Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 7, 2010

King of Infinite Space

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 56 Days

      Okay, so where have I been for four days? Well, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month! I finished my novel this morning, and now I am shifting gears as I return to reality.

      I accept this is disturbing, considering how often I tout living in reality. I won’t lie: When I novel, I am in full compulsion, completely in my head, and not particularly interested in participating in the life around me. I failed my goal of writing a little each day. That’s just not how I write, unfortunately. Extending an obsession over a whole month, where I’m not actually present when I’m walking around doing errands was a habit I did not want to maintain for a whole month. So, I powered through, had some very late nights, and completed a 100,000-word novel in 7 days.
      Yes. That is the HP-honest truth. I wrote over 100,000 words in 7 days.
      There are repercussions. The We Care message for today is for November 6, not November 7. I didn’t know what day it was in reality because I was existing in 1999, writing down the events of fictional people as they lived dramatic and often compulsive lives and tried to come to terms with it.
      Yet despite the descent into compulsive writing which I know will take time for me to climb out of, I appreciate that my characters reflect my own small taste of recovery. I say “small taste of recovery” because I consider myself a neophyte in the ways of the program. Sure, I am less than two pounds from the ideal weight for my height (I weighed myself today–part of that compulsive noveling life is that other compulsions rear their ugly heads, and daily compulsive weighing is one of them–and I weighed 166.2 lbs.) yet I still “feel fat”. To put this into perspective, I have not weighed this little since my first semester as a freshman in college. I was 17 at the time.
      I wonder how I didn’t consider myself fat, despite the desire to be a pre-1990 “Perfect Size 6”. For those of us who lived through the eighties, this was the goal. In today’s vanity sizing, that would be a two . . . maybe a very small size four.
      I still think about it, even as I am seeing my large bone structure halt the descent toward that vanity-creep size 6, which I have already dismissed as a “real” size 12. During that semester, I got so thin that the Resident Advisor staged an intervention. I was a 1980s tight size 10 at the time, and I wanted to be in that little handed-me-down-from-a-friend white denim mini skirt more than anything, to the point I was eating less than 500 calories per day. It was tight, not comfortable. In my compulsive head, I had to lose more weight so it could be loose and I could not only be the ideal size 6, but the 125 lbs. which would (in my broken mind) make my parents finally love me.
      I was 145 lbs. when I had an intervention and was handed a piece of toast, which the dorm’s resident advisor watched me eat resentfully.
      To put that into perspective, I eat 2,000 calories per day and I am still losing weight. I’ve passed below the scale number (167.8 lbs.) which that 2,000 calories was supposed to maintain. This baffles, scares, and elates me at the same time.
      Yet even as I lose weight and think I am fat because of the way my skin hangs, my bone structure is telling me a different story. I feel the bumps on my spine when I lean forward and slide my fingertips over my neck or my lower back. When I sit, my pelvic bones or my tailbone ache after a while, and I have to get up to walk around to relieve it. When I put on my smallest-sized jeans, I feel the tightness not against my skin or fat but pressure on the bones themselves.
      In other words, I don’t have the decades of fat I’ve grown accustomed to, which padded me as I sat and binged. My body was the fluffy cloud of packing in which my bones rested.
      Those aches, despite its annoying presence as I learn to adjust from decades of a soft life, reminds me I am present and accounted for. I have a new body to take into the new decade, and I have to learn to care for it in a brand new way.
      The honesty I’m writing here has everything to do with recovery, by the way. Every time I become aware of the pendulum of my food addiction swinging toward anorexia–and I do swing that way some days because I eat when I’m hungry, which happens and is sated by less and less these days–I realize how important it is for me to turn to program. My recovery is here to provide relief not just from eating too much but from eating too little. It is here to provide relief from the self-loathing that came from being morbidly obese and the self-loathing that I can never reach that desperately underweight goal of size 4 or size 2. My bones won’t stand for it. I am not a birdlike creature, nor will I ever be one. I am mesomorphic at 6 feet tall, not some long-and-lithe willowy creature from the pages of a fashion magazine. I am steeped in that reality, and I must learn to accept it as just one more thing out of my control.
      The only way I have found that works successfully for me is the 12-Step plan of recovery. The only way.
      So, as I personally face off with anorexia, I accept that I am not just a compulsive overeater. I am eating-disordered, ranging the full spectrum of eating-disordered behavior. That eating-disordered behavior has its roots in the love addiction–the willingness (though lack of desire) to trade sexual gratification for the promise of love.
      I don’t talk about my SLAA stuff much here because I am still struggling with that compulsion. I may accept that I am powerless over it and that it is making my life unmanageable (which I do and which it does), but I also want the chemical high of catching the attention of someone who doesn’t know me. Just like I have an unrealistic goal of being a size 2, I have an unrealistic goal of wanting everyone to love me. My sane mind knows both are unrealistic goals. My sane mind knows that the emotional damage I sustain when I do not get the attention I seek will depress me more. After all . . . connected to that “Perfect Size 6” is the “Perfect Life” and the “Perfect Love.”
      In other words, I want to take the innately beautiful and imperfect human being and punish it for being unable to force people into a will-free existence where I am Queen Bee of the world.
      As much as I hate to admit it, I know that admitting it will set me free of it. I am only as sick as my secrets. The more things like this I hold within, the more likely I will find myself back at my pre-OA weight wondering what happened. Or, just as bad, hospitalized with an IV pumping nutrients into my arm after having heart or lung failure because my body was emaciated. Both routes are addiction; both routes end in an untimely death due to addiction.
      I could blame society’s vicious attitude toward weight; I could blame clothing designers for telling me that 95% of the female population are unacceptable. I could blame them and I could blame me. But, see, that’s not useful to myself or others.
      When I consider my usefulness, I think of that movie title “We Are Marshall”. I am OA. The minute I walk out of a meeting room, I represent the program. Well, I love the program. I believe in the program. So, what the Hell am I doing representing the program by simply walking around physically recovered?
      Hooray for me (insert sarcastic voice here). I not only reached my goal of a healthy BMI, I am one point from median for a person with a medium-build frame. Whoopdie-frickin-doo. I am also 7 lbs. underweight for my height and frame size, and it’s still not enough?
      Enough. Recovery makes it enough. So even when I am stumbling and bumbling around, playing chicken with addiction, taking things I know are out of control and trying to add puppet strings while they cut them as fast as I add them, I have recovery to turn to when I am lain flat and ready to crawl into a meeting yet again. And when I leave, I walk out stiffly and slowly, the painful lesson of addiction not lost on me.
      Reality isn’t clean or pretty. Even in recovery, I am not promised rainbows and sunshine and twittering birds and singing trees and plants. But it is reality.
      And even when I take a week off to purge a fiction story from my head that is trying to claw its way out onto the page as I sit pouring word after word onto the blank pages of my word processor’s WYSIWYG screen, once it’s gone, I am released.
      I have faith that program will eventually make my writing manageable, too. It already does in the lives of those fictional characters.

      Just for today. One day at a time. I can do something for 24 hours that would appall me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime. Don’t forget that the world record is 24 hours. Our program slogans encourage and remind us to live in the now, to take on life on our terms while accepting that life’s got its own terms. That gem of recovery which has come up through the decades is the foundation of our recovery. We can do for one day what we could not do for a week, or month, or year, or even lifetime. We have a goal, and it’s reachable–to get through one day. Only one day.
      In For Today, the story involves an OA member who has enjoyed nearly a decade of abstinence, who had an OA friend who remembered her coming through the door powerless over her addiction. That woman kept coming back to meetings and started her abstinence, taking on one day at a time. Few people knew or remembered the woman as she was 200 lbs. prior. The thought we are left with? “Now is the time to begin; tomorrow is too late.”
      In Voices of Recovery, the spiritual and mental recovery are addressed through appreciation of the Fellowship. One day at a time, the writer is building a strong soul, a strong body, and a strong mind through a life of service, fellowship, and recovery. By our actions, we grow as people, and we grow our Fellowship. Every day we live just for today in program, we are maintaining the house where people still suffering in addiction can enter and call home. “Those who still suffer are our life blood,” it explains, “and we are theirs.”
      Today, someone will enter a meeting we could attend . . . will we be there? Today, someone who has given up completely will walk into a room and look around at the people and see recovery in progress . . . will we represent recovery or a diet and calories club? Even if we’ve only been abstinent for one hour, even if we’ve only completed Step One, we are doing service to that person. And that one hour and one step is all that person needs to see that we are a family made up of imperfect people, living one day at a time.
      This morning, we woke up. That, alone, gave us a new chance to practice abstinence and recovery. This is not ours to fight alone–that’s what we did when we dieted. Together, we are told, we get better. Not cured. Better. Part of the healthy grieving of the loss that we can never eat normally is accepting we will never be free from the addiction–it is incurable. Addiction can halt a person with hours of recovery in his or her tracks; it can halt a person with decades of recovery in his or her tracks. Yet we don’t have to despair because there’s a shadow with us. After all, even in the bright light of the noonday sun, we still cast a shadow. It is small and we can completely ignore its presence as we enjoy the warmth and light that belonging to a community like the OA Fellowship provides. We belonged before we ever walked in the door, when we didn’t know it existed for us. We belonged even as we binged or purged or denied ourselves the food our bodies needed to function properly. Yesterday, we seized the addiction and lived the nightmare. Today, we live as a testament that it is not too late for any of us to “live the dream”, to seize the day . . . and decide that even if we aren’t abstinent tomorrow, we lived our precious life to the best of our ability today.
      My name is Jess, and I am eating disordered–compulsive overeater, bulimic, anorexic. I am all these things, and all these things are me. But I don’t have to exist at their mercy.
      I can live, just for today, in recovery.


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