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Day 23 – Time to Get Up (Again)

“I want to grow. I want to be better. You Grow. We all grow. We’re made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.”
– Tupac Shakur

Welcome to Day 23

For a few years now, on January 1st, and often at least one other month during the year, I participate in something called the Whole 30 challenge. For those not familiar with it, it is like Dryuary, in that you give up alcohol for the month, but the challenge involves letting go of far more than alcohol. On the Whole 30, you’re also breaking free from all grains, refined sugar, cheese/milk products, and all processed foods. The goal is for everything you eat to be organic. In the beginning, especially the first time, it’s worse than it sounds.

I was trying to use positive language above such as “letting go of,” and “breaking free” of, but I mean, bottom line: not only are there many things that you cannot eat and drink, you also have to shop and buy all the right foods, chop them up and cook them – daily.

And if you decide you want to brave it by going out to eat at a restaurant, there’s another layer of challenging work-a-rounds you must face, to find somewhere and something you can eat while staying true to this plan. In the dining out situation, you must flex your assertiveness muscles, and practically interrogate the server about the food preparation. Does it have butter, sugar, tropical oils? No? You sure? It does have sugar? Well, can the chef make anything that I can eat, then? If yes, then you have to go through the whole list of what you can and can’t have. High maintenance. For sure.

Thankfully, coffee is allowed on the Whole 30, (as long as you can drink it black). In my life, the couple of morning double-espressos feel very important to me. If not for the coffee inclusion, I probably wouldn’t ever have ventured into trying this thing. By the way, for now, I am calling this coffee need of mine a “benign addiction.”

Now, given the Whole 30, does Dryuary sound any easier? I hope so! But I know it’s really hard to give up something you love. I can’t fathom the withdrawal I’d be in without my coffee in the morning. Dryuary, The Whole 30 and such are not for the faint of heart! In all reality, though, doing a Dryuary or a W30 is such a positive thing to do! It’s really cool to accomplish something hard, to meet a goal, to test oneself, and push through to the end! Feels good in many, many ways.

So here’s what I’m into now. I love it when I’m taking good care of myself: eating well, and exercising. Luckily, I enjoy cooking and making nice foods at home. As an introvert, leaving the extroverted world of work and responsibility behind and having some quiet time at the end of the day is truly a delight. Being on the Whole 30 helps me actually relax and enjoy that time, rather than mindlessly eating chips & snacks while I binge watch Netflix. I actually enjoy chopping veggies, preparing and creating a nice little dinner. And then maybe I’ll treat myself by watching something (for a moderate amount of time) on Netflix. As I write this, it’s the beginning of my 10th day. I’m feeling great! My energy and sleep are getting really good. I also feel like my focus is sharper. I’m tuning in, being more mindful, less judgmental and more patient with myself.

So I signed up for Dryuary the first time a couple of years ago, because I wanted to support my clients and because I was already planning to do my Whole 30 cleanse anyway (I actually did 31 days, in the spirit of Dryuary). I decided to do that again this year. Glad I did. It is so nice to feel the support of all of you out there and to know that there are so many others making positive changes that require some serious grit. Several people from my group and some clients have told me that they signed up, and that has made it more fun too.

Though I feel fortunate, that, for whatever reason, I haven’t struggled (at least not yet), with alcohol, I believe that I am capable of getting into similar negative patterns with food, TV, internet, and other distractions. I can relate to having these kinds of problems from working with people who bravely come into therapy to address their concerns and to work on changing the issues that they grapple with. I can also relate because I struggle with my own things too, of course. It may not be alcohol, but I believe that many things can get a beastly grip on almost anyone. It’s all a part of being human.

For me the struggle comes when I start listening to and believing in the pessimistic thoughts my mind kicks out from time to time. And then I say “F$%k it!” When I was working at an inpatient alcohol/drug rehab program, I remember one of my clients said that the addicts’ national anthem was those 2 words: “F$%k it!” That resonated. When things get stressful, it’s not hard to return to coping strategies we learned at some other point in time. Those things did work back then. Sometimes they work now, albeit for a short period of time. And that’s a problem because our brain hangs onto that thing worked and helped us before. But all the while, doing that thing excessively causes us a degree of pain and trouble, in the big picture. And after we fall into a habit – old or new – it can be difficult to break the cycle. In that vulnerable space we often listen to that voice that says – this is too hard! And then we sabotage the whole thing, falling down, again and again, with the addicts’ national anthem coming right out of our mouths. And our perceived failure to stick with it as a “perfect person should” diminishes our self-confidence over time.   Fascinating things, the mind and addiction.

I smoked cigarettes for close to 15 years and stopped about 20 years ago. I remember it was really hard getting to a place where I actually believed that I could stop. I tried to quit many times before that, but I guess I had to go through it until I finally was helped to figure out that having a good plan might help. And once I had a plan, the stopping was not such an overwhelming thing. Okay, maybe it was a little bit hard, at first. Soon after, though, there were so many things that were made better, because I wasn’t smoking cigarettes.

It helps me to remember that change is what we do as humans; and it’s what we’re here to do. We’re changing at a cellular level all the time. We can at least be curious about the way we think and how that has changed over time, right? We may be able to choose what we value and what we believe versus accepting every mean thought we have about who we are or who we are not.

Right now, it all makes sense. I’m doing a Dryuary, a Whole 30, and I feel so grounded, positive and calm. After January 31st, my plan is to move to a moderation program with my eating, which I do know how to do; I did well with it for several years once.

Alas, however, it seems that throughout the years, I will likely fall out of alignment. And then when that happens I may fall into self-recrimination for a while. I’ll likely believe the thoughts my mind creates again, and perhaps I’ll say F*&# it! I say ‘probably’ because that has happened before. It’s what has happened to me these last two years.

I suppose I told myself this, what I’m dealing with is too much; it’s too painful. And the pain, the pain of life, that is what has made me fall backwards. And it is painful to get into that place. I become the victim of my own mind in that scenario. But it’s not the pain of life in and of itself. It’s what I tell myself about that pain and what I believe, along with my old tricky, addictive thought patterns. I have either created those thought patterns or I have at least at some level contributed to them, or bought into them outright, raising them up from the dead.   And as intimately as I think I know the shadowy corners in my mind, I still fall for the unhelpful, irrational, pessimistic ways of thinking -sometimes. And I am working on acceptance of that fact.

So I found these words which helped me think more positively about the whole falling and getting back up process. They are by Dorothy Hamill, the former Olympic ice-skater. I send these out to all of you, and I hope they will be helpful to any of you who can relate:

“Everybody has to deal with tough times. A gold medal doesn’t make you immune to that. A skater is used to falling down and getting up again.”

Time’s Up. And as well – it’s Time to Get Up (Again).

Post submitted by: Linda Scott, MA CACII LPC,