Managing Addiction One Choice at a Time

We have a long-standing birthday tradition in our family.  When a family member has a birthday, he or she chooses a “birthday restaurant”, and the family enjoys a special meal together.  We’ve been doing it for years now, and it has always been a great experience.

In August, my husband and daughter decided that we’d try a new place that we’d never visited.  The place is called “Sushi Club”, and it’s known for their all-you-can-eat sushi. The rest of us were on board with the decision since we all enjoy sushi, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice.  Every kind of sushi that we tried was excellent. The service was fantastic, and the atmosphere surprisingly nice even though you wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that from looking at the outside of the restaurant.

As we headed back home, I said, “You know, that’s where we’re going for my birthday,”, and the whole family was happy with my choice.

Fast forward to September when I recommitted to eating keto again.  Despite the fact that I was wholly committed, my birthday meal at Sushi Club still came up from time to time.  I fully intended to stay the course with my eating until my birthday meal. Then, I planned to eat sushi with my family and “get right back on track” with my next meal.

In November though, I started looking at some of the work of Dr. Robert Cywes.  He’s a bariatric surgeon by trade, but he’s trying to work himself out of a job by teaching folks about the keto way of life to manage carb addiction.  His ideas really resonated with me personally because I’ve always known that I’m a carb addict, but I hadn’t woven that idea into my thinking for long-term success.  That’s why I’ve been battling my weight all my life — not because my “diet” failed.

As I continued to listen to more podcasts and watch more videos, my thinking was changing.  I started thinking about eating carbs as a “relapse” and not a “cheat”. In reframing my thinking about my “drug” of choice, I felt like I could start to see my choices for what they were — relapses in an addiction that can and will kill me.  That might sound harsh to some, but it’s not for me because that’s my reality.

Anyway, as I continued to reframe my thinking, I was starting to have second thoughts about my choice to eat sushi for my birthday.  On one hand, I was fairly certain that I could come through the experience without sliding down a slippery slope, but on the other hand, I was worried that my choice to eat sushi would leave me vulnerable to a full on bender that would last through the Christmas season into the new year.  That thinking was starting to provoke some anxiety for me for sure.

A couple days ago, I shared my thinking with some of my friends.  These friends happen to be really good at sharing perspecitives that I hadn’t thought of without telling me what to do, so we had what I thought was a really productive conversation.  We talked through the pros and cons of deciding to eat sushi, and by the end of the conversation, I knew what I was going to do (even though I didn’t share that with my friends right then.)

Later that evening, I was talking with Fred.  “I think I’m going to make a decision that’s going to make the rest of the family unhappy.”

“OK?” He seemed a little worried.

“I don’t want to eat sushi for my birthday meal anymore.”

Being the sweet, supportive husband that he is, he just said, “Well, I’ll strongly believe that we should do whatever you want because it’s your birthday,”, and then he was prepared to just end the conversation.  I knew he’d react that way, but frankly, I wanted to talk about it more. I think I needed that conversation to solidify my choice in my own head, but he was ready to move on to something else.

I ended up sharing a bit of my rationale with him, and then he asked me where I thought I’d like to go instead.  “Amazing Joe’s!”, I told him, and he was happy with that choice because they have such good food and it’s really easy to eat on plan there.

After talking with Fred, I knew I was eventually going to have to share my news with the kids, especially because we’d just been talking about going up there earlier this week.  I pulled my daughter aside yesterday and told her first.

“What? Why not?” She was really surprised and she sounded disappointed.

I was just really matter-of-fact with her.  “I’m 90% sure that I could eat sushi without any issues, but that leaves a 10% chance that eating sushi would trigger a relapse.  Any other time of year, I MIGHT take the risk, but the risk of a relapse before Christmas and New Year’s is a risk that I’m unwilling to take.  I’ve worked too hard to get where I am now, and each relapse makes it that much harder for me to build forward momentum.”

My daughter’s such a smart girl.  She listened carefully and then said, “Ooooh! You’re right.  I hadn’t thought about the whole Christmas thing. That makes perfect sense.  We definitely shouldn’t eat sushi.”

I really love that kid.  She’s on her own journey right now because of PCOS, so I knew she would understand, but on the other hand, the kids are more liberal with their off-plan eating than I am even though they have already discovered that it’s hard to get back on track after a relapse.

This whole process of deciding not to eat sushi has taught me a lot.  First and foremost, the decision has alleviated the anxiety I was starting to feel about the precautions I’d need to take to guarantee my success.  It has also helped me to realize that celebrating success with my drug of choice is like an alcoholic celebrating his sobriety with a few drinks. It just doesn’t make logical sense.

Going through the process of choosing, talking about the choice with so many people, also gave me confidence in my own decision-making skills.  Was my desire to eat sushi and my justifying of the choice the addiction talking? I don’t think so, but I’m just not willing to risk it considering the number of relapses I’ve had that started with just one bite or just one meal.  I’m just not there yet, and that realization actually makes me happy because it keeps things simple. My drug of choice has no place in my eating plan, period.

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