Grief and Recovery: Whether Alcohol or Food

buddysnowYesterday we took our buddy, Buddy to the vet for the last time and he was “put to sleep” as the popular and acceptable version of euthanized is stated.  Regardless of how you say it, Buddy is now dead.  He was old, blind, all sorts of skin and cancer problems.  He was one of our three current rescue dogs.  We had Buddy since he was about 3 months old.  His brother had died of hip dysplasia many years ago.  Buddy was the runt of the litter but the biggest dog I have ever had.  The comment from vet set yesterday, besides the recommendation that Buddy be put to sleep was “he is big.”

Although my wife and I never claim any dog as our own, folks often referred to Buddy as my dog – much for his physical appearance and demeanor.  Buddy was big, and I am tallish at 6’1″ and though my bulk is reduced of late, I am not a wiry build at all.  Buddy was quite standoffish till you got to know him, but then could be your absolute best friend in the world – a sort of gentle giant.  In that way, he could be quite “scary” at first, as has been said of me on more than one occasion.

I am getting more experience with this grief issue in recovery.  When our first dog Greta died nearly 15 years ago, I was completely dysfunctional over the event.  All I could do was stand in the front year and feed squirrels.  A few years before when I was told that Spike my cat from a previous relationship had died, I was similarly grief stricken.  I recognize that part of that reaction was the first time in recovery I had ever truly grieved the loss of someone close to me.

buddyThose couple of events led to me truly grieve for the first time the loss of my grandmother who had died in 1979.  I posted a while ago on that process.  These experiences in recovery have led me to focus less on the loss and more on celebrating the lives lived with family and friends – whether primate or canine.  When Sophia our Boxer died a few years ago from a rather brief but intensive battle with cancer, the grief was less and the celebration was more than with Spike or Greta.  Yesterday with Buddy, the celebration of life overshadowed the passing in death.  He had been a phenomenal friend for nearly a decade and I am truly grateful for that time together.

And that leads me to the point of this post that is not really about dogs but issues of addiction.  I have stopped thinking “and I did not drink over it” or “drinking would not have made it any better” – as now not drinking or using drugs is the norm for events such as the death of someone close.  Early in recovery I wondered if I really lived such a charmed life that all of this stuff that happened to everyone else and became their issues for relapse were somehow greater than what I faced.  I don’t know the answer to that question, but for the past 30 plus years, I have not found the issue, circumstance, or event that, one-day-at-a-time, I have chosen to drink over as a solution.

I was pleased that two nights ago when we made the decision to take Buddy on his last ride to the vet, and I could not sleep, the thought of bingeing on some food crossed my mind as the sedative that would knock me out.  But then I quickly realized that food was not going to make that situation any better.  I opted instead for just getting 4 hours sleep that night.  Sitting back with Buddy while he snored away was a better choice.

In sum for me, the Twelve Step Programs of recovery, whether through Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous continue to be the solution to my addiction and life problems.  I am grateful as I think back to August 4, 1984 when I walked into the Detox Center on Glendora Avenue in Cincinnati Ohio and took Step 1 “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.”


Alcoholism, Compulsive Overeating, and Craving

mardisgrasI preface this post by saying, I am not a medical doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  


Also, below I talk about specific foods which in some ED circles is a definite no-no because of possible trigger effects.

I have been food sober since December 20, 2015 – which also means I have not had any refined sugar – or sugary dessert stuff.  I am pleased that today I am not craving sugar.

But I had an interesting sugar experience the other day that got me to thinking.  My eating plan is three meals a day and a couple of “snacks” if I want them.  At night a snack might consist of Sugar free jello or pudding.  The Sugar-Free stuff also gets a bad rap from some in the ED world – I think because of the chemical additives, and that Sugar-Free might be the alcoholics equivalent of near-beer and set-up craving the real thing.  I have not found that is the case for me, at all.

For breakfast I often have a farina type something or the other with raisins – we had that every Thursday morning when I was kid – along with a piece of fruit.  In my food sober life I actually enjoy, cook, and taste food, as opposed to just shoveling it in. When I was at the store, I notice some dried blueberries and thought that might be a nice switch from the raisins in my farina.  So I bought some, and a couple of mornings later, dutifully measured out the 1/4 cup of dried blueberries for my farina.

With the first bite, that familiar taste hit me.  I looked at the package and sure enough, the third ingredient listed for these dried blueberries is sugar.  I looked at the ingredient list for the raisins – no sugar.  Now, I was a bit put off, but certainly was not in the least bit tempted to go over to the sugar bowl that still sits on the counter and shovel it in.

But I got to thinking – I thought back to the mid-1980s when I was sober for one year or so, while taking my mother to Joplin, Missouri to visit her aunt.  At dinner the first night we had some stew dish that tasted so familiar, but I could not put my finger on it – turns out it was beef bourguignon.  The aunt assured me all the wine was cooked out.  The taste did not set-up a craving in me to head to the liquor store for a half-gallon of my favorite burgundy gut rot stuff – but there was just a real familiarity in the tasting.  In the same way, I was in a store one time and could not get over how much I liked the smell of the lime after shave and again, could not put my finger on it until the clerk commented “Yeah, it has a really strong alcohol smell but that goes away after a while.”  Or the factory loading dock with the barrels of distilled alcohol I walked through when newly sober.

And that got me to thinking about how 25 years ago, if the spring breeze was blowing and the temperature was just right, the bar across the street would be calling my name, and not for going in and having a coke either.

Today, I don’t knowingly eat any food cooked with alcohol regardless of the actual content when consumed – I just am not interested.  Today too, as I wrote before, I am blown away how mangos taste so sweet yet do not set me up to want to get the sugar desserty thing that I know will set me on a binge.

Today, I choose to error on the side of caution with food in the same way I did when newly sober from alcohol and drugs.  The only thing I truly miss is not having sugar in my hot tea.  I find it interesting that my refusal to consume any alcohol related stuff has only gotten stronger over the past 30 years.  I used to do a drop of communion wine in the distant past, but have not done so for five or more years.  I am curious where the sugar issue will go.  I am comfortable, one day-at-a-time, of not consuming sugar in the form of desserts, candy, and so forth – not even any King Cake for me this Mardis Gras!!  And that just got me to thinking about pralines – but I’ll deal with that another day.

Since this past December 20, I have not had a craving for any food, and have had what I think is a reasonably easy time with my eating plan.  In the next 30 days or so I will hit my goal weight and then the real work begins – maintenance.  I have lost weight before – multiple times – it is not really that hard.  But this time, I am extremely grateful that for the first time, I am working a 12-Step program and not dieting away the weight.  The 12-Step program approach has allowed me for the first time to deal with my compulsive overeating beyond the food and weight issue.  Instead, through a 12-Step program I understand how I use sugar the same way as alcohol and drugs to not live life on life’s terms.