Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 19, 2010

Oh, That Sneaky Siren Song

      First of all, I have convinced myself I don’t really want to write. Journaling is one of the eight tools I rely on to keep my recovery going, and it seems that I need to write (and do as many of the other tools as possible) today to keep my head out of the addiction.

      I’ve started to recognize the path my food (and love) addiction takes to slide me into position to relapse. I’d like to share it.
      [I just took a break to email my SLAA sponsor; part of pulling back from my social anorexia “acting-in” is communicating with that sponsor.]
      First, I begin with honesty. I’ve been weighing myself daily for the last few days, looking for a break into the next weight range down. I have been hovering at 170.x lbs. since October 14. I broke 170 this morning. That 169.6-lb. reading started me on the numbers game.
      The numbers game, for me, is when I start out with the BMI calculator. I want to see that number set precisely halfway between 18.5 and 24.9. That would be a BMI of 21.7. HOWEVER, I have a large frame, so the 159-lb. recommendation is not quite accurate. Most ideal body weight calculators set my ideal weight at about 165. However, I also have seen 175 lbs., 192 lbs., and even 150-something lbs.–which brings me to believe that this is nutty. (Aha! Nutty thinking means that it’s part of the addiction, and my recovered mind knows it.) So, I start searching for validation, trying to will my body to look how I want it to. If I want my body to have a different shape, I need to take on the new Ninth Tool . . . that Plan of Action. I need to exercise and build muscle mass. But that isn’t the EASY way. (And again, I see the character defective behavior).
      So, I spent about 30 minutes to an hour wanting to journal here yet not knowing what to write. Instead of doing something like reading the Big Book pages my sponsor asked me to read, I decided to (1) weigh myself, (2) hop online to see my BMI, (3) move to an ideal weight calculator, (4) check out another ideal weight calculator, then (5) get out my computer’s calculator to start doing other calculations. Okay, so all of this compulsive behavior (which I repeat, as if the numbers would ever change . . . addict behavior if I ever saw it) results in this basic information:
      (1) My ideal weight range, from the Met Life insurance tables, sets me between 161 and 183 lbs, which means that (to sit right in that “perfect” middle) I should weigh 172 lbs. However, the people’s choice ideal weight is 157, and the Robinson Index is 152.
      (2) I know that most calculators don’t take into account large body frames. As a mesomorphic woman at almost 6′ tall, it’s pretty evident at first glance. However, I measured my wrist with a tape measure months ago, and it was about 18cm–definitely a large frame for a woman. Therefore, I am supposed to add 10% body weight to those two ideal weight numbers. So, the people’s choice (external validation! Something which is OUT OF MY CONTROL which I am obsessing over to put under my control) adjusted weight would put my ideal weight at between 172-173 lbs. and the Robinson index would put me at 167.2 lbs.

      This process of doing the math teaches me one thing: my addictive mind is clever as Hell to avoid going straight for the trigger foods. Now, when I was obese, then overweight, then even at normal weight at the top range of the BMI scale, I fretted about being obese. Yes, even at normal weight, I fretted about being currently obese.
      Now that I’m underweight in some places and overweight in others, I am baffled. I can wear a size 8 Gap pants (though my big frame puts me squarely in a size 12 dress . . . ugh), yet I long to go to Lane Bryant because I feel safe there. That’s where my brain says I belong. I would have to gain 30 to 40 lbs. to even fit the smallest size sold there. I mean, I remember being on the cusp between The Limited and Lane Bryant just a few months ago because I wasn’t quite a 12 and wasn’t quite a 14. Well, now I’m an 8/10 . . . a TALL 8/10, which means that the pants still don’t fit.
      So, my broken brain somehow reasons that I can get into the clothes if I lose more weight. Hunh? I’m not going to get any freaking shorter–even if I dropped 50 lbs.!
      And there is where the addicted mind slides in without a fight. I fret over going clothes shopping because I need pants with a rise that fits me. That means I am not and will never be able to shop off the rack. Not even long-legged pants work. I need tall sizes in shirts and pants because the darting requires it. Add to it the new frustration of having just been measured for ladies’ upper undergarments and getting a chest measure of 35 inches (I’m not even starting on the bust measure, which completely skewed my theoretical size), which isn’t accurate because the 38 back size is tight. Ugh, the extra skin thing is giving me the heebie jeebies. I don’t fit them right now, which means the scoop neck shirts (which I got in XL instead of large, though I should have gotten the large instead) shows my ladies undergarment. All of this frustration with the inability to find anything that sits at the waist when it’s advertised to (it would . . . if I were 5’6″!) or finding things with long enough sleeves (hence the XL, which is clearly too big) . . . well, the fact that the closest tall women’s store I can find is in Minnesota (the next closest are in Canada) and I don’t want to fight with online shopping, spending tons of money to ship back things which do not fit . . . it’s exhausting. Simply exhausting.
      And, my addict mind tells me, unacceptable.
      That’s how it gets in, now that I’ve found physical recovery. It’s easy to start playing the numbers game, and I always do as I near breaking into a new 10-lb. range. The holding-my-breath anxiety up to that first break (including actually weighing myself with one hand on the counter, just to feel what it would be like to be on the other side of that fence in the “greener grass”) is followed by a flurry of activity. Mathematical busy-work to validate myself. Yet, when I do it, I feel shaken. I mean, I had more confidence five pounds ago!
      I check tables and charts . . . I basically do Calculus for Crazy People as I try to reconcile that the scale says one thing and my brain says another. The result, however, is the same. Despair. Hopelessness. A growing resentment toward clothing designers and my own body.
      In other words, I enter the world of addiction and start having those compulsive thoughts that inch me closer to that one compulsive bite.
      Last time, I was right on the edge of tossing my food plan out the window. I did not feel safe in the “normal” stores. I felt betrayed that I can’t go into a brick-and-mortar store and get a pair of pants that actually fits . . . unless I want to wear men’s clothing. I am frustrated and confused by the fact that even my measurements don’t jive with what my body is doing. It’s a maelstrom of unacceptable things out of my control.
      And that, my recovered mind tells me, is when I most need to use every last one of those OA Tools. I have my food plan; my abstinence is the most important thing because it allows me to live outside the food. And I do, which is why my addict-mind uses a different route to get in. The second tool, my sponsor, is going to be used today in conjunction with the two tools of telephone and literature. I phone my sponsor this afternoon, and we’re working on the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is setting the foundation for my lasting, lifelong recovery. Right now, I am using the tool of writing, being bluntly honest about how my addicted mind gets in and wreaks havoc in order to return me to the “safety” of addiction.
      I went to a meeting last night, which was important because a character defect came up and I was called on it. In my meeting share, I apologized to the person for the harm I did. I acknowledged that it was my fault, and committed to being mindful of it in the future. A bit of Step 10 practice, it made the rest of the meeting go better. And I have no resentment, no self-loathing over it. As long as I commit to progress now that I have spotted that controlling behavior (which I am), I have done what recovery has asked me to do–make progress and not fret over my human imperfection.
      Anonymity is something I practice regularly, though I have no problem letting people know I am an OA member (part of 12-Step service). I do have other service work I can do today: I am behind on my treasurer duties, and I can drop off the rent for the use of the space today once I complete it.
      And, to honor that new ninth tool, I can get off my butt and change something I can–adding muscle mass to my body.
      So today I am going to use my food plan, my sponsor, meetings (yesterday and tomorrow), the telephone, the program literature, my writing, anonymity, service, and exercise (a plan of action). And I am going to read the most important part of “Acceptance is the Answer” from the Big Book. Heck, here it is:
      “And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation–some fact of my life–unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.
      “Until I could accept my [food addiction/love addiction], I could not stay [abstinent/within my bottom lines]; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

      I am an addict, powerless over the addiction and over the resulting unmanageability of my life when I am deep in addiction. I will always think like an addict; there is no “normal” thinking for me, only recovered thinking. Life is out of my control. The only things I can change are my approach to it and my behavior. My thinking will change, but the addict voice will only be quieted for a period of time, not silenced forever. If I follow recovery, I accept that the rest of my life will be a balance between progress and self-sabotage. But I don’t have to be depressed that I will never reach that goal. I have a goal–live one day in imperfect recovery. When I go to bed abstinent and have made amends for the harm I’ve done that day or have learned more about (and tried to practice) using program to quiet that inner addict, I have completed that goal. One day at a time. One small in-the-present unit at a time. Let every tomorrow I have left in this life stay there; let every yesterday rest as a lesson of how recovery can lift me from the addict behavior today. Today is where I am, where I should be.

      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. My addict mind is trying to distract me from using the tools by encouraging me to do other things which would demoralize me or at least get me focused away from spiritual and mental recovery and toward the physical recovery. That’s what my recovery looks like, and despite the way it sounds, I am having a good day. After all, recovery is about recognizing the ever-present addiction and using the program to meet the challenge head-on. I have been called out by my addiction, and I am taking my recovery with me to meet the addiction face-to-face.
      Heh. It kind-of sounds nutty, as if I have two personalities. I don’t. I swear I don’t. I have one personality–I am the addict. I simply have the tools to allow me to live outside the internal mental maelstrom that is the addict life. Just like medication to manage high blood pressure or heart issues or cholesterol or depression or even diabetes, 12-Step recovery is a means to have a daily reprieve from the danger of imminent death by the dangerous illness. And like those medications, it requires an awareness of the addiction (disease) so the recovery (medication) can work as intended.



  1. […] I wrote a post entitled “Oh, that Sneaky Siren Song” that’s getting a lot of comments over the last few weeks . . . spam comments. About […]

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