Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 19, 2011

A Full Plate, and Dealing with HP’s Time–Not Mine

      Ah, I finally had a complete breakfast, not just a cereal bar or something. One egg, one slice of bacon, one piece of toast (no butter–I put the egg on it). With a cup of coffee, it came down to being a satisfying and pleasant and filling breakfast.

      That’s a pretty far cry from eating a half-pound of bacon in a sitting, several pieces of butter-slathered toast, and two or three eggs. And lots of coffee. That hasn’t really changed much. But this new way of eating is part of a year of abstinence, of chained one-day-at-a-times, of learning my limits. I’m not perfect. Yesterday, within my food plan, I had two slices of pecan pie, which I worried–as I had slice number two–if this was the beginning of a binge. Nope. Slice #2 ended with a desire not to have any more. Satiety arrived, and I am not worried about the leftovers in the refrigerator today. I fell between top line and bottom line abstinence with no problem. And, as I stepped on the scale today, there was no real change in my weight one way or the other. Still 157-ish lbs., which the average American woman feels is the right weight for my height, though I have to admit I am somewhat squishy still. Exercise aversion. Meh.
      I worry about naming foods here, and then I realize this isn’t a meeting. This is a journal about the day-to-day life of a compulsive eater (over, under, and everything in-between) and the use of a food plan to make my life manageable.
      This week, so far, I have had a lot of recovery. I’ve delved into my past and found that nearly every man I came across triggered my approval/love addiction in some way or another. I admitted that I bartered sex I generally did not want for the affection I did. I realized my ex-spouse is still a trigger person, and I want to get through this coming week without being asked for money or having that sense I can trust this person (when I don’t think I ever really could) that I reveal secrets about myself I really shouldn’t be. My ex is the distillation of addiction; my current spouse, of recovery.
      I am ready to roll today, wanting to toss bag after bag into the back and start the drive, despite not having a place to stay when I arrive. In theory I do, but in reality I do not. I need that time apart, and this slow march to the beginning of my journey is making me nuts. I want to stop here and look at my past as an observer. I want to stop there and see the wide plains and big sky above. I want to travel alone; I want another person with me to distract me from truths I might find over the long miles between here and there and then and now. I want to pull up in the driveway of long ago, toss out the things I brought, then putter to my hotel to fall over and curl up in my HP’s guidance. Most importantly, I want it in my time, not my HP’s time.
      I wonder sometimes, if using terms which simply are convenient makes it sound like my Higher Power is a discrete and external thing to me, when it is not. My HP’s guidance is simply being open to the intuitive. There is a level of knowing I sometimes need a real example of to have it hit home. From remembering snippets of songs (like the recent, out-of-the-blue third verse of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” cycling in my head regarding someone from my past), to coincidences so unbelievably baffling that I couldn’t write them in fiction and be taken seriously, to being open to seeing sugar-egg scenes in nature. By sugar-egg scenes, I mean those secret moments in everyday life that only I am there to witness–the ones which grow our souls simply by having experienced the awe. In those moments, I completely lose myself. My place in the universe is set, time simply vanishes, and I am left with an incredible experience I can describe but not explain the depth of its wordless message. The soul doesn’t talk in words (even if it does play oldies for me now and again), and it doesn’t even talk in pictures. The soul communicates in a way that simply creates a conversation of “before” then “after” and “growth” in between. Well, for me, anyway.
      As for my HP’s time? This is just how reality ends up colliding with my life. Situations are set up, some with my input and some without. As I choose my own path, I cross paths with other people and events occur. I cannot force them to occur early or late or even never. I can put things into motion. After I set them out into the world, like blowing dandelion fairies off the stem, I have to let them go. Some will become new dandelions I will come across again; some become dandelions which others come across; some simply don’t germinate. This is how I envision HP’s time. I may never know the results of my actions; I may have to wait for the results; I may have the results seemingly spring out of nowhere; I may never know nothing happened from my actions, hoping that something happened which I simply got no results from.
      When I talk HP, I’m talking reality. The expansive nature of it, the eddies and currents which make the inexplicable occur, the energies which can bring an event to fruition because two people are drawn by instinct to do something . . . I have no real limits on reality because I can’t fathom the edges of it. Every time I think I know reality’s border, it’s not there. Only in delusion can I see firm walls and electrified fences; only in addiction do I have limits. And the nature of addiction means I seek an outside source to push those boundaries and fight those limits.
      One thing I get touchy about is the term “Giving my will and my life over to my Higher Power”. It seems so passive. Like we in recovery have no responsibility to take action. Like we’re coasting along expecting our Higher Power to do all of our yard work for us while we sit in a hammock sipping lemonade and listening to the game. My will is supplemented by reality and my desire to stay sane; my life is still my own and if I don’t take action, I miss opportunities. What I do give up? Control of others. Control of people, places, and situations that I have no business trying to control. The minute anything but me is involved, the game changes. I can assert myself, but I cannot guarantee any outcome. For example, even if I take one dandelion faerie home and nurture it, there is no guarantee it will germinate.
      That’s how my recovery has gone. It took a year of being in program to realize that I had more work to do than I initially believed. I lived up to my abilities because I was still fighting an unseen force, an addiction which has fueled all others–that damnable approval addiction which translated into sex and love addiction and social anorexia.
      As I have learned about the manifestation of addiction in my life, I’ve found that the black-and-white thinking only seemed to work when I was working the addiction. I live in extremes in addiction–binge or restrict. It didn’t matter what I was bingeing on or restricting. I used substance after substance (okay, alcohol, food, and cigarettes) to create social connections I craved. Alcohol dropped inhibitions; food is generally a social event; smoking brings people I have something in common to me as they run out and I have. Or vice versa. All three of my addictions (alcohol being the easiest because it got put under the food addiction and I can treat it like a potential trigger food, avoiding it when I want to use it for negative socializing purposes) fueled that need for social interaction. I can drink two ounces of wine or one ounce of hard liquor and find what I want out of it. And the need to be in control of my mental faculties brings me the desire to stop. I don’t have the desire to keep going until I am so out of it that I isolate. I can isolate without the booze just fine, thank you very much. Add to it that my writing becomes far inferior when I do it, and alcohol loses its charms.
      Food? Well, that’s my primary addiction after approval. That’s the gorilla in the room which had to be moved aside in order to see the source addiction. And now that I am chipping away at that source addiction, thanks to a trip to California which showed me clearly that there was a very real problem which needed to be addressed in different rooms than OA’s rooms, I am getting headway again.
      But this time I have more patience with the recovery process. Little more than I had before, but it’s still there. This is a big one, all the way down to my core. I see the retreat from mind-altering substances as part of this need to feel in control all of the time. If I am sober, I reason, I can potentially have that perfect moment which will turn my life perfect (so says my social anorexia). The feeling of being out of control due to having my mental state altered beyond my desire to have it altered has put alcohol into a “doesn’t need program for” potential addiction. And as I pursue recovery, the desire for its use has waned because I feel the need to have mental clarity in order to make use of the recovery I have received up to this point.
      I don’t want to escape any more. And that desire not to escape means I don’t want to seek the routes to escape. Food and booze have been set aside in order to give me a chance to work program and enter life, not leave it. And booze is not necessary to numb the pain of eating far too much or living in a body that I cannot reconcile with.
      This will happen. I am seeing it happen. Even in the SLAA rooms, it’s changing. I don’t feel a desperate need to save or be saved by the people in the room. They have become people, not potential acting out partners. That is the gift of recovery, knowing that humility is working. I can live outside of sexualized touches. That is amazing to me. It opens me up to the potential of love outside of the one-on-one intimacy. That opens me up to having meaningful friendships with both men and women. Men are now not targets; women, not competition. I have people I can talk to about my secrets without fear. Well, okay, a little fear, but the trust we share (to hold the 12th Tradition and keep anonymity a sacred contract) gives us the chance to all recover together. We were all in the Titanic together; we’re all in the longboats together. Yes, the Carpathia is coming to take us to the mainland and we may never see one another again (in meetings, if someone moves out of town), but we share eternally something which unites us and separates us from others. We have been drawn from the icy death of addiction and were pulled into a chance at life. What we do with it? Is up to each of us.
      And when we go to new places, people who were on the boat with us are there. And when we walk into a new room, we are given the chance to again open ourselves to understanding how we ended up on that Titanic addiction, how we ended up in the North Atlantic’s icy waters of hitting rock bottom, and how we ended up being pulled into a longboat–one of the select who got into a room before we could not survive a day longer.
      Yes, it is a dramatic analogy, but one which resonates for me. I was dying for approval; I was dying for food. I didn’t feel like I could do it, that I could survive. I was ready to surrender to my last breath and sink to the icy depths of a life wasted by the rigors of maintaining the high that I could not achieve any more. I saw a long boat and swam toward it. And finally, when I was exhausted and freezing, I put my hand up in one last effort, hoping that someone would see it. And they did. I was pulled up and out of that sense I was entirely alone out in that water, was dying alone surrounded by people. And I was drawn in and fought to become a survivor as I rested huddling in the cold air, waiting to warm up.
      I made it to shore, back to the world. And with a sense of how close I came to losing my life to addiction, I am aware that each day is precious to me, now. Each relationship I build is precious to me now because I am starting anew. I am learning not to use people for my own goals. I am learning to treat people like human beings–imperfect, thinking, feeling human beings–instead of chess pieces so I can win something completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. And when I reach across the board to the person there who relates to me, I am living as an equal instead of lady and mistress over all of the people below me.
      Besides, I suck at playing chess–like I suck at playing G-d in addiction. I tend to lose. And, in addiction, I have lost potential lifelong friendships from long ago because I could not give the respect people needed. Well, I could give it to them, but I wanted to barter. I wanted affection. I wanted attention. I wanted people to circle me like a May Pole or a golden idol and dance around me in rapturous joy. I wanted to be G-d, perfect, the mistress of all things.
      Now, I just want to use my time to experience life and learn about people. When I stood above people (in my own head), I excluded their thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I lost so much time I could have spent learning about the world and the Universe. Learning about myself as a human being. I stagnated instead of grew. I never fell away from perfection because there is nothing to fall from when a goal is unachievable. I can touch some of those things which are intangible–grace, integrity, honesty, courage, wisdom–which I consider part of the gift basket which came with achieving perfection. The dichotomy, however, was lost on me as I chased it. All of the achievable things cannot be achieved in perfection. All of those require growth. All of those require self-examination, self-knowledge. All of those require expanding what is to be open to what could be.
      My life is now possibilities again, but this time I don’t see people standing above me telling me that I should not pursue them because they know better than me. I may have given them all-access passes into my psyche, but they never got farther than planting destructive messages before leaving. Well, those messages can be supplanted with spiritual growth. I cannot exist with those messages inside of me when my truth disproves them.
      The truth is that there are beautiful people out there who are overweight and asymmetrically-featured. They radiate kindness and strength, even if their bodies aren’t considered “attractive” by group consensus. Add to it that the “beautiful” people are often miserable and live lives of pain, and the message that being fat and ugly is undesirable loses its power. Being fat is relative–ask any anorexic. Being ugly is relative. And looking only skin deep shows the quality of a human being in a way that makes one wonder about that person’s own satisfaction with their own life. If beauty is youth and thinness, then what about loving our grandparents and great-grandparents? Are they less valuable because they don’t possess those shallow qualities? Actually, I have found that wisdom of a life lived and a little added weight to show a fully-appreciated life really is more attractive to me than a young person scrabbling for yesterday under a surgeon’s knife. I see a teacher in one; a lesson in the other.
      I am starting to appreciate the extra sagging skin on my body, now. It is the mark of a war waged against addiction. It is the reality that–through belief in a program which could not only relieve me of eating incessantly but being eaten alive by self-loathing incessantly–I have a purpose I do not know. It may be as small a purpose as being an involved and loving grandmother to my grandchildren, who will carry me forward generations as they tell their own great-grandchildren about me long after I am dead. It may be as big as being a Nobel Laureate for writing or peace or any number of things. But I don’t know where my future lies. That’s in the hazy mists of tomorrow–where my Higher Power’s time lies.
      Today is the day I get to work recovery. Today is the day I get to wait and to prepare for a physical journey both mentally and spiritually. I may want to hop in my car right now and go, but I am ill-prepared for it. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few days, and the new information needs a few days to set in order to give me the strength to call on that infinite source of will to say no or yes. Whether yes or no, my only goal is to have my answers sourced from recovery, not addiction. I expect my trip will be filled with Serenity Prayers as I try to wrest control of situations I cannot control, trying to manipulate outcomes. I expect my trip will have multiple walks in through OA and SLAA doorways to listen for my Higher Power’s guidance. I expect my trip will give me an opportunity to sit in the quiet and pray and meditate on the next right thing and practice living in the world instead of in isolation. I expect it will be an opportunity to journey into my Fourth Step as I return to the past as an observer from today instead of trying to change yesterday. In my HP’s time will I pack up a car and start the road trip; in my HP’s time will I be challenged up to the level of my recovery and feel growing pains. In my HP’s time will I meet new people, learn new lessons, and return slightly or greatly changed for the slips and slides and pulls by my addiction back to the coping mechanisms of yesterday. And, in my HP’s time, I will become aware of more things I need to work in recovery, more opportunities to grow and evolve, and more ways to become the capable, loving, honest person I am working toward becoming. No, I will not be perfect at any of it, but I will take it all in stride.
      And if I can’t take it in stride, then I have a Higher Power to pray to and meditate with in order to gain insight into the next stage of growth.
      My name is Jess, and I am a binge eater and anorexic, approval addict and social anorexic. The few days I have left have value and meaning, even if they are days of rest before I do start the drive. But even days of rest have value, because that’s when the soul is working to make the lessons I have learned into truths about what it means to be an imperfect human being.


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