Bedroom Slippers

“My first sponsor told me that food and eating addiction is the strongest of all the addictions yet other addicts are hospitalized to sit around in their bedroom slippers for thirty days before they graduate to a half-way house. New (Greysheeters) think they can continue doing their (usually) crazy lives while detoxing, learning to be abstinent from sugar, grains and refined carbos, and establishing a new way of living. Wear your figurative bedroom slippers for at least the first thirty days” —-member of GSA

I asked this woman if I could share what her sponsor told her with my readers. It underscores what I want to tell everyone who is detoxing from sugar and grains. As a population, we do not take seriously enough the deadly power of those substances on food addicts. We have grown up thinking that we can just make up our minds to lose weight, find a diet that we think we can stick to and then go on with our lives changing nothing. Even after years of losing and gaining wight over and over, it still doesn’t occur to most of us that in order to kick the dependency on these substances, we have to do what every other addict has to do: cut out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary for our daily life and focus on getting through the detox and withdrawal time.

There are those in the substance abuse field who think that sugar is as hard or harder to kick than heroin. Just the fact that they think this should be important information for us. My own experience is that for me to get through this difficult part of recovery, I had to find a group of other food addicts and place myself right in the middle. I had to call on them for help and advice and just to talk to me on a daily basis. I had to commit out loud to another person (in my case, my sponsor) exactly what I was going to eat that day. Experience and my history showed that unless I did that, I could not be trusted to follow through on my intention even though it was helping ME that I was doing this for. I joined them in group meetings as often as I could. I had a friend at the time who told me “you need your brain washed! Everything you thought you knew about weight, food and how to deal with the accompanying shame is wrong. You are a food addict, you need to start thinking like a food addict.”

There are care units for compulsive eaters and food addicts. They are expensive. I didn’t have health insurance that would cover that kind of treatment. I had to create the CARE unit myself. I capitalized the word CARE because self-care is not something I was familiar with. I focused on others and assumed they would do the same—care for me. Then someone said ‘You have to do this for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you. YOU are your own responsibility.’

After many, many years of trying to breeze through withdrawal, of not being willing to go 100% in total acceptance that I had a disease that would kill me, that wanted me dead, I let go of all my preconceived notions and followed the examples of those that went before me. Now 15 years later and 11 years of back to back uninterrupted abstinence from sugar and grains and MORE, I believe these words more than ever. The further I am from that last binge, the clearer my head gets on how insanely I binged, how crazily I tried to run my life, how distorted my thinking was in order to rationalize eating foods I thought nurtured me (and, in fact, were killing me). They say the disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. I say ‘and sneaky, and cruel and viscous and always just one bite away from jumping back into your thinking and doing.’

Most of us cannot kick this addiction alone but together, helping each other, reminding each other, we can move on and have lives worth living.

What is your story?

Sara

One person’s story

In the April issue of Recovery Today magazine, p.46 “Confessions of a down and dirty, rock bottom food addict.” Their title not mine. But it says what it needs to say.

I got sober on June 1, 1998. I was an alcoholic, but alcohol wasn’t my bottom line addiction. Food was. I was a down and dirty, rock bottom food addict who couldn’t ingest sugar and grains in either liquid or hard form. I first went to AA in an effort to learn what the 12-step programs were all about, after coming from Overeaters Anonymous where I had been dazed and confused.

I was so ashamed of my food addiction that I never spoke of it to my sponsor or friends. In private,I tried to make AA solve my food issues. Such an irony: I knew that AA was a WE program, that connectedness was the antithesis to addiction. I knew that telling like-minded people how I’d used and abused my drugs of choice brought it all out in the open, gave me another 24 hours to keep the disease at bay. But my shame of eating, of my body, was so huge that I found it impossible to share with others. In my memoir, Saving Sara: A Memoir of Food AddictionI once and for all detail how my food addiction progressed and became more unmanageable over the years. I found OA in 1979 but was too arrogant to let go and try it someone else’s way. Then I was introduced to  GreySheeters Anonymous in 1983. I knew immediately it was the solution I had been looking for. But being a hard core addict, hard- wired to do self-destructive things, I felt sure that I could fix myself on my own.

It took me another twenty-six years to crawl back to a GSA meeting, broken and beaten up.I was seven years sober at that time. I had been sitting in AA meetings wondering why I wasn’t happy, joyous and free. I had done the steps a number of times. But I always kept my dirty secret to myself: I couldn’t stop binge eating. Now, fifteen years later, I have been abstaining from sugar, grains and refined carbs. It helped to accept that I could only deal with food addiction with other food addicts. No matter how much my AA friends loved me, since they didn’t eat like I did, I felt they couldn’t understand. On top of community, what GreySheeters Anonymous gave to me was structure. If I did what my sponsor said, I had a good chance of arresting the bingeing. I weighed my food at every meal and ate the same amounts as the day before. GSA knew I had a life and death disease and that was what the GSA boundaries treated. Since food addiction isn’t discussed as often in our society, I hope Saving Sara will open the door for much needed conversations to arise.

To pre-order the book: https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Sara-Memoir-Food-Addiction-ebook/dp/B07VBKZK3Y/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3NEQDD6UPIVF4&dchild=1&keywords=sara+somers&qid=1587045620&sprefix=Sara+Somers%2Caps%2C337&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR0tQzP3fs3RkgrH4LbL3TuNg-lqaUiuSLzWV-qK319S8PvCjZmziSNV9_U

As always, ask your questions, make comments, this is a blog for all of us

Sara

Obesity

The other night, the channel OCS in France, showed the February 28th episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. One of his guests was Nicholas Kristof who is one of my favorite columnists at the NYTimes and anywhere. I subscribe to his column and pay attention to the issues he writes about. I find that he is thoughtful, kind and extremely intelligent. He and Bill were talking about drugs, alcohol and obesity. Maher said “The Chan School of Public Health at Harvard says that in 10 years, half the country will be obese, 1/4 of the country will be severely obese and 40,000 people will die of obesity every week”. Kristof didn’t disagree with him. He said that it was all “part of the miasma of depression.” When things feel hopeless, “people self-medicate with soda and potato chips”. I could have jumped through the TV screen and kissed the man. I don’t think I have ever heard a public figure as famous and as well-respected as Kristof is talking about self-medicating with food.

One of the comments on the show in YouTube read: “Obesity is on the rise due to stress we have to deal with.” Kristof says much of this is the lack of education made available to people. I could hear Melinda Gates, in my head, saying that much of the inequality in the world is due to lack of education. I wrote my book Saving Sara in part to educate people. In my opinion to say that one is obese because of the stress we have to deal with is a lack of education. In this day and age, we have to learn to deal with stress without turning to soda and potato chips. Sugar and grains, the ingredients in alcohol and many of the foods we binge on, are depressants when taken in vast quantities. In our world where so much is unfair, where hopelessness is on the rise and depression seems to be a companion to many people, those ingredients only make a bad situation worse. There is so much we cannot control in our lives. We are in the midst of a pandemic and the majority of us are self-isolating in our apartments or homes. What happens tomorrow is out of our control. Speaking personally, what is within my control is what I put in my mouth, how I prepare to spend maybe up to two months alone in my apartment and how I chose to face my small world each morning.

I was obese. I am 5’6″ tall and weighed almost 200 hundred pounds. One of the ways I stayed in denial about that figure is by only looking in the mirror from my neck up. The rest of my body was deep in the sand just as if I was an ostrich. I was miserable, I felt hopeless, abandoned by the world and very, very sorry for myself. When I finally asked for help, the solution was not what I wanted it to be. It was not easy. I was told I would be unable to do it alone, that I needed all the support I could get and the best support would be from recovering food addicts. I was ashamed and didn’t want other people to see me so I resisted the group idea. Sure enough, I couldn’t do it alone. My solution was joining a 12 step group that treated food addiction like alcoholics treat alcoholism: it is a serious disease and you can’t be half-way committed. In order for me to turn my life around, I had to change my behaviors 180o, accept the black and white nature of the solution, the no matter what of the solution. Then I could learn how to live in the grey areas of life.

I thought depression was in my DNA. By the time I found the 12 step program, I had accepted that I would be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life (I am one of the fortunates who has health insurance). I can honestly say that since I have stopped putting sugar, grains and refined carbohydrates, in liquid or hard form, into my body, I have not had a long depression. I have felt blue. I have felt down when something didn’t go my way. When my Aunt died, whom I was very close to, in 2011, I got depressed for 4 days. It was NOT the depression that used to send me under the covers for days on end, praying that I would die but too scared to kill myself. I felt really, really awful. My friends in recovery said “You don’t have to binge over this. You can feel your feelings and grieve your loss and in two weeks, a month, you will still be abstaining from sugar and grains. If you use this as an excuse to binge, you will be back facing the only problem you have ever known–How to stop bingeing. You’ll have no room to find solutions for your everyday problems.

Today, here in France, we are on Day 10 of Lockdown or as the French so quaintly call it “our confinement.” I used every tool I learned in my recovery program to plan ahead, to make sure I had enough food in my apartment to last two months if needed. I started a Zoom meditation group in the morning of every single day of our confinement. This gave me a reason to get out of bed and to get dressed. I have reached out to my friends and started using Zoom to connect. I even threw a birthday party on Zoom. Someone said to me “we shouldn’t be calling this social distancing. In reality, it is physical distancing and doing whatever we can to socially reach out to each other.” We need each other now more than ever. We will get through this. Yes, it is stressful but it is not a reason to drink, take drugs or binge.

Thank you for your precious time in reading this. If you go to http://www.sarasomers.com, I have put up a long and, I hope, comprehensive list of things to do at home right now.

Until next week,

Sara

Time on our hands

In general, addicts, all kinds of addicts, don’t do well with time on their hands. Thinking tends to turn towards self-entered thinking. Then peppered with self-hatred and fear, it tends to become extremely negative thoughts. Without a strong program, a strong support group and a strong commitment, a crisis is often the time people go backwards and start practicing their addiction.

With that in mind, I thought I would post something a friend posted on her blog yesterday. Since most of us are at home, in lock-down as in France or Shelter in Place as in California, this will give you something to think about.

“What if…
we subscribe to the philosophy that life is always working out for us, that there is an intelligence far greater than humans at work.

That all are interconnected.

What if…
the virus and it’s demands of social distancing actually help us?

What if..
We reset as individuals, taking time to recall all that is truly important, as we reconnect with family, loved ones and community- in giving.

What if..
By reducing travel? Our environment, the skies, the air and our even lungs get a break for a bit.

What if…
Our cities see blue skies and less smog for the first time in a long time, with factories being shut down.

What if..
Many get to work from home, during this time, as oppose to commuting which lessens pollution and provides more personal time.

What if..
Families reconnect; having more time at home. Lovers reengage and remember the gratitude they have for one another.

What if..
It’s an open invitation to turn inwards in deep thought, as oppose to the pressured social gatherings, with self-soothing drinks involved.

What if..
It’s a time to reconnect with self and ask, what is really important to me?

What if..
It’s a economical and social reset, balancing and reevaluating both our minds and business structures.

What if..
It’s a time to understand the working poor, with a lack of healthcare access for the over 30 million in the U.S. alone. Giving a greater understanding of the importance for paid sick leave.

What if..
It’s a time to revalue spending habits, retirement, college funds, IRA and savings, along with 3-6 month rainy day, or in this case- pandemic, funds.

**How hard does one need to work to be able to LIVE, to HAVE A LIFE… outside of work? Let us contemplate our career, home and extracurricular time we allot for ourselves.

What if..
Washing our hands properly and proper hygiene was something many needed as a reminder. Yes, one irresponsible person effects many. Yes, we are all interconnected.

What if…
It resets our gratitude and a provided a presence of peace we haven’t felt in long while.

What if…
There is a favorable shift underway in our society?

What if…
this virus is an ally in our evolution?

What if..
We needed a reminder to be and stay connected, humane, to live a simpler life, with more joy.

What if..
We needed a kick to be less impactful to our environment and more giving to each other.

What if..
It triggered more offerings of the heart.

What if..
We give these uneasy times an offering to another perspective, another way to impact and unfold our evolution in a positive manner.

What if…
We remembered the gifts we are receiving by this virus and continue on with some of the simplicities this has provided.

What if…
We are better tomorrow, for what we were given today.

What if…—”

Sara

Resistance to calling a spade a spade

“Addiction is a term that’s used a lot these days. People claim to be addicted to everything from romance novels to cars. They feel guilty when they enjoy something just a little too much. When it comes to food addiction, the misunderstanding is epidemic…

Until now, scientists and clinicians alike have been reluctant to acknowledge that food addiction even exists. Yes, abnormal eating behaviours have been identified throughout history, but there has long been a resistance to labelling it an addiction.” 
― Vera Tarman, Food Junkies: The Truth About Food Addiction

I first genuinely started down the path of recovery from my food addiction in my 50s. Only I called it compulsive eating. I’d never heard the words ‘food addict’. It is true that I used to compulsively eat, but it’s also true that I obsessed about food all the time. I could obsess about food even while bingeing, wishing I was eating something else. The obsession, 99% of the time, led to bingeing. So I had a mental component to this problem. Once I was bingeing, and I had my favorite foods that usually consisted of sugar and wheat, no matter how hard I tried to stop, I couldn’t stop. I could be crying on my bed, praying to God, even making phone calls for help, but nothing stopped the binge until it stopped. That is the physical component. A mental obsession and a physical allergy adds up to addiction. When I first heard the words ‘food addict’ I think I actually cringed. I had just barely accepted that I was a compulsive eater but an addict, that was going too far. Yet, as the years have passed, and I accept that that is indeed what I am, the recovery is more solid and easier.

The thing about most addicts is we just want to belong. So we turn ourselves into chameleons trying to fit into any and every group that attracts us. To stick out as different spells horror and leads to loneliness. When I was in my thirties, and most of us were turning into foodies, as we discovered what we liked and didn’t like, I was terrified of letting my friends know that I didn’t really know how to savor a bite of food. I often couldn’t tell a musk taste from a dust taste. I was appalled at restaurants that served itty bitty servings and charged enormous prices. My friend, Georgia, really understood food. She worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Ca. She would talk about food and it’s differentiations like I talk about mystery authors. I went along because I desperately wanted to belong. I wanted her friendship and I wanted her friends to be my friends. I knew I was different. I just prayed that no one else did. I did a pretty good job. Today Georgia tells me, “I had no idea what you were suffering.”

So telling me that the only way I could recover from the bingeing, the insanity of disordered eating, was to call myself a name that would, not only make me different, but make me something much further down the social chain (that is how I thought of addict), was telling me that if I flew to the moon and back, I’d be a normal person. Wasn’t going to happen. Not ever, not to someone like me who was smart, had post-graduate degrees, had a successful business and could travel comfortably to other countries.

So how does someone like me, who thinks she is too smart to be something she is, get her head out of the ground?

“Read Saving Sara to see how bad it can get before it gets great-and find out just how she did it, so you can do it too. What a great read”
Judy Collins, New York Times best-selling author of Cravings and Grammy-nominated singer

Saving Sara

I am a compulsive eater, a food addict. What does that mean? That means that, similar to an alcoholic who cannot stop drinking once booze is in their system, I start bingeing once certain foods are in my system. Bingeing is the same. Bingeing is doing something excessively, having no on/off button, completely unable to slow a speeding train down even though you know it will end in tears, self-hatred and recriminations. I’m that kind of compulsive eater. The foods that set off the bingeing are sugar, grains and refined carbohydrates.

I have compulsively eaten since I was a young girl. I didn’t know what was wrong. I knew I was different than other people and it seemed a very bad thing. I didn’t seem to fit in with girls my age. I would watch them and not understand how they knew to get along. I was often in trouble with my parents usually for disobedience, daydreaming, not trying hard to be a part of the family unit. I stole food out of the fridge all the time. I say stole because I was always sneaky about it. I knew even at that young age, it was wrong for me in my family to eat all the ice cream and not leave any for anyone else.

By the time I was in my fifties, I had spent my life trying to get thin, trying to understand what was wrong with me, trying to be happy, trying to be loved and, in my judgement, failing at everything. When I was fifty-eight, I gave up the fight. I discovered a solution for me, for my kind of compulsive eating. After fifteen years of recovery in that solution, I wrote a book: Saving Sara; A Memoir of Food Addiction. It will be published by She Writes Press May 12, 2020.

I wrote the book to tell other food addicts like me that there is hope. I had spent thousands of dollars on therapists. I had tried every diet under the sun except stapling my stomach. I had joined encounter groups and therapy groups, taken dangerous medications because they were advertised as reducing my appetite, bought over the counter medications that did nothing but they had pretty people in their ads. I had had shots in my butt and I don’t even want to know what was in that cocktail. I had tried hypnosis and religion. All in the hopes that I could get thin. Getting thin to me was the promise of happiness, that all my problems would go away, that people would like or love me. By the age of fifty-eight, I was running out of hope that there was a solution for someone like me. Thank goodness, I persisted.

This is a blog about food addiction. This is a blog written by a recovering food addict to give hope and inspiration to people like me. People who can’t stop bingeing. People who can’t stop self-destructing with food. It is also for their families who don’t understand what is happening to the people they love. Why they are so angry all the time? Why they feel criticised if someone makes the simplest suggestion. This blog will be a work in progress. There are a lot of blogs out there dealing with the same issues. Most are sincere and helpful. I hope that by adding my blog, people will benefit from the wealth of information accessible to them so they can take an action towards Hope.

Each week, I will pick a theme to discuss. I invite feedback and suggestions. I have found that on my own I never could have succeeded at most of my life goals. I have found that together, bringing out the best in each other, we can achieve what we thought was impossible. I invite you along for the ride.

Sara