Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 18, 2010

The Journal Entry That Wasn’t

      In the process of realizing that I have empathy for my parents–thereby establishing my willingness to finally make amends to them–I wrote a journal entry that is forever going to stand in the limbo of draft status.

      I am currently reading a book that has brought things into stark relief. I am now seeing and feeling how my addiction made life unmanageable–and still can when it flares up. That grim sense that it is a life-or-death fight is clear. The life I am fighting for is reality, a life outside the thought processes that rationalize the addiction and “normalize” it. As I read this book, I see patterns in my own life that are reflected in the writings. I used to sit in the ego-stroking rationalization that “I’m not as bad as these other people.” but I see that it doesn’t matter if what I did is not illegal. It doesn’t matter that my addictions harm me more than others because they are held inside me. The fallout of the escapism harms others and harms me. That compulsion to escape, to numb myself by choosing to alter my own reality is deeply troubling. It’s hard to muster hope right now because the awareness has brought to light some shadows that still have scary sources. It’s like seeing the looming shadow of a scorpion on the wall and turning on the light and seeing a small, poisonous scorpion there. Okay, it isn’t a six-foot poisonous scorpion as initially feared, but that little badass is still potent and deadly. It’s enough to turn out the light and try to pretend it isn’t there. The problem is that it is there, and until I take action to rid myself of it, it can move anywhere–potentially close enough to sting then poison me. I have a responsibility to myself and others to take decisive action to eliminate it. But the terror of it getting close enough to sting me is a very valid fear.
      So it goes inside my head. The inner life which has driven multiple layered addictions needs to be addressed. And I see where my scorpions of broken thinking are on that inner wall. They are many, and they are close. My desire to hide and return to a time when I didn’t acknowledge they were there is strong. If I take action, I fear that it will invalidate my history. I will have no foundation. I will literally be rejecting myself and everything I believed was true.
      The power of living Just for Today is key in this particular battle over my mind. I hate thinking that I have spent a life deep in insanity. But I also need to take heart that there is sanity there at the core. I chose insane behaviors to manage an insane situation. They were, in a twisted way, sane if only because they allowed me to survive with enough self intact that I can work a 12-Step program today. Frustrations that I wasn’t ready for it back then have to be put aside. Regrets that I didn’t start earlier have to be put aside. I have to find hope that I saw it at all. I have to find hope that I am able to live in a divided mind at all–the addict mind and the recovery mind–as opposed to simply willingly drowning in the addiction to avoid the pain of making real and meaningful change.
      This, I think, is where I need to start forgiving myself for not being ready to make a change before now. It took enough moments of clarity and greater fears than the fear of living without my coping mechanisms and experimenting with a new way of life. It is frightening that I have to experiment and I will fail. The successes I had with my survival mechanisms of childhood cannot be translated into today’s life. The things I told myself to rationalize my behavior (and still sometimes do) cannot be translated into today’s life. To survive, now, I need to do what I did long ago. I need to try and fail until I succeed. The difference is that the success has a goal of dealing with real life as it comes instead of surviving to adulthood and freedom from the control of parents and other people given authority over me.
      I’m not saying I’m going to rebel. In fact, what I consider I am doing is the opposite of rebelling. Rebelling requires something one must fight against. In this battle, I am fighting toward a goal. And although my rationalizing mind thinks it is a stupid goal (considering my rationalizing mind also rationalized picking up overeating and smoking, I have to say it’s not been really reliable in preserving my self-interest), I have clarity that this goal has meaning:

I seek to live a real life, good and bad, without resorting to escapism to avoid the pain of the bad times or to augment the pleasure of the good times.

      With that goal in mind, I can take real action:

(1) Choose to become aware of what coping mechanisms I used in childhood;
(2) Actively understand when and how I use those coping mechanisms today;
(3) Seek patterns in self-destructive or self-delusional behavior which are evolved childhood coping mechanisms and identify them;
(4) Seek examples of healthy behaviors through books and observing well-adjusted people (as opposed to dysfunctional people I think are “normal” but who are not); and
(5) Apply those healthy behaviors in my daily life, “acting as if” I naturally possess them by consciously choosing them instead of the coping mechanisms whenever I am able.

      It is not insurmountable. It is overwhelming, however. To recover, I have to go back and see what broke then figure out how to act normally. Then I have to rely on the regular application of normal action to filter backwards (as the coping mechanisms did) and become second nature. I have to have faith (in my Higher Power in this case) that when the normal behavior becomes second nature, it will affect positive change and I will start to live outside addiction more than escape into it.
      It’s a pretty tall order that requires a lot of conscious effort and extreme faith that it can be done. It can be done, however, and I believe that I have the tools to do it. I just have to be ready to work exhausting hours rebuilding a life. It won’t take one day, just like losing weight did not take one day. This is a long and careful process that will take a lifetime, just like food abstinence is. And, just like food abstinence, I am aware I will never completely be free of its effects on my life. I cannot undo what’s been done and re-live my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood unencumbered.
      Then again, that addiction unwittingly brought into my life so many things I treasure so much today that I am willing to minimize its effect on my life in order to live sanely. In other words, the addiction brought about its own destruction simply by its nature. I am humbly grateful that I outlived my life of pure addiction, that I reached a place where I could become aware and could actively begin to pursue a life where rational behavior and serene thought and meaningful purpose can indeed take precedence over compulsive impulses.
      The harshest reality is that Step One is painfully true. I am an addict. I will forever have it looming over me as a reminder of the destruction I am capable of in my desire to numb the pain away. I will never entirely be free of it, despite the relief from program promises that it does get easier. I am humbly aware that in times of great stress, it will always be an option. My hope is that I can find a life where I will at least be met with a choice–the reasonable, normal behavior or the compulsive escapism. If I choose the escapism, the cost is returning to the beginning of all the hard work–starting over on Day One as all of the self-loathing comes flooding back because I rejected my hard-won work in exchange for quick-fix payoff. If I choose the reasonable, normal behavior, I solidify today’s recovery (even if it’s one hour, one minute, even one second at a time!) and in turn make tomorrow’s challenges easier on myself because I will have experience taking real life seriously. Even if the result of the decision leads to failure in that venture, I will have succeeded in choosing to be there for it. Even failure, then, is still success, because I will have the sanity to review what happened and learn from the mistake.
      I don’t even have to take it personally, because I chose not to indulge my compulsion. That, alone, is a success. In that alone, I can find self-esteem (as opposed to ego-stroking, which will lead me to “rewarding” myself with the quick fix high). When I choose to humble myself and say that the compulsion will kick my ass and destroy my life if I indulge it “just this once”, when I choose to not indulge despite the gnawing desire and rationalizations it won’t hurt or it will only be this once or no one will know, when I make it to bedtime and fall asleep exhausted after spending the day surrendering it to my Higher Power to fight instead of me, I am telling myself I am worth rescuing. I am worth the daily fight. I am esteemed by myself enough to suffer and to change so I can become the person I wanted to be.
      My life is like a World War One battlefield on the first few days after armistice. Right now, it is still trampled down and dug up and cratered. It is inhospitable and looks like it will forever be devoid of life–an eternal testament to the destruction that was waged for so many years. Yet in that peace after all that destruction, life prevailed. Plants and trees grew again. Birds and other animals returned. That place of death and destruction became a place of serenity and remembrance.
      There will come a day when I survey the recovering landscape and see thriving life instead of war. The scars of war are scattered across the field. The trenches are still dug, despite being covered in a carpet of lush growth. Or maybe they will have been filled in. The point is that the battlefield I am surveying today will not look as it does right now forever. It will always be a battlefield, but it can be a battlefield of yesterday . . . not today. The struggle to find a lasting peace is worth the effort to stop the war. And I am completely aware that it would take so little to start it all over and destroy the potential life now growing just beneath the surface of this devastation.
      I want this to be a battlefield of yesterday. Life can be restored if I work hard toward recovery over addiction; it can easily become that horrific landscape again if I declare war on myself and choose addiction over recovery.
      My name is Jess and I am a food addict and love addict, anorexic. The war for my mind is over; I want lasting recovery more than my addictions and will take on the challenge task of working a very real and brutally honest recovery to maintain a lasting peace.


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