So...What's the Problem?

"There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain." -R.D. Laing

I turned thirty-one last month, in the middle of vacation from my job as an elementary school teacher.  It was my birthday, I had wonderful friends and family surrounding me and I was leaving to Iceland the following morning with one of my very best friends.  So...why wasn't I happy?  Why was I plagued by this empty feeling in my gut?

I had a lot of time on Icelandic buses the following two and a half weeks to think about this.  I reflected on my behaviors and lifestyle when I've felt the most "whole" and my behaviors and lifestyle when I'm feeling dangerously "empty" as I have been most of this last year.  I noticed undeniable patterns.  Stress in my life often results in my consumption of three mood-altering substances: alcohol, caffeine and sugar.

After hard breakups, stress at work, or a fight with a loved one, I often turn to food to make me feel better.  For as long as I can remember, I've battled this ever descending spiral of salty-sweet-salty-sweet indulgences, each bite setting off intense cravings for more, and more, then even more.  My relationship to alcohol is love-love.  For the last decade, I have a beer when I'm happy, sad, angry, bored or stressed.  I drink to celebrate or to de-stress and sometimes even to forget.  I didn't drink coffee until I started teaching six years ago.  The intense stress and little sleep I've experienced while teaching at a high needs school quickly led to a severe caffeine addiction.  I drink coffee EVERY day during the school year, up to 3-4 cups a day during more stressful times. 

I literally wear my stress and emotions on my body because of my reliance on these substances.  My weight fluctuates, I break out on my face and body, I don't have energy, and my moods maintain at a much lower baseline than normal.  My coping mechanisms are my "life crutches" and my defense system that allows me to avoid fully feeling and experiencing all the stress, pain and uncomfortable parts of life.  However, avoidance takes a lot of work.  And a lot of continued consumption.  It's time to stop the cycles, to begin living life real and raw...life without crutches.

My challenge begins soon: one full year with no alcohol, no caffeine and no sugar.  I feel excited and apprehensive, sensing that my life could change in amazing ways in those 365 days.  I'm nervous I won't be strong enough to succeed, that the dependence I've built on these substances will be too strong for me to overcome.  I'm petrified to strip away the walls that stand between me and a lot of pain and fear that I've been holding at bay with my "stress trifecta".  What will happen when I have to face it for real? 

I guess that's what this is about.  After taking away my crutches and falling to the ground, seeing if I have it in me to get up and continue to walk.


KC Skidmore said...

That is an awesome goal to set for your self and I am sure there will be struggles and times where you think you can't do without the "crutches" anymore, but it is worth it in the end I know from recent experience. My worst "crutch" as you well know was chewing for the last nine years, yeah holy shit nine years. I had similar if not the same feelings you have, but since I have quit chewing I never looked back (for two months), and I feel great about it. I know there will still be temptation and there already has been, but I continue to tell myself it is not worth it not even once. I was extremely scared about facing my stresses without my "crutch", but it really was not bad at all and I actually think I deal with my problems far better than I did before.

I also "crutch" myself with alcohol and not necessarily sweets, but junk food nonetheless. I will also be challenging myself to do without alcohol and also keep to a strict paleo diet. I am thinking of starting in a week. Anyways, you have been met with some pretty intense challenge in life and still come out at the end with a good attitude. I am confident you WILL be rewarded for all of your perserverance. Good things come to people who wait, right?? I believe that and I constantly have to remind myself of that. Just remember always that I am proud of you in every way and love you unconditionally. Best wishes on your journey and let me know if I can help in any way.

Love ya sis.

Tiffany said...


You're an inspiration! Nearly a decade with a very addictive substance and I didn't even know how long you've gone without it. You just did it with no need for kudos from others...dang!!! Your determination and strength to aspire to a healthier lifestyle is pretty sweet.

I'm also starting in about a week...after mapping out a few more things and getting some vitals taken...blood work and the like.

Keep me in the loop of your new crutch free journey. I'm always here if you need me!

Love you bro.

Sarah said...

What an amazing goal you're setting for yourself! While I understand the people who are questioning, I also completely understand the need to do what you're doing. I'm a bit of a black-and-white person, so I understand the need to go all-out when you do something. I'll keep up with your blog - you're very inspiring! Good luck with all you're doing and let me know if you need some support somehow.
You go, girl!

Sarah said...

ps - In case you don't recognize Berger, I changed it from Littmann