Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I've had such a busy month - it has just flown by. So I decided to finish up some things I've been doing. I finished this book.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I am a slow reader these days. I believe I first started this book 6 weeks ago, the weekend of St. Patrick's Day and I just finished reading it last night! And it's a really good, fast-moving book. Only 400 pages, not 4000. In my childhood or teen years, even in my early 20s, I would have finished this book in one or two days tops. Now a days it takes me forever.

I liked this book. When it first came out a couple of years ago or so, back when it was a hot Oprah book club pick, I resisted reading it. Since my biological father was an alcoholic, and I have bad memories of him, I never had much sympathy for alcoholics or addicts in general. But after hearing Dr. Wayne Dyer (one of my heroes) talk about this book on his tape set - I decided that I really needed to read that book. I was resisting it - and whatever you resist, you need to find out why and face it.

I'm glad I read A Million Little Pieces. The fact that not every incident in this book is a true-to-the-letter memoir of his experiences overcoming his alcohol and drug addiction, (he twisted and bent some events for storytelling purposes) doesn't make the book less relevant or meaningful to me. After all, the guy is a recovering addict. He may not even KNOW for sure the truth of every instance. His mind was impaired during part of it.

In spite of the fictional licenses he took in portraying some of the events and people in the book, I still found it very heart opening and inspiring. And from what I understand, it has helped a lot of addicts in their walk toward recovery. I have to admire anyone who sincerely TRIES to overcome this kind of profound addiction.

I can't seem to even handle a food addiction. When I get stressed out - I crave comfort foods such as meatloaf, mash potatoes, country fried steak, homemade chili, and most of ALL, macaroni and cheese. Mac and cheese is my ultimate comfort food. When I'm really sad or upset, that's what I cook. In fact, I cooked it twice this week. Whenever I find myself craving it, I try to step back and look inside to ask, "What's going on with me and how can I address it in some other way than food?" But sometimes I don't come into that awareness until I've already ingested 2 soup bowls of mac and cheese. So addiction is addiction. I learned a lot about it while reading this book. James Frey has given me some insights into myself and how I suppress emotion through various methods such as eating and shopping.

One thing James points out in the book is the fact that these recovering addicts often GORGE themselves on food, even the bland tasteless food of the Rehab Center's food. They are trying to fill themselves with something - fill an emptiness that seems to be a bottomless pit in many ways. He comments that he thinks they'd eat the chairs and tables too if they could swallow them. One sign of his recovery toward the end of his Rehab stay is that he can sit down and enjoy a steak and lobster dinner brought in for the patients by a wealthy patient. He can sit down and eat ONE regular portion of steak and ONE lobster and ONE small baked potato and stop there. Just eat it, savor each bite, enjoy it without filling himself to bursting.

I am not doing particularly well with my weight lately. I've been walking a lot more since the weather has turned to Spring, but I am still feeling very hungry lately - eating comfort food. I can't seem to get away from pasta and bread, even though I know I lose the most weight and feel the most satisfied on a low-carb diet. I'm feeling very emotional and needy right now. I'm trying to get into a better, improved state of mind. Since I'm having trouble controlling the eating, I'm at least trying to exercise more.

Bob and I have been walking almost every day. This morning, we woke up early and walked to Panara's before we ate our Spinach Quiche Omelettes they serve there. It's a delectible pastry. Yum! Okay, enough of that.

An interesting thing about this book, too, is that James Frey overcomes his addictions in spite of the fact that he's not religious, and therefore can't accept the "12 Steps" principles that are repeatedly presented to him by the therapists in rehab. Since he doesn't have a "higher power" to turn to, he must marshall the strength within himself. His rehab coaches repeatedly warn him that this is a bad idea, that he is almost certain to relapse by depending on his own strength alone, yet he makes that decision. He read the Tao Te Ching a lot, the taoist teachings, and he does gain a lot of strength and inspiration from it. But he takes self responsibility and primarily uses self-awareness to find his own freedom and his own way out of the tangle of profound addiction. I think he's a rare person who can probably do it his way and succeed, but I have to admire his strength and continued sobriety, however he achieves it.


Jeanne said...

Thanks for the review, Chelle. It sounds good - I'll have to read it. I'm struggling with the same food/weight thing - when I'm stressed its what I do, and I'm trying to relearn how to handle stress. I also need to get better at exercising!

Elysbeth said...

People here laughed when they caught me reciting "I exercise when I am stressed and it relaxes me". However, I find that if work is pushing my buttons I can go do a couple flights of stairs and I really DO feel better. I also find that the chemical cascade from the stairs cuts off the M-lky W-y D-rk switch : ) Funny how we avoid the alcohol but find a different hook. (The Loopy Ewe anyone?)

Sheila said...

Thanks for the review of the books and talking about addiction. I worked for a while with pregnant addicted women and it was trying but rewarding. Thanks for coming over to my blog. I did finish the Gimme-a-T vest. With my parents in town, I haven't blogged much. The vest will be my next post.

PlazaJen said...

Food addiction is the hardest (speaking as one).... a counselor I knew long ago once described why he enjoyed the challenge, because he'd worked with drug addicts before working with eating disordered people - he said, there is no other substance that you still have to have to survive. I don't tell a cocaine addict to have a working relationship with cocaine, I tell them they can't ever have cocaine again. Food, on the other hand? You have to have a working relationship with the very thing that you are addicted to.
One day at a time, right?

ChelleC said...

Wow, you each bring up interesting points. I am realy working this week on becoming more aware of the tie between my eating and my emotions. Not saying I'm going on a "diet" as I so often do (and subsequently fall off), but I'm making an effort to be more conscious this week of WHY and WHEN I'm eating - and what can really feed my soul as opposed to just "filling me up." Yeah, reading a book on addiction has really put me to thinking about my own addictions.

Elysbeth I LOVE your exercise affirmation, and I think I'll borrow it. Seriously, I have been doing much BETTER lately about exercising. Been walking every day since Spring sprung, the past 2 weeks.

Sheila, glad you popped over here. Can't wait to see the completed vest.

Jen, you have a great point about the eating addiction, we CAN'T stop, you're right. Since we have to keep eating, it's a constant battle.