Of course, we should maintain our abstinence no matter what, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we slip. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we don’t get back up for a long time.
And there we have the million dollar question: Why does recovery seem easier some times than others?
I have come to realize that it all comes back to mindfulness. We compulsively overeat to escape. We use food as a drug to flee pain, inconvenience, things that make us uncomfortable, things we don’t want to do. When we live our lives mindlessly, which really isn’t living at all, we fall off the recovery path. When we persist in our mindlessness, it gets harder by the hour to get back on plan.
I know you know what I mean. You have a bad day at work. Instead of dealing with the problem by calling a friend or journaling, you come home, lock the door, and eat your dinner while watching a movie. Or maybe you have a fight with your significant other. Instead of talking it out or going for a walk to release your frustration, you get in the car and go out for fast food.
But you might wonder, If it is as simple as being aware of what we are doing all the time, then why don’t we do it? How hard can that be?
I think in Western culture we are encouraged to be mindless. When we are not intentional about what we are doing, then we buy more, spend more, collect more, and eat more. We have abundant distractions in all areas of our life: television, social media, endless movies, books, and so on. Therefore, even when we try our best to live mindfully, we find ourselves fighting against our own surroundings.
I do have a formula for recovery that I think is relapse-resistant, BUT is not relapse-proof.
For me strong recovery is achieved by DOING the following DAILY:
- meditation (15 minutes minimum)
- sit at the table and eat with focus on the meal
- move my body for 30 minutes (minimum)
- avoid sugars and processed foods
- tidy up my living environment
- evaluate my spending–where did it go? how did I use it?
- serve someone in some way
- ensure that my home is filled with abstinent foods
- review my day
- plan the next day’s activities
So simple and yet it seems impossible some days. Days when I am too sick from a cold to even cook for myself. Days when my son gets off to a bad start and forgets his backpack and then the car won’t start and the dishwasher overflows.
I think sometimes I resent that I have to live so consciously in order to be healthy. Sometimes I don’t want to eat mindfully. Sometimes I want to just carry my plate into the living room and zone out in front of the TV. I used to think I was entitled to this type of “relaxation,” but I realized that I was only making my life harder than it needed to be. I am entitled, instead, to truly live my life and not let it pass me by in a daze of too much food.
The problem I am facing now, though? I have gotten so caught up in living a certain way of life that it is harder than ever to return to and maintain a conscious, focused life. Most of my issues with time management and getting done what I MUST to do to live in healthy, strong recovery involves overcommitting myself to work and community projects.
I absolutely love doing! I am capable and smart and enjoy seeing big projections come to fruition. Unfortunately, I tend to say yes to everything. As a result, not only do I have to struggle HARD to maintain my recovery, but I have also become terribly ill as a result of exhaustion.
That is why this year I have decided to say NO to anything that is anti-recovery.
What does that look like on a practical level?
- I promise to say no to projects that will require more energy than I have to give.
- I promise to say no to projects that takes more from me than I get back in return.
- I promise to say no when people ask me to do things that will take me away from what I need to do for my recover (exercise, meditation, and so on).
- I promise to say no to frivolous requests that mean breaking up my daily routine.
I know that I must maintain mindfulness. That my goal above all else is to live with awareness and intentionality. That means, getting rid of everything that distracts me from that goal. I am determined to focus. To live. To enjoy my life. I can’t keep working it away. I hope you will join me.
Looking for some inspiration to get you in the right mindset for 2017? Get a copy of my book, <em>The Optimistic Food Addict: Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder</em>. In this often raw and always honest memoir, I talk about the first three years of my recovery and the disordered thoughts and eating that ruled my life for more than 30 years.