Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 25th, 2014 It Wasn't Too Long Ago

June 25th, 2014 It Wasn't Too Long Ago

I spent most of the day with mom, taking her to an eye specialist appointment at the McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City. It was a wonderful experience as expected. We carefully packed "road lunches" before departing, each with a sandwich, cheese stick, three kinds of fruit and some wild rice chips. These served as both lunch and snacks along the way. It felt good to do the three P's: Plan, Prepare and Pack. I can't count the number of trips we've made over the years where the first stop was a convenience store for snacks or a fast food drive through on the way out of town. And if the trip involved going "to the big city," like today, then an elaborate plan to eat somewhere "special" was usually the main attraction. Would it be that big home style buffet on the South side or that Mexican all-you-can-eat place where whenever you want more food, you simply raise the flag? Yeah!! You don't even need to move from your seat!! Buffets where you actually have to get up and walk around? Forget that movement nonsense! Poncho's Mexican Buffet is full service, baby! I always thought they needed two flags on those tables, the miniature Mexican flag for more food and a white one for when one more bite could trigger a medical emergency.

As we drove past the Cracker Barrel, we joked about taking a detour and cutting loose on all things Cracker Barrel. We were clearly not serious. But not too long ago, I was very serious. I quickly turned the conversation straight when I shared with mom a secret I had kept for the last four or five months. I hadn't planned on telling anyone about this experience, ever. I just wanted to forget it and move forward. Driving past it today brought out humor at first, then the secret I kept. I decided to share a little of the story with mom today and I've decided to share that and the rest of the experience with you, in order to illustrate just how different things were not too long ago:

I don't remember the exact date, it was either February or March. I had just dropped a friend off at Will Rogers World Airport and was headed home when I suddenly felt compelled to take the Cracker Barrel exit. I had been obsessing about their gravy since the pass on the way to the airport and there I was, all alone with a chorus of demons steering me toward the exit. I didn't resist. I walked in and immediately scanned the area for people I might know. I didn't want to get caught. This trip would forever be between me and a server whom I didn't know, I thought. I ordered the chicken fried steak covered in sawmill gravy, with extra gravy and extra biscuits on the side. I finished the giant portions but I wasn't done. I ordered more biscuits and more gravy. I must admit, it was slightly embarrassing to ask for more. In order to do it, I had to pretend I was someone else--because how could I do this?? I kept telling myself, I'll never see this server again. She didn't know she had become the dealer for my addiction.

After finishing off at least six or seven biscuits and two bowls of gravy, not to mention the chicken fried steak, I decided to accept the dessert suggestion. Oh, she was good. Would I like some pie topped with ice cream?? "Oh I shouldn't, really." As if I was some kind of reasonable eater. "What the heck, let's do it. Sure."  I was so busy eating everything I had fantasized about, I barely noticed how sick I was feeling until I walked outside. That was a long, guilty, shameful walk to the vehicle. At one point I seriously thought I would throw up. It was too much food. I was miserable the rest of the night, physically, mentally and emotionally. If I felt hopeless before this food excursion, my feelings had just been confirmed. I was recklessly headed straight back to 500 pounds in a way that suggested my thoughts and actions were not my own, instead from some insatiable monster inside me.

The next day I vowed never again and I started doing well for a day or two, then it was right back to the Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy Store drive through for what had quickly become a very secretive late night habit of shakes and burgers before bed.

When you read words I write about how grateful I am for the peace and calm I enjoy today, now you get a sense of how deep that gratitude flows.

I've enjoyed more than two months of binge free living, more than two months 97% sugar free, more than two months of making additional support a priority and more than two months of not hiding anything. Posting a picture and calorie count of every bite, every day might seem excessive, but I don't look at it like that at all. It's necessary for me. I've gone from worrying this practice might be a big hassle to fully embracing and loving the record it's creating. It only works with extreme honesty. I understand, the second I eat something without the photo and tweet in a deviously secretive way, that's the moment it will unravel quickly and tragically. In this state of acceptance, matched with willingness, a solid determination and iron-clad integrity, I'm experiencing something like never before. Not even during my initial weight loss did I feel this much peace. I'm worth the extra effort. Recovery feels good, life affirming, really--after feeling hopeless, lost and scared in the grips of a powerful relapse. I hereby pledge to protect my recovery with the tools and practices successfully used by the countless people before me who continue to this day, living a peace that once seemed impossible to attain.

Will there be struggles? Of course. And when struggle returns, it's up to me to immediately use the tools and practices of successful recovery in order to correct.  One day at a time.

Mom's appointment at the specialist was a good one. She has a macular pucker on the back of her right eye. It doesn't require surgery right now and it doesn't seem to be negatively affecting her vision too much right now. The doctor set her up for a 6 month return in order to track its progress. If the sight stays relatively stable, no surgery. If it worsens, they'll operate. Mom felt good about the trip and outcome. Going in, she was convinced he might want to operate on her eye immediately--and this scared her. I felt her relief when she realized this wasn't the case.

After both of us started falling asleep in the various waiting rooms we toured over the course of three hours, we decided a coffee was in order before the return trip to Stillwater.  Our visit wasn't focused on a "big city" restaurant visit, it was focused on quality time together--visiting, discussing--and laughing, then laughing some more and more.  Of course we planned a nice dinner out upon returning home at one of our favorite places.

We decided to share a single 1/2 order of chicken fajitas for dinner. Notice, of the handful of times I've eaten out in the last couple of months--fajitas, be it Hawaiian or simple chicken, have been the go-to order.  I like it because it feels easily manageable. I have a pretty easy Mexican restaurant strategy to follow: If I do the chips (and I did), I separate mine from the bowl--count out my serving and that's mine--no 'em slow or fast, when they're gone--that's it. I ask for corn tortillas instead of flour (saves anywhere from 25-50 calorie per tortilla) and I choose to pass on the calorie dense rice and beans. I can confidently get in and out of a restaurant with these fairly simple rules.  And it's not like I'm sitting there miserable the entire time because I'm not indulging in loads of chips and dips and sour cream enchiladas--My focus is shifted to the ones I'm sharing the meal with, in this case's more an opportunity to relax and enjoy one another's company, rather than get stuffed.  For me, once this shifted perspective is embraced, it dramatically changes the dynamics.

I took mom home, grabbed my lunch supplies from earlier (she was excited about me leaving her some pitas and rice chips!) and headed for Boomer Lake on the North part of my hometown. I had an off day from exercise yesterday, so I wanted to make sure I had a good one tonight. I couldn't have made it back in time for the YMCA, so a good 5K walk was in order. And it was great.

Thank you for reading! You can follow along on Twitter by clicking and if you're on MyFitnessPal, friend me! My username is SeanAAnderson.

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Mother-Son Selfie right before my departure tonight


  1. I love to eat out in the US, mostly because of the different choices than exist in Canada, but I cannot handle the Cracker Barrel. Now, I did have a chicken fried steak in Texas and I may never set foot in that state again lest be tempted! Remembering those painful memories help remind us why we can't go back. I have chapters filled with those shameful memories myself. One day at a time...we don't know what tomorrow brings but we can handle life today without the abuse of food! :) Happy for you! And seriously, there is far better food than the Cracker Barrel! (at least the ones from NY to NC that I've tried.:)

  2. So funny reading this...we ate at Cracker Barrel last night. My husband got the chicken fried steak smothered in gravy! I was tempted but made a healthier glad I did. this post and am so glad to have found your blog. Your willingness to be transparent and real in your journey is such an encouragement to me in my own journey!

  3. We all have those dark, ugly secrets Sean. Thanks for sharing--makes me feel better about my own. I was at Chili's Monday night and had their chicken fajitas, on special for $7.99. I don't eat the tortillas, or the sour cream or cheese (served on the side), and just put the pico de gallo on top of my chicken, onions and peppers. It is delicious. Not sure of the calories, but I'm thinking it can't be too bad. I'm back on my journey again, after veering off for the last several months. I feel so much better about myself, walking more, snacking less, eating lots and lots of fruits and veggies. Already down about 3 pounds. Only 27 more to go!

  4. "It felt good to do the three P's: Plan, Prepare and Pack." - THAT is going into MY toolbox!!

  5. Most, if not all of us who read your blog, can relate to the overeating episode. It certainly doesn't have to be at a restaurant either. I LOVE the selfie of you and your Mom. Makes me smile. :)

  6. As you described that feeling of being driven, like someone else was in control, I knew exactly what you were talking about. I felt it. It's almost like a switch has been thrown.

    I haven't thought it thru--although I've told myself that I need to--and addiction counselors would know for sure, but I think that "other person in control feeling" is indicative of a dissociative episode. I've often wondered exactly what triggers that sane personto check out, allowing the binge monster to reign.

    Sigh. I think I may need to read up on that... Sometimes knowing the dynamic helps me to overcome it.

    Thanks for this post, Sean. And thank you for your example. of sanity over addiction


  7. Such a sweet picture of mother and son. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I understand the over indulgence... I helped with an inventory at another store.... I am so careful with watching what I eat... But I also knew working long into the morning I needed some cappuccino... One of girls suggested McDonalds and off we were.... I ordered the frappe.. Looking at the calorie count and thinking... I dont eat that many calories in a single meal... Lunch... That drink... And than snacks all night.... I felt horrible the next day...Argh...


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