couple of jumbo hot dogs.  Consumed some pizza.  Some fried chicken.  I even ate a breakfast of hash, home fries, biscuits and gravy, and sausage -- both links and patties.  In other words, I stepped off of the path of my new way of eating and resumed old habits that have been causing me harm.

The good news -- and I do like to try to find the good news -- is that Thomas Wolfe was right . . . you can't go home again.  After clearing up my system and establishing new patterns as I've been doing for the past several months I found that I couldn't return to my old ways of eating.

I could, of course.  Obviously I could, because I did.  What I mean is that I discovered in a newly clear way that it's really no longer an option for me.  What had not that long ago been accepted parts of my life were no longer acceptable:
~ My brain essentially shut down. The "brain fog" was so dense that my short term memory was shot and my ability to think ahead was nearly non-existent. I couldn't make connections, and struggled to put words together in any kind of coherent way.

~ And all I wanted to do was sleep. Not only was my brain filled with fog -- or, more accurately, smog -- but my body was weighed down. My arms and legs felt heavy, leaden. It was all I could do to get myself out of a chair. And my sleep was not restorative in the least -- I woke up each morning even more tired than I'd gone to bed the night before.

~ My sinuses began to fill up, and my whole body began to itch -- especially my scalp and my back, but my arms and legs, too. My chronic athlete's foot condition raged again. I started feeling hot in cold rooms, and cool in hot ones. I began to sweat again, easily and profusely.

~ And in case it's not intuitively obvious, my depression came back with a vengence. Negative self-talk regained the ascendency.

And all this after just a few days of eating junk again!  Admittedly, I ate a fair amount of junk during those few days, but there was a time when I ate fast-food for at least two out of three meals most days and easily downed a 2-liter bottle of coke and a whole pizza without giving it a second thought.

If I had any doubt that the way I was eating was harming me, and that the changes I'd been making were helping, the response of my body and brain to this last binge removed it.  The cause-and-effect is so incredibly clear.  And having had something of a break from these mental and physical symptoms, having experience another way, I find that I cannot stomach (excuse the pun) the thought of letting myself go backwards. 

And, so, the juicer is back in service again.  And I'm discovering (again) how good it feels to think and move and really live.  I'm reminding myself, and being reminded, of the addage:  There is no such thing as junk food.  There is food and there is junk.  And while I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I'll never slip like this again -- in fact, I can say with more than a little certainty that it's likely that I will! -- I do now know that I will never again make my home in this unhealthy place.

In Gassho,

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Sarah said...

We cannot un-ring a bell. Now that the truth about food is here for you and me and many others, it's here to stay and cannot be forgotten. I hope that it becomes another face of love... another way we honor life and our little mobile shares of the whole earth organism.
With love and respect,

Lynn said...

Erik, what is your body asking for? It is telling you it's not ready for the change, but what does it actually crave? Is it asking you for a little protein, or a little fat? Or something cooked? Or solid? You don't have to give it a bigger-than-your-head burger if it's craving something grilled. You could try grilling a green pepper or an ear of corn. Or you could try telling it nicely that that was then and this is now and we've decided meat is poison, now have some nice beets.

I once knew an addict who kept a fifth of whiskey with just an inch of booze in it. He'd had it for 15 years. If he ever decided he wanted to go back to drinking, there it was, ready for him. Every day, he made the choice not to drink it. It was there to remind him he was making a choice for health.

I have not been successful in scaring myself straight. I am more hopeful about loving myself into health. I know I have all the willfulness of a two-year-old, and as much good sense about food. So I have to use the same strategies I would use with a toddler. Distract, substitute, remove from sight. And every once in a while, I have to prove to myself that I really can't handle just a bite.

And loving excess, I have just chopped up every veggie I could find into a ratatouille. Which the grown up me recognizes as more appealing than a bag of candy.