Where It All Started

It all started on March 16, 2018. On that day I made the choice to end the life of my most faithful companion of 12.5 years. I thought I was ready for it, but nothing could have been further from the truth. That’s the day everything started to fall apart.

To put this in perspective, you would need to know a little about the relationship I had with my dog. When I first got him he was 1.5 years old. The first two days I left him alone while I was at work, he completely destroyed my apartment. I tried crating, but not a chance of that happening. He would bite on the crate and ended up breaking a tooth and having to have it removed. In my eyes, this was severe separation anxiety. In hindsight, I was probably wrong. I just didn’t know how to properly introduce him into my life.

I decided to board him during the day so he wasn’t bored and had other dogs to play with. Well, my dog didn’t like to play, he was very much a loner like me. He would just sit and watch the other dogs; he was so regal, like the King watching over his subjects. I guess that’s what drew me to him initially. He was a proud dog and being under the “care” of a human didn’t seem to be something he was too excited about. But boarding him became expensive and challenging, as every day when I picked him up he would vomit bile before we got to the car. I knew something had to change. Fortunately it worked out I was able to bring him to work with me. Everyone loved him and he soon became the company mascot. Along the way I also became aware of how difficult it was to do simple things like run to the grocery store. I live in the desert and I can’t always take him with me in the car as it’s too hot. So I started to change my lifestyle to accommodate these issues by doing things in the early morning or late evenings, so he could wait for me on the front seat until I returned.

Before long I was stuck in this lifestyle of never leaving my dog alone. He went everywhere with me. Everything I did, his needs came first. Something inside me wouldn’t let me leave him alone and this affected my social and everyday life enormously over the course of the 12.5 years I had him. This was not a healthy relationship, I knew that, but I couldn’t help myself. We had a bond like no other. It was me and him against the world and we were okay with that, until the day I lost him and everything I did reminded me of him. Everywhere I looked, everything I thought about, every memory I had was with him. Now he was gone and I was alone. And I cried, a lot.

Losing my best friend was more than I was able to handle. I’d never dealt with loss like this before. I didn’t know how to handle it. I was alone and nothing anyone said could make me accept the fact I made that choice and how wrong everything was in the end. Nothing was as it should have been. It all happened so fast.

So one month after his passing I crashed hard and ended up in the doctor’s office. I hadn’t been to a doctor in 20+ years and for me to go to one should pretty much sum up how bad things were for me. I saw no reason to go on. I no longer had a viable reason to live. I had no life of any kind. I had to see a doctor or I was going to die. To compound things, I had lived with acid reflux for several years, but the last few months I couldn’t drink water without coughing. I thought I was eating a pretty healthy diet for the most part, but Omeprazole and Tums just weren’t working anymore. Physically everything seemed like it was giving out, like I was slowly dying.

All sorts of tests later I ended up getting a 25mm polyp removed from my colon and was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus. I also had high blood pressure and my cholesterol levels were both bad. I was told I was pre-diabetic, as an added bonus. I was prescribed to take daily, one baby aspirin, one statin and one 40mg Omeprazole. The doctor put me on the Dash diet. The specialist put me on the Low-FODMAP diet. I combined the two diets and took my pills.

It wasn’t long before I felt better, physically. I attacked my dietary needs, cleaned out all the bad foods, and discovered what foods ailed me. I realized I hadn’t taken a single antacid since changing my diet to a low salt, Low-FODMAP diet. I stopped taking the statins and baby aspirin 3 months into it. I’ve always been a “food is medicine” person and taking pills is something I did not want to do. I kept taking the 40mg Omeprazole because to my understanding Barrett’s was lifelong and taking those med’s was just part of life now. I felt I was on the right track physically.

Emotionally though, nothing had changed. It wouldn’t for the next several months. It took me eight full months of crying every single day, some days were really bad, before it finally started to end. At eight months I broke down to my best friend and that seemed to be what I needed. I still get teary eyed when I think of him in those last moments, but I can now control it a bit better and it doesn’t sweep over me like it used to, engulfing me in sadness. I’m starting to accept the fact I’m alone in this world and that will probably not change anytime soon.

As I went through all this I realized how little I knew about healthy eating and how much of an effect it had on every part of my life. I read book after book to try to understand food and nutrition and how they related to my body healing itself. Every book I read contradicted the last book I read. I mostly stuck to a Paleo diet, with a few exceptions.

And that’s when I decided to write this. I have very little in life that gives me a reason to continue to the next day. I know that sounds pretty sad and I guess it is, but understanding the consequences of what I put in my mouth and learning to cook healthy food has become a passion for me, something I very much needed in my life. Healthy eating is all I have now. Everything I do is about food, nutrition and how to heal myself.

I’m now completely off all med’s and I feel pretty good. No reflux. In eight months I went from a 35 waist to a 31 waist, which is what I was when I was in my early 20’s. I no longer have that roll in my belly and I’ve reached the last hole on my belt.

Riley was my life and I think of him every day. The Paleo diet saved my life, and I expect to eat this way for the rest of my life.