Welcome
This is the kitchen where we talk about food, life, and recovery—a spiritual path to healing and peace.

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You are invited to keep coming back to A Cup of Kindness to share your experience, strength and hope; fears, doubts and insecurities; and to pick up information, inspiration … and have a little fun!

My story
In January 2007, at the age of 51, I joined a 12-step program and began my recovery from food addiction, losing 75 pounds in the process. Read more…

In January 2011, at the age of 55, I began my recovery from a multi-trauma accident, 36 fractures, damaged lungs, and post traumatic stress. Read more…

I am deeply grateful for all the kindnesses, large and small, offered to me in recovery. Here I am... alive… still making progress … still not perfect … finding a new way forward in a growing community of women and men who share a lot in common around food and life.

I hope you'll join me in this kitchen and let me know what's cooking with you.

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“How do you not eat??”

tea time

 

I’ve gotten this question before. “How do you not eat??”

I know where it’s coming from. Before I found 12-Step Recovery, before I understood that I was a food addict, when it used to cross my mind to eat, in those rare moments when there was enough of a pause to consider the thought, it felt like if I didn’t eat I could die! No joke.

So, how was I finally able to not eat beyond my weighed and measured meals? Here were some of the tools I used. In the beginning I used them every day. Gradually, they became less and less necessary. But life happens, and since my habitual reaction to life is to eat, these tools still come in handy.

Ask G-d for help.

Say, “Thank you, G-d, that’s not my food.” And I used to say, “That’s heroin to me.” And, when catching a glimpse of a decorated sugar/flour product, “What a pretty art project.”

Check for HALT – Hungry-Angry-Lonely-Tired

Make a phone call to another food addict.

Have a hot drink and a moment of stillness.

Go for a walk.

Jump up and down three times.

Breathe deeply.

Remember that what I do today, I will most likely do tomorrow.

Think, if not today, then when?

Remember, it’s just for today.

A round of yoga sun salutations.

Make a gratitude list.

Play the movie out to the end:

The movie called “Taking the Bite” ends with going to bed miserable… waking up unhappy and in a fog… a headache and a queazy stomach from even a small amount of flour and sugar… gaining weight… struggling with cravings for days after even just one bite… disappointment in myself for not matching my actions to my intentions… fear, doubt, and insecurity… physical, mental and spiritual disconnection.

The movie called “NOT Taking the Bite” ends with a strengthened sense of safety, faith, integrity, and confidence… feeling healthy, happy, joyous and free… peace and serenity… being of service… interest in others… clarity… enhanced intuition… understanding how to handle difficult situations… a closer to connection to Deeper Wisdom and True Compassion… dwelling in Beauty.

Thank you to all those food addicts in recovery for leading the way! I’m not perfect, but, thanks to you, I’m making progress.

Love & Light,

Valerie

 Image: Stefano Faravelli (Italian illustrator, b. 1959) – “Cerimonia del thè” (Tea ceremony)

 

I’m a bit mental today

mind - brain

We say that Recovery from food addiction is three-fold — physical, mental and spiritual.

My mind is on the mental part today.

For me, thinking makes it so. I have at various times been imprisoned by my own thinking and, at other times, been liberated by my thinking.

I’ve found that thinking of certain stories — that I am a food addict… that part of me must die in order for the rest of me to thrive… that part of me must be filled or healed before I can be well — has sometimes helped me to make progress and sometimes not.

This is the story that helps me today. This is the story that I learned as a child from my father. As he used to remark, “When the Buddha said that life was suffering, he wasn’t whistling Dixie.”

What I have come to learn since then is that there is a way out of suffering.

The Four Noble Truths

  1. There is suffering — sometimes translated as dissatisfaction.
  2. The cause of suffering is craving and clinging to what is pleasurable; and aversion to and avoiding discomfort.
  3. The way out of suffering comes about when we put an end to craving and clinging and aversion and avoiding.
  4. The way to put an end to craving and clinging and aversion and avoiding, is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

Full disclosure. 1) I’m a comfort seeking missile! 2) Not only that, but, once the pleasure it over, I tend to steep myself in suffering longer than necessary. 3) I want things to be different. A triple whammy. All human. All universal. Just not necessary.

Here’s the Path that the Buddha offered as the Way out of clinging to pleasure, avoiding discomfort, wanting things to be different, and living with suffering.

The Eightfold Path

1. Right view – What view will put an end to craving, clinging and avoidance?
2. Right intention – What intention will liberate me from suffering?
3. Right speech – What can I say to myself and others?
4. Right action – What action shall I take?
5. Right livelihood – What way do I want to live?
6. Right effort – What effort do I need to make today?
7. Right mindfulness – What can I do to keep mindful?
8. Right concentration – What can I do to concentrate on the path of liberation from suffering?

The Way, the Path to Liberation — also known as Recovery, is step by step. It requires practice, wisdom, honesty, concentration and knowledge.

Hmmmm… Four Noble Truths plus the Eightfold Path equals Twelve! For me, the Twelve Steps could answer every question 1 – 8!

I’m grateful know about the solution and to be working the Steps.

Love & Light,

Valerie

By love alone

 

Emerge by Valerie Theberge

 

I keep learning! I have a lot to learn!

Sponsoring in my 12-step program for food addiction continues to unfold as a great learning experience.

Day after day, I’m learning from my sponsees, especially how to love the one I’m with.

Guilt trips, shaming, criticism, contempt, demeaning, dismissing, accusing, disrespect, and humiliation don’t work. I knew that! Whenever I’ve felt that coming towards me from another person, of course, I could tell that it didn’t work. Taking the wind out of my sails never helped me to see where I could grow in humility, with insight. It just left me confused, miserable, sad, angry and weak.

I just didn’t realize that I was doing those things… in subtle ways… to other people, especially those closest to me.

Most of the time, I hope, I’ve been careful with sponsees and others I’ve worked with in the past. It’s been very clear to me, that if I show contempt to a sponsee, a client or a coworker, it looks like disgust and it’s very hard to recover that person’s respect. And, as Seth Godin says, “Contempt is contagious.” Someone on the receiving end is more likely to turn around and show contempt to the next person.

Sometimes contempt towards a sponsee is subtle. It can sound like, “Why did you do that? Why aren’t you doing your tools? If you don’t do it my way then I can’t be your sponsor. Your food is up to me. I decide, not you. That’s a break!”

It’s good for me to remember that, if I have contempt, it is caused by my own fear, ignorance and delusion — not by the other person. One way for me to avoid showing contempt is to look for Love and Light… Recovery… to be love.

Love can sound like, “I’m interested. Would you like to tell me more about it? What’s been helping? What feels like it’s missing? That must be hard. I’m here for you. I really appreciate your honesty. No need to ask me for permission. Instead, you could let me know what you are considering and I could let you know what I’m hearing you say. I trust your inner wisdom. I’m happy to listen as you talk through what feels like wisdom and Recovery and what feels like our cunning, baffling disease. I can also share my own experience, just in case you might want to avoid making the mistakes that I made.”

In my home life, love can look like me calling for silence and stepping away, for the moment, from the conversation… until I can come back with kindness, holding up a mirror that reflects the positive aspects of the other person.

I’m very grateful to Program and to my sponsees for helping me to grow more loving. When I am more loving, I am more happy, joyous and free.

I need to keep listening to myself when I’m in a difficult conversation. What sounds like contempt? What sound like Recovery? What sounds like love?

By love alone our relationships grow richer and deeper, with peace and serenity.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my fear, ignorance and delusion, I apologize. I’m making my best effort to notice the negative urge as it arises, to pause, and take a different course. When I repeat my mistake, as I most likely will I’m sorry to say, I’ll make my best effort to notice it, make amends, and try, try again to choose love.

Love & Light,

Valerie

Image: Emerge II — mosaic by Valerie Theberge

Morning rhythm

Mom and Dad

 

Thanks to meditation teacher Susan Piver for the question, “What is your ideal morning routine?”

I’m happy to say that my ideal morning routine is my actual morning routine! See the P.S. below for more about it.

On this morning’s walk, more came to me about my morning routine and what I love about it. It’s the rhythm.

My father, Toby Tate, was a jazz musician, my mother, Myra Starkman Tate, is a classical musician. There was a strong emphasis in our home on rhythm, whether it was practicing music in tempo, eating three healthy meals at the same time every day, or cleaning the house once a week.

There was also chaos and confusion in our lives. My dad was predictably unpredictable in his rages. He self-medicated with alcohol, pot and other drugs… which didn’t seem to help as far as I could tell. Even so, I’m very grateful for the rhythm he gave us and for mellowing in his final years.

As a kid, music was a both balm and a source of tension for me.

Listening to my mother sing was transporting. It was glorious… and still is. It’s a gorgeous voice and her singing is filled with artistry.

Listening to my father play introduced me to mystery. Where did that music come from? He had some deep well of musical genius.

For me, practicing scales and learning technique felt plodding and painful at first. I would grimace every time I heard my dad shout from another room, “Slower!!”

My flute teacher, Carl Tucker. seemed to know that life was rough. I would come to my lesson, work a little on the assigned piece and then he would put it all away and we would sight-read Telemann duets. We would play… with feeling… and I could breathe again.

Over time, with repetition of the fundamentals, I began to see that nothing is ever the same, everything changes, there’s both simplicity and complexity in a single tone. I could invest a phrase with feeling. I could improvise within the rhythm. There was always room to play. Eventually, the music sang through me. I have learned again and again that there is joy and freedom in rhythm.

Pondering rhythm, I have Mozart and Charlie Parker, and Carl Tucker, and my dad Toby Tate of blessed memory with me today.

Love & Light,

Valerie

P.S. I love my mornings! Miranda-the-labradoodle wakes me with a nose bump at 5am on the dot. I wake, pee, brush my teeth, make one cup of coffee with 2 oz unsweetened soy milk, and then poop. I take the dog for a 20 minute walk, saying the Serenity Prayer as we leave the house, and then just walk and experience Nature. We see bunnies, deer, and our neighborhood fox family. I come home and take three 15-minute sponsee calls. (I’m in a 12-step program for food addiction.) Then I make breakfast for my husband and me. Every morning we each have 2 eggs, 3 oz beans, 6 oz cooked veg, 8 oz salad, and 1/2 oz oil. And so the day begins.