When we moved into our tiny home, William was unpacking boxes with a camping knife. I was trying to figure out how to work the new washer and dryer that came without LED control panels.
“Will you be here tomorrow afternoon,” William asked me.
“Why?” He never asks me scheduling questions. “You’re having an affair, aren’t you….” I was convinced.
“What?! No…no, I ordered a smoker. Delivery is tomorrow.” He said.
Come to find out, he ordered a smoker the size of a miniature submarine. It is handmade of metal with a lifetime guarantee. If there was ever a hurricane warning, I would lift the main smoker compartment and get in to wait out the storm. It is absolutely ridiculous.
A week after it was delivered, Renee from Black Sheep Tea came to deliver an order. Renee has always had this energy about her that makes me comfortable. I took her to the backyard and showed her the demon smoker taking up half our backyard.
“Look what he did,” I pointed. “I can’t get him off meat.” I was secretly wanting a sister gossip session.
Renee Tucked a piece of her highlighted bangs behind an ear. “It is unprocessed trauma, so the liver craves meat.” She smiled. “Eric was the same. We are vegan now.”
“What did you do?” I needed to hear her story.
“Let your gut lead instead of your fear,” Renee said.
Renee grew up around dinners of casserole cooking, with blanched vegetables and animal meat. The 80’s belief system: low fat, processed foods like Campbell’s Soup, and chicken breasts the size of the Superbowl trophy.
Her husband Eric was raised with a similar diet. In 2013 Eric was also dealing with the loss of his mother, who died of cancer, when his doctor told him he had a severe bacterial infection throughout his body, and his blood had numbers displaying an early sign of liver cancer. The doctor immediately wanted to start Eric on a harsh regime of medication.
From her education and experience, Renee knew that every thought and substance has a reaction in the body. Eric was putting things into his body that were all highly acidic. His body was out of balance, and there was also fear being driven into him by his doctors. “I’ve got to get this guy thinking he isn’t going to die,” Renee remembers.
“Can you trust me?” Renee asked Eric.
“Always.” He said.
“We have time to try diet first.”
And they did. Already an apprentice of Chinese medicine, and health coach, she eliminated alcohol, animal protein, fat, dairy, and processed foods from their diet.
What happened when Renee and Eric took back control, is that balance started to become restored. Within just days, Eric’s skin cleared--it reverted back to a milky pink with freckles framing his cheeks--like she remembered him to look when they first started dating. His lips and eyebrows stopped peeling.
The battle for them mentally, though, was the sudden elimination of all the foods and habits they had relied on. The first week without meat Renee recalls feeling lost and bitter. Everything seemed hard. And if you think about it, all the comforts they relied on were gone.
Eric didn’t have the enzymes to process a steak, bacon, or beer. And Renee was thrown into this new lifestyle that went against the truths about food she grew up on. I am so tired; I don’t know how to do this. Renee told herself after the fourth day.
But after the fifth day, she could feel it all lifting: her personal addictions to food, the heaviness, hopelessness. And something else crept in, a feeling of joy. Realizing that she and Eric liked grilled artichoke better than grilled ribs. And as meat left her life, these beautiful vegetables came into it from her local farmers. Instead of craving roasted chicken, she was racing home after work for skillet cooked bok choy.
“It suddenly made sense to me then why beer and wings go together.”
More changes happened. They lost a lot of friends who they were connected to through meals and alcohol. Most just stopped calling to invite them to after-work parties. However, the friends they were authentically connected to not only stayed, but those relationships became stronger.
Eric and Renee’s relationship has become stronger, too. Whereas before they had escapisms to ease hard feelings, now they just process them in their rawest form.
As they love to hike, paddleboard, and golf together, Eric found an appreciation for these things with his wife in a new way. Back in 2013 he would have some beers with these activities. He told Renee, “I was never really even there.”
Eric saying this meant something bigger for Renee. There is so much to be said for being present. And now she thinks back on all the times she ate eggs for breakfast, because that’s what we are told our bodies need, when she never even liked eggs; was never present for those moments of disconnect. But now, she is.
“The gifts this journey gave us are far more powerful than the fear we had in that moment when they told us that he wasn’t well.”
After Renee told me her story, it’s simply hard to not be touched by the depressingly beautiful truths she and Eric have learned. Then I stood back and looked at William’s factory-plant sized smoker and realized how harshly I had faulted him for his food addictions, and why he has them, when I haven’t even begun to look at my own.
I confessed to Renee, “I hide things like sour patch kids and hostess cakes around my tiny home.” Looking at why I do this, I grew up under a very strict food diet. We weren’t allowed food coloring. So now as an adult, it is a battle for me to not buy things like Frozen II themed Go-Gurt sticks.
Renee just laughed and understood. Her peaceful nature made me feel ok to start acknowledging my own pantry demons, and acknowledging that emotionally, my pumpkin-spice Little Debbie snack is the same size as the shamu whale smoker, just in different ways.
~Hannah King, Owner
ABC Provisions: feel good about what you're eating.