My father is a 52-year old recovering alcoholic and current tobacco user (snuff chewing tobacco). He has been in recovery for about five years and has had mixed success...some streaks of "clean" (relative term for Paleohacks - in this case meaning no alcohol), some returns to alcohol, and tobacco use all the while. He is on Wellbutrin 300-350 (not sure) mg for depression, recommended to aid in his recovery and to "normalize moods" and avoid getting to a low point. When he does relapse on alcohol, it is clear that he reaches a very low emotional low and "gives in" to an extremely strong craving.
His experience in recovery has obviously been much better than pre-recovery, but my wheels are always spinning about where this all fits into a paleo context. He is usually a heavy caffeine consumer - coffee, tea, RED BULL, etc. - and believes it has little effect on him, so will even consume it close to bedtime. Not the best sleeper (clearly) - due, from my belief, to stress and caffeine. He definitely has a sweet tooth and loves candy, fruit juices, chocolate, ice cream, etc.
Recently, he has become more open to the paleo lifestyle. He has been doing it at maybe about 60% (even though I know percentages mean nothing...) for the past few months. He dropped a lot of weight and is a lot leaner. However, he is stingy about vegetables, uses a LOT of table salt, eats all conventional meats/produce, prefers salami/sausage etc., is very hooked on blended fruit smoothies. He has read The Primal Blueprint and thinks that "80/20" is his excuse for anything (handfuls of pretzels in front of the TV, large frozen yogurts, etc.). Understandable, almost, since this is a huge difference from only a few months ago (tons of processed foods, even more caffeine, lots of sugar, etc.).
He is currently taking a daily combination of 6 grams of fish oil, 6,000 IU of Vit. D., an antioxidant blend (Trader Joe's brand), a NewChapter men's multivitamin, 3 Garden of Life Primal Defense probiotics, 200mg alpha lipoic acid, 500mg l-carnitine, and Natural Calm at night. He is still on Wellbutrin and still using chewing tobacco. He rides his bike about 4x a week but is otherwise generally sedentary.
If I were answering this question about anyone else, I would be extremely harsh and say that the reasons are obvious. However, I am still having trouble convincing my dad about all of this. He has read the PB and I brought him all the way to Boston this weekend to listen to Robb Wolf's last seminar. He is much more convinced now, but is still using common excuses...he's not in his "normal" routine that starts in about two weeks, he can't afford to spend time in withdrawal when he needs to be productive, it is expensive, he's made a lot of positive changes recently and feels overwhelmed, he needs caffeine to be alert when driving, etc. He has said that he is 100% open to doing a full 30 day elimination a la Robb Wolf, but is "waiting" until he can "get blood work done", so in the meantime, he is doing his version of 80/20 "Primal" with late night caffeine, occasional Red Bull, tobacco, lots of coffee, high fructose, "dark" chocolate (low cacao content and much more than what would be considered "moderate" consumption), etc.
1) Does ANYONE have any experience as far as non-food addiction (drugs and alcohol) goes? 2) Any experience with the Wellbutrin issue? He definitely wants to get off it, but does not seem to understand that he needs to be fully 100% paleo compliant if he is going to make any change in his medications or brain chemistry. 3) Any experience with tobacco - particularly chewing tobacco as opposed to cigarettes? 4) Any issues with his supplementation - any recommendations? 5) Any information I could present to him for further convincing? He is open to this and is becoming more and more open to it (especially after the Paleo Solution Seminar...), but I think fear is holding him back (ie. he feels that a strict month would mean no chewing tobacco - fears the withdrawal or failure - so avoids doing the whole month).
ANY feedback is extremely appreciated. As wacky as this snapshot makes him seem, he is a great guy and very much a family man. I believe he is struggling with a lot of issues that could be greatly reduced with a paleo diet and lifestyle. He HAS come a long way, but considering where he came from, he still has a long way to go. I admire his increasing openness toward something new like this, and I know he WANTS to feel better, but fears withdrawal/low-carb flu and lacking any "vices".
EDIT: thanks for all of this fantastic feedback. I want to mention a few things now that I have read through these responses. My dad DOES participate in AA and I think it has worked wonders for him. Has absolutely contributed to his openness to try new things, his communication of what he's feeling, his social circle, etc. He has gone through a month of outpatient treatment and a month of inpatient treatment 5 and 4 years ago respectively, and I am the only member of my family who still goes to Al-Anon meetings. I am a big believer in both programs and owe my family's livelihood to them. I guess my frustration, no matter how irrational or impatient, is this continual, repeated message that people are, in the words of Angelo Coppola, "broken by default." I sometimes, in certain meetings, pick up a message thst goes something like "you're @&$#Ed up, you're going to feel like this forever, your cravings will never stop, nobody will ever understand how you're feeling, you will never have a "normal" life," etc. It reminds me of overweight folks who get told the same thing when they eat one Weight Watcher point too many. Every time he's relapsed, he seems to be frustrated with ideas like those, when in a moment of weakness, and I can't say I blame him. I am SO lucky that he is even 1% open to this, and the more I see/read/hear, the more I believe that addiction, too, in the context in which our culture sees it, is a Neolithic disease.
Regarding the Wellbutrin - I agree that he SHOULD be on it until everything else is dialed in and in check. Oddly enough, he has no problem putting certain substances into his body, but he comes from a pretty "tough" Catholic Irish-American background, and I think that he thinks of this as a crutch, a weakness, an embarrassment. I am all for anything that could help him out, whatever it is, as long as it sets him up on a path toward health, especially mental health. He will down a box of fruit slice candy, a can of Red Bull, and a pouch of snuff, no problem, but has some sort of stoic, moral aversion to taking a pill every day. I would prefer that he stay on it until he feels noticeable benefits from living a more paleo lifestyle, no matter how long it takes for that to happen.
Again, thanks for all of the responses. This has become a sort of mission for me, and I have truly forgiven him, 100%, for our rocky past, as I truly believe that something outside his true intentions and desires had the power to physiologically put him in a place he'd rather not be. Can't get anywhere if guilt is a part of the equation. We have a greatly improved relationship and I hope to see him, in his lifetime, with better overall health. I know he has to want it, and I think he's starting to. I have refrained from shoving anything down his throat (he will gladly down a grass-fed hamburger with bacon!), and he has really come a long way with the alcoholism in the past five years, and with the diet in recent months. Very proud of him and will definitely be posting in the future with more questions and feedback. This community has definitely reshaped my attitude toward addiction.
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on August 22, 2011
at 07:59 PM
My first thought is that you are fantastic son and your dad is so lucky to have you in his corner. And your dad sounds pretty fantastic as well. Must be where you got it from.
My second thought is that you need to back off and slow down. Dealing with someone in recovery requires baby steps most of the time. If you push too hard the whole darn thing can tip over in the blink of an eye. So yes caution, great caution, is advised.
As for the Wellbutrin I would really leave that alone for now. It helps immensely with cravings for all kinds of things. IMO this should be the last thing to go once everything else is in place. For some, myself included, this drug is nothing short of a gift from God. I will take it until the day I die. Paleo does not fix all problems for all people. If he's not having issues with it then I think you should just walk away from this one and move on. For now anyway.
Honestly I think you first need to focus on how far your dad has come already and just keep looking for little ways he can change. Of all the things you want to change find our which ones are most important to him and just work on one at a time. Find out what things you have buy-in for right now, today, and start there. Just find one thing. As he conquers each little thing the sense of victory and mastery of self will most likely propel him forward towards the next challenge. You can prod him a long a little if need be. And you don't need to have some grand master plan set in stone to follow. Just a couple of items that you might take a swing at during the next 6 months say. And be open to changing that. He could take a stab at something and fail miserably and YOU need to be o.k. with that. He is going to fail at some of this and you need to be prepared to catch him and help him out of the failure and move him on to the next thing. And if he needs to stop and catch his breath for a while you need to let him. As much as you clearly love him and want the best for him this is still his hand to play, not yours, and you need to let him do that and trust that he's doing the best he can do even if you don't see it in the moment.
Anyway, whatever you decide to do I do think you move slowly and cautiously. You have years worth of work ahead IMO and I think slow and steady progress is exactly what you should be aiming for in this situation.
on August 22, 2011
at 08:42 PM
What Shari said.
I think before thinking about doing the Whole 30 thing, it might be helpful for both of you to read "The Mood Cure" by Julia Ross and "Primal Minds, Primal Bodies" by Nora Gedgaudas. Both talk about recovery and have some practical ideas. I was actually reading the chapter last night in Primal Minds, Primal Bodies about alcoholism essentially being one in the same as sugar addiction. And when the sugar addiction is conquered usually the alcohol relapses stop too.
It sounds like the steps your father has taken so far are certainly in the right direction, and those changes tend to be self propelling as wellness is improved, it might not be a straight line, but he'll get there. Slow and steady. I would leave the tobacco, caffeine, and Wellbutrin out of it for now, and slowly work on weaning off of sugar.
If you are looking to get more pastured meat in him you guys could do some cow-pooling and split 1/4 or 1/2 of a grassfed cow if you have a big freezer, or split a "freezer lamb" if you're tight on freezer space. I wouldn't hound him about the veggies either right now, focus on fat and meat. If he's really into processed meat, you could give him a big gift basket of uncured pastured pork bacon and sausage, deer sausage, and stuff like that for the holidays.
Kudos to both of you, you sound like a great team for tackling this.
on August 22, 2011
at 08:29 PM
I am a psychologist and have worked a lot with addicted individuals. I agree with Shari that patience is needed and that progress is going to be slow and steady (with several bumps in the road and regressions from time to time). IMO, the wellbutrin should be the last thing that is changed. Agreed, that sugar, caffeine and tobacco are likely not the best for his overall mood/sleep cycles. However, it is extremely difficult for individuals in recovery to tackle more than one vice at a time. It will likely lead to feelings of failure, which most certainly can trigger cravings for alcohol and drugs. I would recommend that he be involved in a 12-step program (he may be, but it was not explicitly said). IMO, it is difficult to be in recovery without working a program. 12-step programs, in combination with medication, 60% paleo eating, and riding his bike 4-5 times per week is likely all he can do now and honestly, it is better than most people are able to do. Good Luck and it is clear, you love your dad.
on August 22, 2011
at 09:09 PM
I totally agree with everything here too. I'm personally 4 years sober am and am a crossfit level 1 coach and eat paleo full time and just keep in mind your dad has slayed a much bigger dragon for the time being by getting sober. If he isn't in a 12 step program it certainly would be worth looking into. If the spiritual malady that has driven him to the bottle isn't addressed on a daily basis then everything is built on a foundation of sand. I gained 45lbs my first year of sobriety and slowly evolved to my current lifestyle as a result of a combination of 12 step program, diet, exercise and a continuously educating myself on my condition. The balance of that changes from day to day and I'm pretty in tune with it and am not too hard on myself about it. Just remember he's a work in progress and that as long as the bottom line of staying sober is accomplished and his spiritual development aka coping skills are addressed then it will always continue to get better. As far as the meds go it's a very individual things and nothing scares me more than giving bad advice. My experience however is that the Dr's wanted to give my antidepressants too but I opted out of the easier softer way. I hope my experience can be of some benefit to you :)
on August 22, 2011
at 09:02 PM
I'm a recovering alcoholic/addict/compulsive overeater/bulimic and I was on Wellbutrin for several years. Paleo has helped me a lot by eliminating sugar (and thus sugar cravings). But I CHOSE paleo. I did research and started eating this way under my own volition. No one was trying to persuade or convince me. If someone had tried to make me eat paleo, just like when people were trying to make me get sober, I would have fought them, resisted it, and resented them (even though I knew they were right and sometimes wanted to do what they were saying).Let your dad get a few years of solid sobriety under his belt. Sure, talk about paleo nutrition and exercise to him, but don't force it. If he decides to eat this way, great! If not, at least he's not dead of cirrhosis of the liver or in a DUI. I don't see why he needs to get off the Welbutrin if it's working for him and helping him. Staying sober from alcohol is so much more important than eating paleo. I know that will probably get me some flack from paleohackers who aren't alcoholics or addicts, but those who are will understand. Just be there to support him and don't try to push anything on him. And get yourself to an Al-Anon meeting.
on August 23, 2011
at 03:10 AM
Kathleen DesMaisons first book, Potatoes Not Prozac, includes some really interesting science about using real food in alcoholics' recovery program. her focus wound up being "sugar addiction," but the connections are all there. My dad was an alcoholic, and his food addiction seemed to me part and parcel of everything. I inherited the food addiction part, and def feel there is a genetic component. DesMaisons book put me on the path that eventually led me to going paleo. (well, lacto-choco-paleo!) Your dad might find it an interesting read, at least the science part of addiction and nutrition.(though some of her program contradicts paleo, FYI) But I also agree with all the other responses!