The #1 Question I Get Asked: How to Stop Using Food, Alcohol & Drama Compulsively

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One of the top concerns women have when they come to work with me at Healing U. is feeling out of control with food,  alcohol, or feeling overwhelmed by the relationships/drama in their lives. This feeling of chaos, of being so in control of some aspects of life while simultaneously being completely out of control in others, is so familiar to me because I used to experience the same thing.  

 

Before owning my role in healing, I was stuffing down, drinking away, distracting from what I did not want to feel for years.  I knew to heal this part of me, the out of control part, was so crucial to my healing, but for years, I had no idea how to manage it.  I made lists of how I was going to “fix” myself weekly, listed out diet plans that I was going to follow and read every self-help book I could get my hands on.  Nothing worked until I surrendered trying to fix myself and opened up to the possibility that my problems weren’t really what I thought they were.

 

After finding a coach and support group who invited me to learn a new way of living, I decided to no longer escape. When I put my pride down and humbled myself, I realized that a big part of my anxiety, frustration, and health challenges were in my control.  I had to own my role in my healing journey. It was time to change the way I thought and behaved no matter how much society told me it was okay. I had to change my mindset. It was a process, but it worked.

 

I believe you can do this too.

 

The first step to stop compulsion is to realize that you want to change, that your behaviors are not working, and that the problem is not the food, the sugar, the gluten, the dairy, the work, the “insert anything you used compulsively.”  The problem is what you are using those things to avoid. Often, we are not taught how to deal with life, all the emotions, and choices that come with just being human. You may have never learned how to manage emotions.

 

When I started the process I am sharing with you, I did not fully know the commitment I was making in choosing not to numb or distract, but it was a life-altering decision.   To feel anger, grief, sadness, joy, and love was something new. It took this journey for me to realize the full range of emotions we were created with, is not only okay to feel, but a part of the human experience.

 

I was taught from a young age that strong girls do not cry and that emotions showed weakness.  Those beliefs kept me from accepting my emotional needs for years. When I stopped drinking and eating compulsively, these feelings did not leave me.  Instead, they came to the surface. I got to learn how to allow them to arise in me. It was and is painful. I have learned, however, that on the other side of those feelings,  there is a freedom I’d desired my whole life. A freedom that includes peace, clarity, deeper friendships, more meaning, and so much joy. I also have deep sadness, grief, and anger, many emotions that have been lodged inside me for years impacting my life and as they are released now, I grow even more.

 

Healing is messy. It is hard. It is not pretty. It also does not have time limits or a schedule. It comes when it comes.

 

There are simple tools you can use to start the healing process to not using substances to distract and numb.  When you are in the moment knowing that you want to eat or drink or overwork, you can choose to feel the emotion under what is happening for you.  It takes practice and patience, but the below tools can change your life.

 

Journaling:  Fine a piece of paper, a notebook, a journal and without stopping, write for at least a page.  There is something about putting pen to paper that can help you to figure out what you are feeling, and often to arrive at a solution.  Just allow the thoughts to flow, uninterrupted, without regard for grammar or punctuation.

Rest:  It might feel counterintuitive, but when you are overwhelmed, anxious or feel like you have no time, slow down, stop.   Instead of running away or filling up your schedule with projects and meetings to distract, stop, clear your schedule (even if just for 10 minutes) and get quiet.  When you have time or space, lay down and nap or get a coloring book and color. These are all examples of rest. Your best way to rest might be slightly different.

Prayer & Meditation:  Prayer and meditation helps to release control and clear your mind of worry, doubt and fear  You may not currently have a prayer or mediation process, you may not even have a God of your understanding, this is fine, it takes practice, but you can have a new relationship if you desire to try.  Many apps can help you (like Headspace & Abide). To begin, show up, set the app, ask the questions aloud or on paper that you have for God, about God, or about divine direction. When we seek, God shows up.  Setting a timer for 5 or 10 minutes to be quiet might help to get started. You may feel better immediately, and sometimes it might take some time until you feel better, but you should have relief from the racing thoughts.  As your practice gets stronger, you’ll be able to sit longer and ask bolder questions.

Outreach to Others:  It is essential to have people you can trust to share your truth and who are mature enough to hear and witness your life without judgment or gossip.   If you do not have people like this I encourage you to seek them. When you need to let go of the things in your head, call a trusted friend and share your truth.  EVERYDAY TELL YOUR TRUTH. If you do not have those kinds of people yet, start by writing all the shame, fear, anger, any emotion you need to release on paper. Letting go of that which we eat, drink, and drama over is the most important thing.

Movement:  If you have the energy and the time is right, move your body, go for a hike, run or walk, move emotions through you.  Even if it’s just a short walk, get outside, take in the fresh air and release.

Service:  Often, when I’ve done a lot of the tools above, I’ll then move to being of service and helping someone else.  It helps me get out of my head and realize that my problems are not as significant as I might think in the moment.  Service can be calling a friend to ask how their day is, what they’re challenged with or hopeful for and listen to their answer.  It can mean volunteering.

 

When you use these tools, you are practicing healthy ways of processing emotions.  You are living the human experience and not running, distracting, or numbing from it.  You can use these tools as often and frequent as you need. I use these tools over and over again, every day.  There is not a perfect way to heal. The most important part is the willingness to try something new rather than acting compulsively.  Each time you write vs. eat, rest vs. work compulsively, share an authentic conversation with a friend vs. drink compulsively; you are healing.  I have realized there is no mountaintop we reach when we’ve fully healed and suddenly are entirely rid of our imperfections, nor were we made to be.  What I am sure of is that we were created to have emotions, suffering, and challenges and that this life we are a part of is messy. We will always be asked to show up in the messy.  We can chose old ways of dealing or new ways of healing.

 

In health & healing,

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