Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 1, 2010

Write What You Know

      It’s a classic adage in the writer’s world, “Write what you know.” My only problem is that I don’t really know if I know myself.

      Well, okay, I do know enough about myself to know something’s akimbo. I have questions about myself, usually involving not being enough. I wonder sometimes if this is the layer I am supposed to currently be challenged with, as many other layers have been stripped away and I am learning more about Jess-the-main-character-in-my-own-life. Growing pains have exhausted me, and I am retreating. I hope this is temporary. Emotional withdrawal is scary, because I know it will give rise to the craving for drama. I fear that I won’t be able to “snap out of it” this time, but I always do. And when I do, it is an ego-driven chaos I can’t even begin to describe.
      So, my abstinence secrets, I think, should be revealed. I have been having trouble with my abstinence. As I said to a sponsee, it feels like a straitjacket. My recovery-driven mind knows that this trapped feeling has everything to do with not surrendering to my Higher Power. How have I not been surrendering to my Higher Power?
      The first and worst of it is that I have not been respecting my hunger. I have been grazing within plan but outside of the actual hunger pangs. When I respect my hunger, I work a stronger program. But I have been eating to numb emotions. Or the lack of emotions. I’ve been eating to just put the anxiety out of my mind that I have shut down emotionally in order to withdraw from potentially being vulnerable.
      The grass, of course, is always greener on the other side of the paddock that is my food plan. I see what I think I want, and in clarity I know I don’t want it. I do not want to binge on a pound of candy I don’t want. What’s weird is I am fantasizing about the bag, not what’s inside. I am fantasizing about the thought of bingeing, of giving my program the finger, of rebelling against something I held onto as a lifeline for so very long as I fought to reach a goal.
      In essence, I made my OA recovery a “diet and calories” club.
      Right now, I want to step on a scale, to disbelieve that I have gained any weight at all, or maybe I lost more and can expand my food plan. What I fear most is that because I have been eating to the edge of my plan instead of fighting my anorexic food behaviors, I gained weight and I am “overweight” again. Leaving that healthy BMI range might devastate me. Yet I want to know if I have. And, at the same time, I do not. So, I wait. Only 14 more days until I can weigh. And only one day at a time of sliding under the scale-based limbo bar.
      Another blunt and honest admission–I said a few posts ago that my food plan is not about intent. It turned out it is, actually. On Friday, I might have unintentionally eaten outside of my food plan. I was not as careful as I could have been counting calories; I ate 3/4 of a burger which may have put me over by about 50 calories. But I marked them as realistically as I could. I really did. I got really close to the edge, though. I am playing chicken with my food plan, being less vigilant than I ought to be. Yet . . . do I need to be so militant any more? Should I ever have been so militant?
      I run a 2,000 calorie-per-day plan and I fear I will lose more weight. Isn’t that odd? It’s partially because my spouse thinks I am getting on the thin side, that the BMI scale underweighs. What’s amusing is I just looked up on a frame-size based weight calculator, and I am underweight for my frame size. Yes, I have just been told by a weight calculator that I am underweight. And another one just let me know I am about 12 lbs. underweight for my height and frame size. Me. Wow.
      I do not feel underweight or right-sized or any of it! I look at myself and see myself as fat! Damn it! Okay, this is insane. Welcome to my disease, where my broken eyes have literally left me devoid of seeing any of this! And what’s worse, I had an HP moment which led me to see that my BMI really isn’t a right-weight table but a body fat estimator. I have a scale that estimates body fat. In other words, what I need to be doing is creating muscle, not losing weight.
      *sigh.*
      Okay then. Plan of action time. Treating OA like a diet and calories club has gotten way out of control. I thought I was okay, that hitting the BMI range was good. But it’s not good. It’s not working whatsoever. I reached goal, and I am going through the same damned stuff I went through when I reached goal through the internationally-recognized diet plan. This means, in essence, that I am in new territory. Completely new territory.
      And that, to me, means it’s time to begin at the beginning. To start my 12 Steps over, to rework my food plan, and to add a 500-calorie-burning daily workout. My spiritual journey needs to be taken with the seriousness it deserves. My body deserves to have muscle mass on it, which I have very little of at this point. It is time to stop the numbers game and time to start the spiritual journey.
      Abstinence, as of today, will include:

(1) food plan adherence, both minimum and maximum;
(2) weighing on the 14th of every month (even if I lose abstinence);
(3) adding some form of daily body-improving activity. This can be as basic as doing yoga or as complex as yoga, cardio workout, and weight training. Yoga stretches (hopefully in the mornings) will be my minimum. Even if it’s the last thing I do that day, I will do my stretching.

      Happily, one of the bottom lines from my other program puts me in a position to walk at least a half-hour per day, though it’s usually in grocery stores and shops and walking to-and-from my car. This needs to be gentle and generous, or I will blow abstinence completely in an effort to rebel. This is worrying me because I am using my abstinence as a means to wrestle myself. Crap. Using abstinence as a punishment instead of a motivator is a very bad idea.
      Okay, so abstinence won’t have the plan of action in it. I am already on the edge of blowing it. And, as I am seeing right now, I am STILL trying to make this about the diet and calories!
      On the other side of the fence is my spiritual program, which needs a serious boost. Exercise should be a chance for me to connect to my Higher Power, to take time to open myself up to the spiritual through exercise.
      Outside of my food plan, I am not taking care of my needs as a person in recovery. I do not sleep enough; I am frightened and frustrated by my new program; I am sad because I choose to live a friendless life because I fear betrayal (both of and by me); I am not treating the act of eating with the respect it deserves. More rules won’t fix this. More rules actually will harm my abstinence.
      I guess it’s time to redefine my addiction, and that brings me right back to Step One.

      I am eating disordered, compulsive about feeling in control of my food (even “in control” of going on a binge which would make me vomit!). I eat (or deny myself food) to counteract the high I get from chasing drama in my life. Oh, yes, I actively chase the stuff. And when I end up nearly overdosing on drama, I chase the high of being a social and emotional martyr. I sequester myself and tell myself I can find meaning in subservience, not service.
      Food is a fast fix and numbing drug. It allows me to hide from my problems, just like chasing drama does, just like shutting down completely does.
      And what is the core of this whole mess? Forgive me, but I do not trust anyone–even me. I have been an insincere and shameful friend, acting without concern to others’ feelings. I can empathize, yet when I am put in a position to be empathetic, I will either try to control a person by advice or step out of the equation entirely and shut down emotionally.
      I am in complete and abject terror of being used and abused then abandoned. Why? It has happened many times before in my life. What’s worse? I recognize that in myself and I fear using and abusing then abandoning people. That, too, has happened far more than I would like to admit. I fear I have no soul, no love, no actual ability to care for another human being. I am socially awkward and when I am “being me”, I don’t know what to say or do. But that’s the desire to “fix” people–that’s an addict stance.
      How do I listen with real empathy? How do I love honestly? I do care about people. I care whether people live or die. I care when they suffer, and I feel sad they must endure their suffering. I care when they are happy, and I feel happy for them when they are enjoying life. I am also jealous that they’re happy when I am not–another addict stance.
      I want to love, period. I accept that to love means I need some self-respect, some self-trust, some actual sanity and serenity when it comes to other people. I am just so afraid of everyone–afraid of being hurt or of hurting someone. And that is the core of it, isn’t it? To forgive people for hurting me, and to forgive myself for hurting others unintentionally. I’m not really sure how to handle the intentional hurts, except to do what I have always done–walk away. Well, actually, and apologize if I am the offender. And by apologizing, I mean being aware of the character defect and its symptomatic behavior then working toward not doing it again by working a stronger spiritual program.
      Who am I, then? Who the Hell am I? Can I love? I think I can. I have a depth of emotion toward my core family despite not extending myself honestly to my extended family and others in my life. I admit I regularly revert to the caretaker role with my family, hoping that my actions are enough.
      But when my son hugs me, I feel. I have a sense that I am not alone, that the love he gives freely is reciprocated. I feel safe in that hug, even if I walk away feeling fear at the perceived vulnerability, at the worry I will face off with being hurt again. Or worse, that I will push him away because I fear being vulnerable.
      The thing is that I know being honest with love is not vulnerability but strength! I know that if I can reach that level of honest emotion, I will not be let down because I will be drawing from the unending supply of love that my Higher Power has.
      But what is love, then? And am I allowed to not love unsafe people? Am I allowed to let them go? Does forgiveness mean I still keep them in my life? Or is letting them go simply abandoning them? I have so much I have to learn about the core of my eating disorder–that need to numb myself from the possibility I could be devastated. I have been devastated, and I have survived. I have been brought to the edge of pain by submitting to the craving to have others accept me, especially people who are deeply troubled or emotionally abusive. I have a longing to be so good that those people will change their lives because of me. But that’s not realistic! I never changed my life for anyone (well, except my parents, and their expectations were a moving target I could rarely hit). Every change I made when I did it for others was never permanent. Every change I made for others’ benefit was temporary.
      I think I’m on the verge of a very real breakthrough. I think I am on the verge of something I need to allow myself to cry over if it is that painful a truth. Down in my core I know I can love. I know what real love feels like. Unfortunately, I have trained myself to replicate that sensation, call it love, then fret as to whether or not someone will burn me with it.
      Real love can endure this. I don’t think real love would want me to suffer through trying to save another person. It’s given freely, but it does not ask me to martyr myself to another’s whims. I can love a person just as another human being even if I walk away. And walking away sometimes is necessary, because I suffer damage caused by having a relationship with an unsafe person. But does that relationship have to be more than just acquaintances?
      Love and boundaries. Love and martyrdom. Love and subservience. Love has been redefined by my broken mind, and it is now a label for addictive behavior which keeps me weak and unable to work a strong program.
      I guess it’s up to my Higher Power. Love is a spiritual concept to me, stronger than any broken mental message or physical touch. Love, in other words, is something I cannot control on my own. Love, like self-will, needs to be released to my Higher Power so I can draw from a source of real love. My Higher Power, as defined, is infinitely loving. My finite, human love can draw from that bank of infinite love.
      At this point, I am vacillating between whether walking away from an abusive friendship (where the person not only did not respect me but belittled me for asking to be respected) was abandonment or love. I’m falling on the side of love because I think that I finally understand that whole, “You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself,” saying. If I won’t protect myself from people who seek one-sided relationships with me (where I give and they take), then how could I conceive of loving them. Sure, I hope this person is okay, but it ends there. I don’t want to initiate contact or talk to this person or get entangled in this person’s life again. I don’t want to seek this person out online.
      I deserve to be respected enough by me not to be trapped in a situation which triggers either drama or emotional shut down. I deserve to be respected enough by me not to let this person’s disrespect of my needs take precedence over my sanity. I did not abandon a friendship because there really was none, was there? There was no give and take. There was no mutual caring. There was me listening and often callously joking about this person’s erratic behavior, followed by guilt-driven recommitment to trying to be this person’s friend.
      Two unsafe people cannot make a safe relationship. I am currently an “unsafe” person. That sucks to admit, but at least I see it, right? Awareness means that I can choose to change it or leave it be. Awareness gives me the power of choice to live a life I want to live. If I stay an unsafe person, this is a choice. But I don’t want to be unsafe. I want to be emotionally honest, even if I look like a total doofus. I want to align myself with the self I wanted to be in childhood, the one who cares.
      I just realized that if I open myself up to love people, I will get hurt. I cannot find a way to rationalize love as a means to find some sort of pseudo-peace where I am a peace-and-love hippie type. BUT, I can accept that by opening myself up to loving others and being loved, the awareness is a strength that comes from my Higher Power. As soon as I become aware, I can make a choice. The lights are on; my eyes are open. Before awareness, I have to accept the reality that people are imperfect and that I will be hurt if I lay too many expectations on them. That even if I lay no expectations on them, I will still at some point be hurt. The question to be answered, then, is, “Once I have the awareness of whether or not that harm was intentional or unintentional, what am I willing to do about it?”
      I think unintentional harm deserves forgiveness outright and exposure so the person can use the awareness to either change or not change. I think intentional harm deserves exposure so the person can use the awareness to either change or not change, and forgiveness can come after. This may be partially addict-thinking, but it’s better than hiding from everyone. And it’s a start. My addict thinking may have started my food plan, but after a few months that food plan was an amazing help as I worked my spiritual stuff. It allowed me to become aware of what I was doing to myself.
      Step One: I am a food addict, and I will choose excess food to numb myself and to give me an excuse to isolate. When I am an active food addict, I overeat or deprive myself in order to distract myself from my fear of being vulnerable.
      Step Two: I not only believe, I know there is a power greater than myself (the Universe and the creative spirit pervading it) which has guided me toward enlightenment, awareness of my addiction, and people and messages and even good sales when I cease fighting and rest in the safety of my place in the Universe. It’s like taking a train ride–I can walk anywhere on the train while it’s moving, but if I get out and grab hold of the rear of the train to push because I think that it’s what I am supposed to be doing, then I find myself dragged behind the train and I am battered and beaten and exhausted. The thing is not going to be affected by me getting out to control its movement; it is going to move no matter where I am. Only I get battered, beaten, and exhausted. I suffer for no reason when I try to take control of it. But when I relax and enjoy the trip? I get to see and experience some wonderful things I cannot see or experience while I am focused on the anguish I chose to submit myself to.
      Step Three: HP, I have no idea how to disconnect love from my addictive behaviors and thoughts. I surrender my eating because I’m exhausted fighting with it. I want to enjoy food again, not be pissed off because I can’t eat a plate of onion rings and drink a malted milk shake and eat a slice of cheesecake to finish it up. And I am entirely aware that if I went back to that style of eating, I would feel as physically horrible as I did when I was eating like that. I don’t want to try to hide my fear, my vulnerability in food. I just want food to be fuel for my body, not a drug I abuse in hopes I can eat enough to stop hurting.
      My name is Jess, and I am an addict. My drugs of choice are food, denial of food, isolation, emotional numbing, and drama. Every last one of those leaves me strung out and exhausted. While I can learn to live without the isolation, emotional numbing, and drama, I cannot learn to live without food. I want so much to respect myself, to be honest with myself that I have a choice. I can “comfort” myself drown myself in addiction until I die miserably, or I can suffer the discomfort of growing as a human being in the effort to have a meaningful life.
      I want the discomfort.

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