Posted by: innerpilgrimage | June 10, 2010

Hunger and Honesty

      In the last two days, I have been thanked for my honesty about my recovery. I appreciate it very much, because I feel it’s my Higher Power talking through people, reminding me to place that particular principle over my personality.
      The grace of self-awareness got a newcomer to share at meeting last night. I shared the hope of walking in the door of my meeting in September. That hope fed me, and that hope still feeds me when I’m not compulsively worrying about my physical recovery.

      Last night, as I was in bed, I realized the divot in the mattress from when I was 300 lbs. is freaking uncomfortable. I actually am sometimes in physical pain (not agony) because of the changes in my body.
      When I started, I had a fantasy of sliding down the scale into the body of a teenager. Now, unless I decide to be a cougar (not happening), I am not going to see a teenaged body again. I have places on my body, especially around my joints, which require a vigilance with high-moisture body lotion to convince my skin to readjust. It’s done a pretty good job so far. I mean, I still have stretch marks from my weight gain which are minimizing into laddered zebra stripes. But I’m not distressed too much by it, since I accept I have lost 90 lbs. in a year. Almost 100 lbs., actually. Working from June to June, when I last stepped on a friend’s scale at 283 lbs. (oh, and I know I gained a size, about 10 to 20 lbs. between mid-June and mid-July last year), I have gone from 283 to 189 (I broke 190 this morning, though I expect it won’t be consistently under 190 for another month), I am happy my skin has adjusted as it has. And the 239 days of chained food sobriety (five more 24 hours, and it’s been 8 months) by eating 2,000 calories per day has allowed me to not only maintain abstinence, but allowed my skin to shrink so that I’m not entirely folds and flaps that need to be surgically taken in. I’m not wearing a deflated body because I chose not to diet. I chose to eat like a person in my healthy BMI range. I didn’t deny myself, I just worked on fixing what “normal” looks like.
      I used to lie to myself about “normal” portioning. It’s part of the reason the three-meals-two-snacks food plan didn’t work for me (and I did try to do it from the end of September to early October). I would have still chosen high-fat dinners, accepted portions far too big as “normal”. I, personally, had to learn “normal” to emulate it. I now can visualize a normal portion, and I can actually reject food. Yes, it’s usually because the calories aren’t worth the effort to measure and weigh and do the complex math required to figure it out. But it’s been a saving grace, because those small compulsive nibbles here and there just aren’t happening so much any more (sometimes they do, and I fold them into my food plan).
      This is my version of my journey. This is what my OA looks like. It’s imperfect, like everyone’s is, but it keeps me honest about food. I’m actually starting to eyeball portions more often, now, instead of only using cup measures. And there is forgiveness and leeway when I am at a restaurant, because I can’t just whip out cup measures and a scale and start weighing and measuring. The whole point of doing it at home was adjusting my portion distortion so that it aligns closer with reality. And that prescription change–from compulsive “normal” to established portion sizes–has made a world of difference.

      To be brutally honest, I know I could lose abstinence within the hour. Well . . . if I was motivated to do it, I could. Last night, I had another nightmare where I had two large bonbon style candies, and I realized after I ate one that I wasn’t sure if I had enough discretionary calories for the other I was consuming. I mean, two wasn’t really that big a deal, but I thought about it in my dream and realized, “Crap! This probably has 200 calories or so per candy!”. In my dream I spit the second out and began the long work of figuring out if I had actually broken abstinence or not, considering how many calories were in the part of the second candy I had eaten.
      It wasn’t fear of admitting I was imperfect with my abstinence. It wasn’t a “binge-then-regret” but an “Oh, shit! I forgot!” dream. To me, it’s progress. I accepted, in my dream, that if I lost abstinence I could start over tomorrow, establish tomorrow as my new OA birthday. I would be disappointed in that choice to eat what I consider to be reasonable (two candies was reasonable in the grand scheme of things, it’s what a normal person might eat) and learn that choices earlier in the day could jeopardize my abstinence. It seems that progress, not perfection, is working its magic.

      As long as I’m working honesty, I have to admit that part of the reason I keep to my daily food plan is because people just walking in the door rely on me to. I am part of the promise of recovery. When I commit to the program, I am committing to every person who wants relief from their addiction–including me. Committing to the steps can be freaking hard. And I am facing challenges I want to share because I have real and true hope that those challenges will be overcome in time. My Higher Power of my own understanding is the Universe and my place within it. Instead of being at the center of it, I am just a small part of a grand ebb and flow. I can choose to let the Universe place me into a position of gratitude and openness when I give my self-will over to it and explore the possibilities or I can choose to ignore the possibilities and fret inside the expanse of my own mind. When I relax into my place in the Universe, that Higher Power guides me and always has when I release my panicked controlling grip on it.
      Right now, I have a mental wall up between my Higher Power and me regarding my Eight Step footwork. I’ve locked my bad memories securely away in a place of forgetting. I guard this chest with my life because I fear that the force which has protected my abstinence for so long (even when I, personally, wasn’t wanting to) won’t be there to defend my abstinence once again. I know it’s the compulsion doing it.
      Sometimes, OA members will talk about having a split awareness. There is the self-in-compulsion and the self-in-recovery. The years and often decades of compulsion becomes quieter as I adopt this new way of life (a hopeful message given to me from someone farther along in abstinence and recovery than I am). But it’s still there, a vestigial remnant of the past.
      That self-in-compulsion reminds me of the quote from the movie, Patton:

“For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph – a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: That all glory is fleeting.”

      My self-in-recovery is that conqueror; my self-in-compulsion is that slave. The constant reminder of hubris is a gift. I cannot rest on my laurels. I cannot assume the war is won when I reach a goal weight or finish my first 24 hours of full abstinence and 12-Stepping. There is no finish line. There is no endpoint. This isn’t a race, it’s a journey. This is the solitary walk of the Hermit while surrounded by Hermits just like me. We share the same basic journey, but the paths we take are not identical. The paths we’ve taken up to this point are not identical, and those determine where our footfalls on the walk to spiritual, mental, and physical recovery lie. My recovery is as personal as my relationship with my Higher Power is, yet when I speak about the path I walk, others understand what I say because we are all sharing the same basic route. How we experience it depends on where we are looking at any given time.
      Imagine walking through a garden, on a path. Three people can walk side by side, through the exact same garden. One may be watching the path, seeing the small pebbles underfoot. The different colors and shapes of each stone and crunch of one’s own footfalls may be that person’s focus.
      Another person may be looking up in the trees and beyond the plants to the birds and insects and animals all around. The varied species all around, the excitement of seeing so much active life and hearing the birdsong and animal calls may be that person’s focus.
      The third may be looking at the trees, at the plants, at the kaleidoscope of flowers all around. The sound of the wind passing through the leaves and the tiny change in hue between two leaves as sunlight passes through one and misses another may be that person’s focus.
      They all walked through the same garden. They all may even come out saying it was a peaceful, meditative place filled with wonder. But the minute you ask for specifics, all three people will share their vastly individual and different experiences.
      That is what OA is like for me. It inspires me to go back on that path and start looking for what the others saw, too. We broaden our horizons when we listen in meeting; we broaden others’ horizons by sharing our own experiences. That hunger for a knowledge outside of my own is a gift. I want my awareness expanded to its limits, I want to be challenged to think farther than I’ve thought before. If there is more of me outside of the compulsion, then (when the compulsion is turned into that whisper in my ear that victory is fleeting) there is a foundation of a human being that doesn’t have to live within the tight, dark oubliette of compulsion. And it is a prison, where we turn our faces toward the sunlight pouring through the small hole and hope for our chance at freedom.
      The door is unlocked, however. We stay because it’s what we know. We stay because those tight walls often feel safer than the broad world outside, where we are left with infinite directions to take and the curving horizon everywhere we turn. Sometimes the Hell we know appears safer than the Heaven we don’t. Maybe it is safer, in its way. But it’s a security of simply waiting out death, isn’t it? We don’t take in anything new when we’re in compulsion. We don’t challenge ourselves. We live protected from the world in our prison. And even if others open the door to us, we would rather shut it and deceive ourselves that it is truly locked to us because we fear what could be on the other side.

      As for my own walk, it’s time for me to disassemble the wall in front of me. Yesterday, I considered it a purging fire. Perhaps that’s what is behind the wall I am facing, but I see that I built a stone wall in my own path as I journeyed the garden with my eyes closed. I’m not kicking down this wall, because I will cause harm to myself and possibly others.
      This wall between me and my Higher Power needs to be delicately disassembled through a meditative process. As I set the stones aside (and work to avoid making smaller walls for me to trip over later), I am able to think on each stone I set there. Each stone had its purpose. Each helped me at one point, and it kept me feeling safe as it blocked my view from the possibilities. This is a delicate and deliberate process, I am seeing. And I cannot stop until the last stone is moved. Sure, I can jump over it when it gets short enough (and I may, in my excitement to keep moving on). But if I take the time to get every last stone moved aside to a place where they rest as milestone reminders on my path to a lifetime of recovery, I have an intuitive feeling (HP-driven, I really think) that the effort will be worth the reward. I have no idea what the reward is, but does it really matter? My HP is looking out for me and has every time I have stepped into my place in the Universe. I have been given insights and serenity and peace every time I relax and live instead of fight to mold the Universe into my own image. I know life will always present me with challenges . . . how does it help me if I go out of my way to heap more on top of them?

      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict who is trying to settle my mind into today. I’ve lived in tomorrow for weeks now, and I’ve found I have no serenity as I look forward and fret about what I cannot control. If I fight, I miss opportunities I can choose to take or reject. I get broadsided by distractions and don’t enjoy the life I have been given. If my heart, mind, and soul are in today as my body is, I am finally all together, not scattered across the infinite Universe seeking to control what I have no control over . . .
      . . . and with that, the feeling of serenity has finally returned. It’s been a really long time, and although it’s still wobbly, like a fawn, it is present within me right now.



  1. Beautiful post : )

  2. Thank you very much, Paulette.

  3. I am glad I found this site. I believe it will help me to stay on track with my weight loss. Thank you.

    • I’m glad that what I’ve written resonates. I’ve done a lot of diets with no success because (for me), it wasn’t that I ate too much but why I ate too much. It’s been a heckuva journey even so far, and I am glad that by sharing it in writing, people get something out of it.

      I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I do know that I can do this today, and that’s all that matters.

      Thank you so much for letting me know (and even if you thought it stunk and I was a looney, I’d be thankful you let me know that, too.)


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