Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 11, 2010

On The Front Lines of The War for Our Very Lives

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 52 Days

Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier
Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer.
Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall,
And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all.

An Honest Soldier never is forgot,
Whether he die by Musket or by Pot.

      As I think on Veteran’s Day and the many people who have fought to keep us safe, I consider that Bill W. was a soldier in the war which created Armistice Day. His travels in Europe brought him in front of a tombstone at the cemetery at Winchester Cathedral, where the lines above were inscribed.
      He survived, though many did not. Because he survived, we have today a program which allows addicts to fight for freedom from addiction. For those people who take up the fight to preserve our rights as American citizens, I am humbly grateful. For those people who take up the fight to preserve my sanity even as I suffer from addiction, I am humbly grateful.
      Today’s We Care message is about the daily armistice we make between a life of recovery and a life of addiction. Though we can attain physical, mental, and spiritual peace in our time through recovery, skirmishes do arise as our addict selves just refuse to give up the fight. Addiction’s subtle sabotage can be turned into a full-blown occupation if we do not seek help, if we think we can control it, ourselves. To keep addiction at bay, we must ask that Sleeping Giant that is our Higher Power to come to our aid. With the resources of a Higher Power, we can live today in serenity.
      The “Just for Today” prayer is a great way to start the day, a reminder that we can do some simple footwork to reinforce a positive mental attitude and have a day in recovery. With its recommendations on how to live the program, the “Just for Today” prayer reminds us to let yesterday lie in the past and tomorrow rest in the future. Today is the day we’re living; today is the day we are practicing abstinence and recovery.
      In For Today, we are reminded that despite having the very serious disease of compulsive eating, we aren’t supposed to mourn. Laughter, it is said, is the best medicine. So why be mournful and somber that we have this illness? We are in OA, all together, and we have reason to celebrate–to laugh instead of cry, to feel joy that we found the 12 Steps at all.
      In Voices of Recovery, we are offered this from p. 83 of the OA 12&12: “If we are to experience permanent recovery from compulsive overeating, we will have to repeat, day after day, the actions that have already brought us so much healing.” This is a powerful statement about recovery, and the fifteen-year recovered and 75-lb.-released OA member asks us an equally powerful question: “Am I still doing the program activities today that I did in the first bloom of program?”
      I remember my first trip into an OA room–the very room of this meeting!–in despair and hope. When I left the room, I had only hope. Here were people who spoke MY language. My thoughts were not so alien. The details of the story may have been different, but the story was my own. And the first reading of “Our Invitation to You” . . . after feeling like a nomad in a strange land for decades, I finally had a place to rest and call home. I left, hopeful for the next meeting. While I did miss it, no one was disturbed or rejecting when I came back the week after. The door of my home group, this group, was the door to a life I never knew was possible for me.
      I spent those two weeks poring over that Newcomer’s Packet. I did not understand much in it, but something clearly was speaking to me on a level that my heart and soul understood–even if I did not understand the recovered language. After all, I was in full-blown addiction, still, and recovery was going to start in my Higher Power’s time. In that first bloom of program, I read OA literature daily. I still practice that, now, reading from conference-approved literature to get in the state of recovered mind.
      I wrote about recovery through program at the time, too. I try to write daily today. I find that when I write with honesty, exposed are the secrets that my addict mind wants me to hide. It’s hard to admit my failings–I want to be perfect. Through recovery, I am learning not only to accept but to embrace my imperfection. When I write imperfectly and honestly, the solutions come as I write. My Higher Power flows through my hands, and I am given truths which I can use to strengthen my recovery. Yes, I can choose to ignore them, but the relief that comes from receiving that knowledge keeps my abstinence in line and encourages me to focus on recovery, itself.
      I go to multiple meetings weekly. While not every meeting out there encourages my recovery in the program, the meetings I do attend give me opportunities to hear my Higher Power’s wisdom through others. Some have more abstinence than me; some less. Some have more recovery than me, some less. Even a person walking in the room for the first time can speak with the conviction of my Higher Power, reminding me that I don’t want to go back to my pre-OA life. While I don’t practice meetings daily, I am mindful daily of the meetings I do attend. I like having a literature, a sharing, and a speaker meeting. Each brings something special to my recovery, and I am grateful.
      A daily adherence to a food plan has brought me physical recovery beyond what I imagined. Abstinence released my addiction-locked mind, and I was open to new ideas as they seeped through the open crack between the door and the jamb. Over time, I shed the idea that I had to fight for my recovery and abstinence. My schedules and plans all fell by the wayside as my Higher Power showed me that recovery does not come in my time but Its time. I thought I would have all the answers by now; instead, I discovered gratitude that I do not. Without all the answers, I can grow. I learn more about life in recovery every day. And instead of being upset that I have not made any of my self-willed goals in my time, I am thankful that I have barely begun the journey. I have the rest of my life to learn, to grow, to live one day at a time, 24 hours abstinent at a time.
      Most important, I try to find the levity in the grim truth of my eating disorder every day. When I treat it like a terrifying killer disease (which it is), it gains power over me again. I feel I have to go to war with it. I feel overwhelmed by it and long to surrender to stop the devastation. When I accept I cannot control it, when I find joy that I don’t have to choose it, when I laugh at the insanity of the extremes I can go to . . . I approach life with a better attitude. It’s not so serious; I have a solution at my fingertips. I have hope, the most powerful tool I offer up to my Higher Power to use as the magic of the program is worked on me.
      There are things I could add to my daily recovery–phone OA members more often, go to more meetings, do more service, have a more active relationship with my sponsor, do cardio exercise daily–and when I release those things to my HP, they enter my life in their own time. I find that time is carved out of my day for them. I know that I could compulsively chase recovery (I am an addict after all), and I know that ignoring those tools (which I usually do) most often comes from a place of addiction. But I am making progress today, even if it’s just learning how to differentiate from compulsive thoughts and actions about the program and working the program. And that brings me peace.
      I have been thinking on the meaning of today–that war is always waged for the purpose of peace. It’s an irony to me that so much loss and anger and raw emotion leaves only death and destruction and sorrow in its wake.
      In that, I think I’ve come to realize that when I fight for my recovery, I am missing the point. Whenever I wage war against addiction, then addiction has already won. My self-will fights something caused by self-will. In other words, I fight for the enemy when I fight the enemy.
      In my experience, when I focus on stopping a behavior, immediately I am at risk of acting out what I want to stop. If I’m thinking about it and how to stop it, I’m not letting go of it. I am driven toward it even as I try to retreat. I end up submitting to it because I am wholly unprepared for the force behind that focused thought.
      My recovery, therefore, is one of peace and surrender, not retreat and submission. I do not surrender to the addiction but to the truth–I need allies. I cannot do this alone. Addiction is an occupying force, one which tells me I have self-will and autonomy as long as I follow its rules. It lies to me that I could choose differently, that I do not want to. When I try to choose differently, I am forced into submission. Then, I am encouraged to submit willingly to avoid harsh punishment, to pretend I want the subjugation. It promises an easy path if I will just stop fighting.
      In recovery, I turn to allies more powerful than the addiction. There is no peace in addiction, because the addiction demands my obeisance at every turn. When I surrender to aid, making allies of the fellowship and my Higher Power, the addiction is driven back to the borders. Every time I choose self-willed autonomy after the addiction is driven back, the addiction crosses the border in order to subjugate me. It will never live in peace with me; it will always wait for the opportunity to invade and occupy me.
      My allies are at peace with me. They accept my imperfection yet still offer aid. They assist me, not control me. My allies do not occupy me, they stay with me to defend against the invading force of addiction and wisely advise me. With my allies, I have a choice to send them away. Peace, however, comes from bringing them in daily to keep addiction at the borders.
      My ego sometimes leads me to think I can defend my own borders. I cannot. And then I invite my allies back, because a peace by choice is better than an unwilling submission.
      So, the “battle” for recovery is not a battle I am to fight. Sure, I do the footwork to make sure my Higher Power can keep addiction at bay. I go to meetings, I read and write, and I keep an open mind. I try to make myself useful. I talk and listen to my Higher Power, and I keep as rigorously honest as I can be.
      In exchange, I grow stronger. I learn how to turn to my Higher Power and the Fellowship when addiction sends saboteurs and spies to undermine the peace growing in me. I am an autonomous self, who accepts that only by allying with something greater than myself can I find relief on a daily basis from the ravages of a life of addiction.

      My name is Jess, and I am a recovering, abstinent, food addict. Freedom is a wonderful feeling. Even though it comes to me through the counterintuitive vulnerability of accepting help, I find that having friends in high places has been a blessing. After all, I’m not alone any more.


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