The Sugar Fix

I’ve noticed that a common thread for those of you on the sobriety journey is talking about how you seem to have increased your consumption of sugary drinks and carb loaded snacks. As food is my “thing”, I thought I’d do a bit of research as to why (Understanding why something is happening can lead to finding the tools to overcome it…) and possibly some suggestions for moving past it…

I have to stress, I am a lay person, with an interest in food, and in recovery. You should always seek the help of an expert in the field; but this may give you some insight into why, especially early recovery, sees you reach for those chocolate biscuits…

Some of this information will also apply to most recoveries – drugs, alcohol, and depression; feeding the brain better will make the recovery easier and help make long term changes, which might lessen the chances of relapse.

Some Science made easy:

Physical – the human body is very adept at finding what it needs to survive..

  • When you drink Alcohol, it is converted to sugar in the body.
  • When you drink, you get a spike in your blood sugar levels
  • When you suddenly stop drinking, your blood sugar levels plummet and your body thinks “What happened there then?”
  • When your blood sugar levels plummet, your body starts looking to solve, what it perceives, as a problem – and sends you in search of replacement sugar.
  • Alcoholics are also technically addicted to sugar, which is as physically addictive as alcohol.
  • Sugar has the same effect on dopamine levels in the brain – the feel good chemical that helps control the reward and pleasure parts of the brain.
  • So, sugar makes you feel good..
  • Sugar is short lived in your body – hence a sugar high, is replaced by a sugar crash – and you guessed it – your body wants more sugar to maintain the feel goods.
  • The cycle of sugar high and crash can lead to depression – having a stable blood sugar level can also keep your emotions level; riding the sugar high/crash rollercoaster will play havoc with your emotions
  • The cycle of sugar highs and crashes can also cause headaches, as your body produces insulin to process the sugar, a sudden rush of insulin – causes a headache
  • If you don’t give your body replacement sugar, and you experience the sugar low, you continue to crave the alcohol you’re coming off…

Alcohol vs Food

  • When you drink alcohol to excess, you feel “full”, because the volume of liquid fills you up, and you are consuming a lot of calories (not very nutritional calories); which is why many people addicted to alcohol don’t seem to need to eat.
  • Without the balance of fibre/protein/vitamins, the alcohol/sugar calories are digested quickly, so the sugar in them surge through your body faster
  • People with addictions don’t tend to eat properly – they’re getting their “calories” from their alcohol.
  • The alcohol they’re using may also interfere with the usual mealtime schedule – skip Breakfast because you’re hungover? Too busy for lunch? Dinner replaced by the after work drink, that leads to just drinking for dinner?

Moods – the brain is better without alcohol, but still needs to be cared for

  • You “reward” yourself with a drink, for a hard day’s work; for getting through that meeting; because something good has happened and a drink will make celebrating it better
  • You use alcohol to “get through” a hard situation – “Dutch Courage” or “numbing the pain”
  • The sugar treat can do some of these things almost guilt free – “I’ll just have some chocolate, I made it through another day”
  • I’m not drinking, so I have “spare” calories, so I can have that pack of choc biccies..
  • Because alcohol and sugar both act on the reward and pleasure parts of the brain you have replaced one feel good food with another.

Solving the “Sugar solution” – the food path

  • Firstly, be aware that this is a common pitfall, you’re not alone
  • Go see a dietician, they have the best food knowledge to help you come off alcohol, without substituting sugar
  • Make a meal plan – breakfast; lunch; dinner with appropriate snacks – this will maintain your sugar levels on an even keel, keeping the urge to reach for the chocolate at bay; and will give you a sense of control, and a sense of purpose
  • Protein not only helps to fill you up – it digests slowly, releasing sugar slowly, keeping your sugar levels on an even level
  • Read labels – look for hidden pockets of added sugar
  • Eat whole foods – fish, nuts, veges, lean meats, wholegrain breads, they take longer to digest, making you feel fuller longer
  • Cut out processed food – it contains excess added sugar, and digests quicker, making you look for food sooner
  • Learn to cook. There is satisfaction in eating something you have made yourself. It also gives you a sense of purpose, fills in time, and makes you think about what you are putting in your body
  • Make 1 meal a day, a “sit down and enjoy meal” – constantly eating on the run means you’re more likely to find an “easy” meal, not necessarily a healthy one; and it makes the meal part of your new daily routine, not just fuel to keep going
  • Accept that your body is probably not going to like suddenly losing its “fix” of easy calories – you may get headaches, you may get digestive issues
  • Keep hydrated. Your fluid intake has reduced, and water is your new best friend. Dehydration makes you feel hungry; dehydration can lead to headaches… Buy a water bottle with a pull out sippy lid – easier than constantly opening and closing a bottle – you will drink more…
  • Accept that taking time to eat properly is also part of your new nondrinking lifestyle, your new normal.

Adding to your New Alcohol/Addiction Free Lifestyle

  • Find some other reward system – find the things that you love doing and make them the way to reward yourself – yoga; photography; music; a new hobby; the movies….
  • Find things that make you feel good – hanging out with a friend; taking a hot bath; scented candles; walking the dog; going for a swim – keep feeding the pleasure part of your brain

And lastly, and I know it’s a pain in a busy life – keep a food diary; try and include a bit of info about what you were doing and how you were feeling. You may find points of the day or the week, that you reach for that sugary drink or that pack of biccies, and then you can plan a distraction..

We all have patterns of behaviour in our lives, part of all our recoveries is resetting our patterns to live healthier lives.

I hope this has been of some use. Again. I am no expert. And if you want more information, I would recommend seeing a dietician.

Good luck. Eat well. Stay safe…

STRENGTH

I was pondering on my morning walk, about how we are living through one of “Those” times.. those pivotal points in history, when the world changes.. A global event, like no other. Scary times; interesting times; times that will make us evaluate how we live, how we will conduct ourselves and even with whom and where we will choose to live.

It is a Massive time, and the world we re-emerge into will be different…

But then I thought about this group – as I often do when I roam the beach. This collection of waifs and strays with Recovery as our goal in common. I know that a lot of us have been as low as a human can be and survived. I know that we all face a daily battle with sobriety, mental health or addiction… That we have found like minded people, who know that daily battle and are willing to support, encourage and just hug if it all gets too hard…

The rest of the world might well look at this group and think that somehow we are weaker, damaged, maybe even of lesser value to whatever the new world will look like..

But I disagree.

The very demons we face have given us strength. The bonds we have made here have already given us an online support system – before everyone else went looking for one. The strong desire to survive what life throws us, has given us insight and wisdom. And the very tenets of this group of:

Kindness

Support

Tolerance

Acceptance

Service

Care

Compassion

are the very attributes people will need to move forward.

I know we are all fearful, and these worrying times have made the Recovery journey so much harder. But then I read tweets of

“At least I’m tackling this sober”

“Yesterday was a bad day, but I’m back today”

“I’m struggling today, is anyone around”… And I see them answered almost immediately, and often for hours afterwards by support and care..

AND I can see a new emphasis on our daily gratitude list – learning to be thankful for what we have.

#ODAAT – living in the moment.

Meditating.

Taking joy in surviving another day…

WE are human, we do struggle, but we are also admitting to it.

I have a massive respect and gratitude for this group. And faith that individually, and as a whole we have what it takes to face the whatever version of the world emerges..  

Kia Kaha

Kia Māia

Kia Manawanui

Be strong

Be brave

Be Steadfast

It is Easy to be Grateful

With the world in free-fall and with an uncertain future, this alcoholic thinks there’s never been a better time to be grateful.

I know, things aren’t great at the moment. The shops are empty, we cannot visit our friends and family, people are very sick and dying; in fact it is safe to say that things are pretty bad. Being grateful in hard times can be challenging, finding something positive can be almost impossible and feel like a tokenistic gesture. Perhaps for some that is true, but not for me – and here is why.

Twelve months ago I felt like crap. I had gotten to the point where years of struggle to reign in the worst of my addiction was becoming impossible to maintain. The pretence that I was just a social drinker was going to be exposed for what it was, a sham. It was inevitable and I didn’t have the strength or the inclination to do anything about it. I looked at my family, my friends, my job – everyone and everything that was important to me and I knew that no one and no single thing would ever come before the need for a drink. I couldn’t see how I would be able to hold onto those things for much longer if I was still drinking.

And then something happened, something that I do not understand to this day. I gave in. I stopped fighting the fact that I couldn’t control the drinking and instead I ran, willingly, to someone close to me and told them: “I need help”. Seemingly out of nowhere I found the strength to open up about the darkest secret I had and admitted that I was powerless over alcohol. I didn’t know it then, but I had completed Step 1 of AA’s twelve step programme.

A few days later and I’m sat in an AA meeting, looking like a lost lamb – but instantly feeling a connection to these strangers. Everything I heard that first night told me that here were a group of people who knew what it was like to be in my head. Of course there were plenty of differences, differences in temperament when drunk, differences in the amount of drink drunk, differences in the places where we drank and the company we kept (or didn’t keep as the case may be), but the way our brains operated and how we saw the world and our place in it, that was the same.

At about this time I found Twitter and, rather more importantly #RecoveryPosse. Now, here were a group of people that I could relate to and that I could carry around in my pocket for emergencies! In those first few weeks and months it was members of #RecoveryPosse who kept me from picking up again; many of these people have since become firm friends and trusted allies in sobriety. Over the months I have found more and more like-minded folk here on Twitter and in the real world, people that help me and that I can help (which also helps me).

Today we find ourselves in unchartered waters; none of us can be sure about what the future holds. What we do know is that this new virus is not interested in our nationality, in our sex or sexual orientation. It’s not interested in our gender or whether we vote Conservative or Labour, Republican or Democrat. It does not care if we are a CEO of a FTSE 100 company or a homeless person on the streets; to this virus we are all the same. For a long time it has felt like we needed to be reminded of that; and this naturally occurring phenomenon has firmly planted that reality in our minds.

Social media has been increasingly dominant in our lives, more so for the younger generations, and our relationship with it has not always been smooth and unchallenging. We know too well the dark side of social media, the bullying, shaming and trolling that goes on every day, yet here we are – in the middle of this crisis and it is social media that is enabling us to stay connected with our loved ones – to see our parents in their living rooms whilst sitting in our own. It is social media that is allowing those of us in recovery to continue to attend the meetings that are vital to our health and wellbeing. And it is social media that enables us to have access to all the latest news and information on the virus and how to keep each other safe. How would we be fairing today if we did not have access to this technology?

No matter how bad things are today I am grateful that I am sober. I am grateful to have #RecoveryPosse and I am grateful to have AA.

Today it is easy to be grateful.

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Coronavirus Update

UPDATED 28 March 2020

During these troubled times it is important that we can all get access to good quality recovery meetings. As I find meetings I will update this page and indicate the latest update at the top of the page.

Revovery Hour: This meeting is run by @RecoveryHour and it takes place at 8.30pm (GMT) every day. There are readings, main share or chair, and share-back. Open to all in recovery regardless of fellowship. To access click the link at 8.30pm (GMT): bit.ly/RecoveryHour830

Bristol Frenchay, Acceptance is the Key: This is the home group of @SobrietyMatt. This AA meeting takes place every Tuesday at 8.00pm (GMT) and lasts for an hour. To access the meeting click on the link at 8.00pm (GMT): https://tinyurl.com/BristolAA

Soineantachd (Serenity): Organised by @Serenity0320 this meeting takes place every Saturday and Sunday at 12pm (Mountain)/ 2pm (Eastern)/ 6pm (GMT). To access click on the link at the appropriate time: https://zoom.us/j/8392646243

Bristol Young Peoples AA: Every Sunday at 7.30pm (GMT) is the Bristol Young People’s AA meeting. Do not be put off by the title, they are an incredibly warm and inviting bunch who do not care about your age! Click on the link at 7.30pm (GMT) every Sunday: https://tinyurl.com/BristolAA

In the Rooms: For 24/7 list of online meetings In the Rooms is a great page. Click on the link and sign up for a number of great live meetings.

WEconnect & Unity Recovery: WEconnect and Unity Recovery are partnering together to offer 4 daily all recovery meetings to anyone in the world. Meetings will follow an open format and are available to anyone in or seeking recovery. 7 days a week at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 9pm (EST). Click on the link at the appropriate time: unityrecovery.zoom.us/my/allrecovery

SMART Recovery: If you would like to find an online SMART Recovery meeting, simply click the link to go directly to their calendar of meetings: https://www.smartrecovery.org/community/calendar.php

Advice on dealing with Covid-19 Anxiety and Worry: In addition to recovery, many people are concerned about how to deal with their worry and anxiety about Covid-19. If you would like to access a practical guide to managing these feelings, why not click on the link: Free Guide To Living with Worry and Anxiety During Global Uncertainty.

Wednesday’s Women’s Group: An all fellowship inclusive recovery meeting for women co-hosted by @RecoveryHour and @GraceBrodie6 that takes place every Wednesday at 7pm. Click the link at the appropriate time to join in: https://zoom.us/j/472491045

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Tea anyone?

There is a strange and rather unhelpful pattern to my sobriety journey. The better I’m doing and the more confident I become as a soberista, the more likely I am to stop doing all the things that I need to do to avoid drinking.

It inevitably starts with thoughts like: “I’ll miss Thursday’s meeting because I have XXX that I want to do.” and quickly progresses to “I don’t need to do all this reading, it doesn’t actually help – I’m just doing it because someone else thinks I should”. Here is where things are starting to get really dangerous, my alcoholic mind knows best!

The next step is to start to resent AA and all the time I’m wasting going to meetings. I miss more of them and start thinking about changing my home group because it’s not “doing it for me” (but in actual fact in order to become anonymous and get away with not doing what I need to). Of course my alcoholic mind thinks that all the people in my home group are constantly thinking about me and what I should be doing to stay sober!

Now that I’ve dropped all the readings, stopped thinking about resentments (other than creating new ones) and gratitude lists or going to meetings, my alcoholic mind has decided that a great injustice has been done to me by these terribly sad individuals who, like sheep, are following all these steps and reading all these passages without any thought or free thinking. I start thinking about how I would keep people sober differently (there is of course no substance to this for two reasons: 1. I have no idea about how to keep myself sober, let alone anyone else. 2. My alcoholic brain isn’t actually interested in anyone else, and certainly doesn’t care about my sobriety!).

As these thoughts are rushing in, my mood is on the floor. I’m irritable and restless and, guess what, I’m thinking about drinking!

The thing is with AA is that it’s a simple programme. Do the suggested things and you’re more than likely going to be able to stay sober. However, my alcoholic mind likes nothing more than complicating the simple things in life, and AA is just asking for it!

As I was contemplating how my mind makes even the simplest task complicated, it reminded me of the tea and coffee job at AA meetings. This was my first service in AA – chosen for me by my sponsor “to get to know people”, although my alcoholic mind told me “Ah, so he thinks I need humbling does he? Giving me a lowly job is he?”.

See the source image

Well, I decided that I would make some serious improvements to the tea and coffee station. First of all we needed better biscuits; I sourced the finest biscuits and only opened a packet at a time so that they were fresh at the beginning of each meeting. Then I decided that we needed to improve our range of teas, some herbal tea, good quality because that stuff matters. I made sure that every tea spoon was cleaned after use and put back in a little holder ready for the next user, cup rings were wiped up immediately and good order was kept throughout. My tea and coffee would be the best AA had ever seen!

Then something extraordinary happened, some people wanted to make their own drink because they were ‘very particular’ about how it should be, others complained that the tea was too strong, others still that it was too weak! Some people wanted cake, not biscuits, some wanted full-fat milk instead of half-fat and the list went on. “It’s just a drink” my mind was shouting, and then it hit home; it’s easy to overcomplicate even the simplest things in life. Since giving up the tea and coffee job I have noticed that each person that comes along will do it slightly differently, they make it more complicated than it needs to be, perhaps, but essentially it brings into clear focus the difference between what we need and what we want.

AA offers me what I need and it’s up to me to accept it or not, but as soon as I start changing it to suit me, the less able I am to reap its benefits.

“Keep it simple, stupid”

See the source image

It was a straight-talking friend who made me call my sponsor and get to a meeting during my latest blip, but I cannot afford to keep pushing the limits of this programme. Like it or not, I need to do the suggested things to stay sober, one-day-at-a-time.

Contributed by @SobrietyMatt

Helping Hands

A basic truth of recovery – any recovery – is that you cannot do it alone.

In a medical recovery – you rely on and expect to have support from medical and rehab staff.

If you have surgery, a baby, a chronic condition, even the flu, people call in and offer to help, and you accept it…

Somehow though, in THIS recovery, from addiction, mental illness, stress, burnout, we seem to shy away from seeking help; we actively hide our disease. Tell everyone “we are fine”.. And they are diseases, just like diabetes, heart disease, cancer… We need, if not treatment, then definitely help and support… And yet we are reluctant to seek it; or even admit to friends and family that we are unwell.

Maybe its because these conditions, sadly, still have some stigma attached. Substance dependency is often met with Judgement, that its somehow a personal failing; that you just need to stop drinking/using; that somehow you’re weak for not being able to stop..

And with mental illness, the same judgements can be found out there amongst people who don’t understand – you can’t just “cheer up”; take a pill; see a counsellor. That anxiety/depression are “all in the head” or “you’re just not trying hard enough”…. Is it any wonder, if these diseases strike, we cover up, often not admitting it even to ourselves for a very long time…?

Sometimes the very first step we take on the path to recovery, is to admit to ourselves that we are unwell…. And then we think “I can fix this, nobody else needs to know”… And we start a vicious cycle, that sets ourselves up for failure.. A cycle of going it alone, starting, relapsing, restarting, relapsing…  as well as still pretending to everyone else, that we are ok.

And even when we do open up, tell someone, we still have to accept that we can’t recover on our own, that we need people – in a meeting; in counselling; in a group. People who understand that we have to live our lives differently now, and will accept us as we are… people to walk alongside us, taking some of the load, offering advice, just listening to us talk, or listen as we sit in silence…

I’ve listening to conversations here and been chatting around the group, and there is a common theme – we don’t want to tell people in our lives that we are struggling, and we find it hard to ask for and accept help:

“I hate to feel needy”

I’m a stubborn bastard”

“I feel like I’m imposing on other people”

“It’s not how I’m wired”

“I am a very private person”

“I’m the caregiver, not the person who needs the care” 

“Everyone is so busy; I don’t want to take up their time”

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me.

I’m not part of a rehab programme, but I have started reaching out, firstly telling people here in the safety of anonymity; and just recently in Real Life, telling people I’m not OK, and I need their help…. And it is terrifying and exhausting…. But there is also this “Aha!” moment, of course most people knew I was depressed, they’ve been hovering on the side-lines, waiting to help, waiting to take care of me.. I still struggle with the honesty; with needing to be helped (which is very different to being Needy)… but as I keep telling myself I am a work in progress…

I have found that within this group, the ability to help and be helped has a balance, that I can be comfortable in… And the generosity of everyone is humbling…

So, you now find yourself in this very supportive non-judgemental group, and that’s brilliant… But it is just one place to find help and support; we all need to find that in our every day lives too; so that we can continue to grow and continue to overcoming these diseases that have shaped our journeys so far..

We have a Maori quote here in New Zealand “Kia Kaha”; it means “stay strong”. We say it to people facing adversity; people who are struggling; people who are working to achieve something profound..

I have an extension to it. And I wish it to all of you

kia kaha

kitea te kaha mai i etahi atu

stay strong

find strength from others

hiya

Hi, I’m Chris, one of your new Admins..

Here to help get this thing up and running, and to hopefully keep it running smoothly..

This is intended to be a resource for everyone in the Recovery Posse to use, to find inspiration, camaraderie, and somewhere to share your thoughts. We welcome any contributions, be they personal writings; quotes that have helped you; recovery suggestions; questions you need help with.. or just a resource to get you through the day…

If you have any suggestions, please let us know, and we’ll try to get them up and posted, so you can share with the group.

We’re all still learning how to make this resource work, so any input would be useful. Let us know the kind of things you’d like to find here..

I hail from NZ, and am in the Recovery Posse to recover from burn out and some mental health issues. My story is probably similar to others, and I’ve found the Posse, like most of you, a safe place with so much support…

I hope to get to know some of you in the coming months…

Thanks

Chris

 

 

 

Recovery Quotes & Sayings

Do you know of any recovery sayings, idioms, cliches or quotes? This post will be expanded to include them! Just reach out to an admin or author, and we’ll get it posted.

  • We do Recover
  • First things First
  • Recovery is not sexually transmitted
  • Long-term sobriety is not sexually transmitted
  • There is no such thing as recovery by osmosis
  • Easy Does It
  • One Day at a Time
  • This too shall pass
  • If you don’t believe in a higher power, try to stop a wave
  • If all you do is take the brandy out of a fruitcake, you’ve still got a fruitcake
  • Think, Think, Think
  • The solution is as close as your breath
  • I can drink and use again when my anniversary chip finally melts in my mouth
  • If nothing changes, nothing changes
  • The grace is in the grey

Navigating the Stages

We’ve all heard of the stages of Grief..

  • Shock
  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • testing
  • acceptance

And we know that they don’t keep to a timeline, or necessarily run in a nice neat order; just like life follows its own path, so does the journey through grief.

And we grieve, not just the loss of people – through death, abandonment or separation; but other losses – jobs, relationships, health, pets, even dreams and hopes, when life turns a corner you weren’t expecting…

And while we travel the stages of grief, we naturally seek comfort from wherever we can find it – friends, whanau, sleep, exercise and of course substances. Many people’s journey to addiction and depression stems from an event, or a series of events that threw them off balance, changing the journey they were on. And sometimes those very substances, which lulled with a promise of healing and forgetting, roadblock us in a loop, unable to attain that final goal of acceptance and closure….

Every addict, or person with depression I’ve met, has some story, some point in their lives, when life deviated, and they found themselves using a substance to make it all go away. Either a bad start to life, or an unexpected loss along the way..  Of course, it isn’t that simple – otherwise everyone would be an addict – every person will have to deal with grief at some point in their lives. But for some of us, a setting is turned on or off, and we rely on a substance to get through the days. The fall out for addicts is often huge. They lose family, jobs, their health, their self esteem… all losses that can then add to the grief burden and reinforce the addiction.

I’m no grief expert, or addiction counsellor, but I can identify the points in my own life, that have led to me dealing with burn out, and using alcohol – to become “Comfortably Numb”…

And at some point we all have to make a decision – continue the downward spiral OR decide to seek something better. We choose Recovery. Which isn’t as easy as deciding I will just stop drinking, drug taking, or I will just stop being depressed or burned out… It is deciding to start a new way of living; a healthier way, and that might actually include dealing with more loss, as we lose the old crutches that supported us, maybe even changing the friends we hang out with, and the things we take for granted… There will be more things to grieve, before we can even start moving forward..

And central to every recovery, is the facing the things that we are grieving… facing the demons, the disappointments; the disasters… one day at a time, one thing at a time… this too is a process, one that has no fast setting, no instant reset button… And it is hard. Hard to change our habits, hard to acknowledge that we may be one of the problems…

And we have to accept that we cannot do it alone. Grief needs to be fought on several fronts, and we all need back up. Some join a programme; some will do it with counselling; some will do it with supportive friends and whanau. Some are finding comfort in an online community of strangers, who all have something in common, they know where you’ve been and they’re cheering you on from the side-lines…

Some of us will never finish the grief cycle, but we can find a healthy way to live and thrive without it dominating… Finding acceptance of our past, and consolation in our future..

I hope all of you find comfort, strength and support in your new lives. Because you have chosen a new healthier way of life,  you have made the first step. May you find the power to face the source of your grief and heal your way through the stages..

You will find me, and others, here cheering you on from the side-lines…

Navigating the Stages was contributed by @ChrisBzchris

Chris’ blog can be found at: http://www.Chrissiestable.com