– Thích Nhất Hạnh, Zen master, a Buddhist monk, and peace activist
I love tea, particularly English Breakfast or Darjeeling. A great way to start the day, and a whole lot more civilized than looking around for the dregs in a liquor bottle, which is how my mornings used to begin.
Fresh, ripe fruit and organic yogurt are usually what follows – delicious. Far better and healthier than looking around for where you put your meth stash when you passed out the night before. Yes, sadly, that was also an integral part of how my mornings used to kick off (supposing, of course, I managed to kick my own self out of whatever bed I was in before midday rolled around).
My name is Andy, I’m a successful digital marketing entrepreneur, 30-something, I can still throw myself around a basketball court with the best of them, and, yes, I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with over 9 years of continued sobriety behind me. And I do really like my tea and my fresh fruit in the morning. Now.
When you mention the words “detox” and “rehab” to people, unsurprisingly, their first thought is getting you to safely stop taking whatever substance you’re addicted to. They’d be right too – it’s the first stop on the road to addiction recovery. However, many people don’t realize that the medical facilities that provide these services do something else too. They put you in a room (a lot like a classroom, yes), and they educate the living hell out of you. Literally.
My knowledge of the substances I abused was pretty one-sided. Do this – feel like this. Do that, and you’ll write off tomorrow, that’s a given. Do both. Oh, boy… Yes, rehab in Nampa, Idaho didn’t just re-educate my body to learn to live clean and sober – it re-educated my brain too.
One of the most important aspects of rehab is educating you well enough for you to survive when you leave, to be able to live a life of abstinence and be 100% clean and sober. And a big part of this was learning the art of mindfulness. Seeing as eating healthily is one of my passions, it was time to write an article about mindful eating.
As I’ve said, I’m a great believer in eating healthily, which was wholeheartedly advised to me during rehab as a way to repair both the physical damage addiction had wreaked on my body, and to help my brain through nutrition to return to normal (yes, addiction will restructure your brain, changing the way you think).
The world has many problems – here’s just one. Our lives are forced to be lived quickly if we allow it. Because of this, we eat faster, and allow way too many distractions while doing so – the TV, our phones, work – the list goes on.
Mindful eating helps us to eat in a conscious way, linking our minds and bodies and helps us recognize more completely when we are hungry and when we are full. It is no surprise then that mindful eating is a useful form of therapy for those who suffer from eating disorders or obesity. As a recovering addict, it helps to create a better balance between our body’s needs, and the actions our brains take to respond.
Addicts, following detox, pretty much all do the same thing once sober – they eat, and they eat plenty. Psychologically, it is that same behavior manifested by their addiction, so by introducing mindful eating into the recovery program, you not only improve the way people do eat, you also provide them with a way to control their weight.
Recovering addicts, particularly in the early days of abstinence, will look to replace their substance of abuse in an acceptable way. Food is the answer for many (fortunately, has always been athletic, I chose exercise). Comfort eating often referred to as “feeding your feelings,” is a childhood behavior, because we associate food with reward. If you live in the U.S. (in fact, anywhere in western society), this usually involves fast food.
Mindful eating educates the recovering addict, and, in particular, helps alleviate this behavior of “feeding the feeling.” By doing so, you become less reliant on food as your way to fight against cravings and emotions.
Addicts spend a lot of time trying to make themselves feel better. However, their methods are self-destructive, and once fully addicted, severely damaging as a way to seek pleasure. Mindful eating is the complete opposite of this – the entire process is based on gaining as much pleasure as possible from the simple process of eating.
Let’s not forget that an addict’s body is not in the best possible shape. Mindful eating will strengthen that body, reduce the chances of obesity in the process, and thus avoid the damaging effects of being overweight.