Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 8, 2010

The Three States That Matter, and Knight Vision Goggles, Too

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 55 Days

      On my WordPress Dashboard, I get a quick view of posts and of the searches people do to find particular posts or subjects. While anorexia and bulimia in OA still top the list (I’m dealing with the anorexic aspect of addiction in OA right now, so maybe I can actually do that service I hoped I could with empathy instead of just sympathy), the actual search for the post entitled “Knight Vision Goggles” (June 30, 2010) has started creeping up the search list. Since the SLAA stuff really is the foundation of the food addiction and the resulting repercussions of it, I am going to address it after I share today’s We Care message about . . . mental recovery. (I did edit it for here a little bit; I had a few clauses presented in the message sent via email which are annoying the dickens out of me, and I have the courage to change them here).

     
RAINDROPS ON ROSES AND WHISKERS ON KITTENS
     
      I love that this program has a lovely trinity balance. It’s like the AA symbol, the triangle in a circle. Like that Schoolhouse Rock song, “Three is a Magic Number”, I also consider three to be a magic number. I have an affinity for threes. I am the third child, and the day, month, and two-digit representation of the year are all equally divisible by three in my birthday. Even when I write, I tend to use three adjectives or descriptive phrases, and I tend to write in trilogies. So when lasting recovery asks me to attend to my physical, mental, and spiritual health, when the Serenity Prayer offers me advice on acceptance and courage and wisdom, I experience recovery as an equilateral triangle. When one is out of balance, the others tend to suffer, too.
      The 12 Steps are spiritual; our abstinence is physical. We sometimes forget that mental recovery is part of it, too. But as we become aware through the mental clarity abstinence offers (usually within a week of starting abstinence, which I have personally experienced and others I talk to or read stories from attest), and as we work the steps to create a conscious relationship with our Higher Powers, that mental state develops along with those two things. Our attitudes become about gratitude. We have a higher awareness. We are, in essence, changing how we live in the world simply by approaching it with a newly opened mind.
      In For Today, we are told that we have power over our mental attitudes. Our mental recovery is about our choices, the ones which–in the Serenity Prayer–we are asked to use our courage to change what we can. We can change our minds by working the steps. We can focus on love; we can focus on healing. We can choose lovely things to put in our mind.
      In Voices of Recovery, we’re given the how through Step Three and Step Eleven. Our willingness to let our Higher Power become our loving Higher Parent and guide us and our active communication with it as we pray (talk) and meditate (listen) in the stilled calm returns to us what was lost. This voice of recovery mentions a “magical mind”–which can be used to fuel addiction as well as fuel recovery. We have so much power within our own minds! We can change how we move through life simply by how we use that amazing mind!
      For me, approaching the trinity of real and lasting recovery in program aligns really well with the three states of matter in physics. My physical recovery is solid. I can touch my recovering body; I can use that body to move through a solid world. I can use it to convey food into my mouth, or I can use it to hug people, or I can use it to do service.
      My spiritual recovery is like the gaseous state. It expands and fills every container it’s in. When I talked, once, about the void inside me and how I tried to use food to fill it, I acknowledged that I am a spiritual vessel. Well, when I accepted that a Higher Power could give me meaning and purpose outside of food addiction, that empty space became filled completely by spiritual purpose and guidance. My Higher Power all-of-a-sudden became something both “out there” and within me. As the Big Book tells us, we don’t look outside of us for our Higher Power. We do not take others’ concepts of God and paste them into our lives. We need to have a close relationship–as best friends, as perfect parent and recovering child, as spiritual sponsor and hopeful sponsee–with our Higher Powers. From my childhood, I am still deeply affected by the New Testament verse, Revelation 3:20:
     
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
     
      My Higher Power was ready to have a nice sit-down with me, like visiting someone in the afternoon for tea or coffee–even as I tried to hide my eating from It. But it saw me through the window, and it kept knocking because I was suffering in isolation and intense loneliness. When I am truly working the program, I know it because my Higher Power and I have genuine and casual conversations–like I would with a human friend. I don’t need Thees and Thous or rituals to please it, I don’t need to grovel to earn Its love like I did with my parents. When I crawled into meeting (or, as Footsteps in the Sand offers, was carried in by my Higher Power), my Higher Power was already there. The program gave me the strength to open the door, and my Higher Power came right in. It gave me the spiritual strength to choose a food plan even as my mind was muddled. And clarity set in because of that coffee klatsch I invited my Higher Power to one evening in September of 2009. It was always there, filling everywhere around me, waiting for the time I opened the door to the spiritual void within. And when I opened the door, it rushed in like a fresh spring breeze and made the stuffy and miserable place I existed within bright and pleasant again.
      Between the physical recovery (solid) state and the spiritual recovery (gaseous) state, there is the mental recovery state–the fluid state. I love the concept of mental recovery as a fluid state, because this is where the work of attitude change occurs. The fluidity of my mental attitude means that I can choose to leave a resentful state and live a loving one. The fluidity of my mental attitude means that I can read program literature a dozen times and get a dozen different readings because I am in a different place in my recovery. This is where the “courage to change the things I can” resides. This is the wellspring of the powerful choice of Steps Six and Seven–to give up what I was sure I “knew” for the potential of living a life today that I had always promised myself “tomorrow”. My character defects come from this fluid state, as do my character assets. Which ones I pluck from the wells water of my mind to carry with me during the day are my own choosing. I can choose the sweet water of a good attitude, or I can choose the contaminated water of a bad attitude. One encourages my survival; one makes me feel sicker. Happily, program seems to be a pretty good filtration system, which can convert that contaminated water into potable water, even as I move through the day. And as I learn, through program, where to find the clean, sweet water, I am able to live confidently as I draw a good mental attitude from my fluid mind.
     
     
      While I wish I could have expressed those concepts in a less wordy manner, I accept that I tend to wax poetic. However, to break it down?
      Physical recovery is like the solid state of matter. My physical recovery is the solid expression of a life in abstinence, and its solidity is maintained by program. When addiction applies enough heat to melt it into relapse, my physical recovery becomes fluid–as it was when I lived in addiction. Recovery keeps it cool and maintains its solidity.
      Spiritual recovery is like the gaseous state of matter. It expands to fill any vessel it’s let into. I let it into the spiritual place within me, and now I have something to turn to instead of food. Instead of a vast internal cavern with a pile of rotting solid junk food at the bottom and dead space above, it is clean of the food and filled with fresh, spiritual air.
      Mental recovery is like the liquid state of matter. When I treated it like a solid, I was always frustrated. I cannot pick up a liquid like I can a solid; I cannot maintain a set attitude based from coping mechanisms of my past and expect to have a fulfilling life. So, accepting the fluid state of the mind–the impulses to binge which I don’t act on, the exhausting addict attitudes I can release to my Higher Power so I can carry a recovered attitude instead–is something that gives me strength to live today to the best of my ability.
     
      On to that Knight Vision. [I’m taking a moment to read the post, so I can review that state of mind and apply it to what happened yesterday, and the messages from my Higher Power that came from some great sharing and conversations during and after my SLAA meeting.]
      Okay, I reread it.
      First of all, I think admitting the SLAA addiction is harder than the food addiction for me. There are huge social stigmas associated with it. Now, the “love” part of SLAA is pretty benign. A “love addict” wears his or her heart on the sleeve, will martyr him or herself in the name of chivalric love. We feel compassion for someone who keeps finding themselves yet again facing one more relationship break-up because they thought they could trust that person.
      A sex addict, on the other hand, is perceived as a predator. This person’s admission (despite being surrounded by sex addicts in denial, who are more dangerous because they are still living outside rigorous honesty) puts them in a position where people judge and innately distrust them. It’s part of the reason I add, anorexic. I’m at the point of attending meetings, though I am not actively working the program there. Yes, I am doing service–I’m leading the SLAA group I attend throughout November. But I am doing what is recommended by many 12-Step programs–get solid recovery one at a time. I am there for the awareness. And I am an anorexic. I am drawn to isolate because I fear I am a predator, too, as long as I am not working toward recovery. And I would be right.
      Now that I have admitted this, I want to explain the face of my sex and love addiction. In group, we read the list of characteristics, and I see the things I turned to (and sometimes unwillingly turn to inside my head, causing so much guilt that I withdraw even further) in my early adulthood. I am a love addict who is willing to use sex to manipulate someone into staying. When I “act out”, I am a professional distressed damsel. I seek saviors in that state, and I always have a really good excuse.
      Currently, my soul and life is worth a million dollars. Yes, I am sick to my stomach admitting it, but I know that by admitting it, I can use recovery to understand how the fear has put a price tag on something that is priceless. Why a million dollars?
      That would pay off the debts of my spouse and myself and leave me with enough money to start over once my spouse left for pretty damned good reasons. While this closes doors to most white knights, the door is unlocked. Well, when I’m not horrified by admitting this in my own head and lock that door and hide in the farthest corner of my spiritual house from it. And yes, the door is locked right now and I am at that back corner right now, so even a million dollars won’t get in. Though I would be sorely tempted if I looked out the window and saw a handsome sex-addict waving that kind of cash around. How do I know the person would be a sex addict? Well, normal people don’t try to buy their way into people’s lives, and addicts attract addicts. It’s why we talk about not 13th Stepping. Group isn’t a supermarket where we take our personal grocery lists and look around for someone with a basket filled with all or most of what we want. Group is where we address our real addictions. And group was where, yesterday, in a teasing yet sincere manner, I told a White Knight type who was joking with me as he helped me take the 7th tradition for rent of the space to the proper place, to watch out–I am a Distressed Damsel in full-blown addiction. And no, I wasn’t triggered, just like I assume he wasn’t. Laughing at the bleaker parts of our natures, of the vicious life-destroying nature of our addictions, we not only remove their power over us by the light of honesty, we have the awareness to turn toward recovery instead of addiction.
      Part of my addiction is trying to avoid the pain of real life. I hate owing the money I do owe. I hate feeling trapped by a mortgage on a house that’s upside-down (we owe more than it’s worth, therefore we cannot sell). I hate that I have credit card debt. And I hate that my husband does not have the freedom to enjoy his life as he works sixty-plus hours per week so we can pay down our debts responsibly.
      If I acted out for that million dollars, he would be free of the debt and he would choose to be free of me. The harm I would do a person I do believe I actually have found real love with is not worth the price of admission. I consider that I would not only devastate someone who supports my recovery in both programs I attend and has patience with my current full-blown smoking addiction, I would harm his future chances to find love again. That kind of betrayal now that I am in group? No. So, I act in, withdrawing and isolating. That does, however, have repercussions to my marriage, too, but coming out of my burrow to where he is does less damage than trying to explain why our debt is suddenly paid off and there’s a guy showing up at the door regularly.
      Right now, the relief of rigorous honesty is setting in. The secret is out, and that fluid mind I wrote about above is turning toward recovered thoughts instead of seeking the high of self-delusion that I can be rescued. My recovered mind tells me it’s not even an empty victory. There is no victory in cutting a swath through my OA recovery and my SLAA recovery over a rationalization so stupid as money. I may have a body which can be bought or sold, but my mind and my soul are sitting there, too. I am precious and priceless to my core family and to my Higher Power and to my fellowships. No. I have no price tag, I am not biddable on eBay, and I am certainly not on Craigslist.
      I also consider the growth that comes from taking responsibility for my debts. A quick-fix cure that gives me a worse disease isn’t a cure at all. No, the process of working as a partner with my spouse to relieve ourselves of that debt with the same rigor and honesty I find in program is the only path to serenity. I made choices; the choices have consequences; I am making choices which have consequences which will leave me stronger. If I pay off my debt over time and keep my soul, I do better service to myself and to others. And on the day the balance is zero on the credit cards and car loan, I know (from experience) the relief will be sweeter because it was earned through living one day at a time, through practicing making smarter financial decisions, and through taking responsibility for my actions. This is a practice in footwork and recovery, of acting on life rather than reacting to it. And I am internalizing the lesson even now: The boundary of self-respect and serenity in recovery is stronger than the wall of saying “I’ll only indulge if I get a REALLY big payoff that I know no sane person would agree to . . . so I’m safe.” I am safe when I use program because I’m not focusing on addict rationalizations. And yes, there is possibly one person (in the billions out there in the world) with far too much money who would be amused enough to drop a million dollars just to see what happens. And that fear he could be out there triggers the anorexic withdrawal. I may rationally know I will never meet this clearly eccentric man, but it doesn’t mean I won’t put enough walls and locked doors between me and him to keep this potentially fictional person at bay. If I am to heal myself, I have to be out in the world, ready to meet that fellow on the street . . . and invite him to a meeting to see if a 12-Step program is right for him. If he rejects it? I have done my service making him aware it’s out there should he decide that offering women a million dollars to fuel his White Knight savior addiction yet ask for their souls as a “more-than-fair exchange” isn’t something Mr. Fictional White Knight wants out of life any more. Heh. Actually, that’s a really funny thought. Getting propositioned and inviting that person to a 12-Step meeting. I’m actually laughing, here. I mean, that is actually the one solution to my problem of feeling I have to hide from the world to protect my loved ones from my addiction . . . right there in Step Twelve.

      So, to a more philosophical line of thought on being a recovering White Knight or Distressed Damsel. There is a dance we Knights and Damsels do, one that I am pretty-sure is repeated regularly.
      Okay, so let’s start with the White Knight. A man or woman, the power in the potential relationship comes from the need to be desirable or loved enough. I tend to think most White Knights are love addicts, simply because they want someone who needs them so much that the rescued person won’t leave. They hide their inner Distressed Damsel–that part of them who longs to be loved enough, to earn being saved by saving another.
      Distressed Damsels are, to me, like the bunny in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Oh sure, it looks like a harmless rabbit, but it has those big pointy teeth. In essence, your Distressed Damsel is a dragon in a cute widdle bunny suit. Big innocent eyes catch the attention those White Knights in, a semblance of helplessness brings them close enough, then SNAP! The jaws come down and the poor White Knight is consumed in one big gulp. Or chewed up then spat out. Oh yes, that Damsel-costumed dragon is a complete and utter bitch, going for the pain.
      In other words, Distressed Damsels use their addictive need to be rescued from a situation to manipulate White Knights into doing for them. We know the price–the exchange of words and acts of love or desire–and we get our payoff in fueling the White Knight’s addiction until a shinier knight comes along.
      Now, don’t get me wrong. It seems most White Knights and Distressed Damsels are so involved in the dance that they lie to themselves. We want to believe the fantasy. We want to believe the promise of chivalric love, of the fairy-story happy ending.
      But White Knights and Distressed Damsels are fictional characters. Real people cannot coexist with that fiction, even if they desperately want to and believe wholeheartedly that someone will eventually arrive who renders them perfect.
      We are all flawed, even those of us who are “normal”. That is a fact. It cannot be rendered untrue ever. The innate quality that I see in addicts is that hunger to be perfect and the despair that perfection is unattainable. We medicate ourselves to hide from that fact–using alcohol, drugs, sex, food, shopping, nicotine, gambling, and even co-dependence and enabling. We all have that need to get our fix, to escape to that false high that everything is right with the world and we have attained near-perfection through bliss.
      But we come down, and the need to return to that blissed-out state gets stronger as it gets harder to attain it, so we try harder to reach it again. And, in the end, we suicide through it.
      As I progress through recovery, I am becoming more aware how each of our addictions kills us. Alcohol and drugs are pretty easy to see–an overdose is always a risk, and the health complications kill over time. Food has become easier to see–it, like smoking, causes serious health complications which kill over time. Compulsive gambling and shopping leads to financial destitution; money which can be used to maintain one’s health is rerouted. Sex and love addiction? It, like drugs and alcohol, can lead to debilitating health complications like STDs and can lead to despair-driven suicide or being murdered by a predator of relationship addicts. Untimely death is always part of addiction. The inability to make reasonable decisions is gone, replaced with a directive to get the high any way possible. We put ourselves in front of that speeding train and think we can get out of the way in time because we’ve survived before. That was dumb luck, and luck relies on a series of coincidences out of our control which allow us to survive. We will get hit by the train some day if we keep on with our addictions.

      So, as a sex and love addict, I am going to be bold and make a statement based on my personal observations: I know I can trust a person who admits they are a recovering sex addict. This is a person who is not in denial, who is willing to stand in the harsh light of truth in order to NOT act out the addiction. Shunning them out of fear and moral superiority reveals a truth that I, as an addict, know leads the judgmental people into far more danger. An emotional reaction instead of reasonable action means that there is a weakness in there that one sees in one’s self. And, as an addict, we know our own kind.
      See, it’s the ones who hide that they’re sex addicts that people have to watch out for. They’re the ones looking for their next hit . . . any way possible.

      Oh, and for addicts who think that saying “Oh, yes, I’m a recovering sex addict; let’s go some place and talk about it” will get them in the door with me? I welcome any and all inside the door to my weekly SLAA meeting.
      My name is Jess and I am a food addict (binge eater and anorexic) and apparently a recovering sex and love addict. And as much as I hate to stand in the light of day saying “On my own power, I eat too much, and I will manipulate you into paying for the check when I do”, I know the power of admitting I am powerless over my addiction, that my life is unmanageable when I try to pretend it’s not true.

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