It’s not the substance that’s the problem…it’s the behaviour!

She decided to startI don’t know if what I’m about to put out into the public domain is a good idea considering the work that I do as a Recovery Coach, but I’ve discovered that the more I embrace my recovery principles such as honesty, integrity and authenticity, the more I grow as a woman and a coach.  Very recently I began working at The Foundation Clinic on a more full-time basis, which means I am able to commit myself whole-heartedly to working within the area of substance abuse and addiction recovery.  Around the time that I was winding things up with my previous employer, making decisions and setting some goals for myself I decided that I was going to tackle my personal health and wellness issue of being overweight.

It’s something that I have battled for years, yo-yo dieting my way through my twenties and thirties and never managing to maintain a healthy weight for too long.  The last time I was happy with my body I was literally starving myself due to stress and anxiety, and even though I was in recovery from alcohol abuse at the time, looking back I realise that I was still trapped in an addictive behaviour pattern.  So my obsession became my weight, rather than alcohol.  Periods of bingeing followed by periods of abstinence, mental and emotional obsession, guilt and shame around my habits and feeling completely out of control…  I’m talking about my relationship with food, although it is identical to my previous relationship to alcohol.

So while getting clear on my professional goals, I decided to spend some time looking at my personal goals around health and wellness.  I’d spent the year going to the gym on a regular basis, and that hadn’t made much difference to my figure, I’d also tried various approaches to weight loss only to get despondent and throw it all in…supplements, eating plans, advice from friends, all seemed to be useless.  So I elected to get professional, medical assistance with my weight loss.  I wasn’t looking for another healthy lifestyle plan, I was looking for a weight-loss solution!  The interesting thing was even though I coach in substance abuse recovery, especially around changing thought and behaviour patterns, I am a little embarrassed to admit, that I hadn’t seen the similarities in my behaviour and habits around food!!

It was eye-opening!  I have triggers that cause me to eat!  I obsess about food and am secretive about my eating habits.  I eat in a binge-like fashion when I am hungry, angry, lonely or tired (HALT) and then feel guilt and shame around my lack of control.  And it was in that instant that I took responsibility for me patterns and started to think of myself with a behaviour/substance use disorder around food.  Perhaps I’d been arrogant to think that I had changed my thought patterns and behaviour to such an extent as to set me apart from my clients that are doing exactly the same around their own substances.  It humbled me enormously and made me more empathetic and compassionate as to their personal journeys.  The difference this time though was I was immediately able to draw on a variety of coaching tools, development techniques and goal setting practices to get me moving forward immediately.

Rather than languishing around in a victim mentality, with the child-like emotions of guilt and shame, I started to employ my recovery principles and personal values to start goal setting around my weight-loss.  I got very clear on my reasons for my actions and made myself accountable to myself and a couple of other people around these.  It was empowering to take responsibility for unhealthy behaviour and thought patterns around food, and begin to move forward towards my solutions.  I have been honest and open about my problem with food, and it feels cathartic and enlightening to move through the fear and the sadness around my previous failed attempts at weight management.  I’ve realised that all I need to do is apply the same techniques in this area of my life as I do with my substance abuse recovery.  I haven’t experienced the previous trauma associated with  dieting, I am motivated and determined to reach the goals I have set up for myself.

I feel empowered and healthy, and it’s a really great place to be.  With the weight shedding, through not only an eating plan, but a completely different attitude and outlook to what I have chosen to do, I am becoming the woman I have always believed I could be…and it’s not only about my body, but also my spirit and my mind.  I did realise that I need to be careful of falling into addictive, obsessive behaviour and thought patterns, even though I haven’t touched any alcohol for more than seven and a half years, because it’s not the substance that’s the problem, it’s the behaviour!

Til next time,

Sober Something

For more information about recovery coaching in the areas of substance abuse, stress and burnout, food and eating disorders, diabetes, and co-occurring disorders, please visit 

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