Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 17, 2010

Focus and Footwork

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 46 Days

      Well, I got a chance to get some message time in at a meeting that honestly almost didn’t happen.

      There were two of us–me and another regular. She had to leave early, so we went straight to our Big Book study of the chapter entitled: “The Family Afterward“. In it, I got a chance to read a section about how I’ve lived in recovery, and how I lived in addiction:

      “So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we bust into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.
      “Everybody know that those in bad health, and those who seldom play, do not laugh much. So let each family play together or separately as much as their circumstances warrant. We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that his life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Ed., p. 133. Italics mine.)
      I also hit the tarot application on to find a point of meditation and got the Seven of Cups, reversed. I like to use another site to read up on what it means, since it adds questions for me to meditate on. It pointed out that I was likely avoiding emotions and that I was feeling insecurity because of my fear of feeling them. My attention is scattered; I’m seeking busy work to keep from feeling them, and I am spread too thin as I reach out in every direction in a scattershot method to try to find “the answer”–when that answer is in the opposite direction. I am fleeing from the work I need to do. Confused emotionally, I use the same means that got me into the state of confusion to try to pull me out of it. Emotional confusion is a black hole, not a storm. There is no “out the other side”. There is only utter destruction.
      Isn’t that so much like addiction? I ate more because I was unhappy and eating. I was uncomfortable and full and ate more to soothe myself. I felt sicker and sicker. Well, this reading said I would get a dramatic surprise, something unexpected.
      Tonight’s meeting was completely unexpected. Because the other person had to leave early, we decided to forgo the meeting introduction (which we both know from each of us leading meeting many times) and get straight into the reading. The meeting ended a half-hour early, and I sat there, doing my serrvice work until fifteen minutes before the end. I closed the room down and went home.
      At the meeting, however, we had a good share. And I think I know where my difficulty is lying.
      As a young girl, I believed in God. I think I’ve written about my relationship with God before here. God was my escape from a life I could not control. My childhood was better than some, worse than some. I faced off with things some people would find horrible; I faced off with some things that others would wish they could have dealt with instead of the horrors they did. Through it, I reached out to God, hoping that if I were perfect, I could be saved from my childhood Hell. I prayed, I let God into my heart. There was a point I was happy. God was infinite; God was love. God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and would lift me from the confusing family which was what I wanted on the outside and completely different behind closed doors.
      Then God became a punitive authority. God wanted me perfect. If I sinned, I hurt God. And I read in story after story that God was not all about love. God was vindictive and angry and jealous. If you crossed God, you were screwed. And as I sat in church week after week while my parents stayed at home brunching and my sisters abandoned church entirely, I lost God because all that was left was the religion.
      I don’t think God or I abandoned each other. I think I was misinformed, and I spent decades trying to find God again–through Christianity, Wicca, Universalism, Sufism, and even Judaism. I found ritual. I found laws. What I did not find was God. The closest I got was Buddhism, which broke down the concept of the Devil and made Nirvana into the bliss of not having to come back and suffer this all over again. The void was desirable. It was the end of suffering as I knew it. But it was also the long march to becoming nothingness. I don’t like the idea of being entirely nothing; it seems like a waste to not even just become part of the energy of the Universe. Of course, I was approaching it from a Western view, and I found that interspersed with the tenets were rules anyway.
      God didn’t live any of those places. I touched the concept of God in Sufism until the rules came in. My Higher Power has no rules. It has no definable personality. It is, in essence, not human.
      It’s taken a while to step outside of putting rules on my own Higher Power. When I finally accepted that I cannot begin to fathom it, I had a Higher Power that transcended human concepts. Did it create the Universe? I don’t know. Theoretically it did because it is reality, the Universe, everything. But how it did it? It doesn’t matter. That’s a rule. That’s me making up mythology to explain why my God’s better than your God.
      The trouble I have with Step Three and Eleven is taking on God’s will. My Higher Power doesn’t have “a will”. My Higher Power has no sexual designation. My Higher Power just is. It’s beyond reality, encompassing imagination. It is infinite, which allows anything to be possible. Even overcoming an addiction which was killing the finite being of me.
      Now, daily life in recovery is not entirely about giggling all the time. But the honest laughter does come. I can feel unreserved joy and can even joke about my addiction–like the fact that in addiction, every food-filled container serves one, from a single peanut to a five-gallon bucket of pickles. I can eat and talk, as opposed to focusing on a plate until it’s empty. I am not lost to honest play, to laughing and running and acting silly. I can sing in the car and laugh at myself. I can stumble on the sidewalk and laugh about it instead of worry that people saw me do it. I can be part of my family’s life.
      It’s an indication of being in recovery, to feel happiness at being part of real. But part of recovery is those honest feelings I fear. Why wouldn’t I want to have just the happiness? I mean, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had it. But when I stop at the euphoria of Step Three, I can’t keep it up. The real work of feeling the hard emotions, of grief, is what I fear most.
      As a child, I think I couldn’t stop feeling. Shutting down those emotions took time. I remember at eighteen, the first time I had such a huge emotional overload that I stopped feeling emotions entirely. No joy, no pain. Nothing. It scared me to feel nothing, to be unable to will emotions. When they returned, they were tears. Perhaps it wasn’t childhood that I walked into a room and came out changed. Perhaps it was adulthood and my first taste of nothing after years of despair.
      I fear if I touch those raw emotions, I will find myself slip into the madness of not being able to reconcile reality and illusion. I lived my childhood in illusion to get away from reality.
      The difference is that this time, I have God back. I guess it’s time to do the 12-Step waltz again–One, Two, Three. One, Two, Three. I accept I will never be a normal eater. Perfection? Not so easy. I think perhaps that’s my next lesson. I must accept that I have a new lease on life, not a chance to live it over and become normal. Of course, this is also an asset, because the pains of childhood are only going to return as phantoms of themselves. I am not powerless over my situation, wondering why God cannot be that infinite being I did not have to understand but trusted anyway. I survived my childhood, even when I did not understand. I survived my adulthood, even as I searched for it though I did not know what I was searching for.
      My focus, then, is to release the illusion of perfection to my Higher Power. I was never demanded to be perfect by God when I was a child. I felt a wellspring of acceptance and love which allowed me to laugh and play honestly. I was unconcerned with my body, I did not feel like a failure, I believed I could do and be anything. I sought knowledge for the joy of seeking it, not to gain approval from teachers or my parents. I loved with vulnerability. I forgave. That six-year-old child which found God in the stained glass windows of a church on a Spring morning and lost God in the words of a man who was trying to save adult souls and in the words of a book which taught me that God is a jealous and vengeful deity, even after the theoretical sacrifice of the Son (despite promises of love, Revelation still promised punishment for the wicked, no forgiveness, no release from the ailing human brain and body). When God became imperfect, I had nothing to hold on to but the drug of food. It was tangible. It had no emotions. The sweetness of love became the sweetness of sugar. The feelings of spiritual satiety were replaced by painful physical solidness. Food anchored me to the the good memories–of the holidays (even gone awry), of my grandmother’s garden and shortbread cookies and ginger ale with Rose’s lime. Those spiritual moments were tethered to earth with food instead of with me. I was lost to it completely before I can even remember. Perhaps that’s where it began, with a nanny turning me into a plump infant while my parents traveled with my sisters. A memory I don’t hold, personally, but that I can see in pictures and heard from others who were there. The fallacious logic stands:
      Food is love. God is love. Food is God.
      And that’s how I ended up here, falling farther behind as I chased perfection. I keep believing I almost made it once, too. When I believed in God and love, when following the parables of a carpenter from Judaea brought me spiritual peace, when knowing God loved me simply because I was one of the little children.
      I lost my Higher Power because I gave authority to someone else’s vision of God over the personal relationship I already had. Perhaps that’s why the 12 Steps work for me–the spirituality of my youth translates well to program.
      So, I guess the rotting foundation I have to break, now, is the illusion that I can be perfect. It’s still in there; it still eats at my sanity. But it, like the compulsive eating, can be lain to rest through recovery. My job now is to be open to accepting that I am imperfect and okay. That people may not like me, and it’s okay. That I am no better or worse than anyone, that no one has authority over my decisions but me, and that my Higher Power isn’t fathomable by me or anyone else. Failure can become a learning experience, not a life-altering step away from God.
      I have so much to learn, so much to experience. This won’t come from books this time. This will come from experience. And yes, it is triggering the insecurity I need to release to my Higher Power because I have given myself the footwork to accept the antithesis of everything I have been taught to want to become. I worry I will unravel, but I won’t. That’s just the fear talking. And that probably means the direction I want to run to is the opposite direction I need to walk toward.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict. The search for imperfection terrifies me to my core, and that means it deserves the attention because it is a core issue which may unlock the necessary willingness to complete Step Four as fearlessly as I need to.


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