Tag Archives: addiction

I didn’t get ‘Fixed’, but Kirkus does

I’ll never forget the first time I read Doug Piotter’s first chapter of what would eventually be called Fixed: Dope Sacks, Dye Packs and the Long Welcome Back.

I’ll confess. I didn’t get it. I wanted to get it. But I wasn’t sure.

Now, we know for certain how wrong I was in my first impression. Fixed has just been given the Kirkus Star, which enters the book in the competition for its Kirkus Prize award and the $50,000 prize that comes with it.

It’s safe to say Kirkus’ reviewer got it.

“The author’s life, as portrayed here, contains enough screw-ups for 10 dysfunctionality memoirs,” the review writes, “but unlike other memoirists, he eschews angst and self-pity and highlights the absurd humor of the predicaments he made for himself. The pathos here is all the more moving for being spare, understated, and well-earned from hard experience. A smart, occasionally wise, and always entertaining recollection of addiction, crime, punishment, and recovery.”

I didn’t know Doug when I went out of my way to introduce myself to him at a writers conference. He unabashedly touted his book during the Q&A, describing it as micro-stories from his time as a drug addict, bank robber and prison inmate. He said, “it’s the real deal. It all happened.”

I introduced myself to him and invited him to a writers group. His moxie and story impressed me. I knew he could benefit from a serious group. Soon, Doug sent me his manuscript. I read the first chapter, and like I say, I didn’t get it.

But he added one more thing to his email, a link to the first reading of the book he had done. I listened to the reading and then I knew we were on to something.

Folks were cracking up. I may not have gotten it, but the crowd did.

Writing funny is nearly impossible. Perhaps it’s raw talent. But it’s also craft. And within Doug was a writer of raw talent and hidden determination to get better at the craft. Beyond the writers group, of which Doug remains a vital member, I’ve worked as his editor to help bring Fixed to life. It’s been a pleasure and an honor. We’ve now shifted into high gear for Doug’s second book, a work of fiction that offers much of the same promise of his memoir.

Meanwhile, Fixed continues to gain momentum, earning acclaim from dozens of reviewers and book awards including, a Finalist Beverly Hills Book Award and  first place of the 22nd annual Colorado Independent Publishers Association and CIPA Education and Literary Foundation, Self Help.

Fixed is funny.

It’s also, as Doug, says, real. It all happened. And that is where the true amazement of this book’s accomplishment sneaks up on you. This funny writer with self-effacing charm survived all this pain and brokenness that makes the book so sharp and important. Funny is good, but impact is better and this book has both.

Don’t take my word for it. Buy it. If you do, we invite you to send us your review of the book. We will gladly post it here.

Lunch meetings build connections to those unconnected

I like to spend time with the homeless and struggling in my neighborhood. They are appreciative and interesting, and often teetering on the sharp edge of reality. I’ll make some peanut butter and banana sandwiches and go out to the park. I find out a bit more of what they need and try to round it up for the next time. It doesn’t do much, but for a minute it helps them stay aloft on the edge a bit better.

The more I get to know some of these folks, the more two things become unmistakable:

  1. They are fully human with deep feelings, conflicted thoughts and even some faint mixture of hope amid the sorrow and regret. In other words, just like us. The titles they wear–homeless, crazy, bums, nuisances, etc.–don’t help. They share the one that is important to all of us: Human.
  2. They are fully traumatized. They suffer a lack of nutrition, sleep, security, comfort and any measure of peace. They are on their last nerve, or more accurately, far beyond it. I heard a homeless advocate once asked why the homeless seem so, well, crazy. She responded that crazy is the most normal state in those conditions. If you were kicked awake any number of times a night, if you were frigid cold and hungry and scared without respite, how long would you hold onto your sanity? Ever snapped at someone because you didn’t sleep well the night before? Imagine that times 100. Those that aren’t crazy are the miracle. I’ve met these miracles. Happily so.

Disclaimer time: I have no interest in the political scrum. I’m not one any side. I’ve walked down Market Street and see the deterioration. I know the city suffers and residents have grown weary of trash, urine, panhandling and misery at their doorstep. I get it. I take no sides. I just want to know my neighbors.

One of my favorite folks to run into is named Papa Smurf. He’s sort of the leader of the band in our neighborhood. He says he has a spiritual intuition and could tell the moment I first walked up that we shared a spiritual bond. Over lunch in a park with about five others, I overheard him call me a guardian angel. I felt like I won an Oscar, well aware I couldn’t live up that in a million years or with a million peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

I’ve been asked a lot about “what can be done” about “the homeless.” I’ve never once ventured an answer. There is no membership club. “The homeless” is not a thing. It’s a condition with a wide revolving door, a complex group of people suffering from any number of causes: financial calamity, addiction, past mistakes, mental illness and trauma to name a few. I don’t spend lunch with my neighbors because I have any answers; I spend lunch with them because they are my neighbors. When my family walks through these places, I want the residents to know us and for us to know them. I want to feel safe, and I want to contribute to their feeling of safety in some small measure. If they know one neighbor, they are likely to feel a bit more like the belong.

The sad part is, they won’t belong for very long. San Francisco is the host for this year’s Super Bowl 50. Even though the game itself will be played in the 49ers billion-dollar albatross of a stadium far south of here, the village for the eight days preceding will be at Justin Herman Plaza and Market Street, which is where these people I share my lunch with now live.

Mayor Ed Lee has not been shy about displacing those who make their home in the plaza or along one of the city’s signature streets.

“We are always going to be supportive,” Lee told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But you are going to have to leave the street. Not just because it’s illegal, but because it is dangerous.”

Well, the reason my neighbors live here is because it’s less dangerous. I’ve gone out at night in the city’s notorious Tenderloin district, home to all the vices in the world and a vast number of the city’s more than 6,000 homeless residents. For homeless folks trying to sleep there, well that’s dangerous. As Papa Smurf explained, the folks who come down to Justin Herman Plaza are seeking the outskirts. They want away from homeless politics and fear. They want to rest. On Sunday afternoons, there is even a church service, for the homeless, by the homeless. It’s their community church. It’s part of the neighborhood.

But the mayor is clear. The Super Bowl is coming. They got to go. Lee made that clear: “They are going to have to leave,” he said after the city announced its Super Bowl Village plans.

There goes the neighborhood.

Touching others until the last day

I struggle with going to church. Even when I like my church, I often find better things to do with me time. When I go, it’s a bit like exercise. I drag my feet and look for available excuses. Once I go, I’m glad I went. So, I’ve been thinking a bit about why I don’t want to go. It all boiled down to one thing: the prayer time.

A lot of churches have an open microphone time where folks can get up and share their concerns and ask for prayer. It is a nice way to show care to every person in the church. Once in a while these times have been inspiring and moving. So why don’t I like it? Because most of the time it is not at all inspiring. Most of the time it’s a long litany and rarely it’s the actual person speaking. Far too often the person we are asked to pray for has at least two or three degrees of separation from anyone I even remotely know.

Then there is this other little problem and it’s a logistical one. The person says everything that’s wrong and even what they want in the prayer.

“Pray for Aunt Millie that she may be comforted during this time of healing from goiters,” The person with the microphone says.

That’s bad enough because I’m certain few of us in church know Aunt Millie, and in a world where two billion people don’t have water, it’s hard to work up much angst for goiters. But then the preacher has to go ahead and offer the prayer for Aunt Millie’s comfort and we hear it all again.

I can’t help but think God is as bored as I am during these times. She’s not a Genie in the Bottle for goodness sakes. If prayer is our way of spending time with the divine, something about this show-and-tell seems far, far from it.

This is highly, highly uncharitable. I know that. But it doesn’t change how little purpose I feel during this time, which far too often stretches far too long until I’m counting minutes of my Sunday I’ll never get back again.

Even writing about this makes me feel like a cad, but the truth is I don’t like the prayer time and I have strong doubts God does either.

Then again, every time I think I know what God might be up to I get a flying spiritual hammer-kick to the heart to remind me that I am not God and have no idea what He thinks and feels.

Example: The other day I reached out to a woman who years ago–decades really–was in my church. Last year, her son died of a heroin overdose and her mother’s day post on our Criminal U website was a wrenching, honest, powerful, must-read devotion to honoring her son and using her incredible grief to encourage others suffering from addiction (please go read this and like it and support it if you can. The more people who read it, the better).

I have thought of her often and simply dropped her an email to tell her so. She wrote back about how she’s learned grief is a marathon, not a sprint. Every time I try to offer her support, she ends up offering so much more to me. This was no exception.

She told me how she received a condolences card from a woman named Roxie. She and I both knew only one Roxie in our entire life. She was the woman who every single Sunday without fail got up during prayer time to ask for prayers for a host of strangers. More than that she would write these people notes of encouragement and enlist others to do the same. I never liked it when she stood up, but I came to appreciate her heart for every person under God’s great sky. Anyway, I’ll let my friend tell the rest of the story:

Mom told me that Roxie had passed away and that it must be from a different Roxie. I don’t know any other Roxies. I researched and discovered that Roxie had passed two days after Tyler. She must have written this sympathy note before she passed, and it was just now sent by whoever found it on her desk. The timing of this card was Divine and knowing that brings me the most comfort of all.

I read this and my heart just twisted into a knot. Roxie and Tyler are both ensconced in heaven but here her prayers and notes keep right on blessing others.

I opened the attachment and knew that handwriting as sure as I know my own. I had received my share of cards from Roxie in the day. I had been asked to sign even more, cards she wrote to any number of people and simply wanted me to add my name to in support and to show the person he or she was not alone during their time of hardship.

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I hadn’t thought of Roxie for so long, but she was one of the good ones. A rare gem with a heart so big she couldn’t not stand up every Sunday and ask for people to prayer for every odd distant person out there who was suffering. Her faith was so big she had no doubts that this was what the church was supposed to do and in doing it, God was alive all the more.

It pained me to think of her loss even though I am one of those so distant people in her life now. But it amazed me… knocked me stupid silly to know that to the day she left to go over to the other side, Roxie kept reaching out, praying, sending notes of God’s love.

I’m ashamed of my immaturity by comparison. I can’t say I’ll ever enjoy the church prayer time, but I know I’ll shut the hell when it comes to thinking I know how God feels about it.

I leave you with more wisdom born from the pain of a mother’s broken heart, the wisdom my friend left me in her email:

Blessings and Love to you and yours, and remember to hug your loved ones tightly.

Amen.

 

Effin Art from rocks and dirt

I write best when I think.

But if life crowds out anything, it’s time to just think. I find myself holding all these gadgets that offer so many things to do and ways to lose track of time with mind-numbing simplicity that my brain often goes hours a day without doing much of anything I consider important.

Digital drugs, I call them. Like most of the world I see, they can quickly shift from useful tool to crack-like addiction.

So what’s all this have to do with writing? Because I haven’t been writing as well as I can. More importantly I haven’t been writing as well as I need to in order to accomplish my two writing goals: 1) pay the rent each month, and 2) write books that people actually read.

I was having coffee recently with a mentor where I languished over what I was supposed to do with my life. I had spent so little time thinking, I was mostly in knots. I felt out of sorts, out of kilter, off target … like one of those map gadgets that says “location can’t be determined.”

She reminded me of a Frederick Buechner quote from a book I read decades ago: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I’m not sure my writing is exactly what the world’s deep hunger yearns for, but it’s about as close as I ever get. I started thinking why I wasn’t writing about these things, because writing is my deepest gladness. I recognized I wasn’t writing enough about what I wanted to write. Paying the rent had dominated and my deep gladness had suffered.

But to write what I wanted requires thinking, another thing lost in the shuffle of time. Like a cat chasing my tail I circled around and around these thoughts aware that I wasn’t really getting anywhere. Not thinking is like that. It’s full of motion that accomplishes little. Thinking, I have found, is more stillness with far more recognizable results.

So thank goodness into the cacophony of my mindlessness I agreed to help my daughter and future son-in-law fix up their yard. I arrived to great piles of debris and the change to do some real hoof-to-head wellness work that had been lacking in my life.

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For four days I hardly held a gadget. For four days I worked. I hauled logs, raked dirt, burnt slash and cleaned trash.

In the midst of all that labor I took a bunch of dirt and rocks and made them a pond, which I have found is about the most alluring little place to do nothing but stop and think.

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As I worked, I thought. My mind was not hyper like the cat/tail, but calm and focused in contrast to growing physical fatigue.

One thought that kept returning: balance. We live on a spinning sphere both figuratively and literally, so it makes sense that a great and ever-present challenge is to stay in balance. A cell phone is handy, but excessively it can erode your ability to connect with others. A computer is necessary for work, but excessively it can replace healthy activity. Working to the pay rent is responsible, but working too much can become an ego-building obsession.

Four days with dirt and rocks reminded me of other talents I have, artistic expression that is not just time at a computer banging keys much like I’m doing right now. It reminded me of muscles I like to use and brainpower that demands attention to stay oiled and creativity that results in something pretty.

Ironically, my daughter’s family is having the same struggle with imbalance. Theirs is the opposite. They have a new home and with it a fierce desire to make it perfect. The project list is long and all-consuming. They are wearing out with work, badly in need of some down time that may well be doing little more than looking at gadgets for a while.

What we do is often amoral. It’s purpose and value comes from how we do it and what its results are and how it all stitches together in a balanced fabric of our selfhood.

I’d just been too busy to think about such things until I got busy doing things that gave me time to think. Infused with thoughts, I look forward to writing and reconnected to that deep gladness of my life with a faint hope that such words might also skitter across the lake of the world’s great need.

Pull lens in tight for life’s best view

I’ve lived in San Francisco for a long time and yet never had any reason to go the Twin Peaks. I meant to and people rave about the views and it’s a cool twisty drive you see in car commercials to embody that wonderful feeling of the open road and… yet… eh. Never really bothered.

Then suddenly I decided I wanted to see it. So off we went on a clear day. It felt just a bit like being Chevy Chase in Vacation staring at the Grand Canyon, nodding my head saying, “Yep, yep, yep… now gotta go!”

It was… nice.

Then a few days later I watched the movie Boyhood, which was one of those too long, too slow, too moody independent films that by the end have your mind in a twist that takes about three days to fully untwist. In short, I (mostly) loved it. But what I really loved was a scene at the end when the boy pulls into a dumpy gas station in the middle of nowhere that you only find on those great road trips that let our minds and spirit truly soar on the open road. (My daughter who hates road trips texted me from one of hers recently asking, “Why is you love road trips?” to which I’d respond… that scene… that look and feeling and moment right there in that movie. That’s what I love). He pulls out his camera and takes the lens in tight, way too tight on single subjects: An old fire hydrant, a rusty lantern, a stop light. He takes beautiful shots of the most mundane things in life.

“That’s the art I love right there,” I told The Bride.

She looked up from her game of Candy Crush to see a too-tight shot of the stop light with its chipped paint and said, “huh?”

I started to explain, but let it drop. Instead I thought about it and compared it to the vistas of Twin Peaks. One was a nice view and sorta of beautiful, yet distant and removed. The other was an ugly old thing that emoted the artistic expression of life and the toll the hands of times take on a thing — even when its us who are the thing. I prefer the ugly old thing. In life especially, I’ll take the ugly old thing every time.

The temptation is to try to live above life as if we are entitled to lofty views far above the noise, pain and erosion of it all. We even envision our gods “up there” “looking down on us” and all those other ways of describing “removed.” We want to be removed from our own lives. We accept gods who would not be bothered to be among us, perhaps even taking comfort in the vain hope that someday we too can join them. We build edifices of removal, be they mansions or skyscrapers or retreats, or less literal notions of the same idea like emotional detachment to the point of addiction. What is alcohol and drug abuse if not escape?

But if the close up is so ugly, why do artists find it so compelling? Why is truth so alluring? Why is it so unsettling and provocative whenever we get close, be it to another, to a god or even to ourselves?

Perhaps because it’s real. I believe our soul hungers for what is real, not the streets of gold our mind imagines in an incessant urge to flee.

Perhaps this also explains why the story of Jesus is so compelling, a rarity in the library full of spiritual beings. Unlike Marduke or Zeus or even the enlightened Buddha, Jesus is the ugly, rusty god, the one with dirty feet who is at home with prostitutes and drunks who came through the birth canal to dwell “among us,” and even when he got here avoided the lure of the ivory tower, king’s palace or heavenly throne in exchange for the bloody, terrible, sweaty, tear-stained perch among two criminals on a cross.

This is the divine plan as the divine modeled for us in his own life. The closer we get to it, the more we learn to celebrate its beauty. The more we reject the notions of beauty others striving to live above life concoct.

Or as Thomas Merton wrote, “The logic of worldly success rests on its own fallacy–the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real.”

The more I work out of my spiritual slump, the more I find the joy I lack when I pull my view of life in tight and see what is truly, really, wonderfully, beautifully real.

Day 14: Clean Eating Challenge fulfilled

We did it. We did the Buzz Feed Clean Eating challenge and didn’t cheat. We stared down the bear and it walked away … for now. We lost a few pounds, feel a ton better, re-established needed discipline, revved up our metabolism with small meals and most importantly broke that compulsive hold over me for dessert.

I’d say it’s a success.

But now the real fun begins. We have to sustain it. So really it’s not over at all. In fact, it’s just beginning. We will not have a celebratory In-N-Out Burger or a massive piece of chocolate cake. It won’t work that way. We’ll stay the course as boring as that sounds.

We will make adjustments:

  • like no more salads for dinner. I hate salad for dinner. I want DINNER for dinner, not more lunch.
  • I will also add in some bread, because I love to make it. But not too much, and not too often. I’m resolved to only eat breads when I make them to make sure we don’t eat too much.
  • We will have dessert now again. But again we’ll try to limit it to those we make and limit the sugar we eat to those we intentionally choose, not pick up through processed foods or late-night snacks.

All of that was needed. In short, this challenge helped us feel back on track again. These things above, along with an intentional plan to eat smaller meals, eat clean, focus on vegetables and stay consistent will help us transition and make this sustainable. Besides, we were eating mostly well. It was the outer edges that were problems. The binges, the second-helpings, the weekends, the late-night snacks that were destroying all the point of the mostly well we did do.

No food challenge is perfect. This had its flaws. But would I recommend it? Heartily. It’s the best thing we’ve done in a year.

But like I said, now the hard part comes. We have to sustain it, which leads me to the single most important lesson I learned these past two weeks: I have to treat my eating like I do my alcoholism. 

I really do.

And it depresses the shit out of me.

I simply don’t ever want to be fat again. After five years of fighting back from the gradual creep into dangerous obesity, after three years of having lost 100 pounds and keeping at least 80 off, after five years of regular exercise that has me in good enough condition to run a mountainous half-marathon in two weeks, after five years of intentional, focused, healthy living, after five years of sobriety, it stuns me to know my body is still fighting me. The battle to stay fit and trim continues. In fact, in may be harder today than when I started 100 pounds ago.

My body just wants its fat back. It’s the only way I can explain it. Plus, my mind wants its addictions and compulsions back. It wants what it wants and since it can no longer have wine or scotch or vodka, it really, really wants chocolate and pizzas and burgers and fries.

Before we stared this challenge, I noticed some weight gain. But more than anything I noticed how badly I wanted dessert at night. How obsessed I had become about certain foods. How much I craved. That’s addictive thinking. In some ways, my addictions to eat the stuff that makes me gain weight is more insidious than my desire for alcohol.

So I have to pursue it the same way in order to be successful. The bear will return. I have to face that. But how I deal with it, how I approach it will make all the difference.

What did I learn these two weeks? That I am in recovery of food and booze, so the work continues…. one day at a time.

 

Day One: Juice cleanse detoxes dessert addiction

I’m an addict. Of course, that’s well documented here at a site that is basically dedicated to recovery. What’s different about that statement, what might not be as well known, is that as an addict I run a gamut of addictions every day.

I’m an alcoholic who drank every day for twenty years. I haven’t had a drink in more than five. That’s good. I’m doing well.

But I still end up flat footed often when the addict part of me surfaces. I may not be tempted much any more to drink, but the same thought processes in my brain still run amok like a lab let off a leash amid a flock of seagulls.

Lately it’s been sugar. Dessert to be precise. I love dessert. It’s clearly a swapped drug to some extent. I used to love happy hours and nighttime cocktails and everything that made my brain fuzzy and my anxiety quiet. Now, it’s those bites of decadence at the end of a long day. I may not get quite the same buzz experience, but the firing in my brain is pretty similar. Dessert soothes me, as weird as that sounds. And those times I don’t reward myself, I find my mind obsessing on cravings of chocolate late at night watching Netflix and thinking only about a batch of cookies or something like it.

I had to admit, I was powerless. So I looked at the bear within and got serious. I started a food detox, both to combat the growing creep of weight gain, but also to get my mental state aligned properly. I felt out of alignment. Chocolate had knocked me out of balance. This food refocusing is meant to center me up again  and break the addictive thinking about dessert.

(OK, the fact that much of this site is dedicated to food recipes, many that are desserts is not lost on me. I love desserts and will love them again. The challenge is to love within reason!)

Sound extreme? Maybe. Nobody I know of ran a car through a shopping center drunk on dessert, so maybe it’s not as bad. But seeing how obesity is rampant, and people are dying of obesity-related diseases at an epidemic rate, maybe this addiction is extreme.

I don’t know really. I just know I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling complusiveThat is how desserts had become. A compulsion.

So I started this food plan, the Buzzfeed Clean Eating Challenge knowing I needed a higher power. Buzzfeed is it for the next couple of weeks.

But I went a step further as well. I decided I needed to detox a bit before I started. I need to purge the drug of dessert.

So I did a cleanse.

I actually wanted to do a full-scale colonic, but that had to wait. This food challenge couldn’t wait. So I bought a cleanse product from Trader Joe’s that really is a whole bunch of fiber pills. I used it once several years ago and found it helpful, but not invasive. I did one of these cleanses before that and it was well… explosive. Invasive doesn’t do it justice. I felt wrung out from the inside and just didn’t want to experience that much purging this time around.

But to make sure I completely cleanses, I also started my Trader Joe cleanse with a 24 hour fast and juice cleanse.

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The Bride and I trotted over to the farmer’s market and about $40 bucks worth of fruits and vegetables. I didn’t have my juicer, so we just mashed them all to bity bits in the blender and made juices the texture of smoothies.

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The Bride and I talked about doing a three-day juice cleanse, but about two juices into it, and the cost of the fruits and veggies to sustain it, quickly changed our minds. We settled on one day.

The juices were (not) good. Not. Really, just ugh. I tried to like them. But I was quickly hungry. And the Trader Joes Fiber was twisting my gut a bit. And I was feeling tired and grumpy and and…

Day one sucked, to put it plainly. It was not in the least bit sustainable, which, as I often say, is critical to any food plan. But this wasn’t a food plan, it was detox. It was meant to be hell, I think. Maybe I wanted to punish myself.

What surprised me was not the hunger or the cravings. What did surprise me was my body’s reaction. It rebelled. I felt back pains. My head ached. I felt sluggish. Later in the day I could actually feel the toxins coming off me (ok, not actually actually, but sort of mystically actually… let’s just call it figuratively). I felt like I was… well, hung over, if you can believe that.

I couldn’t. It wasn’t like I was stuffing my face with Ding Dongs for the past three years. I ate pretty well over all. But clearly I was more out of balance than I thought. My dessert cravings had impacted my internal well being.

Turns out, The Bride was right there with me. By the end of the day we were a mess. We slugged off to bed early. As we lay there in the darkness my head swirled. Then I heard the Bride say,

“My head is swimming like I’m drunk. This is nuts.”

Yes. Very. So maybe this food addiction is pretty extreme. Maybe more people should try to detox for a day and see just what their body is trying to tell them. Maybe we’are all little more addicted than we think.

If food is a drug we may as well use the good stuff

Addicts often replace one addiction for another one. For those in recovery, it starts with replacing the drug of choice with something more benign and then gradually changing the addictive behaviors. You’ve never seen sugar consumed until you’ve seen a former meth addict in rehab. I once sat with a friend of mine and watched him dump at least half a cup of sugar in his milk.

This is also why AA meetings are shrouded in a smog of cigarette smoke in the entryway.

For those going the other way, deeper into their addictions, this process works in reverse, with addictions trading up in search of a better high. Either way, the process is in constant motion, evolving and adapting to our ever-changing mental state.

The key, as was pointed out in a seminal book on addictions, Addiction and Grace, by Gerald May, to recognize this process rather than fight it. By dragging our addictions up from the depth of our unconscious, we are less ensnared by them. By recognizing that we have these addictions we are far less likely to be consumed by them.

May does an excellent job in explaining that most people suffer from addictive behavior. A rarer special group of us addicts take those addictions to extreme levels and therefore need treatment. Most simply manage them.

Regardless, the process of making these addictions conscious (not conscience, which can be similar in this regard) is important for everyone, not just those of us in recovery.

When I went through rehab, I took on a spirit of monk-like deprivation. I cut everything out of my life. No booze to be sure, but also a long list of other things I said no to like sex, and sugar and even for a short while caffeine. Eventually I allowed myself to return to more normal experiences of all of the above with the exception of booze. I’ve been clean and sober now for 55 months, thank God.

Slowly but surely the other old addictions returned. I drink a lot of coffee these days. As you can read from my post, I have reunited with sugar too. Both crept back into my life until I really wanted both each day. I even called it happy hour, which it is… coffee and chocolate? That’s happy:

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happy hour

Ding, ding, ding, the bells went off in my head. Addiction alert?!

Food is a drug, I realize that now. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen crafting crazy recipes over and over without understanding the addictive needs I have are being met.

Like everything else, I simply have to recognize the process. I have to accept that making food and eating food (especially sugar, which is the Meth of food) my brain experiences sensations similar to what alcohol used to do for me.

I watched a great documentary on this recently called, Hungry for Change. It expertly explained the addictive properties of food, especially my beloved devil: sugar. Watching that show was like going to an AA meeting. I felt my out-of-balance need for food shift within me back into greater balance.

It finally dawned on me this nagging feeling I’ve had for weeks. If food is going to be my drug of choice (which it is along with coffee… I’ve accepted these in my life) then why not go for the best. I don’t want to waste my addiction on crappy food. I want to enjoy it with excellent food.

It made me think back to rehab when they’d talk about triggers. I was asked if the holidays were triggering me to drink.

“Well, nobody’s tossing a bottle of Grey Goose onto the grounds here, so it’s not too bad,” I told them.

I was just like that as an alcoholic. I didn’t want my addiction diluted with beers at 7 a.m. I’d hang on each day until Happy Hour and an expensive cocktail followed by a nice bottle of wine. That’s what The Bride and I would call it, “Nice.” It was always a nice bottle of wine even when it would cause an ugly hangover the next day.

Well, those tendencies serve me well now. If I focus on good food, healthy food, food I make and grow and nurture, I get far more bang for my addictive buck than a blast down to McDonald’s. I also keep that lusty sugar in check. (By the way, I think my sobriety date for McDonald’s or other fast food joints is going on 31 months. Not bad?!)

Food is my drug now. It beats the other ones I’ve had. So I may as well make it good food and everything will be just fine.