Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Healthy-habit hunting after ice-chewing pica

When you nurse a bad habit most your life, you don't expect to wake up one day and suddenly be obsession-free. 
But that's exactly what happened to my ice chewing habit.

One minute I was chugging back 176-plus ounces of crunchy "bliss".
The next, I wasn't.
In the good old days - roughly two weeks ago – I'd squeeze in a trip to the corner Speedway for two, towering cups of ice each morning before work.  

At lunchtime, I'd grab another couple of 44-ouncers, and if I was lucky, additional and final sustenance on my afternoon commute.
Home-made ice hasn't been an option in recent years -- I just couldn’t achieve the proper, soft-yet-crunchy texture. This means I knew exactly which restaurants/gas stations all over Macomb County featured the "soft" chewable varieties and which did not; who was willing to sell for a fair price, or even better, provide "free" to frequent flyers like myself. (FYI: Speedway gas stations always got two big thumbs up for location/availability, cube size, texture, and "price")
One of my earliest, ice-chewing memories is begging for the milky white crescents from my friend Josie's Italian kitchen back in the 3rd grade.


More recently, neither myself nor my hair stylist will forget the time pregnant me bought a huge, four-pound bag, to maw on throughout my appointment.
Then, one day this summer, seemingly out of the blue, it was like: "Ice? Yaaawwwn."
Now, if I think about it too long, my teethe start to sweat: "No! Please! Not again!" 
The game-changer? Finding a treatment for anemia that worked for me. When that happened, my ice craving, called a “pica” disappeared, along with those ungodly blood counts. 6.9 was a recent low. 12 is normal. 8 is transfusion territory.  
As an added bonus, now that my hemoglobin level has reached a more respectable level, I no longer see stars when I get out of bed in the morning, or feel like passing out five minutes into exercise. Or wear my winter coat while making dinner over a hot stove. (yes, that really happened, many, many times last winter.)
Sure, I still grind up a few refreshing chunks now and then for old time's sake.
But it's not the same.
And that's the problem.
I miss the mental and emotional break that chewing ice provided. 

Now, when I want a time-out, I’m not sure what to do or where to go.  Should I start to smoke? My husband would kick me out of the country. Besides, I hate smoking – and can’t afford it -- financially or otherwise.  
Gum-chewing is a possibility. Not sure about the satisfaction levels though.
What about letter-writing? I have some wonderful friends and family members out-of-state with whom catching up with would be a treat.
Often when I ask myself deep, spiritual questions like this, hee hee, the answer is "yoga." But I've already increased my practice to three times a week. Besides, I’m not sure the executive editor would appreciate my doing headstands in the newsroom. Or in my car.  

Eventually I'd like to start running again, but I’ll wait for a clean bill of health – gulp! -- before I tie on that tennis shoe.
Since I've been feeling better, I have been putting a bit more time into tidiness – my desk, my house, my yard, are somewhat improved -- but who am I kidding? I'm no housekeeper. My mother and husband will attest to that. 
Recipe hunting and cooking are past-times I can definitely sink my teeth in. I’ve already started experimenting with chicken pot pie, tomato basil soup, lentils with caramelized onions, banana cream pudding and several fruit smoothie varieties.
But if I continue on this trajectory, I will need to add another healthy habit to my life: Weight Watchers.  
Former smokers, over-eaters, nail-biters -- and ice chewers: Which healthy habits have you embraced in the wake of your “recovery”?
Is there life after addiction?
And if so, what does it look like?
This inquiring mind wants to know.