When Leslie, aged 50, was growing up, she was striving for a mass media promoted ideal.
But something got in the way. It was a combination of factors–the rush of modern life, family bickering, overwhelm at work, low self-confidence: from early childhood, her parents drilled into her an idea that she was bad and wrong–all these things combined to make her a very tense and not very pleasant adult.
Leslie asked herself what she could do to make her life more relaxed and enjoyable? The answer she came up with was: substances (alcohol, drugs and “junk” food). She experimented and discovered that she could get a mild feeling of euphoria, by getting a little high. It was not just psychological relief; there was actually a physical release. She noticed how her personality would alter; she felt substances converted her into a nicer, funnier person.
Leslie suffered from feelings of loneliness too. Sometimes she would binge on “junk” food for comfort. Combined with alcohol, she began to consistently gain weight and felt “ugly.” She used more substances (alcohol, drugs, food) to reinforce the ugliness; her behavior started to become self-destructive. Eventually, Leslie’s life seemed to spiral out-of-control, yet substances were something she thought she could control. Eventually, she lost control of the substances too, and fell into a depression.
In particular, her food cravings increased. As a child, Leslie was exposed to high fat and sugary foods on a regular basis; which explained why she became addicted to unhealthy choices as an adult. She trained her sensory memory to crave these same foods later in life. Adding to this mixture, drugs and alcohol, Leslie eventually became morbidly obese. She began drinking and eating in secret; and in isolation. She suffered enormous feelings of guilt. Leslie noticed how her addictions tended to flare up more frequently when it was dark; when she was not being active, and when she was not motivated.
Why was Leslie so discontented? What was missing from her life? She had thought that it was money; however, she was earning a very large six-figure income. She realized that she did have many of the vital things in life that money could never buy. She eventually had a strong desire and longing to know what she needed to do to be happy. How could she achieve lasting peace and fulfillment?”
There was part of Leslie that knew that she could be and do more in her life, yet she was baffled how to get there. She became fearful of running out of time and energy. Was she really living the life she wanted, physically, mentally, and emotionally? Or were her goals eluding her? Did she have a life full of fun, laughter and joy, or could there be more? Was there a deeper place of spiritual connection inside of her that was yet to be untapped?
These questions became an invitation that helped Leslie find contentment. By changing her thoughts and beliefs, and by breaking through the confines of self-imposed limitations, no matter how hopeless and unmanageable Leslie’s life had become, she eventually arrived at a place of personal freedom. The results have been miraculous: she has been sober for four years; she has lost one hundred pounds, and has kept it off.
The first step for Leslie was to recognize that overeating, drugs and alcohol were becoming a problem. The second step was for Leslie to find the willingness to be humble enough to seek help. Leslie took action and asked for help; she had complex problems yet she consciously sought to resolve them. She surrounded herself with like-minded, supportive people who were also in recovery. She connected with powerful support groups; she could afford to hire professionals.
Part of her recovery involved taking a close look at her relationship with herself. What were the conditions that lead to substance abuse? Was she “using” for emotional reasons? If so, what were the names of the emotions? Could it be hunger, anger, loneliness, fear, lack-of-control or fatigue? All of these emotions play into the perception that it is stress. When we’re stressed we want comfort. Stress releases large quantities of cortisol, the stress hormone. “Happy” people have lower quantities of cortisol (also known as the hunger hormone.)
Leslie learned new simple strategies for mitigating stress: taking a walk, calling a friend, art projects, reading inspirational literature, writing in a journal, eating water rich fruits, and vegetables, or drinking water.
Leslie’s self-nurturing began with acceptance – she asked for help, instead of hiding in her shame. She became willing to change. Low self-esteem, and poor body image can carry out through life unless there is intervention. Nothing was more worthwhile than getting the help she needed.
Leslie’s malady was physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. She discovered ways to reach out; she allocated quiet time to her morning routine: meditation, calming herself down, reading and journaling. She improved communication with her family.
Her recovery program addressed her negative thoughts and feelings. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. She learned to love herself at any size. A healthy lifestyle began to change and alter Leslie’s mood. Eating healthy and taking care of herself, she began to appreciate herself. She learned how to manage the small stressors that came her way. She discovered how stress depleted her joy.
After four years in recovery, Leslie has learned to love and cherish the body she has; she was able to treat her addictions from the inside out. She discovered places and support groups where she could go for constant guidance; she learned to value, appreciate and respect her human body.
When we’re overwhelmed, upset, we want instant relief. Leslie used food, drugs and alcohol to soothe her distress. Now she is aware of what is triggering her emotional reactions. Now she understands the signals for what her real needs might be: love, nurturing, a break, or a rest. She takes time to nurture her spirit, by listening to music, by reading books, by doing creative projects, or going for a walk.
Educating ourselves about how food, drugs, and alcohol affect our bodies, our moods, and our energy levels is vitally important. Do we use substances as an emotional crutch or a coping mechanism? If we can learn to express what is bothering us when we get that emotional craving, and try to express it verbally or in written form, this provides a healthy release.
What issues are triggering us to use? We have to stand up for ourselves and love ourselves. If we practice gratitude for all the good things we have, we will become happier as a person within, and this will help us overcome emotional eating and substance abuse.
Leslie regularly sees her doctor to check if there are any physical issues. She continues to go to counseling. Talking with professionals helps create goals and milestones, and really helps Leslie get to the end result.
Some of the valuable lessons that Leslie has learned in recovery are:
• The antidote for fear is gratitude.
• I have a wastebasket for troubles.
• So many adversities turn out to be blessings.
• Gratitude is the key to true happiness.
• You get more of what you focus on.
Who could benefit from seeking recovery? People who want to attract more love into their lives. People who want to: invest in themselves; learn how to help others; overcome bad habits; handle conflict more productively; become team players; eliminate repetitive behaviors that don’t work; change and transform; eliminate fears and regrets; and people who want to feel better on the inside.
Substance abuse is a legacy that none of us wants to leave to our children.
For a list of free recovery resources visit: http://www.sustainablecontentment.com/home/nationwide-teleseminar