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.

10 thoughts on “Alcoholism, Compulsive Overeating, and Craving

  1. Beautiful, thank you Robert. 🙂 And yes on the blueberried, same goes for cranberries: up to 60% added sugar.
    I’m on day 3 now with no refined sugar and no dates and dried sugar (no promisses – no pressure). Fog is leaving, energy is returning! This time I did a sort of a moderation to get to this point. I started with 20 something days no chocolate (from 100-150 grams of 72% chocolate a day 😦 to non) then I ate chocolate again and got nausseous and realised what it really does to me. So I’m thinking that is sort of done now. I am not sure because the determination I had and used for alcohol was way bigger than what I do now.
    In the meantime I realised that I had gone from 5 dates a day to 25. Which is absolutely horrible obviously. Since my word of the year is Awareness and I want to be aware of what I do and feel and not run off in a sugar binge… I quit, see what it brings. I allow myself 1 piece of fruit a day and I do eat slow carbs like home made oatmeal porrigde or yoghurt with muesli (not cruesli) but I do not add extra raisins or so. I need the carbs for my work anyhow, otherwise I’ld fall over while lifting and carrying. I’ll lower them later when I’m settled in the no sugar thing.
    A little theory (of mine) on the difference between refined sugar and raisins: raisins also contain vitamins and minerals one needs to process the sugar, hence this is food that satisfies the body. Refined sugar only brings in the sugar and leaves your body depleted after it has been processed. Sugar cane = good and one eats only a little part of it because it is nourishing. Refined sugar = bad because it leaves us wanting.
    Next to not drinking, not eating additives has brought me a lot of physical happiness and feeling of health. Not that I was high in that, but still: they somehow dim the light and, dunno, make me swell up. It’s probably only one of them but I can’t figure out which so, well: home cooking with real products.
    Love to hear how you continue. 🙂 And I’ll use this reply in my post too, otherwise I have to find other words for the same.
    Wishing you a pleasant journey in finding out what and how. Did I ever spamm Barbara O’Neill in here? She is on Youtube and does a very down to earth (and religious btw) approach to food. If I were to decribe it she takes the ‘God created and saw that it was good’ approach to life and food. Very beautiful. 🙂 If you are interested: she has a serie of 10 but there are old takes and new ones. I’m guessing the new ones have less views.
    xx, Feeling

  2. I love this update, and reading it just when I needed it. May I ask: is this a solo operation, or have you enlisted the support of a 12-step group? Is the diet self-directed, or have you researched? If these questions are too personal, feel free to disregard. As you well know, I am searching for some answers as well. I am so inspired by your success!

    • Josie,

      Thanks for your kind words. In fact, I am solidly enmeshed within Overeaters Anonymous and 12-Step work in this process. Like in AA, where there is a good bit left open to the individual in terms of how they work the steps in their recovery, I find the same is true in OA. Whereas there are certainly folks who are adamant in their positions on how they define their abstinence, there is plenty of room for individual approaches. In fact, within OA, I have found a good bit of variation in how folks deal with their compulsive overeating. Some folks weigh and measure everything, abstain from all refined sugar, wheat, no between meal snacks and so forth, and others not.

      For myself right now, I am not consuming any straight sugar, eating three meals a day with one snack and fruit if I am hungry. I needed to lose about 45 pounds. Since December I have lost 30 of that. My biggest concern is that I will get down to my ideal weight, and then because I don’t really know how to eat properly, I will gain. I have done that before. I know that the solution is not to view this as a diet, because if I do the craving to compulsively over eat will return. That was always the case whenever I quit drinking for any period of time before getting sober. It is also why I am very optimistic, one-day-at-time, that my compulsive overeating can also be addressed in the same way as I am successfully recovering from my addiction to alcohol and drugs – through a 12-step program. I have found that just working the first three steps again through OA has brought insights for recovery unlike anything I have ever experienced in the past 30 years of alcohol sobriety. If some foods trigger in me that compulsive overeating, like I believe sugar does, then it would make no more sense for me to decide – hey I can have that sugar laden dessert and expect to get away with it, anymore than if I chose to have a glass of wine after a meal. And the same goes true with behaviors and all of the isms that we carry.

      I have not got my eating plan completely worked out just yet – I can see that it might evolve over the years in the future. At this point, I cannot see eating food with a substantive sugar content – don’t know what that says about honey, or even fried foods for that matter. But I know that in the same way that on the balance my alcohol and drug free life of today are so much more important than risking with a shot of fine KY bourbon, today any way, I feel the same way about sugar.

      I encourage OA to anyone who has a compulsive overeating issue. As I transition from Memphis to New Orleans over the next few months, I knew that regular in person meetings were not feasible. I have been attending some OA Skype meetings with great success and heartily recommend them. They can be found on the OA website.

      • I cannot express how informative this reply has been, or how incredibly well-timed my reading it is. As pro-12-step as I am, I could never see myself attempting OA… I am in severe denial of step one, I know this without walking in the door of a meeting. And the people I have met in OA are of the strict variety you speak of above, which has turned me off completely. Knowing that I have some flexibility in terms of personal food choice is just the information I needed to at least open my mind to the possibility. And understanding that there are electronic meetings available sealed the deal. I am heading to the website now. Thanks so much, Robert!

      • If you go to a face to face meeting, I found the newcomers packet has a handful of pamphlets that proved to be very helpful. I just got the OA 12-step workbook which seems like it is going to be very helpful as well. I was fortunate to in having a temporary sponsor who is also in recovery from alcohol – Either through coincidence or just the reality, I am finding that perhaps one-third of the folks I run into via OA are also in AA.

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