Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 1, 2010

Happy Hannukah–Eight Days from One, Thirteen-and-a-Half Months from 24 Hours

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 32 Days

      In 2007, when my world had fallen around me in an amazing wreckage, I celebrated Hannukah. I was looking for G-d at the time, and I hoped that the religion I had wanted to be born into since I was in second grade would accept me.
      It didn’t.

      My life fell apart in 2007, not long before Rosh Hashanah. I think this was around the time I started looking for OA meetings, though I did not actually walk into one until two years later.
      I have a student’s Tanach, a Hebrew language text, and several other books about conversion in my bookcase–left over from that time when I was starting over completely. I did end up starting school, and I spent 18 months earning a Paralegal Certificate at a local college with an ABA-approved program.
      I don’t precisely remember the dates of all of this. I do remember how painful it was waking up to the realization that the one constant in all my troubles was me. I made kashreit challah weekly, lit the shabbot candles, and tried to connect with G-d. I wanted tradition; I wanted religion.
      I don’t remember how long afterward I met with a rabbi and was offered being a Noahite instead of conversion–basically a Gentile who supported and lived the faith but was not really a part of it. I walked away, having been rejected yet again by religion.
      Now, had I been serious, I could have found a less strict temple and probably have succeeded, but it didn’t matter. I did get a novel out of my experiences (the character did end up successfully converting), and that’s what I walked away with. In reality, I learned a very unpleasant lesson, one which I don’t think the rabbi (or any of the ministers from the Christian churches) meant to teach me:
     
      Organized religion equals exclusion.
     
      The nature of organized religion, for me, has been one of exclusion. It triggers that self-loathing that comes from my need for approval not being met. And I have resentments against organized religion, ones which will be addressed as I stroll backwards through my life and look for the places where I was angry at people, places, and situations. I was about to write “out of my control” there, and I think that is a character defect which may have a strong pattern in it.
      I am in a position, right now, where I can start to see patterns in my resentments when I even think of some names. I have a feeling that the greatest offenders will be expectations of perfection from others (they’re supposed to save me, heal me), judgmental lack of forgiveness (only I can save me, which means failure is the only option for others), and the obsession for external approval which is met with rejection. I do not take rejection well, something that my Adult Children’s Guide to What’s “Normal” tells me I have to learn to take rejection in stride. Normal people have a foundation of internal security in place, something I am and will always be lacking without a Higher Power. I now get Steps Two and Three as a fundamental part of my healing process.
      Without a Higher Power, the foundation of internal security (why I am asked look within for a Higher Power, not up or outside of me) which I can actually reach in recovery is unattainable. In a life of self-will, I will always seek to have that foundation set. But it was not set when it needed to be. It will never be set because of the circumstances of my life. It takes the spiritual connection to a Higher Power to place, in essence, a spiritual foundation upon which I can build a life of recovery.
      I will never lead a normal life. I will never achieve normalcy. I have spent my life lamenting that loss. However, there is a lesson of hope in this. Like it’s time to release fear and look toward faith, it is time for me to release “normalcy” and look toward recovery. I can walk two worlds–the world of the addict and the world of the “normal”. This sounds funny to me to even contemplate, but I realize that my addiction is actually a gift. I have empathy a normal person can never achieve, simply because they never experienced not having that solid foundation under their feet. They can roll with the punches of life because that’s ingrained in them. They don’t understand the despair which drives one to numb the pain away, the powerlessness over a substance or action which becomes habit then addiction. They don’t understand that I do not possess the innate willpower to just stop because the need to feel alive through excess damaging behavior is not a part of their lifeways.
      In recovery, I am learning to roll with the punches of life; I am learning this as an adult. In recovery, I am program. Being able to emulate normalcy (internally, too!) means that my experience actually can give hope to people who have none.
      An addict has been given the gift of true empathy for people who suffer. We know it because we lived it, because we can easily live it when we choose a life of self-will. We pretend, in addiction, that we have secure foundations. We delude ourselves into thinking “normalcy” is perfection. Sure, it’s desirable, but it is in no way, shape, or form anything resembling perfection. It just looks good from where we are because something is better than nothing. And we have nothing.
      I think my decades of trying to find G-d through organized religion (and the resulting rejections which left me in emotional tailspins) reflects that desire for normalcy through a Higher Power I once possessed. I think I had sanity once upon a time, until G-d was taken from me because of the mixed messages I received about G-d because I was told fallible human beings (adults) had authority over me. They “knew better”. In program, I learned that it’s not about knowing what I think I know and resting on those laurels; my path is to open myself to the process of learning over a lifetime. I know nothing in the grand scheme of things, and I am like a child again–prepared to learn. And one of those important lessons is that humility which leaves me no better or worse than any human being out there. I am different, possessed of different gifts. Instead of “normalcy”, I was graced with empathy for people who never found “normalcy”, either. My hand is outstretched to anyone who wishes to establish a foundation set upon a Higher Power which has no human-defined limits. The craving to fulfill my needs–material, emotional, and sexual security–has led me to feed it externally from a place of limitation. For me, it took turning toward a spiritual program (not religious, I am still an agnostic) to soothe the need to relentlessly pursue an unfulfillable material, emotional, and sexual security.
      With my Higher Power, I can accept that I have enough. Even if I lose everything and am left seeking assistance from charities, as long as I am still here and able to grow, I will have enough material goods to fulfill my basic material needs. I find sexual security knowing that I can find satisfaction with sexual intimacy as I want it down to my core–with one person who I have already chosen (my husband). I wanted that in addiction, and I want what I have now. I gain emotional security knowing that I can walk into a room and find people who think like me because they experienced the same core issues I did. Tradition Three makes them members; the affliction and willingness to seek recovery through program makes them friends. Through program, I have a supplemental network of people who will do their best to help me. Sure, not everyone will (we are addicts at the core, after all), but those who live the program will extend themselves. And, as I find THE spiritual awakening as a result of the 11 Steps prior to Step 12 (not just “a” spiritual awakening but “the” spiritual awakening that is living a recovered life of empathy and purpose through service to people who still suffer from addiction–any addiction), I can give of myself out of love, not obligation. Opening a group meeting room is a great opportunity to do that spiritual service. Someone opened the room of the first meeting I walked into. Someone opened the room to every meeting I walked into. People who have more recovery than me enter those rooms and talk and listen to me.
      When I need program, it is there for me because of the people who do the often thankless service which makes me able to keep coming back to meeting and commune with a fellowship of people who have empathy. They understand through personal experience what it is like to be missing that foundation of security. They know what it’s like to walk imperfectly through the world, relying on a Higher Power which they have an intimate relationship with instead of relying on an external trigger to “feel alive”. They can, at any time on any given day, choose to turn toward that addiction or turn to that Higher Power. Each day they choose to turn toward that Higher Power, they also do service because they are choosing to show me through example that I, too, can find serenity through living the program.
      That is a gift of extreme empathy, of knowing the pain of addiction yet choosing to learn and to grow. To turn to a Higher Power for satiety in the face of unfulfillable and triggered obsession, for an internal peace through serenity that a spiritual foundation provides.
      So, as I consider the nature of the gift-giving season that is December, the return to the childlike days of giving and receiving from a place of love, I am thankful for the gift of internalizing recovered thinking. I am thankful that I can give what I’ve received freely from the fellowship.
      I live in amazing times, when I can walk into a room and speak on my food and my love addictions and people can understand my words. I can speak on how program has already changed my life. I have said this several times in meeting, and I want to say it here: 2010 has gone by perceptibly slower than 2000 through 2009. My thirties whipped by, yet my forty-first year on this planet (soon to begin my forty-second once I turn 41 in two weeks) was filled with so much life lived. Even though I did not always live in today for the whole day I lived, I was present and accounted for in my own life over the last year. I am not clocking time toward the grave any longer. Yes, there are times I wish I had entered an OA room earlier, but I entered it when my spiritual self was ready. I had to accept that my addiction had me on the ropes. Now, it wasn’t the total surrender because I still felt like maybe I could do it. I did come for the vanity in September of 2009. I am staying for the sanity, seeing as I have achieved the physical recovery yet still find myself in the same place I was when I walked into the room sometimes–bewildered by an erroneous body image.
      Recovery will help that. It has helped already, and I am looking forward to whatever life I have left to learn the spiritual lessons.
      Though I found exclusion in religion, I found acceptance in program. I found understanding that some meetings do have an exclusive quality to them, but I leave those meetings behind. I am a physical recovery success story, having lost over 100 lbs. in program, which I have kept off for two weeks. The last 3 1/2 months, I have been in or under “goal weight” range. The last 4 1/2 months, I have had a normal BMI. Yes, for 4 1/2 months, I have been at a healthy weight for my height, according to the BMI scale. What the future holds? No idea. But, for today, I am not wearing the 100-lb. fat suit I wore for decades because I walked into an OA meeting. I discovered my love addiction because I surrendered in OA, and I can work that program, too, today. I have so much to be thankful for, a small miracle.
      I have thirteen-and-a-half months of abstinence, four-and-a-half months of a healthy BMI, three-and-a-half-months at goal weight or under, and two weeks at the weight my food plan’s caloric intake has set me at . . . all out of one day of hopeful surrender to a food plan on October 14, 2009. My Higher Power made that miracle of light (spiritual fire, mental light, and physical lightness) out of one day . . . just like the eight days from one day of oil miracle given to the Maccabees.
      Happy Hannukah to all who celebrate it. I won’t be having potato pancakes this year to celebrate, nor will I have chocolate gelt if I decide to play the dreidel game with one of the leftover dreidels from my pursuit of G-d through Judaism.
      Religious authorities throughout my lifetime may have rejected me for membership, but G-d never did. That gift of rejection by humankind’s organized religions brought me straight to an infinite Higher Power and a 12-Step program.
      Thank HP for the seemingly bad, for the beautiful aspects of every religion which rejected this vessel are part of my everyday relationship with my Higher Power.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict, love addict, and approval addict.

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