Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 15, 2010

Happy 41! My Birthday Present of 12 Promises of Recovery

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 18 Days
Countdown to Christmas: 10 days

      Well, it’s time to retire the tag, “Life at 40”. I am totally content with that, seeing as I am not at all upset with turning 41.

      Today, so far, has been a relaxing and pleasant day. Though I was awake at midnight because I was coughing, I had some peppermint tea and enjoyed the relief of breathing in the vapors before going to sleep. After I woke up, I had a small breakfast out then went to a mall and had my picture taken with Santa Claus. I nearly cried when I saw the picture of me happy, grinning broadly. Yes, okay, I thought I look a little fat in the photo, but that’s what the spiritual and mental recovery and physical fitness recovery over the next year is for. I am going to try to be mindful of the physical recovery which involves increasing my muscle mass a little bit each month. The weight loss, however, was part of 2010. The muscle gain, I hope, will be part of my recovery in 2011. But I don’t know. It’s all about progress, not perfection, and I am not going to beat myself up for it any more. No reason to.
      We also got some great movin’ around music, dance mix and trance with a heavy bass beat which gets me ready to groove. Definitely good gym workout music to get a sweat going to.
      Then I hit a bookstore and reserved books that I wanted to read from the library. The book on the inner child stuff will have to wait, since even reading a few paragraphs of it triggered me to almost start crying. So, the other books get queued up first, including one of Geneen Roth’s other books on compulsive overeating and love. I have a lot to learn about how I ended up as a compulsive overeater, and I tend to agree with Geneen Roth’s take in my own situation–food I really actually didn’t like was put onto a pedestal. I had magical thinking about it, that by bingeing it, I would find happiness at the bottom of the bag (hence the one-package-equals-one-serving mentality about certain foods which I possess, even now). The intense awareness I have when I eat (I close my eyes and slow down chewing, being aware when I take large bites and when I am trying to eat to either get rid of some variation of discomfort through trying to get filled up as fast as possible) is starting to put me in a situation where I can stop at one–or even one-half. If I am not wildly happy about something, I can eat it, make a realistic assessment (“Am I trying to eat the idea of this, or am I actually enjoying the taste and texture of this?”), then decide if I care to keep it in my food plan or not. I like chocolate chip cookies, for instance, but I don’t like many corporations’ takes on it. Some are okay, and some are just flavorless and unpalatable. Now, instead of trying to eat a dozen to try to find the euphoria bite, I let it go. It’s not worth my time if I don’t actually like it. And I can set it aside and choose alternatives or nothing at all over eating something I do not actually like. It amazes me that I can turn down a chocolate chip cookie at all, now. That I can be so unenthused by it that I seek non-food alternatives is baffling to me. I never thought even a year ago that something I once considered a trigger food could actually be something I simply don’t find pleasure in eating and therefore do not want to eat it. Biz-freakin-arre. I mean, one would think that since I was slavish about bingeing on things which shared a label with something I once ate in pleasure, trying to find pleasure as I ignored the truth: What I was eating right then sucked. That’s the Art of Eating Insanely by Jess (noTM) right there–eat something I do not like hoping that it will magically become the thing I like simply because it shares the same name. You can’t fool me with carob chip cookies, but a chocolate chip cookie which actually tastes like it was made with carob chips gets a free pass into binge land? Not any more. I’m tasting it all again for the first time. And a lot of what I used to binge on sucks–Halloween candy (they now leave only a queasy feeling and a chemical aftertaste after assaulting me with cloying sweetness), cream pies (same deal), and most cookies. Chips still have to have their time, but the greasiness of certain foods already turns me from them without a problem. I don’t like the waxy grease film that ends up coating my mouth, so I don’t crave them any more. Plus, they are painfully salty. So, pass.
      After visiting a friend who runs the local indie sandwich shop, we made it back and I enjoyed a half of a half-sub-sandwich. Just the right amount of food. That’s weird, being able to eat a quarter of something that I used to have to eat all of because I was intensely convinced I could find salvation at the end of a 12-inch sandwich. Instead, I found pinching stomach pains and a bloated, overfull sensation. A quarter-sandwich (three inches of sandwich . . . seriously!) does the trick, apparently. It tastes good, I enjoy it, and I don’t feel like I have to be rolled from wherever I ate it. And I consider the combinations’ flavors more. Eat what I enjoy without pain? Holy crap, where was this answer all of my life? Oh yeah, it was waiting for me in recovery.
      The Twelve Promises of Recovery are, indeed, coming true slowly and surely. And, today, I am going to share what I have found has already come true, with the hopes that I will end up here next year, with a stronger connection to the meaning of those promises.
1. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
      I have a sense of freedom of choice, now. I feel able to begin to say no. I have the freedom to take care of myself without guilt. I feel like an adult most of the time, not a helpless child. I feel I can leave the house, ask for help, not feel emotionally trapped. I can have a mature relationship with my family.
      I appreciate my core family more. I laugh and play more. I feel like hugging just to hug, smiling more. I enjoy new experiences, seeing life as an adventure. I am open to joy and non-food comforts.
2. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
      Today, I consider that yesterday is a teaching tool. I can re-feel emotions instead of run from them. I can let them flow through me, respect the process of emotion entering, building, waning, and leaving me. I am not a trapped child living my life any longer–wishing I could undo the past or forget it so I can hopefully touch perfection tomorrow.
      I survived a difficult childhood. I used the defenses I built to survive to adulthood. I had and became invisible to avoid punishment. I lived in fantasy to keep hope alive. I ushered people into my core in order to avoid conflict or abuse for being defiant. I went to therapists in order to alleviate just enough pain to survive the mental onslaught of the mixed messages–like needing to lie to protect others while being told to be honest. I kept secrets in order to save myself from punishment. Somehow I survived.
      I appreciate that every memory I unlock is one more step away from acting out my addiction. Each pattern of triggering behavior holds within it the opportunity to create a recovered solution to similar conflicts. Addiction is made up of the honest response: “I don’t know.” Recovery is made up of the honest decision: “I choose.”
3. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace (ed. — Sometimes this is 3 and 4, sometimes just 3).
      In active addiction, I was miserable even when I was “happy”. My ability to have peaceful times–acceptance–happens more often these days. When I am peace or am feeling serene, I feel like I occupy my own body. I feel that I do not have to react in a moment on emotion. I can take the time to consider how I feel, let the emotion run its course, then consider the recovered action. It happens rarely, but it does happen.
      Being solid, being able to accept and adapt, and being able to feel compose a very peaceful state. And having a Higher Power to turn to when the emotions overwhelm me and begin the trigger and obsession process is very nice.
4. No matter how far down the scale (ed.–or up it) we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
      I think about a recent action I took, when I hugged a person who was in real emotional pain. There was no self-serving motivation to it. I really just felt empathy, and that depth of loneliness I felt in my own situation gave me the compassion to try to offer comfort that food can’t give.
      At a meeting, recently, I said that recovery is the most important thing in my life, and that abstinence is just tucked under the umbrella of recovery. A person (who had gasped while I shared) took me aside after the meeting and told me how wonderful it was to hear someone say recovery is more important than abstinence. To me, abstinence is about the diet; recovery is about using the clarity one finds once one is eating abstinently and using it to build a sane and spiritual life. When I eat abstinently (ie. eat the right amount of nutritious food so that I am not distracted by the physical consequences of eating compulsively–be it anorexia or binge eating), I have the mental clarity to learn. And what I want to learn is how to build a life of options besides addiction. That requires the clarity to be able to identify patterns in my own behavior either during or after-the-fact, be able to ride emotions without letting them overwhelm me, and be able to go into my past with the desire to learn instead of correct or re-feel and work myself into a rage or a depression. When I eat abstinently, I can accept reality; when I accept reality, I can refine my abstinence. In essence, I am on an upward spiral out of addiction (like people have said happened to them, too), where advancement in one condition advances the other.
5. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
      I certainly feel more useful and less self-pitying, though I still do feel useless or have a twinge of self-pity at least once daily. It’s not like it used to be, where I lay back into my personal pain and let it wash over me until I lay drowning in despair. When I feel either of those, it’s time for action. I get up and do something else, stepping back and trying to understand what triggered those destructive (and yes, scary) feelings. Usually, there’s an unseen pattern behind it, and the trigger broadsides me. But, with kindness, I can get through it. I remember what I’ve learned so far in recovery and try not to blame myself, I take with me that even seeing that I was triggered is progress, and that some things still are meant for my HP because I’m just not ready yet.
      I do spend more time grateful for the things in my life. That alleviates the self-pity, which requires me feeling that I am getting the short shrift. The uselessness can be alleviated by doing something kind–anything–for anyone, including myself. That includes working recovery for the purpose of being a decent human being who can deal with others in a polite and gracious way–even when others are not dealing with me in a polite and gracious way. Working toward a Type B lifestyle–responsible but laid-back–is really nice. Think Mrs. Santa Claus meets a 60s-era surfer dude. That kind of pleasant laid-back yet responsible person.
6. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
      Okay, this promise is slow to come to fruition. I do consider others’ well-being, though sometimes I consider it far over mine in order to get something from them. I tend to over-commit myself in order to get pats on the head (and I resent people who do not do said patting). This is definitely part of the SLAA recovery stuff, to live a life out of approval addiction and to identify when I start of manipulate people in order to get whatever approval fix I may think I want or need.
      Though yes, I have known this to happen in daily life, and in the last two days I’ve gotten several hours of not-fretting over what others think of what I am doing or what I have chosen or even to poll whether or not what I have chosen was selfish or not. But yes, I do care about people who are suffering from compulsive overeating. I remember that trapped feeling, the terror of not being able to stop myself from doing what I really and honestly hate to do (like eat a dozen cookies I actually did not like the taste of or a pound of too-sweet Halloween candy which made me feel queasy). So, yes, this is a promise that is slow in coming, but I have felt what it’s like to live outside of it. And once that threshold is broken, the recovery opens that wider until it becomes the dominant lifeways instead of the recessive one.
7. Self-seeking will slip away.
      Like the feeling of uselessness and self-pity, the pleasure in helping others with no desire for reimbursement (emotional, monetary, whatever) does get in there. It is taking hold, just like the above promise, though slowly.
8. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
      YES!!! Okay, the extra two exclamation points were a bit of overkill, but the change in attitude I have already seen in myself is staggering. I am not clocking time to my death. I am out and about, doing service. I am learning how to feel instead of denying my emotions. I am always ready to learn, open to the lessons of the day. I am not living in the past (trying to correct it or lament its effects on today) nor am I living in the future (I consider that I may not know what tomorrow will bring, but that makes the future an adventure). I keep my word and don’t flake all the time, like I used to. I am less angry, I am more ready to apologize for compulsive behavior, and I am rigorously honest in group because it’s where I will find my recovery. When I hear the truth out of my own mouth, it’s finally out there–not hiding in secret inside me. I don’t have to protect that secret self. People accept me as imperfect, and I can live imperfectly and be okay with it (most of the time–I’m still an addict). I am present in my mind and body and am learning every day. I am alive.
9. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.

      Though I am still wary of the unpredictability of people, I don’t fear economic insecurity. I know that even if I lose everything, as long as I am in recovery, I can function responsibly and take action to change it. I can intuit options, I can turn to people and charitable groups for help. As long as I stay open to the endless possibilities that reality offers up and as long as I am active in a recovered manner, I will have options.
      As for people, I fear them because I still am wobbly on the whole “dealing with unsafe people” thing. That will take practice feeling my emotions as they happen, revealing with the patterns of the past and where I emotionally trigger (and have an addict reaction), and dealing with people in a new and respectful way–to myself, especially. I have to be a safe person to me, first. Then I can practice being safe with other safe people and finally deal with unsafe people. It will take time, but the revelation that there are ways to handle unsafe people without running from them or bullying them has freed me up to learn how to deal with all people in a kind and gracious manner.
10. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
      Man, I remember being unable to stop binge eating. How others could not be affected by food as I was affected was completely outside of my understanding. I spent months unable to figure out what exactly my SLAA bottom lines were because I had no idea what I was doing. But I got there, eventually, and I now see how my approval addiction manifests itself. I am facing a situation I am completely out of control over, and I have decided that waiting one day to deal with a confrontational unsafe person instead of screwing up my serenity on my birthday will not change the fact that the commitment the person made was unfulfilled. I know I have to deal with it, but the difference between doing it today (when it may, in fact, be resolved even as I write) and doing it tomorrow will not change the conversation much or what I expect will be said during it–seeing as this conversation has been repeated several times. In other words, the deadline for the commitment is midnight, tonight, so why not give the person the benefit of the doubt. And the result of the person missing the deadline is minor, though I expect it will become an emotional battle. I choose to enjoy the serenity of the day instead of create conflict which will spill over onto a pleasant social event tonight. This is for my sanity, to wait until tomorrow. And since it’s part of tomorrow, then I will let it sit there until it’s time for me to pick up the phone and deal with the person.
11. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

      If ever there was a situation where this applies, it is my current sponsorship. I chose my first sponsor because she had completed the 12 Steps. The relationship fell apart due to a situation out of my control. I felt resentful because I wanted something she couldn’t provide.
      In August, I was in the part of town where I attend SLAA meetings and had a few hours to kill. I went to the building and checked to see when the OA meetings were in that building. I had arrived just before the meeting, so I attended it. At that meeting, I met a laid-back woman in active abstinence and recovery who was able to sponsor others. Her Big Book sponsorship has done amazing things to cement my recovery so far. Her guidance is precisely what I needed. Had I not been open to going, to listening to the intuitive messages from my Higher Power, I would not be working Step Four and looking forward to examining my past.
      In July, the decision of another person to take an alternate route to a destination led me to meet up with someone I had wanted to see for a year. I could never have planned the meeting. A series of events out of my control and a quick request to my Higher Power led me into her path. We reconnected, and I was able to talk to her again.
      I have found friends and tripped over books I need to read to have a better understanding of my my own recovery. Also, common sense comes from that intuitive state. And when I listen to my Higher Power, I seem to be really good at finding good sales on things I need and want. Plus, I get to see lots of amazing things, like the mourning doves in Spring and, right now, the hummingbirds which visit the neighbor’s feeder and who always seem curious about what I’m up to.
12. They will always materialize if we work for them.
      They’re coming true right now, some faster, some slower. And yes, I am as amazed as the Big Book says I will be. The power of focus toward growth is like putting sunlight directly on a plant. I feel myself growing as a person. Some things are uncomfortable, but as I reach up toward a better life, I find that even the bad stuff is easier to manage if I am vigilant in my pursuit of recovery.
      Dinner went better than I thought. I was worried I would not eat abstinently because it is a special day and I wanted special treats. But my body knew when it was full, and that’s when I stopped. And the waitress kept wishing me a happy birthday, which was sweet. So, things went pretty well, overall. How I deal with food is changing. I am not sure if I will be intuitively eating by this time next year, but I am finding that less and less sates that need. I like having the guidelines, however. It seems to make it easier to choose. And the lessons I am learning (like the fact eating out more than once in a day isn’t really how I like things–I prefer three meals at home, to be honest) will be taken into a lifetime of tomorrows.
      I have a good life, and 41 feels like the beginning of something wonderful, not the middle of something overwhelming. What the next year holds is a mystery to me, but I trust that, with my Higher Power, I will be even more amazed this time next year.
      What a wonderful birthday present–to appreciate being loved, to enjoy an OA meeting with friends who empathize when it comes to food, and to live stronger than I have before.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and approval addict who is choosing to recover my life from the rigors of such a dangerous illness as addiction. I found OA just in time–before I gave up hope there was a solution. It may have been just before I turned 40, but I am humbly grateful I found a solution at all.
      Life is beautiful, and I am here. I am here.


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