Once upon a time, I walked up and down the colorful streets of Berkeley, California. It was Telegraph Avenue that attracted me most of all. The atmosphere was so bizarre that I was easily distracted from the agonizing feelings of self-loathing, self-pity, hopelessness, fear, and despair.
There, on Telegraph Avenue, I could forget my swollen ankles, hands and legs - swollen from the massive amounts of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. In Berkeley I could lose myself within unusual forms of creative expressions, some of which seemed pathological. You have to know the Telegraph Avenue of the '70s to understand what I mean. Day after day, hour upon hour, I was utterly consumed, obsessed, and tormented by a sugar and food obsession. Sugar was my complete ruination.
Before the Berkeley era, I had abstained from bingeing for seven months while attending Overeaters Anonymous meetings. After relocating to California I fell off the wagon once again and gained fifty pounds in three months. I plunged into a clinical depression as I approached a semi-functional existence. I went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with a mood disorder, but I refused to take medication. I awoke one morning and groggily opened my change purse to find only one penny. That was a most memorable morning!
It was welfare or a psych hospital. I chose welfare and could barely get myself to the office. Along with the welfare came food stamps, a month's worth binged away in three days. I had been accepted into a drug treatment program, but got cold feet at the last minute.
Luckily, I could sing well and also played guitar. I phoned a café and got hired, but I binged the money away immediately. If I was lucky enough to stop eating, I would start chewing. Transformed into a sorbitol junkie, I chewed 20 to 30 packs of sugarless gum per day, and had chewing gum wrappers strewn all over my room. The sorbitol triggered incessant bouts of bouts of daily diarrhea. Berkeley was the place I walked aimlessly every day, sometimes trying to make the most out of a quarter.
In 1980 I desperately searched The Bay Guardian, a small San Francisco newspaper, longing for an answer to my living Hell. I saw an advertisement for mindfulness and phoned the teacher immediately. When he answered the phone I asked, "Do you have peace of mind?" He said "yes" in a way that was truly genuine. I made an appointment and was on his doorstep the next day. As he opened the door I sensed a true peacefulness about him.
I had met lots of people in my life that smiled a lot, were energetic, charismatic, vivacious, and friendly. But I had never met anyone with what I considered to be true peace of mind. I wanted what he had and knew that I would do anything for it. It was on February 24, 1980 - my 29th birthday - that my mindfulness journey began.
Since then, I have spent years assisting clients and students in transforming their lives using simple mindfulness techniques. I have witnessed seemingly hopeless individuals attain peace and freedom in the midst of significant personal challenges. Since I am one of those people, I can share my experience and hope for anyone who is seeking relief from the inevitable sufferings of life and especially sugar and food addiction.