A quick question: 101 addiction resources for families?

I have a friend whose brother is quite a serious alcoholic.  She asked me if I could recommend any books or other resources which would help her parents understand that alcoholism isn’t a matter of willpower or choice, per se – they are scientists, and respond well to authoritative sources.  Any ideas?

(I have obviously also suggested Al-anon and gone into the fact that addiction is complex and multidisciplinary and she may never be able to make her parents understand)

This crazy little thing called food

I’ve been talking a bit about how I’m slipping into eating habits that mirror my old drinking habits.  It’s not that I worry about the calories particularly, although obviously I am female and inhabit a patriarchal world, so I’d quite like to lose ten pounds yes, thank you.  I worry about the fact that I wake up in the morning and wonder what treat I’ll have that evening.  I worry about the way I drive home with both kids in the car and feel a stab of anxiety if I don’t have anything indulgent in the house for after bedtime; I can’t go out once they’re asleep, so I’ll have to make a stop on the way home, what excuse am I going to make, I can’t just drag two children into a supermarket to pick up some salt and vinegar crisps…oh, that’s OK, we’re low on milk, now I have to go to the store and hey, while I’m here, might as well grab those pistachios…

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It’d be funny if it wasn’t sad, or sad if it wasn’t funny.  It is exactly how I used to drink.  The same thinking about it in the morning, the same anxiety when it approached bedtime and I was stuck for the night.  In Australia, alcohol can only be sold in dedicated ‘bottle shops’, so I could never manufacture an excuse to just pop out for bread and pick up a bottle.  It had to be an alcohol-related excuse.  If we were low on wine, and it wasn’t a weekend with the weekend’s built-in excuse to indulge, I would decide to cook a casserole that took red wine, or steam mussels in beer, or if we’d already eaten it seemed logical to do some cooking ahead.

Food is easier.  There isn’t the stigma, if I do drag both children into the store for ice cream.  And I’m not a binger or a purger, and I’m not particularly overweight, and I eat decently, after all.  I just like to snack in the evening, every evening, and that sort of eating is directly tied to my emotional well being in ways that aren’t working for me.

So I decided to blow the whole thing up.

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I’m undertaking a Whole30 which is basically Paleo for people who think Paleo is too easy.  No grains, including pseudo grains like quinoa.  No dairy.  No sugar.  No alcohol, which includes alcohol for cooking.  No legumes; chickpeas are out, as is the most amazing lentil soup ever invented in the world (have I talked about this soup before?  I have been remiss if not, because this soup, you guys.  THIS SOUP.  If you live anywhere that is colder than 100F right now, drop what you’re doing and plan to have this soup for dinner), as is everything that contains soy, which is basically everything that tastes good in the world.  You eat animal proteins and plant matter.  I’m pretty sure that you cannot do this diet if you are a vegetarian because you would actually literally starve.

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Why, you are asking, am I doing this insane thing?  Well, I am glad you asked, my sober and extremely attractive friend.  It is because I suck at moderation.  “Why not just cut out snacking”, queried a well meaning confidante, and I flashed back to all those years of ‘if I don’t drink on a Monday or a Wednesday…’.  Because that doesn’t work for me, is why.

The ’30’ in Whole30 is the number of days.  It’s a temporary thing.  For me, it’s a rehab.  Not a crash diet, not a so-called detox, not  anything that I expect to continue.  A rehab.  Like an alcohol rehab, where one gets some distance from the problematic substance, starts to see clearly what it was doing, how much denial one was in, and how much better one feels afterwards.  A rehab doesn’t mean that you’re cured, and neither will this.  But it’ll be interesting.

Also, I totally took myself out to McDonalds for dinner on the night before I started and I’m not even sorry.

Swallowing needs

I’m eating like I drank. Not in dramatic binges, followed by remorse and purging, but compulsively nonetheless.

I’m a snacker. I mean, everybody is a snacker, but when I’m in this particular place, I skimp on meals and find excuses to be alone, so that I can snack instead of sharing dinner with a loved one. Alone with a book, or – unfortunately, more likely – a screen, hand dipping into the bag of crisps over and over and over again. It sets up a rhythm that is soothing, like the old ritual of glass to lips, sip, set it down, repeat.

Some mornings I wake up and contemplate the day ahead of me. Negotiate with Little Girl over what she’s willing to wear, nag Big Girl about putting on her socks. Her socks. Put. On. Your…you’ve got distracted again, look at your feet, you only have one sock on, I don’t CARE if you want to read Brambly Hedge to the cat, GO AND GET YOUR SOCK ON NOW, what do they want for breakfast, Christ I forgot to pack lunches the night before did I put the uniforms in the dryer or are they damp on the line, will I get them to school on time, what do I have to do today, do I have too many deadlines or not enough (will I be able to pay the mortgage this month)… And then I think to myself, do I have something treaty to eat tonight? Once the kids are in bed, what can I settle down with?

I realise that’s not normal. Lying in bed at 7 am planning what to eat that evening. It’s not about the food, of course. It’s a reward, something to look forward to.

But I don’t think it’s even just about a reward. It really is the soothing repetition of the whole snacking ritual. The way that, with the right combination of sensory input, the world disappears and I’m cocooned.

And there it is, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the desire for a cocoon again. The same thing that drove me into the bottle. Inside those curved glass walls, sounds grow mute and colours blur, the world is not so much with us. Without the alcohol, and I’ve written about this before, the colours grow sharp and the joys more intense. And I’m grateful for that.

But sometimes I need the solitude and the cocoon. It’s a peculiar type of solitude, though; I work alone, from home, and on days when I am fortunate enough to have childcare I don’t see, or talk, to anyone at all between school hours. And yet I crave more than that.

I crave, I think, switching off. One of the things that I don’t get, no matter how lonely my days, is the abrogation of responsibility – because I may be alone, but I’m still watching the hours tick down to school pick up, hustling for work, tallying earnings and word counts in my head like the world’s most stressful metronome.

That was something that wine gave me – that abrogation. Eventually I would be too drunk to be a responsible parent or a functioning human being, and nobody could rely on me for a while, and that is what I wanted. It was selfish. It was especially selfish because I did – I do – have small children. But we all need to go off duty sometimes.

That’s what I seek, when I curl up with a book and a tub of ice cream. The sort of solitude that lets me immerse myself in it, as if – like a child playing hide-and-seek by putting her hands over her eyes – if I forget where I am, everybody else will as well.

So. After all that, a diagnosis. I am suffering from acute Adultitis. I prescribe clean sheets, a fluffy novel and an enormous pot of peppermint tea.