Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 1, 2010

Readin’, Writin’, and ‘Rithmetic

      I’ve spent the last two days pretty busy. Between reading sections of the Big Book for my sponsor and working on preparing a book for publication, I have found that I’ve not been too great with my time.

      In my effort to complete what I started, which I consider is my primary purpose as this point in my recovery, I have started up my five-year-old computer and am finishing an edit of the second book in my science fiction trilogy. Once it is done (imperfectly, but that’s okay), I will publish a proof copy and go over it once more, with a red pen. I am working to proofread, not edit, this time around. It’s not going as well as I wanted, but there are a few scenes I am expanding for the purpose of clarification. Well, and some potential foreshadowing. The primary purpose, however, is to get the trilogy published so I can finish the chick lit series which has been five years in the making. And once that’s done, I am moving on to something else.
      I also have beading and crochet and cross-stitch projects I want to prepare. This hasn’t been the easiest course of action, and time feels like it’s not on my side. However, I am putting these in order and I am treating my writing like a real job. A part-time job, but a real job nonetheless.
      As for reading, I have started a Big Book study with my sponsor. I’ve already read “The Doctor’s Opinion”, which I wrote about in my last entry. In finding a new understanding of allergies as a hypersensitivity to an allergen (food), I have come to understand that to alleviate the symptoms of my allergy (my lack of personal willpower to put down excess food), I personally have found that the 12 Steps are going to help me manage that illness.
      Over the last few days, I have been reading “Bill’s Story” with an eye toward gleaning something new out of this particular reading of it. That’s something I really appreciate about 12-Step work through its associated literature–everything is worth a second, third, fourth, etc. read. Every time I approach the literature, I find a new understanding of it. And each time I do, I see that the resistance to recovery is fading. I am making progress. Each time I read it, I find something new.
      This is interesting, because we are doing a Big Book study in one of my groups. I’ve read “Bill’s Story” several times, and my mental state has been different each time I read it. This time, I read it with a desire to learn, to understand how Bill Wilson evolved from a drunk to a 12-Step founder. In reading, I learned that the reason he could not succeed permanently was because he had elements of recovery but not all of it until another man reached out to him. Bill Wilson was walking toward death, and he had given up. He knew he was a lost cause. And then his friend offered him an out, if he was willing to work for it. Bill wanted to recover more than he wanted to die, so he started working the basic components of the steps. It appears he worked Step Two before Step One, but I think perhaps that’s how we all do. When we walk into a meeting, we do believe something can relieve the pain of the out-of-control life we’ve become mired in. I know I didn’t give up my addiction until I had hope that something greater than myself (the OA recovery program and fellowship with people who thought like me when it came to food). The rejection of that is so easy to do, which is why I think committing to it in Step Two works perfectly there. When I admitted I was addicted to food, I was miserable. I felt like a failure.
      Grabbing Step Two quickly, before the hope faded, helped.
      What I find fascinating is that I have spent a long time associating the 12 Steps with Christianity. I have had access to the Big Book for decades, now. My first exposure to it was a copy of the Big Book given to me when I first walked into an AA meeting when I was 18. I was a college student at the time, and I had accepted that I was a drunk. The problem was that I was able to get dry fast, just like Bill did many times. I could not connect with AA, however, because it was not my primary addiction. In fact, alcohol is part of the food addiction for me. Consumption of anything potable or edible to alter my moods is what I am seeking to recover from. My hatred of long-term out-of-control feelings and my inability to pass out (so I got to feel every horrible minute of being drunk and the associated fear of being vulnerable or needing people or having people see me in such a sorry state) helped me stay dry. The food plan I have, in which I tend to reject certain food because “it’s not worth the calories”, has placed alcohol in with sugar, fats, and other non-nutritive junk foods. Alcohol is not a trigger food, though it used to be. I wrote drunk most of the time, to allow myself to shut out people so I could be in the alternate world drunk-deafened and fantasy-focused. I won’t dismiss the trauma of the addiction simply because it’s not my primary addiction–just part of it.
      Well, so, I was reading about Bill Wilson’s conception of faith, and I realized that I was critical of his approach to a Higher Power. Curiously, it’s my own.
      My biggest problem was the wording of the Steps and Traditions, and that has always gotten in the way. One word and its derivatives have kept me out of rooms for decades: Him.
      The patriarchal God-concept, which Bill Wilson didn’t even have at the beginning, kept me away. That sucks, because while it gets those in the trinity of Western religion (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) comfortable with the 12 Steps, it sent me running the other way.
      I still have trouble with it. In fact, there are a few meetings I won’t go to because they have a Christian tone to them. This isn’t a problem; in fact, I think that it’s important that people who are seeking a deeper relationship with the God of the religion find rooms where they feel deeply confident that others feel like they do.
      To put it another way, I feel in those meetings precisely as they would at the meeting I attend at the GBLT center. The meeting I attend there is so comfortable to me, and I don’t feel like I have to hold back lest I be judged. I’m sorry, but we’re addicts, okay? Most of us are extremely judgmental. It’s part of our core character defects–we judge ourselves viciously then judge others.
      Yes, I admit this is me not being entirely in recovery, not giving over to my Higher Power this very damaging character defect. The language I associate with the organized religion of Christianity makes me close up. I think I felt utterly betrayed by the church for teaching me that God was love and omnipotent then told me that God was capricious and held His love from people “not like us”. Yeah, I think that’s it. One experience with one church has jaded me toward them all. I feel that if I expose my faults, I will be judged as going to Hell.
      And then comes the proselytizing. I don’t want to be a Christian. Like Bill Wilson admitted he felt, I admit that I feel that Jesus Christ as represented in the Bible was a great guy whose faith and love are noble and admirable. I just don’t believe that he’s my savior. I don’t believe the only way to find “God” is through Jesus. And I don’t want to be told by someone that I am going to Hell if I don’t get down on my knees inside a church every Sunday morning.
      Concisely? I have a problem with people taking bits and pieces from the Old and New Testament to justify their bigotry. Either follow the mitzvot from the Old Testament (if gays and lesbians are sinners, then a Christian who eats ham on Easter is a sinner) or follow what Christ was supposed to have said in the Gospels.
      Also, having talked to gays and lesbians, I have found that this isn’t a choice. They would choose to be straight if they could, since it would be easier on them. It’s not a choice, just like I didn’t choose my parents.
      Therefore, I am left with two truths: either (a) God made some people gay and did not do it accidentally or (b) God made humans who were condemned to Hell from conception. God is loving, or God is malicious. I can’t reconcile with a condemning and malicious God. (Yes, I need to work this out again through the steps; this causes me a deep lack of serenity.)
      So, back to Bill. Anyway, being an agnostic (he had faith, despite not connecting it to a religion while he was drinking), Bill Wilson had to take on a Higher Power. When he did, he saw in his life when his Higher Power had been involved in Bill’s life. The grave stone at Winchester Cathedral came to his mind. Something which he could have passed by and ignored caught his attention when he was a soldier; years later, he recognized it as his Higher Power’s influence in his pre-recovery life.
      I’ve experienced that, myself. I think this time, I faced off with “Bill’s Story” with a more open mind. It’s still not wide open, but that’s something I will get to enjoy some day. For now, the parts about his deep spiritual awakening escape me. But the promise of having a useful life keeps me coming back. I read what happened to him, and I have seen the many different Anonymous groups which have helped millions of people. Because a perfect spiritual storm came together, there was a solution waiting for me when I was ready for it.
      And as time goes on, the “Him” stuff in the Steps and Traditions makes me trigger less.
      I am making progress, though I am far from perfect. But I cannot change people who feel differently than I do faith. As I accept it more, I will get more out of it.
      Bill’s Story is a much more personal journey in this reading. It’s not just a “I recovered; Ask Me How!” brochure to me any more. It is a story which I honesty am finding I associate with more and more as I read it. I have no idea how I missed all that before.
      Strike that. I know how I missed it. I was reading the literature with a closed mind. I was reading the literature critically instead of openly, and I was ignoring the parts that related to me. By reading it slowly and writing associated marginalia, I found my story in Bill’s Story.
      Weird. Good, but weird.
      As for the ‘rithemetic, I guess I will finish with some spiritual math: One addict (me) plus Twelve Steps equals One purpose-driven life lived Twenty-Four hours at a time.
      No, it’s not really an equation that can be worked out mathematically, but considering that the first time I looked at the steps, I was sure that they would have the opposite effect they did (Admitting the addiction did not make me drown in it; surrendering to a Higher Power gave me freedom; examining my past let me release it; seeing my faults allowed me to choose not to indulge in them), I’ll take my arithmetic philosophy and move on.
      Oh, and I will add one more thing:
      “HP, please guide me toward right thought and relieve me of my character-defective thoughts, so I may practice acceptance instead of judgment and find serenity instead of anxiety. I am deeply saddened by the feelings I get–the fear, the guilt, the sadness, the anger–when I find something unacceptable to me.”
      My name is Jess, and I am a recovering food addict. It’s days like this I am reminded how hot-on-my-heels my addiction really is. If I indulge my judgmental thoughts, I will fuel them and find myself feeling lonely and suspicious of everyone. That’s the essence of my addicted life.
      Now that my eyes are open enough, I don’t want to go back to the darkness of the addiction–which I think would only get worse because I would know that I turned away from inner strength, fellowship, personal choice, freedom, and serenity.
      Food is not a solution; I can’t delude myself that it is–as hard as I would try if I went back to the addiction. There would be nothing but an intense misery and emptiness as I destroyed my health. I can’t go back to that life and expect to survive. While I’m still feeling the aftershocks of walking away from the addiction (and accepting that there is no cure, as much as I tried to delude myself that recovery is a cure), I know that I will have the terra firma of a recovered life beneath my feet if I keep walking forward one step at a time, one day at a time.

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