Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 2, 2010

Having Something to Prove Means I’m Seeking Approval

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 31 Days

      I think of how often I hear about politicians ending up exhausted after being on the campaign trail. My approval-seeking is like being on a campaign trail, trying to convince people that I am worthy of their approval. The difference is that I’m not looking for a majority of the votes–I need all of them. And that will never happen.

      Yesterday, I started listing people and organizations from my Fourth Step Inventory. It’s been rough, since I had a really long list based off of what I dealt with from grades 7 to 12. I am already seeing the pattern of rejection triggering intense resentment. Like, unnatural levels of resentment. Now, a “normal” person can take rejection in stride. For me, it triggers the approval-seeking affliction.
      I’ve said it before that I think the compulsive food behaviors appear to be a result of the love/approval addiction and the resulting love/approval aversion when things go precisely as they are wont to go.
      So, anyway, I was fragile yesterday because of the re-feelings I was having. Earlier yesterday, I bought some tall women’s pants (Hooray for J.C. Penney’s outlet store!), and I was wearing the higher-rise, longer-legged jeans I had gotten. They are stylish, which means they’re pre-distressed a bit. Well, my spouse didn’t like them, saying they looked secondhand. I took it personally (despite him agreeing just after that paying $5 instead of $30 made them a decent purchase).
      My approval addiction paths in a very predictable way. I shut down emotionally toward the person whose approval I could not get. The walls go up. But I still need the approval, so I start looking elsewhere. Inside my own head, I begin my “bottom line” behaviors–the ones that I am supposed to release to my Higher Power in SLAA in order to find clarity and sanity. Whenever I turn toward them, I end up emotionally exhausted and worse off than when I started.
      So yesterday, I started fantasizing getting approval from a person I hoped would be at last night’s OA meeting. I was ready to manipulate my way into it, by pulling the “Distressed Damsel” routine. I seek to be rescued (to me, it aligns with the approval-seeking perfectly) because I don’t trust my own mind. After all, I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about and that my own ideas, hopes, and dreams were worthless by people whose approval I desperately wanted. That always brought pain.
      Well, my Higher Power brings convergences when it suits my recovery; my addiction can do no such thing. So, between my HP (and this person’s HP), that person was not inspired to walk through the door last night. I am so thankful for that, because I got a chance to act instead of react. And I learned something a little sinister about the nature of my love/approval addiction.
      I targeted a person in recovery, I think, for two reasons: (1) the person empathizes with having an addiction and (2) I know that person’s weaknesses because I have them, too. This brought me to an intense awareness, and I was able to actually formalize some real bottom lines for SLAA–ones that I know connect to the big offenders in my addiction. It sucks to see that I am in no way safe right now toward men in recovery, but with these bottom lines, I can be mindful and live in recovered kindness:

(1) No euphoric recall. The process of euphoric recall is to remember with nostalgia episodes where I was deep in addiction. This, of course, edits out the weeks of pain, the frustration and fear and tears leading up to and following the event. If I remember life in addiction as exciting and fun, I will want to turn toward it. While it is exciting, it’s more of a terror-driven excitement. I am miserable and manic, frantic and fearful, when I am acting out (or acting in). Remembering it being fun is not remembering it correctly. I was driven into intense depression during those times. I had extreme self-loathing. I cried more often than smiled naturally (without manipulative intent). My life was unmanageable, and I was powerless to get off the train speeding toward the broken trestle bridge up ahead. I don’t want to return to that life, so euphoric recall of the past is a bottom line behavior I can’t indulge in if I expect to find any recovery.

(2) No fantasy. Just as dangerous as going backward and remembering my affliction fondly is planning ahead in my head. Fantasy involves me trying to set situations up where I can get my fix. And even as I plan them, I know I am not happy. I experience that misery and mania, the frantic feelings and the fear, as I try to set up the situation.
      The worst part is that I don’t want to pay the theoretical price for it. One of my broken messages is that my sexuality is my worth. As a woman (in a socially subservient role in this broken message), my only recourse is to con a man into rescuing me. The payment is (as another broken message tells me) “the only thing men are after”.
      Okay, that is fully offensive to men and women, and I am entirely aware of it–which is why I immediately dive toward avoidance and isolation. I imprison myself and go over the horrible things I was told by authority figures about myself when I was a kid, reinforcing those negative, abusive messages. In other words, if I’m not in a hair shirt, I am mentally whipping myself for having a broken mind and not being normal (ie. perfect, according to my addict mind).
      Fantasy exhausts me and it keeps me out of today. It also encourages that self-will run riot as I work out failure scenarios and try to turn them into success scenarios. All in the aether of my own mind, ignoring the reality that I probably won’t even get the opportunity to even try one of those options out. That time I could have used doing service, or praying and meditating with my HP, or even making a freaking winter hat for a person who needs one, is wasted. Gone forever.
      Considering the price of fantasy? It’s a bottom line I want to surrender to my Higher Power post haste.

(3) No approval-seeking from men. This core bottom line fuels the first two quite efficiently. Time for some rigorous honesty here, since I don’t want to be. When I seek approval from men, it is under the assumption that I am putting myself out there for my vanity. Considering sexual security is part of the trifecta of the foundation that a Fourth Step Inventory deals with (material security, emotional security, sexual security) and that I would be fishing for men who are missing a stable foundation, I see myself as a very unsafe person when I seek approval from men.
      My “I know what I know” internal messages rationalize that I’m not doing anything wrong: Men only want one thing, right? And if they can’t like me for who I am, then why shouldn’t I use that against them? I mean, they’re going to reject me anyway, right, because men can’t love. They just want to ejaculate and move on, because that’s what men do.
      Yeah, I see the lack of safety in a person who thinks like that, too. Curiously enough, that ability to see myself as a danger triggers the aversion. I isolate to save myself from them and to save them from me.
      So, instead of the push-pull of wanting to act out then reacting immediately to jail myself from acting out (ie. acting in) that is my affliction, this gets handed to my Higher Power. To practice being a recovered and safe person (my natural self), I have to remove myself from that approval-seeking behavior entirely. Therefore men become men, not sex-crazed monsters. And, as a person in recovery, I can spot unsafe people because they know me as well as I know myself–and I am still a target because of the approval-seeking.
      To do this, I have to actively perform Step Eleven, keeping the lines of communication to my HP wide open. I am not meant to use that gift of empathy that way, and the conscious active footwork of changing my mental state to one of recovered thinking is the only path to becoming a safe person. Just like my addiction spirals me down into a powerless and unmanageable life because I practice it on a daily basis, I can practice the conscious course correction on a daily basis. Though I will never be normal, I can live outside the affliction of approval-seeking by changing my attitude one situation at a time.

(4) No going into Distressed Damsel mode to gain that approval. I am the proverbial dragon in a princess costume when I do that. I have the act down pat, too. Taking on a naive, childlike quality, I enter a submissive mode and use a false attitude of powerlessness in order to trigger others into White Knight mode.
      In recovered thinking, I am capable. I may fail, but I learn. In Distressed Damsel mode, I act helpless. I put a person (generally a man) on a pedestal. I assign him magical qualities–in particular, the means to save me from that dragon at my core.
      If I want to domesticate that dragon, nothing outside me can do it. No vanquishing hero can kill it because it’s deep within my core. It is my addiction, and making myself an unsafe person by pretending naivete is harmful to myself and others.
      Admitting this with intense and rigorous honesty is hard. And, as I look at myself as an approval/love addict, I can easily trigger that self-loathing. This isn’t handled by running away and hiding. That’s just part of my addict behavior. No, I need to be out in real life, practicing being a safe, recovered person.
      Another admission that I am loath to admit but want to is that I really don’t want sex. I retreat to isolation and build walls because sexual security is what I target when I seek approval. I don’t have material security to offer. I don’t have emotional security to offer, since I am so inconstant in addiction. If I get approval, I move on. So, what’s left is the price I accept I would have to pay but am unwilling to pay. This explains the duality of the acting out/acting in behavior. And, yes, it is a miserable existence.
      In recovery, I know I have what I want. The intimacy I have with my spouse cannot be touched by any romantic notion that I could find that in someone else. Even if I could, it would take a decade to create that foundation. Somehow, I ended up sexually secure and satiable. No idea how that happened. However, the emotional insecurity and insatiability undermines the material and sexual security I’ve developed over time and changing my internal mental messages. That’s why I don’t consider myself a sex addict as much as a love/approval addict. I am satisfied with living a small life, materially; I am satisfied with my sex life. But the minute that emotional instability comes into play, I barter with both of those. In addiction, I hit all-or-nothing thinking, and I am aware of the price of seeking approval.
      I’m not willing to pay that price. Therefore, my emotion-based addiction must be worked in program–to keep my material security, my sexual security, and my food abstinence in OA. In addiction, I risk losing everything; in recovery, I can reinforce everything. So, I choose recovery. I want to live a life of equality and humility. I want to live a sane and serene life outside of the drama of approval addiction. Therefore, I am ready to do the necessary footwork to start a very real recovery in SLAA, living within the boundaries of my bottom lines just like I live within the boundaries of my food plan. And, with these bottom lines, I now have a very real starting place for SLAA recovery.
      This morning, I had a confrontation with my spouse which gave me insight into the harm I had been doing regarding something dear to him. We had it out, and I realized that his driven nature and my entirely passive one (to the point I will choose to do nothing and bitch and moan anyway) are in stark conflict. I was brought down into acting-in affliction, yet instead of shoring my emotions up, I cried. That rawness of the feelings from the even small progress on my Fourth Step Inventory left me completely vulnerable. Yet, this time I listened instead of keeping fighting and building resentments.
      And I realized that my addict behavior of intense risk aversion and my apparent judgmental attitude toward people who do take risks causes harm. I listened, I learned. I tried to make amends, and we finally got it out in the open.
      I’m still tired from the encounter, but I am okay. I learned something from that failure to initiate a recovered-mind situation, though I did get the intuitive kick to stop the building resentment and actually listen to him empathetically instead of feel put upon and rejected. We still have a lot of work to be more thoughtful of each other. I triggered his frustration with me, and he went straight after that fear of abandonment. It wasn’t a good situation, but the aftermath left us able to understand each other more and left the message that, in recovery, I have to take risks and accept responsibility to live in reality. To be present means that I can’t hide from risk in order not to face consequences.
      I have lived most of my life without dreams, hope, or ambition. I can do it in bursts (like getting a paralegal certificate), but it’s not long-lasting. I guess I just fear having dreams and ambitions because I fear someone will be there to rip it out of my hands. That’s something the meditation and prayer with my HP will also be handling. I had dreams and ambitions once, and I’ve all but forgotten them. And not just the dream of being rich, or famous, or a modern-day Helen of Troy. So, I guess I get to sit with my natural child, my Higher Power, and myself and listen. Something once brought me joy, and I can pursue that. I just have to seek out the inner voice which is speaking quietly and is barely understandable through the din of the broken mental messages that I am worthless, stupid, ugly. That I shouldn’t be allowed to choose my own path because what I want to pursue is foolish and I should want something else because it’s better. Somewhere, locked in a proverbial chest marked, “Stupid Ideas” is that one, inspired dream. I just have to slow down enough to have my inner self pull it out and show it to me.
      Wow. Long post that I am fearful to put up. There’s really nothing here that is bad. I mean, I am not extraordinary in my addictions. I’m actually pretty run-of-the-mill. That severe risk aversion has kept me out of a lot worse trouble than I could have gotten into, though it also stops me. It’s time to let it go and look at the character asset side of that character defect.
      Looks like I have a lot of ambulatory meditation to get into. Doing yoga helped a lot, and I stopped doing it because I am pretty freaking lazy. Well, maybe I should take that laziness and give it to my Higher Power, and turn toward its character asset (as I see it)–being laid-back and accepting while still getting out there and moving with a purpose.
      My name is Jess and I am a food addict and love/approval addict. Today, I am going to try for my first, world-record 24 hours of withdrawing from my bottom-line behaviors (that’s, in essence, sobriety in AA or abstinence in OA). It’s a good day to start program, though I think I may need a crib sheet for my bottom line behaviors, since my addict self is working to get me to conveniently forget all four so I can still live in that spiraling downward affliction. I’m not willing to die for my addiction, so I have to take action in recovery. And that is pure self-approval, right there. I am worth taking care of myself, of nurturing my potential, of taking the risk that recovery might not work yet doing it anyway.


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