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My built-in forgetter

I had gained some weight a few weeks ago. Not too much, but I had noticed it. And I knew what it was. It was soy nuts.

Soy is a protein that is within my food boundaries. And I almost never eat it for a few reasons. It gives me indigestion. It makes me groggy. And it makes me gain weight. But when I do eat it, I have a hard time stopping.

The truth is that I have had this problem with soy products (specifically soy nuts, soy nut butter, and soy flour) ever since I started putting boundaries around my eating. And yet, every few years, I buy these soy products, eat them, they make me sick, stupid and unhappy, and I quit. But not before I fight it. I never want to quit. But somehow I always manage to, and then, after some time passes, in my head, I’ll start to negotiate with myself about if, when, and under what circumstances I can have soy again. It will go something like, “soy nut butter is a problem, but soy nuts are ok. If I just have them once in a while it will be fine. An ounce once or twice a week wouldn’t make any difference.”

But I am not good at having a little bit of soy once in a while. I will mean to have one ounce, but then while I am making dinner, I will rationalize that it would be okay to have two, as long as I don’t have any later in the week. But of course, later in the week I will rationalize myself into another two ounces. In other words, I will end up having at least twice the amount of soy I wanted to have. And here’s the thing that I know and I don’t like to admit: soy nuts get me high!

That’s what the grogginess is. It’s me being high. That’s why I can’t stop eating them. That’s why I continue to rationalize why it will be okay to eat just a little every once in a while, even though I always end up eating more than I mean to. I don’t eat more than I am allowed within my eating boundaries, but I eat an amount that I know will make me gain weight, all the while lying to myself that the amount I am eating will not make me gain weight. I rationalize and renegotiate with myself so I can get my fix. I am telling you that I behave like an addict when I eat that stuff.

Some people say that addicts have a “built-in forgetter.” Why else would someone who has experienced the very worst of addiction firsthand, and managed to quit, ever use again? But we do. Staying sober is easier than getting sober, and yet all the time, people get sucked back in to something they know is disastrous for them.

Non-addicts have a lot of judgment about this. They think that knowing oneself should be enough. They think that being rational should be the answer. But addiction is not rational.

I will assure you that my soy nut addiction is in no way as bad as my sugar addiction. Yes, there are levels of addiction and there are things in my life that maybe aren’t the best choices for me, but I am willing to live with them. (I’m looking at you artificial sweetener.) If I “fall off the wagon” and eat soy nuts in a couple of months or years, it will not kill me. It will not ruin my life, the way sugar would. It will not send me into a spiraling depression, like sugar would. But it would still be a burden of sorts.

I want to note a few things. I am not saying that soy nuts are bad. I am saying that they are bad for me. And I am not really judging myself for eating them. They are within my boundaries, and I never have to feel guilty for anything I eat that is within my boundaries. I am simply saying that I am an addict through to the core of my being, and I need to be conscious of the ways that I act out addictive behaviors.

I threw away the soy nuts this last time. Probably almost two pounds of them. Whatever they cost, they were not worth nearly as much as my peace of mind around my weight. And I am still trying to lose the weight I gained from them. Because I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but a human body can gain in two days what will inevitably take a month to lose.

But there is something else I am besides an addict. I am recovering. And in some ways, that makes me a spiritual powerhouse. Because I know how to look at myself honestly, make choices about how I want to live, and make commitments that keep me in line with those choices. And even if I manage to forget everything I know today, and pick up those soy nuts one more time, I have the tools it takes to put them back down. Again. And again.


A terrible moment is a reasonable price for a peaceful lifetime.

I have mentioned before that it’s easy to forget what it was like before I got my eating under control. There is something about the human psyche that allows things to become “normal.” It occurs day to day like this person I am, who is honest and honorable and reliable, is who I have always been. But of course, if I look at it objectively, I was not any of those things. I may have wanted to be that way, and thought that any time I wasn’t, I was justified, but the real deal is that I was regularly dishonest, dishonorable, and unreliable. I acted out of fear, shame, and a misguided sense of self-preservation.

I would learn later, once I was sober from sugar and from acting out my eating disorders, that the best way to preserve one’s self is to take responsibility. But I spent many years trying to pawn responsibility for my mistakes, problems, and failures off on anyone else. It seemed like the best way to be free. But it simply made me feel bad about myself, led to more bad behavior, and more needing to numb myself. In other words, it fed my addiction.

And all of that escapes me in my day to day life. I am not haunted. I do not lie awake at night anymore, worrying about what I did or didn’t do. I don’t lose sleep over anything. It’s a nice perk of integrity.

And then every once in a while, I will get a flashback. Of what it felt like. It’s not intellectual. I think about it intellectually all the time. I write this blog every week. I remember what I did and how I behaved, but I don’t usually experience it. Viscerally.

And then sometimes I do. And it’s terrible. Terrifying. It happened to me a couple of times this week and it was awful. But, then again, not awful.

I don’t know where it comes from. But I am always grateful for it. Once I get my bearings again.

There is a distinction I have. This way I am now, as a person I genuinely like and respect, is the real me. It is who I am supposed to be. And it is my destiny, or my path or however you want to name it. It is more real than the addict in me. But it is not who I am naturally. It is not my default. It is not who I am when I’m not sober. And I have to work to keep sober. I have to work at being the real me. It’s not a romantic notion. But I find that many romantic notions are false. Or at least misleading.

I think that feeling of being healed may be the big problem with addiction. The person you become feels so real. Like you couldn’t ever go back to the way you were. Because now you know. What to do and what not to do. But the fact is that I have met so many people who believed that they had life figured out because they were sober for a while. So they went ahead and tried to be normal and and found that they were not only still addicts, but that going back into active addiction returned them to all of their former bad behavior and horrible feelings. It didn’t matter that they had been sane and well for months or years. They hadn’t learned anything really. At least not anything that helped them keep the sanity they got from staying sober.

So I am grateful to those people who did the research for me. So I didn’t have to do it myself. And I am grateful for those flashback experiences, where I remember what it felt like to be the “natural” me. Because I’d rather feel it for a terrible moment than live it for a terrible lifetime.

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