sober lifestyle


How many licks does it take to completely blow up your healthy diet? Far too few, I’m finding.

True story: Staying sober during the pandemic has been easier for me than staying in shape.

I mean, thanks to my amazing husband keeping our house booze-free (I can’t in good conscience say “dry” when I’m dragging three recycling bins full of empty diet soda and sparkling water conveyances to the curb every Tuesday), I’ve had the safe environment I need to reach the 18-month recovery milestone, then tack on an additional 12 days (and counting).

However, when it comes to diet and fitness, another huge health priority in my life, I’m afraid I’m no longer earning a passing grade.

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but it might take a formal declaration of renunciation — made “publicly,” here on the internet — to get me to stop eating candy canes and mini Tootsie pops for lunch every day.

I told the hubby to stop buying these things, too, but the man has as much trouble resisting grocery store markdowns and buy-in-bulk deals (did you SEE the bag in the above picture?) as I do mood-altering substances.

I certainly can’t judge him. Whatever spikes your dopamine! We all have our addictions! And don’t they all seem a little more potent around the holidays, whether we’re out partying with friends and family or cooped up at home in “social distancing” mode?

I toyed with the idea of calling this post “Substitution,” because I’ve absolutely fallen into the trap of swapping one not-so-healthy coping mechanism for another. I’ve actually been substituting food — and an escalating amount of sugary treats — for alcohol since I quit drinking back in July of 2019. Peep my “Moderation” post from last fall; what I called my “Orbit habit” back then has since ramped up to Mentos gum by the bagful.

What if I told you I could go through one of these in a single day? Would that qualify as a Stupid Human Trick? 🙃

So, this compulsion to consume did not start when COVID hit. But it wasn’t until this past holiday break from work that I started to combine mindless overeating with lockdown stress AND laziness, and now I really feel like shit.

After months of just jogging/walking around the ’hood, doing yoga in my living room and the occasional low-impact bodyweight circuit in my basement gym, I got up the nerve to squat “for real” last weekend. We’re talking like 20 sets of 2 with 85 pounds on the bar (so only slightly heavier than a mini Tootsie pop). My back is still stiff, my legs still sore and swollen today.

Maybe the swelling is more about the monthlong sugar binge than the squatting. Either way, it’s hard to believe I was strutting around here in early November in jeans and high heels, claiming “Victory” in the battle of the bulge after laying off almonds and cashews for six weeks.

Ha! As if I didn’t just find something else to shove in my mouth.

As if my middle-aged metabolism wasn’t inevitably going to catch up with me, again, if I didn’t really nip my bad habits in the bud.

Maybe we should take down the tree so these aren’t staring us in the face all day every day. 🤔

Serves me right, I guess, to be sitting here, back where I started in terms of tackling my core issues. (If you can’t walk after squatting 85 pounds, you definitely have issues with your core, am I right? 🤣) Don’t get me wrong: I’ve grown in a lot of ways since I got sober. But the insatiable need to fill my inner emptiness with something external is a tough, tough cookie (candy cane?) to crumble. It takes some people all their lives to address, much less overcome, that compulsion. And to think that I’ve licked such a dastardly demon, after less than two years of really trying, is foolish and arrogant.

Particularly when I’m really shitty at meditation and prayer and all those mindfulness practices that are supposed to calm the restless spirit.

My spirit, most days, is a squirrel trying to cross the street. Go! Stop! Turn back! No, the other way! *SPLAT.*

Sounds more like a game of Frogger. Either way, accurate.

Resting between sets. 😰 In hindsight, I should have at least put some weight on the bar for the photo.

Meanwhile, my Earthly shell just wants to sleep. Or sit on the couch and watch football, or reruns of “Forensic Files,” with an emotional support bag of tiny lollies and 6-pack of diet soda in my lap. 🤣🤣😐

This is about more than vanity, you see. It’s about quieting the voice that says EAT or DRINK or QUICK DO SOMETHING IT’S TOO QUIET, so that I’m not just a reactionary creature of habit or a slave to self-centered pleasure-seeking, but a well-balanced, centered, productive member of society.

Toward that end, I am currently “working the 12 steps” with a sponsor. I’m actually on my second trip through them. That’s not like being held back in elementary school because you didn’t pass a standardized aptitude test, though. This stuff is next-level hard! Changing 42+ years’ worth of sick thinking/behavior patterns is really 🤬-ing hard! Still, you actually have to put in effort and stretch out of your comfort zone to reap the rewards. And when you slack off, it shows.

If I tried to put on a pair of jeans right now, it would show. 😬

Sounds like a resolution is in order, if not a stern self-intervention. I need to get my spiritual house in order so I don’t continue to eat us out of house and home. I need to work a little harder on the part of the sober living program — basically, everything after “stop drinking” — that shows you how to live better in sobriety. Not just feed my inner addict a different kind of empty calories.

(Clearly, my family’s support will only go so far, because while my well-meaning husband comes home from Giant toting sacks of sugar in each hand, my dad is sending a cooler of Lou Malnati’s pizzas to my doorstep via UPS, a belated “Tastes of Chicago” Christmas present.)

😩! Also, 😋! Thanks, Dad! 🥰

No, like I said, it’s not really about the food. It’s about getting my mind right so I stop looking in the pantry/freezer for something to soothe my soul. It’s about stepping up my growth efforts…doing more spiritual weightlifting, if you will.

And yeah, it would not hurt to do more actual weightlifting.

Whether I’m trying to stay sober or in shape, my overall health as a human being depends 💯 on spiritual growth, and like anything else worthwhile, that takes discipline. It takes resolve. It’s unlikely to happen if you get lazy.

OK! I think I’m ready to make that “public declaration” (and you know what? DON’T stop me if you’ve heard this before): 2021 is the year I finally stop messing around and learn how to meditate.

In the meantime, do any of you want to come take these remaining 150 mini Tootsie pops off my hands? 😉

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