How important is diet for recovery?

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What’s wrong with me now?

One of the first things I noticed when I would get sober was how bad I felt. Not just the cravings or the anxiety I felt from being newly sober but the overall sluggish bad way I felt. I am SOBER I should feel good right! Well, I didn’t, I couldn’t concentrate, had no energy, felt why should I be sober for this? I know drugs and alcohol are killing me, but at least I didn’t feel this. What is this? I would think to myself did I always feel this way? After years of drinking and drugging it was hard to tell.

After a few months of sobriety, I would be proud of myself for not giving in to cravings, but I felt horrible. I would usually write this crappy feeling off to being sober and say to myself “just hang in there; things will get better.” Things never got better. I would hang on as long as I could but would eventually start drinking and taking anti-anxiety drugs. I would also go to the doctor to get prescribed something for sleep. I always had the best intentions to do these things in moderation, but we all know how that goes. Sobriety was just too difficult for me because I was so miserable.

Of course, this story always ended the same way, me in another rehab. This time I took my sobriety a step further than I had before, and I went to live in a Sober Living Home.

Do you always eat like that?

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When I got to the Sober Living House and settled in, I found myself craving comfort food like, sodas, sweets, pizza, burgers, just about any fast food that would be a fun diversion for me. I would qualify this behavior as my treat for being sober and that I deserved this. I was in a strange environment with a bunch of strange people, so I need comfort, and I need it now. One day one of the other housemates came up to me as I was making Mac and Cheese for lunch, and said, “Do you always eat like that?” I knew what he was talking about, but I played dumb and said: “no this is just a snack, I just eat this once in awhile, I eat other healthy things too.” Of course, this was a big lie, and I knew I should be changing and telling the truth, but I lied. Now, this guy had been at the house for some time and had gone through the 12 steps so lying to him was a big mistake. He said, “Bullshit man I see you eat like that all day long. You should start eating healthier it with make you feel better.” He was right, and I knew it, but how can I survive this without my comfort food? My comfort food is the only thing that makes me happy. Without junk food what’s left to make me not want to run away from here? I remember thinking about it that night and thought how in the hell can a proper diet help me now? I need peace of mind, not a salad!

Observing otherscauliflower-1676194_1280

I started noticing the people at the house that were more comfortable and productive were individuals who ate healthier. The guys like me, with horrible diets, were edgy and always seemed one step away from dropping their sobriety. I asked another client at the house about her daily diet and what she ate? She went through her daily diet of fruits, vegetables, low calorie, low fats. My first thought was that’s awful I could never do that. After observing other people’s diets in the house, I came to the conclusion mine was near the worst. I was eating for pleasure, not for health.

I was feeling particularly bad one afternoon, so I went online to see what the symptoms are for a bad diet like mine. Of course, I found an abundance of information that cited inadequate diets can lead to bad mental health. So I set out to see if I could change my diet to something more healthy. No longer was I going to get up and have soda before breakfast and then have a bowl of sugary cereal. I then looked at lunch which was usually going to a fast food place for burger, burritos or sandwiches. Then I looked at dinner; pizza was a staple three nights a week or fish and chips or a favorite frozen dinner. I hadn’t even got to the snack of potato chips, brownies, ice cream and whatever else I wanted to gobble down for a feel-good snack. I started to realize I was eating for the temporary effect all these foods would give me mentally.

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As I researched further about proper nutrition, I began to see I was eating myself into a poor mental state of depression and anxiety. I was moody, up one hour down the next, and when I felt bad, I would go to 7- Eleven and get myself a treat.

To survive early sobriety, you must eat healthily

savoy-1713225_1280Sobriety is a slippery slope, in the beginning, you need all the help you can get. You need support from AA meetings; you need a good sponsor, you need a safe environment away from bad influences like people places and things. In short, you need anything that will help you stay sober and get your life back on track. Going to a Sober Living Home is an excellent choice because you will be held accountable.

Now, what else? Well, it was my experience that changing my diet was just another thing that was worth the effort to change. I was going to have to change to stay sober, and diet was a glaring deficit in my life. In fact, a bad diet may have contributed to the poor mental state that leads me to fade away from reality with drugs and alcohol. So, because I can clearly see the difference between a good healthy diet and my atrocious diet, why not at least try to make a change. The upside is potentially a healthier body and mind. Just what I am in the market for.

It just makes sense

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When you think about the importance of diet and humans, it makes sense. Humans are an organic live being. If I feed myself dead, or nearly poisonous things like potato chips, sodas, processed foods like hamburger buns, pancakes, tortillas, ice cream and sugar laden snacks, how am I going to feel healthy? I don’t need to make a list here to make my point, all I need to illustrate is, we are organic beings that need to ingest fresh live organic food to function properly. I was eating poorly most of my life, and then I started swallowing poison in the form of drugs and alcohol. No wonder I was a mess and felt like killing myself.

Just stopping alcohol and drugs was not enough to help my body and brain heal itself. I needed a healthy diet so I could heal and function normally. It’s just common sense that if humans are organic beings and made up of 60% water, we are going to have to replenish these things daily. I started to drink mostly water and hardly ever drink anything else. I started eating as many organic foods as I could. I balanced my diet with fruits vegetable and lean meats. I completely cut out any sugary sweets and as much sugar as possible. When you think about it, eating should be a function of necessity, not pleasure. I was always eating for pleasure, and that had to stop.

What do I have to lose?

What is the downside to eating a healthier diet while in recovery? Nothing, and everything to gain. If there was ever a time in my life to start eating healthy, it was now when I am going in the right direction in life. The other option was to continue to do the same thing. The same to me meant I was miserable in life and wanted to make myself numb rather than deal with it.

How long does it take?

Before I started my new diet, I asked the question how long it will take for me to feel better? Like I had the right to bargain with nature. I took a long look at myself and where I was in life and thought, It will take as long as it takes and I am going to have patience and faith. Well, guess what, It didn’t take as long as I thought to feel the benefits of eating healthy, and it wasn’t as hard as I expected it would be. Sure I had to exercise discipline, but that was something I was working on anyway. The payoff was worth it! I have a clearer mind with less depression and anxiety and a healthier body. Plus I have a new good habit: eating healthy. Sobriety is all about change, and this was a good one.

Summation

Having gone through every aspect of recovery, some multiple times, I am confident of some truths: AA, NA, rehabilitation centers, Sober Living Homes, the willingness to change, diet and exercise, are all staples to recovery.

You can go to all the rehabs necessary, and they are a great resource to get you started on the right path. You can go to all the AA and NA meetings possible, and they will certainly help keep you sober. You can go to a Sober Living Home and stay a year or more, and that will be a huge benefit. You can be willing to change, and this will most assuredly be necessary. You can do all of these things and still might be missing one of the essential components to helping you maintain sobriety, your diet!

Robert Apple

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