Taming Your Inner Cookie Monster

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food” – George Bernard Shaw

Just like “Gibbs’ Rules” on NCIS, Dr. Beasley too, had rules for his team. The first one was “As an author never favor one of your books over another”. Well, that one has always been a problem for me, as of all the books I wrote with Dr. Beasley, “Food For Recovery” was and always will be my favorite.

The reason is simple, I love food. I love the sight of food, the smell of food, and the taste of food. I am a “foodie” and left on my own, I have not always made the best choices. When did this love affair start you ask? Many years ago my parents would say when I was introduced to my first arrowroot cookie. My love for these cookies were so great that as a toddler I went on a hunger strike and refused to eat anything but arrowroot cookies. Fearing I would starve to death, my parents along with my pediatrician let me eat just arrowroot cookies until I was so bored with my new diet that I was willing to eat real food again. Yes, I had an inner “cookie monster”.

Later in adulthood while pregnant with my first child, I was advised to “eat for two” which I gladly did while gaining 75 pounds. Imagine my surprise when my precious baby was born and I was left with 60 pounds to loose. You see when I was happy, I ate to celebrate. When I was sad, I ate for comfort. When I was bored, I ate to past the time. When I was worried or stressed, I ate to calm myself. And when I was not eating I was focused on food, thinking about new recipes to make, making a shopping list, or shopping for food. I was happiest in the supermarket shopping for food or in the kitchen cooking and/or baking followed by my most favorite thing, eating what I made.

So when Dr. Beasley asked me to read his manuscript for his new book, “Food For Recovery” (the 1st Edition) – he didn’t have to ask twice. I gladly tried each and every recipe, yes all 127 whole food recipes as it soon became my favorite cookbook. Then I read it from cover to cover and started to incorporate its principals into my personal life. What I discovered was that gradually my relationship with food changed as I learnt more about nutrition and how to put this knowledge into practice. I made small changes at first but as I ate better, I felt better and those small changes became bigger ones and as a result my relationship with food changed.

Later after I graduated from college, I used “Food for Recovery” as my “playbook” while health coaching clients at Dr. Beasley’s clinic and I got to see first hand how life changing this book could be when used as a nutritional companion to those recovering from alcoholism, drug addiction and/or eating disorders. 

Although the transition was sometimes difficult for some clients, everyone of these men and women found that once they had enjoyed the tremendous benefits and “natural high” of a good nutrition program it was almost impossible to go back to their old eating habits. In the words of one client: “I had a Twinkie the other day, just for old’s time sake and couldn’t even finish the first bite. I can’t believe I ate that stuff. What was I thinking of?”

Can reading one book really change your life? Yes, if you use the knowledge gained from that book and put it into practice. Education is power. The goal is to use that knowledge to educate the mind and then turn it into action to empower your body. What you will find is simple everyday actions will result in healthy changes in your life. Remember change is a process not an event and action changes things. So the little actions you take each day will change your life in big ways. For example, as you eat better, you will feel better and your spirit will be renewed as a result. 

When individuals in recovery follow the dietary guidelines along with the healthy lifestyle changes that are recommended in “Food For Recovery”, recovering individuals can begin to enjoy the natural high of a healthy sobriety. Many of these individuals reported that after making these changes they experienced less mood swings, improved ability to sleep and stay asleep, less daytime fatigue, reduced cravings, and better general health with the end result being a reduction in relapse rates as they continued to work their recovery program.

Why is “Food For Recovery” my favorite of all the books that I have written? Because while I am still happiest in the supermarket shopping for food or in the kitchen cooking and/or baking, I am now making better food choices. I am cooking healthier and I have learnt to make healthy swaps when I am baking. While I still love food, my relationship with it has been changed and now I eat mindfully, using food to achieve my optimum health in recovery. I truly believe that these changes would not had happened if Dr. Beasley and “Food For Recovery” had not entered my life. And yes while I still love cookies, now I can eat just one cookie instead of a whole box as my “inner cookie monster” has been tamed.

Do you have an “inner cookie monster” that you need to tame? Let me know under comments or connect with me at Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

The Symphony Of Nutrition

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You Can Trace Every Sickness, Every Disease, And Every Aliment To A Nutrient Deficiency.” – Dr. Linus Pauling

According to the Random House College Dictionary, food is “any nourishing substance that is taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. Nutrients on the other hand, are chemicals within foods that our bodies use to conduct the myriad biochemical reactions of life. From the killer cells of the immune system to the most delicate reproductive cell, every fiber of our being depends on the presence and balance of nutrients within the body.

Nutrients In Food Work As A Team

In the body, nutrients function like an orchestra. In order for a symphony to reach its full expression, all the instruments must perform together. Similarly, in symphony of human biochemistry, nutrients always act in concert.

If you were attending a symphony and the entire string section went on strike, you would certainly notice the difference. If however, only one violinist chose to walk out you might not consciously notice the difference in sound, but something would be missing.

To take it a few steps further, any nutrient deficiency, no matter how small, is going to have a very wide impact. Like a snowball rolling downhill, a seemingly insignificant nutrient deficiency can grow to enormous significance as its effect spread through the nutritional system.

From a recovery perspective, the thing to remember is that the nutrients in food work as a team, and that it is crucial to your body’s health to have all the team members present at all times. This means looking beyond the mere appearance or amount of food and considering its contents.

Being Well Fed vs. Well Nourished

The degree to which a given food is “nourishing” depends on the number and proportion of nutrients it contains. Food, like gasoline, can be either high or low octane. The more nutrients a food contains, the better its ability to sustain life, provide energy, and promote growth.

In these days of ready-to-eat meals, few of us think about where our food comes from, or what it contains, or what it can do. It’s easier to just put something into our stomachs to stop pesky hunger pangs or nagging cravings than to think about what our bodies are going to do with the food once it’s in there.

But there is a big difference between being well fed (having enough food to fill your stomach) and being well nourished (having the right food to fill your nutritional needs). If you ate a box of cornstarch you might feel full (and a little nauseated), but you certainly wouldn’t be nourished. Even very overweight individuals, who seem to have too much nutrition, are critically malnourished as they are consuming the wrong balance of nutrients in the wrong amounts.

Good nutrition encompasses not only the foods we eat, but every aspect of the way we live our lives. It is affected by anything that affects our bodies, including our emotions, our relationships, and the stresses we encounter in day-to-day life. It depends not only on foods, but on our bodies’ ability to digest, distribute, use, and store the nutrients contained in those foods. Anything that interferes with the body’s ability to carry out these tasks is going to interfere with nutrition.

Using The Principles of Nutrition For Recovery

Addictions, eating disorders, emotional stress, and many other disorders addressed in recovery interfere with almost every aspect of the body’s ability to carry out its nutritional tasks. Add to this fact the harsh reality of what most of us are eating, and it’s small wonder so many of us in recovery begin our journey as nutritional disasters. If it can be done wrong, nutritionally, most of us have been doing it.

If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell.The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body’s needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process.

In order for you to begin “eating for recovery”, it is important to understand what addiction has done to your body and what proper nutrition can do to help you recoup your losses. And in order to do that, you must have at least a basic groundwork in the principles of nutrition and by reading this blog you are one step closer to that goal.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

Soup is Good for Your Soul and Recovery Too, Part Two

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Soup is not only a great food for the early part of recovery when the body’s fluid balance may be depleted and the gastrointestinal tract is often impaired but soup is also a great food to be added to all stages of our recovery journey. Soups, be they hot or cold, are an easy way to obtain needed nutrients without stressing the digestive tract or spending lots of time in the kitchen.

Another benefit of soup in our recovery is that soup is a comfort food and comfort foods bring up associations of positive times and relationships in our life and helps us feel less lonely. Some other comfort foods that we often think of are mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and the wonderful warm chocolate chip cookie. These comfort foods not only fill our bellies but also our need to belong, as reported in a recent study.

Grandmothers and Mothers around the world have had their own version of comforting and healing soups. Think the Jewish Chicken Matzo Ball Soup, the Japanese Dashi, the Scotch Broth, the Vietnamese Pho’, the Spanish Gazpacho, the Hungarian Goulash, the Creole Gumbo, the New England Clam Chowder, and the Finnish Karelian Borscht to name a few.

But the special power of soup goes beyond the need for comfort food for those of us in recovery. Soup also provides us with the chance to add more fiber, vegetables, grains and other nutrient dense superfoods to our diet. And a study done twenty-five years ago by Dr. Stephen Rennard, M.D., who brought his own grandmother’s soup to the lab and studied it; discovered that chicken soup does actually help us to fight off a cold. Researchers believed that the individual components of the broth, chicken, and vegetables together had an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies which is a positive thing in our recovery process.

In my last blog, I shared three great stock recipes from our book, “Food For Recovery” that you can add to your favorite soup recipes. In this blog, I want to share one of my favorite recipes that will not only be good for your recovery, but be a great addition to your holiday table too.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is buttery but dairy-free. Squash soup has been popular for generations in South America. It’s a great source of vitamin A and potassium, as well as vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. 

Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 large carrots, diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 to 8 cups stock (see previous recipes) or water

2 red bell peppers, seeded and minced

  1. In a large stockpot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes, then add the bay leaf, cumin, and oregano and stir to combine flavors.
  1. Add the carrots, potatoes, squash, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, 1 hour.
  1. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in small batches in a food processor or blender. Sprinkle the top with minced red peppers and serve.

 

 

Soup is Good for Your Soul and Your Recovery Too, Part One

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Soup is a great food for the early part of recovery, when the body’s fluid balance may be depleted and the gastrointestinal tract is often impaired. Soups, be they hot or cold, are an easy way to obtain needed nutrients without stressing the digestive tract or spending lots of time in the kitchen. If you are using organic vegetables, you will get maximum nutritional benefit if you don’t peel them.

Stocks and broths are made by simmering vegetables and/or leftover bones; and are the basis for most soups. While not always essential (the bones), they add a depth of flavor and nutrients that water can’t supply on its own.

Making a stock can be as simple as throwing some greens and bones into a pot or as complex as spending hours roasting and sautéing individual stock ingredients. Prepared stocks are often high in sodium and additives and relatively low in nutrients, so take the time to make your own. We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from the top to allow for expansion) for later use.

The best stocks start with leftovers—the trimmings of raw organic vegetables, leftover cooked vegetables, and the bones of fish, chicken, or meats. Almost any vegetable will work in stock (but keep in mind that cabbage and broccoli have a strong flavor that can overwhelm the stock and soup made with it).  Bones and cooked vegetables can be stored in the freezer until you’re ready to make stock, while raw vegetable trimmings will keep for up to a week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. We also recommend adding a piece of sea vegetable such as kombu or wakame to stocks to boost their mineral content.

The following recipes will get you started, but remember, some of the best soups are created from a few leftover vegetables, an herb or two, and a bit of water or stock.

Below you will find some basic stock recipes that you can add to your favorite soup, stew, or grain recipes. I have included a Dashi (mushroom) clear stock for healing, a Vegetable Stock, and a Chicken and/or Turkey Stock (think Thanksgiving leftovers). And in the next blog I will share some of my favorite soup recipes using some of the best foods for recovery.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

 

Quick Super Stock

This soothing soup stock has been a favorite medicinal preparation for the Japanese for thousands of years. Alone it’s perfect for the early stages of recovery when simple broths are gentle to the digestive system.

The resulting broth is a clear stock called a dashi. Add tofu squares, scallions, thinly sliced carrots, and daikon radish for a light soothing soup. A small amount of alcohol-free soy sauce can be used instead of salt to flavor the broth.

Makes 1 ½ quarts

2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

1 ½ quarts water

1 three-inch piece kombu or kelp (See Chapter 12)

 

  1. Rinse the mushrooms and cover with the water in a small bowl for 4 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and cut off the stems. Slice the mushroom tops and return to the water.
  2. Remove any sand from the kombu by brushing it off. Do not rinse, as the white powder on the surface, which is high in minerals, would be rinsed away.
  3. Combine the water, mushrooms, and kombu in a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

 

Note: Kombu comes in dark green, thick strips. It has a wonderful hearty flavor, making it great for stocks. Kombu imparts an almost beefy flavor when added to beans (a 3-ounce piece per pot), and it also makes the beans easier to digest. Kombu is high in iodine, B vitamins, iron, and amino acids.

Note: Wakame or Kelp is a brown leafy sea vegetable that has a pleasant, mild flavor. It is rich in calcium and B and C vitamins. Wakame is used in soups, stews, grains, and beans. It can be baked and sprinkled on cooked grains or land vegetables. It is a good sea vegetable for the novice because of its mild flavor. When cooked, wakame turns a lovely green color.

 

Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock is the queen of stocks. Cooks worldwide use stocks to enrich the flavor of soups and sauces. Moreover, this vegetable stock increases the nutritional value of any dish it’s added to. Try using this stock to cook grains in as well.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, preferably canola or olive

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 cups raw vegetables (do not use broccoli or cabbage)

3 sprigs parsley or 2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 whole cloves

2 garlic cloves (optional)

2 quarts water

1 3-inch piece kombu (See Above Note)

 

  1. Rinse and peel all nonorganic vegetables. Rinse the organic produce.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil. Quickly add the onion and cook until light brown, stirring occasionally. Add the remainder of the ingredients except the kombu and cover. Cook 10 minutes on low heat.
  3. Cover with the 2 quarts of water, add the kombu, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Strain the stock and use immediately or refrigerate for future use. If a more intense flavor is desired, return strained stock to stove and reduce the liquid by half.

 

Note: We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or a BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from top to allow for expansion) for later use.

 

Chicken or Turkey Stock

Chicken or turkey stock is the base for many soups and sauces. It can also be served with brown rice for a soothing simple soup. Use all leftover parts of a chicken or turkey except the skin, which is high in fat.

Makes about 1 ½ quarts

1 chicken or turkey carcass (or 3-4 pounds chicken pieces)

1 large onion, quartered

2 carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

2 sprigs fresh parsley

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 whole cloves

2 fresh peppercorns or a pinch of freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or vinegar (see Note)

2 garlic cloves (optional)

2 quarts water

 

  1. Put all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover with the 2 quarts of cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer 2 hours. Strain and use immediately or refrigerate. When using refrigerated stock, spoon off any waxy (fat) top layer before proceeding.

 

Note: The lemon juice or vinegar helps to extract more calcium from the chicken or turkey bones.

Note: We recommend making large batches of stock and keeping it on hand in several containers in the freezer, using a glass or BPA free plastic container (fill your containers only ¾ full or 2 inches from top to allow for expansion) for later use.

 

 

From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, CHC, Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Recovery And The Three Legged Stool

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“To Keep The Body in Good Health Is A Duty. Otherwise We Shall Not Be Able To Keep Our Mind Strong And Clear.” – Buddha

Recovery from any illness involves the body, the mind, and the spirit. Together, these elements make up who we are, and true healing includes all these aspects of the self. Like a three-legged stool, recovery cannot stay upright and balanced unless all three “legs” are equally strong.

In many recovering individuals, the “body” leg of recovery is weak, damaged, or missing altogether. Instead of enjoying the natural high of a healthy sobriety, these individuals teeter on the brink of relapse, battling mood swings, fatigue, cravings, insomnia, and general ill health even as they “work the program”. This happens not because these individuals are uncommitted to their recovery, but because they (and often the people treating them) have made the fundamental mistake of underestimating the “body” part of their recovery.

In recovery, the triad of body-mind-spirit is interdependent. Neglect one aspect, and the other two will also suffer. In pursuing the goal of mind and spirit, all too many of us neglect or actively abuse the body- consuming caffeine by the quart, smoking cigarettes by the carton, and eating junk foods on a regular basis. All of this abuse has a definite impact on the mind and the spirit. For many of us our eating habits are not a symptom of our depression and fatigue, they are the cause.

If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell. The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body’s needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process. Only from such a foundation can any of us hope to reach our full spiritual and mental growth.

Only when recovery is a complete physical and spiritual regeneration can the seeds of recovery blossom into the vibrant beauty of a restored body, mind, and spirit. I know this from personal experience, from the experience of the clients I have coached, and from hard scientific evidence of the biological impacts of addictions and eating disorders.

With this in mind, I hope everyone reading this blog, recovering and otherwise who want to take up the reins and begin the fulfilling journey to a recovered body, mind, and spirit; enjoys the adventure as much as I have.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

 

From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, CHC, Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Sandwiches Aren’t Just For Lunch

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A recipe for a sandwich may seem like a contradiction. After all, sandwiches are probably the greatest of culinary improvisations—the first convenience food, the perfect carryall. Two pieces of bread with something tasty tucked in the center can be a complete meal in minutes (or less).

Sandwiches can be made from whole-grain breads, rolls, pitas, tortillas or flat breads. Can’t have gluten? No problem, as today there are many gluten-free bread options to choose from. For spreads, try homemade salad dressing, soy mayonnaise, chutneys, salsas, creamy tahini, or nut butters. Stuff sandwiches with combinations of wholefoods. Imagination is your best guide when making a sandwich.

And the humble sandwich is not just for lunch, you can make a hearty recovery sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Combine a sandwich with a bowl of soup and a side salad and you have a hearty, yet fast meal that can be made in 15 minutes or less, for those nights when you need to run out the door to go to a meeting.

But if you don’t have time to make soup, stock up on healthy canned or frozen soups. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but with a little research and some reading of labels, you can find healthy convenience foods for those busy nights. Another tip is when you do make soup, always freeze some for a busy night. In recovery, we need to try to cook once and eat twice. If we cook so we have leftovers, we can put them in the freezer so we won’t be tempted to eat fast food between work and a meeting as we will have our own healthy “fast foods” at home to eat.

You don’t know where to start? Think of what was your favorite sandwich and soup as a child. Was it grilled cheese and tomato soup? That’s a good place to start. Look for a tomato soup that’s organic or natural and is free of additives. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tabatchnick brands have great frozen soups that are lower in sodium and fairly unprocessed compared to other commercial soups.
  • If you are looking for canned soups, Here are some to look at: Campbells Yes! line has a great Tomato Carrot Bisque, Pacific Foods has an awesome Tomato Soup, Annie’s Homegrown has a very tasty Tomato Soup, Amy’s has a wonderful Cream of Tomato Soup, Imagine has a very good Tomato Cream Soup, or you can try Muir Glen’s wonderful Creamy Tomato Soup.
  • As you can see there are many options  available when you don’t have time to make your own soup. Always read the labels so you are familiar with the ingredients and to become aware of the serving sizes. Also, keep in mind that soup is higher in sodium than some foods and if you are sodium sensitive, canned soup may not be an option for you. As always avoid ingredients which you cannot tolerate (respect your food allergies/sensitivities).
  • Canned soups can be heated in the microwave but make sure to read the label for the heating directions. Tip: If you use a deep bowl (28 ounces is good) and cover the soup, you will avoid making a mess in the microwave.
  • When you have the time you can make a great adult version (that’s my name for it) of tomato soup using Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. Just substitute the fire roasted tomatoes in your favorite tomato soup recipe.

Sandwiches can be a great way to get lots of wholefoods into your diet. They can be served cold or warm and cooked on a cast iron pan or a panini pan, the options are endless. Below is my favorite recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich to get you started.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC

 

 

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Serve with your soup of choice (My favorites are tomato or butternut squash soups)

Serves: 1

2 slices whole grain bread (or gluten-free bread)

2 slices of cheese (Cheddar, Muenster, or Cheddar Jack are great. Feel free to use two different cheeses)

A butter/olive oil spread or soft butter and olive oil to taste (2 to 4 teaspoons)

 

1. Assemble the bread and cheese to make a sandwich and butter the outer side of the sandwich (only one side is necessary).

2. Heat the oil or butter/olive oil spread in a small skillet on medium heat. Place the sandwich in the skillet butter side down and either flatten the sandwich down with a heavy small pot or press down with the spatula to flatten.

3. Cook for two minutes over medium-low heat until lightly brown. You can lift the edge of a corner to take a look to see if the sandwich is done.

4. Flip the sandwich when done and repeat. Cook until lightly brown and the cheese is melted.

5. Serve with your favorite soup and a side salad. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

From: Food For Recovery 4th Edition: The Complete Nutritional Companion for Recovering from Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, and Eating Disorders

Copyright © 2018 by Mary P. Cheney, H.C., Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. and Susan Knightly

Voting Is Good For Your Health

IMG_0318“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King, Jr. – March 25, 1966

One of the first memories of my mother was her watching the March on Washington. When it came time for Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, she was fixated on his every word with tears rolling down her face.

I remember as a little girl asking, “What is wrong?” as I was very worried as my mother was crying. That is when for the first time my mother explained inequality, racism, and injustice. I remember being confused and asking, “But why?” And now, over 50 years later I am still confused and asking, “But Why?”

While I have seen many advances in the field of addictions and recovery over the last 25 years, it saddens me that there is still inequality and injustice in healthcare, especially in regards to addictions.

For example, while recent studies continue to support that “addiction can be defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease”, why is there still a stigma attached with the diagnosis of an addiction? This stigma and the resulting prejudice can be seen in not only the general population but also in service providers as stated by recent studies.

And while studies continue to show that the relapse rates for drug addiction are very similar to those of other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, why is relapse from drug addiction seen as a “failure of treatment” and not just treated with renewed intervention like we do with other chronic diseases with no label of ‘failure” attached?

And why do insurance companies expect people with addictions to be “fixed” after a short stay in rehab, refusing to pay for aftercare while paying for continued care for persons with other chronic, relapsing brain diseases?

And why when a person decides to seek treatment for their addiction, they can’t start treatment because there are no beds available at the facility, while there are beds available for rehabilitation for other chronic, relapsing brain diseases like multiple sclerosis?

And why is it when a person goes to jail for a drug arrest who is suffering from both a drug addiction and diabetes, that they receive treatment for their diabetes only while their disease of drug addiction is often left untreated? Why do we as a country then complain about the “revolving door” of drug arrests while being too blind to see that making drug treatment part of the prison healthcare system would help to break this cycle?

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream. My dream is to see all persons with addictions treated without stigma in our healthcare system just like those with other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that all persons who relapse will see their relapse as a learning experience and resume treatment without stigma. I have a dream that insurance companies will realize that not all of us can be “fixed” after one hospital visit & pay for continued care as needed just like they do for other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that every person seeking care will find treatment and/or a bed available without delay. I have a dream that every person in jail who suffers from addictions will have treatment available to them in the prison health care system. I have a dream that one day addictions will be viewed without stigma and everyone that seeks treatment from our health care system can do so as easily as seeking treatment for the common cold.

Now, how can I make this dream happen? I use my words to speak out. I advocate for those that don’t have a voice and I vote.

We can also help to change the world everyday by voting with our wallets, as every time we purchase or support an item or cause, we are voting for that item or cause. And while we can vote with our voices everyday by choosing kind words and actions over hate, we still need to vote at the booths to say no to injustice.

What are the issues you are voting for this Election Day? Is it for healthcare? Is it for sensible gun control? Is it to save the environment? Is it for prison reform? Is it to end poverty, homelessness, or hunger? Is it to fight racism and hate? Or are you like me, voting for all of the above? Vote your values, vote your causes, vote for the things that matter to you; whatever your politics are.

Why is a health coach telling you to vote? Because it’s good for your health as its empowering, as its only at the polls that each one of us has the same power. Don’t sit at home and complain about the state of our country, go out to vote and make the world better, one vote at a time. And its good for your health too!

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, CHC