Alcoholism and Cirrhosis Almost Killed Me. Here’s 4 Survival Strategies That Keep Me Alive.

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I am an alcoholic. I’ve lived a blessed life, but I often found comfort and release from even trivial problems by self-medicating with alcohol. After struggling with alcoholism for many years, I nearly died at age 30 from advanced-stage Cirrhosis. Since then, I developed my own diet to restore my liver health and heal my body! Beyond my new diet, I’ve had to learn to adapt to my new life and figure out how to get by. Here are my 4 must-do tips for survival as a recovering alcoholic.

 

Reporting from the Battlefront

I’m writing because I’ve come to a moment in my week where rest is needed. I use the word “needed” because in recovery rest is never “earned.” Sleep is not a luxury, it is a survival tool.  So first, to my fellow recovering alcoholics, may I be the first to say that sober sleep is something I forgot existed for a majority of my life. That is to say, drinking myself to sleep might as well be staying awake as far as your own body chemistry is concerned. Do not take this tool for granted!

Beyond realizing the power of sleep, there were many diet and lifestyle changes I went through when I first stopped drinking. As I continue my journey as a recovering alcoholic, not only have I had to repair many relationships, I’ve had to reflect on myself and how I want to really go through life. So here’s the deal… let me help you! These are 4 of my survival strategies for recovering alcoholics. Maybe they won’t all work for you, but take what you need as you continue your journey.

 

  1. Develop humility

To make it through life as a recovering alcoholic, one must develop humility. The ability to ask for help is among the most admirable qualities you can have. Once you realize that alcohol or any other drug has some control over you, it may already be too late—it may have taken you over. I can guarantee that family and close friends see things in you that you can’t. You can look in a mirror and still somehow lie about what you see there, but you can never see from the point of view of others. I urge you to be open and to take every observation from another as valuable information against the enemy of addiction. This helps you accept faults within yourself, while building trust and strengthening the already sacred relationships you have. I have found that when people are approached for advice, they feel valued and humbled themselves and appreciate the worth that you place on their own insight.

  1. Associate with people you want to be like

When you’re an alcoholic, people you drink with have an influence on you. So when you’re a recovering alcoholic, you may have to find a completely new friend group to help you cope. Especially people that don’t drink or make you feel guilty for not drinking!

I’ve done myself the service of placing myself around people I consider smarter than me. That’s a simple enough thing to do. This isn’t necessarily to say you should hang out with people who are your intellectual superior. Rather, I’m talking about people that have a set of experiences and knowledge that you can learn from.

For example, the relationship I have with the Further Food crew is this type of relationship. I offer them culinary experience that I’ve gained from working under amazing chefs and the tailoring of recipes to my own needs. They in turn offer the confirmation of the dish as appropriate for a tailored diet, while determining its health benefits with the authority of a doctor or nutritionist. I’m also a fan of their Further Food Collagen and I recommend it to everyone!

  1. Stay hydrated

Stay hydrated! (ALCOHOL IS YOUR MORTAL ENEMY!)  Your marching orders begin with smashing the alcohol bottles.

Soda and sugary juice don’t replace water, and four cups of coffee a day depletes as much water as it provides.

What to do instead? Consider making large batches of herbal teas for sipping. Sweeten them with local honey instead of white sugar and you may be surprised how far this goes. Or, maybe try sparkling waters, which actually provide a dose of trace minerals that we often overlook. The texture of effervescence itself in mineral waters was a key for me in helping me give up my habit of pounding root beer like it was going out of style. And the health benefits of sparkling water versus soda should be obvious, I’d think!

Another one of the concoctions that makes my belly happy is Haymaker Punch. Here’s my easy recipe

Combine one quart (4 cups) of still or sparkling water, ½ cup organic apple cider vinegar, ½ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, ½ cup local honey and serve cocktail style. Garnish with some fresh shaved turmeric, ginger or a lime wedge. A 4-oz pour of this delicious beverage over ice is a perfect non-alcoholic digestif.

This punch doesn’t lack subtlety so sip slowly. Your digestive systems will thank you for it.

  1. Learn to cook healthy foods in your body and use it to develop new friendships

Become the best home chef in the neighborhood. Why? First, because giving up alcohol already clears up a significant amount of money from your budget. Utilize your newfound income to spring for that high-end olive oil, grass-fed lamb, or sockeye salmon that you’ve had your eye on. Focus on using organic, pure ingredients -your body will love these healthy, natural foods so much more than the overdose of alcohol and sugars you were giving it before! Try using whole grain pastas in lieu of the standard semolina. Maybe add spinach, kale, arugula or endive to your salads and kick the iceberg to the curb. Even though brown rice may take a little longer to cook, it is hearty and filling when compared to white. Or maybe skip rice altogether and go for some quinoa or freekeh!

Cook food that excites you. Base a dish on a fruit and work backwards. I stuff chicken breasts with caramelized onion and sauteed ambrosia apples. Sear them in a pan and deglaze with a 1 cup of low sodium veggie stock and reduce to a sauce.

If you’re craving a good old-fashioned steakhouse wedge salad, use a wedge of cabbage, make an apple cider vinegar-based blue cheese dressing (you won’t need nearly as much as you would need with regular dressing), slice some red onion, toss on some organic tomatoes, and add a slice of uncured bacon! Here’s the point: don’t put it in your own head that you’ll be living off the salad bar for the rest of your life

Once your chow hall is ready for its grand opening, a simple meal with the neighbors will give you a sense of pride in your new talent. In my experience, the simple demonstration of how to make a dish healthier inspires guests and encourages them to do the same. If nothing else, they’ll think to order the spinach/walnut/cranberry salad over the caesar when dining out.

Plus, now they owe you a seat at the next dinner party! Winning!

 

So that’s that. Four simple survival strategies that will help you heal your body and ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle as a recovering alcoholic. None of us are perfect and I’m not claiming to be a leader, but I’m here to help you with questions about your own battle. Food has helped me to ease the ache, remove the shame and restore my mental and physical health.

I’ve been through a rehab program and at 33, I’ve seen rock bottom, even if I haven’t had to hit it yet. And even if I have, the only shame is giving up.  If you think you don’t have anyone, give me a try at ianjacobw@gmail.com. Now, go on, dust your shoulders off and press forward.

 

Scoop, mix, go further. 

 

Want to read more?

An Open Letter To Anyone Who Asks “How Are You” to Someone with a Chronic Illness

Diet for Cirrhosis: My 3-Day Healing Meal Plan for Liver Disease

At 30, Cirrhosis Brought Me to the Brink of Death. How I Fought My Way Back to Health

8 Guilty Feelings People With Chronic Illnesses Face And 4 Tips For Coping

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