We don’t break habits; we replace behaviours. This truth is at the heart of everything I have done since getting sober. From the moment my drinking life finally came crashing down around me, I have gone about the business of creating an entirely different lifestyle from the one I had been leading. Step by step, day by day, decision by decision, behaviour by behaviour, my life today would be unrecognizable to the woman I was when I was mired in my addiction.
You see, I don’t believe we can cut something out of our lives and just expect to go on as we were; minus that thing. I believe when we do this, we set ourselves up for failure. Because that thing we used to have in our lives was often at the heart of so many other decisions we made. And to ignore that fact and try to go on as if nothing else has changed, in my opinion, creates a sense of lack. It highlights the hole in our lives; a hole we want desperately to fill, for that is what we’ve been doing for so long.
When we try to quit habits rather than replace behaviors, we focus on all we have given up in our lives instead of realizing how much we’ve gained.
When I was a drinker, I chose my friends and partners based on whether or not they would allow me to drink the way I wanted to.
I chose where I went based on who would be there, how much alcohol would be flowing, and how drunk I’d be able to get without raising eyebrows.
I chose what I did based on whether drinking would be involved.
I planned events around alcohol, rather than creating experiences.
Developing a lifestyle we love doesn’t happen overnight.
And it doesn’t even happen with time.
And it doesn’t happen because we wish for something different.
Creating a lifestyle we love happens when we make consistent choices that are aligned with our deepest desires.
But we have to know what we want first.
That’s the work.
Today, I’d like to share my journey with you. Perhaps it will resonate. Perhaps it will awaken something inside of you. Perhaps you will see yourself in my story.
I’m Sarah and I got sober from alcohol over 14 years ago. When I did, I hid my sobriety from everyone saying I didn’t drink because I was “into health and fitness.” The benefit to my guise was that I had to go about acting like a healthy and fit person…which caused me to do things that healthy people do…which led me to my life’s passion. I started eating better, exercising and prioritizing my sleep. I started meditating and getting closer to what it was I wanted for myself. I started seeing my body differently. Instead of judging it on how it looked, I started revering it for being the vessel that carried me through my life. I began my journey toward self love.
But when I first got sober, something troubling started happening. I began craving sugar. Like, really craving sugar. It was scary because I hadn’t craved sweets the entire time I was drinking. I rarely ate dessert and I rarely overindulged with food. I realized I had been drinking my sugar rather than eating it. When I got sober, I wanted to fill the hole. I began numbing my feelings with tubs of Ben & Jerry’s the way I had done with my goblets of Merlot.
But in order to keep up my guise, I had to develop strategies to ward off my sugar cravings. I knew I had to learn to replace the behaviours that weren’t serving me.
Please know, I am not a nutritionist or dietitian. I went to business school. I don’t want to know how many calories are in every bite of food or the specific vitamins and minerals found in each fruit and vegetable, but in my research, I have learned a lot, and what I have learned is that it is never the food but what the food represents that is at the heart of our cravings.
So I embarked on a long journey of self discovery, which helped me understand my desire for sugar (and also alcohol) because I see all addiction as the same. It fills a hole inside of us and has us numbing our feelings instead of acknowledging them and working through them. Seeking to understand where my cravings came from has helped me love, trust and respect myself more. And self-love is at the heart of good health.
When we love our bodies for the amazing vessels they are, we treat them with love and respect. This doesn’t mean we never eat another piece of cake again! But we learn to love and respect our bodies in ways that show them how committed we are to caring for them.
Our bodies learn to trust us as we show them more and more love.
There is also a physiological effect with drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and sugar. Drugs light up reward centres in our brains. They give us a high and then have us come crashing down. Endorphins are released and have us feeling good, which signals the brain that it likes what we are doing and so it wants us to do it again. Once we come down, we chase that high, and the cycle continues.
In my experience, we don’t need to learn more about food. We know enough already. In fact, all of this extra information is making us less, not more, healthy.
We aren’t living as vibrantly as we want to. We have less energy than we want to have. We are carrying extra weight, especially around our tummies, which is contributing to illness and disease. I believe that each and every one of us has what it takes to turn this around. I believe that each and every one of us can experience joy and peace with ourselves and our bodies.
It takes some work. Everything worthwhile does. But I believe that caring for our bodies is the fastest way to loving ourselves. And I believe that loving ourselves is the way to experiencing a life we love, in a body we are proud of.
Getting sober was the linchpin upon which everything else in my life could be created. Without my sobriety, I could have never created a healthy lifestyle for myself. But getting sober wasn’t enough. I had to do more if I wanted to thrive in my life.
Creating a healthy lifestyle meant I wasn’t white-knuckling my way through each day, trying not to drink. Creating a healthy lifestyle was the key to my sobriety and the key to my happiness.
Being healthy, to me, is about so much more than just staying sober. If it was just about sobriety, it would have been so much harder. It would STILL be so much harder. But treating my body with love and respect has made all the difference. It means I don’t WANT to drink. It means I don’t WANT to feed it with junk food. It means I CHOOSE to move my body because it feels so good to move! It means I drink lots of fresh, pure water. It means I rest when I need to and sleep 8 hours each night (as often as possible). It means I relish in preparing myself healthy meals for a few hours on weekends so that all week, I get to nourish myself with real food that energizes me and makes me feel loved. I am proud of my choices and I love my life. I practice self-care, taking baths and meditating and doing yoga. I want the same for you.
I want you to know just how amazing sobriety can be when we prioritize our health above all else. When we aim to treat our bodies with the love and kindness they deserve, we send powerful messages to every cell in our body. We tell our bodies we want to feel well, look well, be well.
And it responds.
Our bodies are a direct reflection of how we treat them. Unhappy with your body? You are going to have to change the way you treat it. Unhappy with your thoughts? You are going to have to change the way you think.
Nothing comes without effort. Change doesn’t just happen. We have to create the lives we want to live. They don’t just appear.
We don’t break habits; we replace behaviours.
Here is the bottom line: Our bodies need only a few things to look and feel their best. They need water. Lots and lots of water. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. Even a 2% drop in hydration can lead to brain fog, fatigue and dizziness. When we feel thirst, it is too late. We are already dehydrated. Drink water all day long. Your body runs on water.
Your body also runs on food. We have become a society that fears calories, food and eating for fear of gaining weight. We need to remember that a car runs on gasoline (or electricity)–without it, it dies. The same is true for our bodies. They need food! But here’s the catch: Over 17,000 “food-like products” hit store shelves every year. This is not food. Not to our bodies, anyway. Cameron Diaz in The Body Book puts it perfectly. “Just because you can put it in your mouth, chew it up, swallow it and poop it out doesn’t mean it’s food. It just means you can put it in your mouth, chew it up, swallow it and poop it out.”
Food was never, ever intended to hurt us or make us sick. In fact the opposite is true. Hippocrates said it best: “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Our bodies need nutrients. They need all sorts of vitamins and minerals in order to function. Junk food is devoid of almost any nutritional value. Sure, you will read claims on packages like “high fiber” or “no trans fat”, but you can rest assured that there is almost no food inside that package.
How often have you polished off a bunch of junk food and thought “I feel great! I’m so happy I did that! I can’t wait to do that again!”
We feel sick and bloated and guilty…and ashamed.
I am not asking you to feel bad every time you have a piece of cake or a slice of pizza! What I’m suggesting is a whole new way to look at food.
And your body.
And your life.
I am so grateful for my recovery journey. I want to help you feel the same. Last summer, I reached out to Dawn and Taryn (as in – here on She Recovers) to discuss our mutual passion for helping women in recovery. Over the course of several conversations they encouraged me to develop an e-course to support people who struggle with addiction, food and sugar and want a starting point and a solution. And now I have created it! It’s called the The 6 Week Sugar Freedom eCourse and it launches on Monday, January 16th.
Instead of more information, I offer less.
Instead of more food options, I offer fewer.
Instead of wondering how many calories or grams of fat or number of carbohydrates are in a food, I suggest ignoring all of it–which is easy to do when you are eating REAL food. Because real food doesn’t have a nutritional label. The food IS the ingredients list!
I want to make your life easier, not harder.
I want to help you love yourself more, not less, and I offer help through the food choices and lifestyle changes we will make.
Let’s create a vision for our lives and then take steps to get ourselves closer to our goals.
The reason why I want to make it easy is because what I’ve learned in over 14 years of being sober is the number one way to not only stay sober but live vibrantly is to create a healthy lifestyle.
I would be honoured to have you join me on the journey.
Because we don’t break habits; we replace behaviours.
And I want you to love your life one bite at a time.
After hitting her rock bottom in 2002, Sarah Roberts went on a personal and inward journey towards health and fitness to heal herself from the trauma of alcohol addiction. Sarah is the creator of The 6 Week Sugar Freedom eCourse. In 2015, she launched her blog SarahTalksFood.com, as a way to share her story and help others who struggle to know that they are not alone. Sarah is the author of the book The 28 Day Kick the Sugar Challenge, where she helps readers develop a healthier relationship with food and with themselves using tools, recipes, and strategies that lead them towards greater self-trust, self-respect and self-love.
Your story really resonated with me. I completely relate to the parts about beating around the bush when I stopped drinking: “uh, just taking a break,” I’d say. I also rediscovered my sweet tooth. I had it as a kid and just thought it went away. Didn’t even consider that I HAD been feeding the sweet tooth all along. I wonder if that’s true for all of us drunks!
Thanks for your candor.
Your sister in recovery,