Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 20, 2010

All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance: Steps Five, Six, and Seven

Abstinence from Compulsive Eating: 5 months, 6 days (157 days)

      Why am I putting together all three chapter steps from the AA 12&12 in this one post? Because I may have the opportunity to get through them today.

      I found someone to do my Fifth Step with this afternoon, and I am humbly grateful for it. Step Six and Seven, if I’m ready, can follow in fast succession, leading me to the long process of Step Eight–to prepare letters for everyone I have harmed (as long as it does not hurt others involved, which I have a handful which would) and surrender these apologies to them. Forgiveness may or may not come, but the point is that I am acknowledging my shortcomings to those people who were affected by them. In detail. And in doing that, I will be able to let them know I acknowledge what I have done (by my own choice and hand) to harm them.
      Back to Step Five, then!
      In the AA 12&12, Step Five is that first step toward real and complete humility outside of my addiction. The book states, “Few muddled attitudes have caused us more trouble than holding back on Step Five. Some people are unable to stay sober at all; others will relapse periodically until they really clean house. Even A.A. oldtimers, sober for years, often pay dearly for skimpiing this Step.”
      I get this completely. I have my laundry list of resentments and my contributions to them (which I added to last night). But it means nothing if I do not repeat the action in Step One, to admit completely that I have behaviors which I have suffered over. The symptom of this suffering is the compulsive overeating that plagued me since childhood. I could not find peace from these things until I released them into the Universe. And I can’t do that without having a child of the Universe hear and know me and still love me.
      The person who I asked is a really great person. This person made time for me (Thank you, HP, for putting willingness in both our hearts to make it happen) today, out of their schedule. This person is committed to OA and serves as meeting chair in the group we attend together. This person’s shares have always made me feel closer to them, and I really believe that this person has no reservations. I’ve shared my weakness at that very same table, and this person has consistently been open and considerate. This person has ears ready to hear, and I am humbly (yes, humbly!) grateful that I am blessed to be allowed to borrow them for seventeen pages of housecleaning.
      Though we’re meeting in a public place, I’m not too worried about it. I mean, it’s not like people didn’t see the effects of my addiction. I wore my resentments like a hairshirt and pointed out my martyrdom with a neon sign. “I am suffering and it’s your fault!” I practically shouted at the world on a daily basis. So if someone overhears my quiet confession, I am not bothered. Today is the day I get to move forward, to lift the burden from my back and discard it. The shackles I have worn from my time as my addiction’s slave are coming off today. Sure, the bruises and open wounds are still there, but they will heal. I will always wear my scars, but I will not wear them with pride (“I suffered more than you!”) or with shame (“How did I go so wrong in my life?”). I will keep my scars as a remembrance, and they will be just another part of me.
      So, on to Step Six of the AA 12&12.
      “Here their powerful instinct to live can cooperate fully with their Creator’s desire to give them a new life. For nature and God alike abhor suicide.” This passage in the chapter on Step Six hit me like a freight train. I was committing suicide one compulsive bite at a time. I wanted to live, but I had given up. I existed. I once went to a friend’s church, and her grandfather (who was the minister of this small congregation) said, “A rut is a grave with the ends kicked out.” I spent most of my life in that compulsive eating rut. In that grave with the ends kicked out, I was laying down with my white Calla lily on my chest waiting for the handful of dirt which symbolized that it would all be over soon.
      Walking into that first OA meeting, I had a sea of hands to guide me out. It was a slow walk out, but when I reached the top and saw where I had been, I started getting mad. I wanted to fight. This addiction had kicked my ass for years, and I had asked it to. I had chosen to. Yet . . . I could not choose NOT to! On my own power, there was no way I could beat it. I tried with national diet plans, exercise, and even simply starving myself with the help of some codeine cough syrup. I stressed myself out so I could use that to purge my binges once my second pregnancy had made it so I could nearly vomit on command. See, in both my pregnancies, by the fourth week the pregnancy nausea had me vomiting daily . . . until the last week or so of both overdue pregnancies. Two years of throwing up daily broke my gag reflex. And when I was facing a huge life crisis, the stress caused that same morning-sickness symptom. And I used it to lose weight. Oh, how I abused it.
      This Wednesday, I was given a moment of complete defeat. I had been focused on my physical recovery (as I’ve admitted before in this journal), and I had lost touch with my Higher Power because I was wearing my ego like a coat of many colors. Hell yeah, I was a success story! Whoopee! Almost 60 lbs recorded that I’d lost! I wasn’t obese, I was overweight! And, self-bless my perfection-chasing self-absorbed heart, I was taking credit for it all. Every character defect I could live was at the forefront. Superiority, perfectionism, procrastination, anger, martyrdom, envy, and even Queen Bee syndrome about men guided me. I was out of control, stirring up drama to “feel alive” and I was inside that damned rut again. Like a dog, I had circled the third time and was ready to lay down. And imperiously tell people to bring me that fucking Calla lily, because I was gonna do this bigger and better than before.
      I think on the movie, Dogma, where the angel talks about being separated from God. I felt separated from my Higher Power, and it distressed me. I couldn’t hear those messages, that lifegiving advice. Something in me was already changed, and I needed my HP back because that drama I was stirring up didn’t feel like living. It felt terrifying, like knowing a thunderstorm has arrived and I’m the tallest thing in the wet field that stretches out for miles in every direction. I felt separated from peace, from the traits I admire in other people (which I find comfort, not ego, in myself–weird, hunh?), from people themselves.
      The world moves in a great, grand circle, and one of the most raw childhood hurts I had was replayed on Wednesday night. Now, it was my addict eyes which saw it, and my addict heart which felt it and my addict mind which decided I was “Gonna Show Them!” and leave OA. And when I was alone with my Higher Power, I felt totally humble. Brought down. Physically driving the car but spiritually on my knees. Only me and my HP were in that car, and it was there. That drama which was only stirring up trouble didn’t make me feel alive. Those character defects I was reveling in only made me depressed and alone. I told my HP that I was ready to give it all over. And I meant it.
      Since Wednesday night, it has been a smooth slide into a serenity I have never known before. Sure, I have moments of passion, but they are not day-long or week-long resentments. The wax is out of my ears, and I am hearing it all (including Steve‘s loving comment from my Thursday entry which has made me decide to relax and wait-and-see with my sponsor while also finding another person to hear my Fourth Step). I am in learning mode again, from learning about my own addiction through my sponsee to learning new tips so some day I can move from a weights-and-measures plan to an intuitive eating plan (and be able to act as if I’m a normal eater). I feel the infiniteness of life and I feel the value of each second as it passes. I am a work in progress for the rest of my life, and that knowledge is so peaceful to have.
      Which brings me to the first real humility I have felt since I was a kid. And I thought it would suck, to be honest. It doesn’t, though. I feel like I can do anything one day at a time, but not in a self-aggrandizing way. I mean, I have that sense of comfort that I have my Higher Power all around me. I feel connected to a community vaster than just my OA group–I am connected to every person who struggled with the 12 Steps. I can find empathy and community with anyone who’s been in recovery. I am a part of something so much bigger, not all of it and not microscopic.
      In Step Six, I am not being asked to be perfect. After all, I am a human being. But recognizing my character defects is doing something to me. Like recognizing my eating compulsions and learning to cut them off at the pass to maintain abstinence, I realize that it was the process I needed to experience to be able to get here. It’s time for me to shine that bright light on my character defects–ones I have found nearly every OA member shares with me. I am not unique in my addiction, and that knowledge that I am no better or worse than any addict out there has given me peace.
      That’s completely counterintuitive to everything I believed in even twelve months ago! But it’s working. My proof is simply by living it. When I am humbled (and not in a bad way, but in a “released from bondage” way), I am free. Instead of being obsessed with getting food, I’m not worried about it. I literally don’t care about food in this exact moment, something I would be obsessing about twelve months ago. I would be thinking about what I had that “tasted good” and “felt good”, and honestly kicked on whatever rush of a high or food coma I could get myself into. I would range around trying to find what sated the spiritual vacuum in me. I dumped food in there and it never filled the void. Well, the program’s doing it. I have no idea how, but I feel it.
      Yes, I have real faith. It may not look like socially-recognized versions of faith, but I have it. Wordless, indescribable, and peaceful. And I want to maintain this because it inspires the better nature of humanity in me. In me! The addict who debased herself to get what she needed! The addict who risked self-loathing and shame in desperate hope someone would save her! And all it took was realizing, down to my core, that I am not happy when I eat a spiritual diet of my character defects. The humility allows me to take those instincts and practice their better aspects–just like I practice not eating when I’m not hungry, identifying my emotional triggers when I feel a binge twinge, and using actual common sense eating “tricks” when I do eat. I’m ready to be character-defect abstinent. Which means . . . Step Seven.
      In chapter seven of Step Seven, Bill W. addresses humility through our addict eyes and through a recovering person’s eyes. Humility is a liability to an addict, because it implies we bow and scrape before everything. No one wants to do that! I mean, humility is that hat-in-hand beggar’s life, right?
      Wrong. Bill W. writes: “We had lacked the perspective to see that character-building and spiritual values had to come first, and that material satisfactions were not the purpose of living.” So, to the recovering addict, it’s not about laying down and being trampled but building up by seeking our character defects and pursuing their opposites. In addiction, there is no fulfillment. Any addict who walks into a 12 Step meeting by personal choice knows it. Rock bottom has been hit. An awareness of a deadly addiction has been granted us in a moment of clarity. A need to leave that life of addiction drives us to desperation, to comfort, to meaning.
      I once heard that after 9/11, attendance at religious institutions was up. Our lifeways, as a nation, had been disrupted in one shocking moment. People didn’t understand why and needed answers. I walked into OA in crisis. I was dying one day at a time, unable to stop suiciding by food. I wanted to stop and could not on my own power. I hated who I was, I hated what I was doing, and I hated that I could not stop on my own volition.
      Since walking into OA, I have been given so much to work with. It’s been a slow process which I have warmed up to. My first three steps were taken with the hunger of a person seeking relief. But once relief was reached, I sat there for a couple of months. Then, I met a multi-stepper, and that spark was ignited. I knew I had to recover, not just as a goal to complete the 12 Steps, get my recovery coin, and go back to my old life. There is no finish line, and as I have said in meeting, “I hope to be abstinent the last day of my life.”
      The me who walked into that first meeting wanted a finish line. Today, I take comfort that it’s a lifelong process broken down into small, 24-hour pieces. Even by doing the steps I have done, I have changed. My attitude has changed. My sense of appreciation for what life has to offer instead of greedy grabbing of what others possess has changed. I knew I wanted to be like this, but I never realized I could actually achieve it. Instead of a set goal (like reaching a goal weight), I am enjoying forward motion. My spirituality accepts that I won’t complete every life lesson in this lifetime (yup, I am a reincarnationist), but that sense of wanting to express the better qualities of humanity has been part of me since I was a child. The resentments toward people because they told me but didn’t show me is fading as I walk toward humility openly. I want to build my character with my HP. I have said since I was young that all I wanted was peace. Having touched it through this character-building humility that Bill W. talks about, I know it’s the path of life I want to walk.
      Can I do it without stumbling? Of course not. But it’s the willingness to walk down my own path instead of trying to block others’ paths for my own gratification that is driving me. It is forward motion, and as long as I am moving forward, I can actually embrace my own imperfection.
      I was going to try to create a new Seventh Step prayer which resonates with me, but I think I’ll say it as written. It doesn’t matter if it’s filled with Thees and Thines. The medium is not the message, and I have just had a moment of inspiration from my HP: to be truly willing to give it up means that I need to read it until I understand what it means to me and my recovery. Then the words will only direct the sincerity of my desire to truly be humbled by the act of asking my HP to guide my character-building. Maybe some day soon I will write a new one which resonates more deeply with my own spiritual path. But for now, this one has meaning as I ask the Universe to take the energy I expend on my defects, clear it of the negativity, and allow me to use it to work on character building.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. Wow, this was a long post, and I am tired after writing it. But I also feel . . . at peace.


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