Thursday, August 4, 2011

And the Oscar for Best Director Goes to . . . .

Many years ago people with more sense than I put forth the concept that those of us with addictions live as though we are the directors of the Universe. We not only think we are directors, we also produce, write the script, stage the scenes, and act many of the parts while also expecting that the rest of the world will abide by our Great Plan of Direction. Then we get upset when the world does not do exactly as we direct. 

Surprise! Not only do we not control the universe, we do not control the world or other people. We only think that we do. I may think that my efforts to dictate my loved one's food and activities can protect them from obesity, diabetes, cancer and whatever else I conjure in my mind but in reality I control nothing. When it comes to expecting the people in our lives to recover because we want it (heck, we insist on it - we demand it!), what can we do? Can we really do anything constructive except live as examples of a healthier way and let go with love when our help is not wanted? 

For the purpose of this topic I am going to take my husband as an example. We have been married 28 years so he is as steady an example as I can offer. We live together of course but we are not tethered at the hip. He goes to work each day, attends meetings, functions, commutes - all this without me next to him. How can I possibly say I control what he does? Oh, I can believe that my stern demeanor, implicit instructions and devotion of his health are what keeps him 'in line' with my way of thinking for his health- but aren't I kidding myself? I do not know what snacks people may bring into the offices where he works. I cannot say that he does not augment his brown bag lunch with the occasionally drive-thru. While I suspect he does not indulge in either I am not present to know without question what he might consume. Therefore, we can say that I do not and cannot control everything he puts in his month. Agreed? 

Let's accept the basic premise that he wants my long health as much as I want his and therefore he does for me as I would do for him. Now let's look at our past actions. My husband showed me with love and affection, care and comfort - and yet I gained 247 pounds from the day we met until I reached my top weight of 385. My husband tried helping me in many ways. He tried taking over the shopping, the menu planning, the cooking, the cleaning - and I still overate. He tried diets and plans and bribes and I still ate.

No matter what he tried I did not stick to a diet for more than a few weeks. I always gained back what I lost. My husband is well educated, extremely conscientious, well organized, professional and adores his wife and family. Yet he was (and is) powerless to save the woman he loves from this disease of food addition. 

Once I recognized I have an addiction and accepted I am the only one who can take responsibility for MY actions both physically and emotionally, his efforts to support me became gifts that did and still continue to help. Today we both accept that only I can work on me.  I can ask for and accept his support, which he gives willingly, but I cannot use him to save me from myself and he cannot expect that his actions are enough to keep me well. He is not trying to direct and I am not trying to direct. We have turned over that job to powers greater then ourselves. 

This knowledge does not always soothe me. I had to stand by and watch my father kill himself with sugar. My brother struggles with this disease and has not reached the point of understanding that addiction cannot be cured with insulin and ketchup. I control nothing except my own actions. I cannot help someone who does not want my help. It is extremely important that I do not push help on someone who does not want it because I can easily without any malice at all, cause them hurt. That is the worse kind of action I can take. 

Eight years ago, when I was in Director Mode, I put my family (all four of us) on Atkins for 5 months and my two daughters had to pee on a test strip every few days so I knew they weren't cheating. Living in fear of mommy's wrath, they complied. We all lost weight at that time but to this day I believe I owe my daughters continued living amends for my misguided belief that my actions would save them from becoming fat adults. My daughters both carry excess weight and today and this is causing them health issues. More than ever I must stay aware that I am in control of my own actions and nothing else. I can encourage them, help when asked and love them NO MATTER WHAT. Most of all I accept I do not control them or what they do. If I try and control them or anyone else in addiction I will only succeed in driving them to negative behaviors. My responsibility is to love unconditionally, remain a positive example and remember that when it comes to being a Director of the Universe, I am retired.

Have you retired from being a director? How do you help without hurt today?



bbubblyb said...

I definitely have went through a lot with my husband in the past 4 yrs of my weight loss. But like you I realized that it had to be his choice to lose weight and eat healthy. It holds true for my 9 yr old daughter as well who has a few extra lbs on her. I've just come to realize that leading by example is the best thing I can do for everyone. Keeping only healthy food in the house is the other.

Kari said...

This is by far the most difficult pill for me to swallow. 170 pounds later I have started to figure out what I need to do to lose weight. I struggle to see those that I love continue to overeat and gain weight. :( I am frequently told, "I wish that I could do what you've done". I want to shake them and say you can! Thank you for the great reminder.

Anonymous said...

I imagine this post would feel very good to read if I were your daughters. A gift really.

Julie said...

I too have a daughter with a weight problem and one who while she isn't overweight is fixated with cooking and food. I know this comes from my past and regret it. However, I have also spoken to them about it (they are adults), apologied for what I `taught' them but also recognise they are now adults and make their own decisions now. I try to be a good example now and `show not tell' a better way of eating and living. I too was directing and SOOO frustrated when no one else had read the script and stage directions!!! I try to be `retired' but sometimes it seems to be a `semi-retirement'. Like lots of things in my life it is a work in progress. Progress not perfection ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,

Oh how this post resonates with me!! I have read this over and over, and will continue to so many more times.

I have had similar experiences with my husband. While I know I am ultimately the one that needs to find it in myself to lose weight and keep it off, I feel like if he could help me, I would be more successful. I ask for his help, he does the best he can, and then I wind up going back on whatever promise I have made, or deal we have written up, plan of action, whatever. So, I see that it is all me!! HE is not sabotaging me, I am!

It affects all of us, I have banned all foods from the house that are "not healthy", and my son (who's 13) just cringes, he's a growing boy who enjoys a snack here or there. But, because I cannot seem to control myself, everyone suffers. It's sad.

Today, I actually told my husband that he needs to take my car keys so I can't go buy junk, THAT is sad...

I want my son and husband to make good choices, I think anyone who cares about someone will want them to take care of themselves so they won't suffer with poor health. It's like I am saying "don't do what I have done, you don't want to live like this".

It's posts like this that remind me that I AM a food addict and to stop fighting the notion of it. It's time to direct my own path to wellness. And I like the thought of physically (weight loss, keeping it off, exercising etc) showing myself as a good example, rather than just verbally (and never showing positive results) dictating how they should take care of themselves.

Thank you for a very thought provoking post!


Jane Cartelli said...

We are all just one bite away from getting better. We have to not take that first bite. We don't. But it took me 14 years to accept that I am the one who had to not do it. Have you considered looking into any of the 12 step programs for eating issues?
Please email me if you would like to ask any questions.


Vickie said...

I too have read and reread this post. It is a true gem. I have a link to it in an upcoming post.

Jane Cartelli said...

Vickie -
That is a compliment, thank you! I hope it can help more people that way.


Anonymous said...

I am experiencing this from a different perspective. My husband asks me to be his director in weight loss. I have tried it in the past, and I don't want that responsibility again. But, I don't know how to refuse gracefully and with love.

First, I don't have the time or energy to plan, calculate and record a special diet for him, while at the same time trying to please his palate. Second, it creates too much resentment if, after all my efforts, he chooses not to follow the plan.

I am a food addict. I don't know if he is one. We've been buddies in unhealthy eating, but he is much more overweight than I am (I am 10 - 15 lbs. above my ideal, I think he is morbidly obese).

For today, my plan is to change my own eating and to stop enabling his unhealthy eating. If I start bringing more healthy foods into the house and stop the unhealthy ones, if I turn down his offers and suggestions for unhealthy foods and make suggestions for healthy ones that will be great for both of us. Beyond that I can't commit to anything (the choices he makes when we're not together, the portions he eats, etc.).

I can't help him until I help myself (I think?).


E. Jane said...

Loved this post, Jane. even though I am responding a bit late. Your insight into food addiction and obesity is amazingly accurate. Food can really take over our lives and become the most important things. I am so glad that you have found your way to recovery.