Posted by: innerpilgrimage | September 17, 2010

The Addicted Life, or Trying to Put the Genie Back in the Bottle

      Life is filled with choices, some of which I have absolved control to avoid the pain of making the wrong choice–or even the right choice at times.

      I am wishing in part I could take back what I said about the difficulty I had reconciling the chaos of my childhood. I chose a path of lesser resistance which had serious consequences. I was depressed because a friend moved away, and I felt abandoned and alone. I was already a compulsive eater as a child, I recognize now. My body at the time (I was an overweight child from infancy) and my memories of eating to overfull (especially sweet things–taking pleasure in the gustatory senses when I felt life was so bitter, I guess). I was given an out, an exit sign. While I did feel isolated, alone, the only person who felt as I did (as teenagers are wont to do), I wasn’t insane per se. I could not figure out how to react to get a consistent response, and I was led to chaotically dart into anything to get acceptance. My strange behavior affected my parents, my peers, my teachers. I lashed out to get acknowledgement that I wasn’t invisible. I think people avoided me because I did not “act normal”. How could they react to a person who couldn’t relate to reality because of how painful my personal reality was? As an adult, they were left completely baffled and possibly afraid. I was quiet, in general. Like how people talk about the serial killer in the neighborhood. Quiet, polite, solitary most of the time. Unable to talk to people because of extreme shyness. When I came out of my shell, I retreated the moment my awkward behavior netted retreats by others. Then, I started trying to stop being invisible by making my presence to the world, shocking people into seeing me. It’s odd, because in retrospect they had to have seen me. But I was apart, and I grew farther apart from people.
      It did get better, even in adolescence. Perhaps I learned to shut off the emotions, to emulate “being normal” among people who didn’t really know me. I did have friends, but they all seemed to be taken from me in moves and divorces. It was an odd dance, my adolescence. People sometimes extended themselves. I just couldn’t trust what I was seeing and experiencing. I distrusted the reality that perhaps some people were maturing and trying to make amends. But that was not the core of my life. Hell, it isn’t even that way now. I’m the first person in my family to walk into a 12-Step meeting of any kind and stick with it because I have faith it will work if I work it. Even at eighteen, I knew something was severely wrong. I blamed myself, I blamed my parents, I blamed God, I blamed everything I could find instead of trying to recover.
      I used to wish I were normal. There was no real normative source for me to take from. Well, there were neighbors who were normal enough, and I was able to see some normative behaviors. But my closest friends tended to have dysfunctional lives like me. I guess I gravitated to try to find someone who found the door out. And, at 39, I found a door out. Or maybe I found the door home, as the OA Invitation to You states.
      My inner addict is still trying to find someone to blame. It was my fault to choose that, right? Well, I think it was the first attempt to “get well” through therapy. I wanted to get better, to understand “normal”. I guess I never found the right therapist in youth, the one who understood what I was saying and was ready to fight with me for my sanity. By the time I was eighteen, I was already going in circles. I was already cycling through patterns, through character defects, through the food addiction. I added more food-addicted behavior (including anorexia), more self-destructive experimentation to find “a cure” and to become magically normal–just like I wanted to be magically thin. My adherence to my food plan, even imperfect, for eleven months means something. I lost a significant amount of weight. Even from the first time I weighed in–267 lbs. around 2 weeks after I started my food plan–almost 90 lbs. have been shed from my body one day at a time. It took one day at a time for nearly a year to reach a physical recovery that left me within a healthy weight range. It may not be my “ideal weight”, but it is a healthy weight range. My wish to be a healthy weight was granted over time and through a desire to honestly do the work to get better.
      Well, I have a wish to have a healthy mental and spiritual life. This is where the lack of willingness comes in, and it’s a huge lesson I hope will bring a huge awakening:
      To find “normal”, I have consistently sought it through external observation of “normal” people. I learned that I was supposed to have to will power to do it myself. If I gave up to anything or anyone, it was my choice and my fault when things went wrong. So, now I have a Higher Power that I am supposed to give it to. I hear the word “surrender” and it takes on the most negative connotations of itself. An unwanted occupier controlling my future–like the Nazis controlled France and Poland. A choice to give up completely and let myself drift like a jellyfish, on tides. Giving in and failing ultimately. Losing the battle for my sanity.
      I also look to others’ opinions of this surrender, and I see that weakness. I am supposed to be strong. Only the strong survive, right? Then how am I supposed to find strength in weakness? How am I supposed to reconcile the paradox? I wasn’t very successful reconciling it in youth, and I chose to let others label me as anxious, depressed, whatever. When I chose weakness, I let other people (fallible as they are) to guide my life. I wanted them to save me. I longed for them to save me just like the 12-Step plan says a Higher Power can.
      Add to it that some people consider the 12-Step program a cult, and I am left wondering if I am choosing a delusion that I am living in reality. I mean, I thought I was in reality when I was actively overeating.
      But history tells me that people went on to have productive lives. I see the 12 Steps and can pinpoint a path to recovery that is pretty standard for recovery programs. First comes awareness and acceptance of the problem. Second comes a desire to get better by any means possible, to accept help. Third, we ask for help. Then we deal with our pasts honestly, reconciling and/or grieving and celebrating the good. We do this with someone we can trust with this information, who accepts us. In general recovery, it’s a therapist and possibly a therapy group which can have empathy for us. We start to see patterns in our behavior, and we work toward changing the reaction-based coping mechanisms we use to flee into proactive and mature grace to deal with the unexpected. We also find solace in forgiveness to ourselves and asking forgiveness of others–whether or not they do forgive us. As long as we’re willing to admit our part in it and to make restitution and then we do our best to act on it, we can “make right” what went so wrong in our lives. We get a clean slate, a fresh start to make today different than the years that came before.
      We learn the therapeutic value of forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we will make today and the value of making immediate amends and asking immediate forgiveness. We learn to seek an inner peace through meditation and sometimes prayer–if we are religious. We find meaning and purpose, a spiritual sort of life. We are active participants in reality, finally.
      So, I guess to get the mental and spiritual recovery, I have to ascend the steps to gain that life of meaning and purpose I want.
      I know I touch my true self whenever I decide to let my Higher Power guide me, and the guidance feels like common sense. I am still alarmed by it. I mean, can I really trust it? I’ve spent my life thinking maybe I am going insane. Hell, maybe I was. But . . . if people can go to a religious center and pray for miracles from God and are not considered insane, why is it insane if I do it outside the bonds of organized religion? Am I truly an atheist, not believing in God whatsoever? I believe in something I cannot explain, and I have enjoyed the benefit of coincidences. Weird things I can’t explain, like being in a major metro area and being in the right place at the right time to reconnect with a friend from my past.
      Why not, then? I have a purpose especially for me, once I accept the job only I can do (so said Reverend Shoemaker). My Higher Power has been waiting, giving me chances. Why can’t I believe, then? What is stopping me from saying, “Belief in a Power greater than myself is not delusional or insane”?
      When I do accept it, life goes uncannily well. I mean, like I have a golden and blessed life kind of well. Unexpected good things enter it. While the bad still happens, I can take it in stride when I have a Higher Power.
      Ugh. Struggling with Step Two and Step Three again sucks. I know I am an addict, because I am entirely aware of the behavior I want to rationalize as “okay” and that it’s strange and secretive and completely contrary to what I want to do with my life. I am seeing perhaps I don’t surrender to this positive thing in my life because I fear having to take on the responsibility. But if I don’t take even the basic responsibility of my own life . . . or maybe I feel I have to take it on because I think I don’t deserve a second chance.
      HP, make me willing to be willing. The awareness sometimes overwhelms me, but every time I learn something new about my path and my past, I am reminded of where I don’t want to return. I want to accept this as complete truth, as I did for a while. The steps work for me! I’ve seen it! Why am I sliding backward? Why am I submitting instead of surrendering? Why am I perfectly content to become a slave to my addiction yet won’t give the Universe a chance to make me part of the wondrous workings of it? I have an opportunity, one I do not know the outcome of–but I have seen others who found recovery. I don’t look down on them for finding their Higher Powers. Why, in my case, is it delirium?
      I am a better person when I surrender to the beauty and majesty of the world around me. I feel the peace of nature, I feel part of something amazing and ordered and sane. Why would I fight it with every reason and excuse and rationalization I can come up with? Why turn away from the chance at meaning and purpose in my life–which I believe I can find if I open myself up to finding it?
      I’m thinking I may be a gradual instead of a lightning-bolt finder of faith. But I want this. Act as if, Jess. Act as if.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. I know there is a Higher Power waiting out there but I don’t want to admit it. But I just did. I believe wholeheartedly in a Higher Power which can bring me to the life I would have led had I not been sidetracked. No, not the physical life but the spiritual life. I have a spiritual purpose and a spiritual meaning, and it’s not insane to embrace that as reality. I am not supposed to be an addict, otherwise I would have never gone to that first OA meeting coming on a year ago. I would definitely not have gone back. I have worked at this for nearly a year. I have found enlightenment, I have learned a lot about myself, and I have been given miracles in the forms of the most unlikely coincidences. How egotistical, then, am I, for doubting a Higher Power would have a plan for someone as worthless as me? I’ve seen, I’ve personally experienced, I have had the Universe align and bring the seemingly chaotic into perfect and beautiful order around me.
      Act as if I have meaning and purpose; act as if a Higher Power wants me to succeed at this. Because when I look at the daunting task ahead, all I think of is that promise of the spiritual awakening as the result of the steps . . . and I feel both hope that I can enjoy serenity and fear that I will not do it perfect enough to attain that spiritual awakening.

That I will be abandoned by love, itself.

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