When you first start out on your path to achieving sobriety, you might want to allow yourself to eat anything. Why not, right? You’re already saying no in a big way to drugs and alcoholic, so why not let yourself indulge in food, giving yourself the freedom at least in one area while you focus on saying no in other areas.
Besides, in the beginning, you’ve got all your attention, energy, and focus on one thing: getting sober. You changed your schedule to attend AA meetings, you moved into a sober living home, you cut yourself off from negative influences, you made amends with those you’ve harmed, and a host of other changes to clearly and quickly get on the path to recovery. Trying to eat healthy is the last thing on your mind.
Part of healing the addiction cycle is also healing the process of an insatiable appetite. Often, this ravenous appetite is at the root of an addiction with an unending feeling that we can’t get enough. And underneath that insatiable appetite is trying to feed a part of the self that feels unloved, unwanted. However, the alcohol or the addiction to drugs is only pushing that part of the self away and the ferociousness of the addiction only gets stronger.
This destructive cycle continues on and on in the psyche and can apply to food and being compulsive in other ways too. According to Guy Kettelhack, author of Sober and Free: Making Your Recovery Work For You, writes that compulsive behavior stems from a fierce attachment. Holding onto something with that level of ferociousness, in turn, stems from a fear of losing something, whatever that is. Kettelhack suggests that if there’s any magic key to lessening the grip on a compulsive behavior, it’s releasing the fear of what might happen. Certainly, any cycle of addiction is rooted in fear and anxiety.
This sort of ferociousness can be applied to food. In extreme examples, it might look like an eating disorder. In less than extreme cases, it appears as unhealthy eating, such as unconsciously working through an entire bag of chips while watching television. However, both the addiction to alcohol as well as the unhealthy eating patterns can result in wreaking havoc on the body. Alcohol alone impedes nutrient breakdown and impairs the ability to assimilate those nutrients. Also, when someone is in the height of their drinking, 50 percent of their calorie intake is derived from the drinking. The damage to the body, not only because of the addiction but also because of the destructive food choices has led many rehabilitative treatment centers and sober living facilities to include nutritional counseling in their treatment plan.
Nutritional eating can in fact aide the healing process during recovery. Returning to a diet that is rich in nutrients can help replenish the body, giving it energy, repairing organ tissue, and strengthening the immune system. Recovering addicts can actually use certain food to facilitate their healing, such as those that increase the production of serotonin that help enhance mood. Feeling better physically and mentally no doubt can facilitate one’s overall experience of life, providing a better outlook on the recovery road ahead.
Many sober living treatment centers argue that feeling better reduces the risk of relapse. In fact, nutritionists believe that many addicts are so unfamiliar with the feeling of hunger that they can sometimes misinterpret that feeling for a desire to drink, leading to relapse. This is a mistake that can be remedied during recovery with frequent, healthy meals.
Working with a nutritionist can be an essential part of achieving sobriety, which is in fact all about feeling better emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. Healthy eating is making that choice for healthy living.
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