Posted by: innerpilgrimage | July 27, 2010

Like A Stream of Sunlight Through Storm Clouds, A Breakthrough

      This last week has been anxiety-producing, character-revealing, and finally productive.

      Since starting SLAA, I have had serious trouble with the desire to binge. My food-obsession targets of choice have been the classics for me: a pound of peanut M&Ms (yes, you heard right . . . one pound, one sitting) and processed starches (I ate five grain servings yesterday of whole-wheat pretzels and even blew an extra hundred discretionary calories on them). Starch and sugar. Holy crap, maybe I am a wheat/sugar allergic/addict, too!
      I don’t even really like peanut M&M’s because I prefer salted peanuts to unsalted peanuts. The damned things are too sweet! They’re a perfect obsession-food because they don’t taste anything like I think they should, so I can chase the perfect peanut M&M (an accidentally salted and roasted peanut which accidentally got premium chocolate underneath its coating). I see the problem entirely, here–I am looking for something that does not exist and am unwilling to accept that the closest thing to it is will never be what I really want . . . nor will I accept its imperfection!
      And that is the core of my other addiction, the one I finally buckled down and journaled about this morning. I am working on a plan of abstinence for it (the term is “withdrawal”, meaning the withdrawal from the addictive behaviors so one can detox and start dealing with the reality smothered beneath the addiction) and I’ve used the awareness I’ve cultivated from OA to really work it today.
      I don’t feel the despair to cover myself with a blanket of food. In fact, I actually feel that I could telephone someone in program to give them the good news that I finally did some footwork.
      I’ve realized, also, that I have half-assed giving over to my Higher Power, which means I worked a half-assed OA program. I maintained abstinence, but at a cost to my serenity this week. I didn’t achieve serenity whatsoever this week and I was focused on the food in order to avoid the emotional stuff that I am terrified to reveal even to myself!
      It wasn’t so bad once I peeled away a layer. Now, it wasn’t huge development and I have to admit I am indulging the shutdown of my emotions because I have acknowledged the very real manifestation of the addiction (ouch, and a twinge of emotion by just admitting that . . . self-loathing, I think) and it’s unsettling.
      Emotional shutdown is a “luxury” (like a modern Fruit-Brand computer . . . something way behind the curve yet still way too expensive). I cultivated it over a long period of time, and my first divorce really brought it out–but only when I reached the emotioned-out numb stage. A few years ago, I reached a place where I actually was able to cultivate numbness and really started using isolation as a tactic to live within boundaries. The boundaries included compulsive overeating instead of letting myself feel pain and leaving behind social relationships because I was exhausted by a sense of “betrayal”.
      What I’ve found as a truism over time is the thought, “If the same destructive patterns repeat in relationships with different people, perhaps it’s time to examine the one constant (myself).”
      Well, I’m examining the one constant, finally. Gently, I might add, if only to preserve my abstinence. My sanity and serenity from abstinence allows me to be useful in my family and my community. Because of abstinence, I can contribute. While right now it’s part-time because I struggle between the desire for meaning and the fear of suffering, at least it’s something.
      My abstinence is the most important thing in my life, more important than my family because it allows me to be part of my family. Before long, my withdrawal plan will be doing the same because my bottom lines (aka triggers I need to avoid and growth habits I need to cultivate) are reasonable. Having the two addictions which tore me down for decades work in concert to build me up through recovery is a wonderful irony and a fantastic gift. I am an addict of many colors and layers; I am an addict who seeks recovery because my life has meaning . . . even if it’s just being the one witness to something so miraculously spiritual, or just being part of a team of people helping the community, or just accepting the request to be a sponsor and learning on the job what kind of sponsor I am to other eating-disorder addicts.
      Uh oh, gotta go. Feeling the desire to isolate (and some binge twinges), which means I need to get up and out and active.

      By the way, I want to thank everyone who’s told me they’ve found hope through what I’ve written. It’s hard being exposed like this, knowing I can go from 1 reader to 200 from day to day (though it’s generally closer to 20 daily reads). Actually, it seems I run 50+ daily reads when someone trips over my journal and just starts trying to glean meaning to his or her own addiction from it.
      I’ve really tried to start using the sharing tactic of: (1) addressing a problem, (2) really looking at how the program helps, and (3) finishing with hope. Sometimes it’s hard when life is overwhelming. However, when I started, I thought that parts 2 and 3 of that sharing model were to blow sunshine up others’ behinds. It turned out that I often found my solution in part 2 and had real hope for my recovery when I finished with part 3. Whenever I get deep into the frustration of sharing, I sometimes have to clutch at straws for Step 2 and then let my Higher Power take over the share (not literally, I don’t channel Its voice like a Houdini-age medium). Instead, I take from the program itself–sometimes even the most basic awareness that it is a spiritual program which really drives the mental and physical recovery, which drives the spiritual recovery in turn–and always seem to find hope in knowing that the problem will untangle itself if I am willing to let it untangle in its own time. And taking the attitude that problems are challenges I can use for spiritual growth instead of just being emotional grenades spreading heartbreak shrapnel everywhere.
      I think of that whole, “Gratitude is an attitude” saying, and I think that’s really applicable here in my own 12-Step recovery. To be grateful means I am being healthily humble instead of humiliated. I am accepting this gift, not questioning whether I deserve it, and I try to make use of it while I have access to it. I am grateful that I live in a time where OA and SLAA exist. I am even more so thankful because I am aware that SLAA only started around the time I hit puberty and that I would have failed and never returned to OA had I found it before the 1990s because of its restrictive definitions of abstinence and use of a diet plan I would have rebelled against.
      Now is my time for recovery, and I am not lamenting that I didn’t find it earlier as much as celebrating that it is even around at all. I am so happy that these things have come together at a time in my life when I am not only receptive but the programs really can help me. It’s a good time to be in 12-Step recovery.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. Thank you to everyone who blazed the trails to expand Bill W.’s and Dr. Bob’s little program for alcoholics into a means for people of so many addictions to find lives with purpose and meaning. And thank you to everyone who overcomes the fear just long enough to walk through the door and sit down. The shares of newcomers help my recovery as much as the shares of the founders of the programs. We are all working this one day, equal in our desire to live one day outside of the ravages of our own addictions. It’s a noble purpose, to live for today. I appreciate so much that I am not alone, that there is always someone’s hand outstretched to mine which I can take . . . so we can do together what we could never do alone.

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