Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 3, 2010

Not Taking the Elevator Anymore

      There’s a bronze affirmation recovery coin that I really like that reads: “The elevator is broken, you’ll have to use the Steps.”

      I think I’ve been trying to use the elevator in my recovery, going everywhere except where I need to go. Last night, at meeting, we read from the OA 12&12, Step Eight. I almost did not go last night, until I remembered that the first weeks of August and September were the most valuable to my recovery–how to do my first Step Eight without a sponsor has eluded me for months now.
      I had a revelation within the reading, which we did differently this time around. The person who started reading did what we do in my home group right now (we’re doing a Big Book study in my home group), where a person reads a passage then comments on it. Well, we did it that way last night, and something finally clicked when it was read. Namely, my Higher Power finally got through the addict-wax in my ears and lay bare the means for me to do my Step Eight. It may take months, but forward motion is now a reality.
      To do Step Eight, I am going to break it down into the two parts suggested by the OA 12&12. First, I will return to my Step Four list and transfer all of the names from it. I will be open to adding new names as they come–even if I believe I will never find those people. Second, I will prepare documents for each of those people, with their names at the top. Third, I will start by using what I did remember when I did my Step Four. Fourth, I will surrender to my Higher Power and hope that in the process of writing, sublimated memories will come up so I can continue my Eighth Step. In the end, HP willing, I will finally have something to take to those people I can find and do my Ninth Step amends then start the road trips to find those people and do my amends in person where I can. Where I cannot, I will send emails and letters to those people with my amends. I will also try to use internet chat to have a back-and-forth closer to a face-to-face style discussion.
      In the end, I hope to be able to move forward and get the Step Eight and Step Nine recovery which does bring Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve to fruition. I am looking forward to living this daily, to exposing my past more and more so I can do yearly Step Nines as new, hidden memories emerge through working the steps.
      I’ve also realized that since the eating really was sourced by the intrigue and social and emotional anorexia addiction, I am going to move forward with my Step Four, Five, Six, and Seven in SLAA. I have a gut feeling that the SLAA stuff is so deeply interconnected with the OA stuff that doing an amends for both at the same time would save the annoyance of doing it twice over the same things I made amends for in OA. This means I get to expand my Step Four in SLAA. That also means I need to do my Steps One through Three in SLAA. So, here goes:

      I am an intrigue addict and social and emotional anorexic. Intrigue addiction, as I have defined, means that I am addicted to creating drama about people I do not know and do not actually wish to know. This involves building those people into fantasies of the “perfect” person, either as a friend or as more. My recovery-minded self knows this is extremely destructive, not only to myself but to others. If I am focused on a target of affection for the purpose of trying to gain acceptance and meaning, I am neglecting the relationships which already have real value because they are based on trust built over time and what I hope is real love. I don’t want to neglect the relationships which have value.
      I have spent some time trying to understand emotional anorexia and social anorexia and have come up with two excellent sources to explain a lot of this. First, for emotional anorexia, I looked to Dr. Sarah Ravin’s December 9, 2009, article entitled Emotional Anorexia, which discussed its relation to the eating disorder of anorexia nervosa. From what I got out of it, I think I can personally define my emotional anorexia as a state of needlessness–learning how to create an existence where I do not seek to rely on anyone else and starve myself emotionally. Like the eating disordered person with anorexia nervosa, I thrive on denying myself emotional connection (as opposed to denying myself food and denying myself emotional connection). It’s interesting how naturally my food addiction tucks anorexia nervosa (compulsive undereating) in with my binge eating (compulsive overeating). It is self-abuse for the purpose of keeping people at arm’s length. I deny myself emotional connection (and sometimes food) in order to gain a sense of control. Dr. Ravin writes,

“Some anorexics have a grandiose sense of being “above” basic needs, including food, sleep, fun, love, and comfort. This grandiosity often stems from the extra burst of energy and euphoria that starvation brings them, coupled with the sense of pride and accomplishment that they have been able to override their body’s needs and diet to the point of emaciation. Other anorexics believe they are unworthy of food, sleep, fun, love, or comfort.”

      I work to override my need for emotional fulfillment out of both the grandiosity and the unworthiness. I vacillate. Sometimes, I believe am far above others in intelligence, ability, and (oddly enough) compassion. Those others do not appreciate therefore do not deserve my superior qualities–those damned ungrateful jerks! (Yes, I am being extreme to prove a point to myself, that this is very broken thinking.) Other times, I am beneath worms. I am the most stupid, most incompetent, most selfish and cruel and horrible human being in the Universe. Other people shouldn’t have to suffer being around a person who is wasting precious oxygen, they should not have to deal with me. And, of course, how can anyone love a person so completely without any merit at all? (Again, I am being extreme to prove a point to myself . . . but I have felt that way before!)
      So, the easiest thing to do is withdraw emotionally. I think I am protecting myself from “bad” people–those unsafe people who would take advantage of me, which I’ve found in experience that those kind of people target me when I go into my emotionally withdrawn state and actively trigger the intrigue (highs derived from fallacious emotions) and frenetic social acting-out. Instead, I am pushing away people who could potentially care about me in a healthy way, both by my grandiose schemes and my self-loathing.
      I turn now to social anorexia, which tangles itself beautifully with emotional anorexia. Sarahmac2008, in her October 6, 2008, wordpress blog entry, No money feeds my social anorexia, defined social anorexia beautifully for me:

“And for those who don’t know what social anorexia is, a quick definition is that it’s the selfish and uncontrollable avoidance of social nourishment. Anorexia, I think, might sound like a pitiful thing to be going through for a person, but my personal opinion is that Anorexia is an addiction like Alcoholism, which I also have, and addiction is driven by unending desires, over run instincts and self-seeking fear.”

      I selfishly and uncontrollably avoid social situations by doing the minimum necessary to maintain my bottom lines. I don’t actively choose to go outside of my home; I am dragged out of my home by my bottom lines. I would rather sit and hide in the dark on my couch or on my bed, silent. That way, I reason, others don’t have to suffer through my narcissistic delirium or my emotional retardation. And, to be honest, it’s easier to keep those “bad” people at bay if I’ve gone into an Emotional Protection Program (like a Witness Protection Program, where I avoid the potential dangers of emotional contact with others by keeping physical walls and a locked door between me and the world). This, however, is unsustainable, and when the deprivation gets too much, I binge on dishonest emotion on the other side of the door, namely Intrigue.

      Step Two is easy. Step Two is knowing I have a Higher Power. I did the footwork for that. I’ve got strong faith that a Higher Power is out there which can help me “act as if” until the healthy emotional and social behavior becomes habit, just like the healthy eating has. Now, I will admit that I understand that because I am innately a social and emotional anorexic with intrigue binge tendencies, I will have cravings to hide when the natural ups and downs of life come into play. However, I have a Higher Power I can surrender to. This, however, is harder because I am comfortable shutting down, and the innate addict’s behavior (to emotionally shut down) could easily become part of my “recovery”. In essence, I need to give that unhealthy self-preservation coping mechanism to my Higher Power and risk being hurt. In all honesty? That sucks!

      Step Three involves giving that self-will to deny my emotional and social needs to my Higher Power. This means that I have to trust my Higher Power more than I ever have before. I have to trust that it will bring safe people into my life, either by returning them into my life or bringing new safe people into my life. That’s just about the hardest surrender I can think of.
      It also means trusting my Higher Power will give me the intuition to discern between safe and unsafe people. I know my HP can do it. I just doubt my willingness to give it over completely, to not label the unhealthy avoidance as “being safe from unsafe people”. And that, in essence, means that I have to stop lying to myself that shutting down emotionally protects me. I cannot be protected by living in a mobile closed system. I cannot be protected by physical walls. In essence, I cannot avoid getting hurt because feeling emotional pain is part of the human condition. Every betrayal I have felt or have perpetrated on others cannot become the focus of my emotional life, feeding that anorectic behavior. My Higher Power is about growth, not atrophy. And growth, as terrifying as it may seem, requires the willingness to get banged up as I traverse life. The difference is approaching it with clarity. Unintended harm has to be put in its proper place. I need to expose it with serenity and real compassion. I need to forgive and let the relationship move forward instead of dwell on that slight. Intended harm has its own action to be taken as well. I need to expose it with serenity and the same real compassion. I need to forgive. However, instead of keeping the destructive relationship, I need to let it go and forgive well enough to be willing to accept that person in my life again if real and honest change is implemented on their side. This, as frustrating as it is, also includes my own dishonesty and my own intended harm toward others.
      I am currently an unsafe person, and that was really hard to admit. However, I am aware, now. I believe my Higher Power can help me practice being a safe person. And now I have to choose between starting down the difficult path of being a safe person or using that awareness of being an unsafe person to rationalize my addiction and its subsequent behavior.
      Lots to work on.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict (and intrigue addict and social/emotional anorexic). I don’t want to examine my flaws because I worry I will become deeply saddened. But considering I already feel profound loss because I am not living the best life I can live, I can’t imagine it getting worse if I actually work the steps to the best of my ability. In fact, I have hope that it will get better as I start working toward a real and lasting life of recovery.


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