Posted by: innerpilgrimage | February 1, 2011

Some Journey

      Well, I’ve been back since Sunday, though I have been bedridden (got the flu) when I haven’t been busy doing laundry and other home stufff since I’ve gotten back.

      The trip had both great and unpleasant points. I ended up driving through, arriving at about 4 a.m., to the extended stay hotel. They were very kind, letting me check in early. Unfortunately, the hotel, itself, was filthy. Not just a little dirty. Actually filthy. There was trash, still, in the garbage can, the toilet had a constant leak, and the chairs were broken. The counter between the kitchen and sitting area had a tar-like black substance on it and a cherry Kool-Aid stain. It took serious effort to fight closed the curtains–which I felt I needed closed because I had a few minor valuables with me. The sheets and pillowcases were yellowed, frayed and worn, and smelled like human body, not bleach or cleaners. The microwave was dirty, there was a lump of something scarily unidentifiable under the stove burner which smelled weird, and there was a brown film along the top of the refrigerator door. The two chairs along the kitchen counter were broken–the seats fell off and four sharp screws were revealed whenever that happened. The legs of the chairs were wobbly, and the back of one of the chairs was splintered. The queen-sized bed (I think it was actually a full, however) had a twin-sized bed pad under the frayed sheets. The pillows had brown splotchy stains under the yellowed pillowcases. And even the replacement pillowcases were stained and frayed and yellowed.
      They tried to find me a better room, and that one had a broken bedroom door, similarly broken furniture and odd-smelling bedding. This kitchen was equally dirty, and there were unidentifiable thick, gooey brown-black stains on the bedroom walls.
      Having stayed up for over 24 hours, I fell apart after this. I had no CCW (I wouldn’t have wanted to stay without a firearm), and I felt without it I couldn’t stay there because I felt unsafe there. I phoned my spouse, who told me I needed to get a little sleep then find another place if I couldn’t stay there. And I couldn’t stay there and feel sane.
      Sadly, this place had the nicest people! I mean, if they took care of the property as well as they interviewed and hired people (well, except housekeeping, but I would bet they are wonderfully sweet people who just are atrocious housekeeping because of their limitations) this place would have been acceptable. I should have known this place had issues–the person who checked me in was armed security. He was very kind and tried so hard to help, but I couldn’t find a way to stay. There was no way I could stay. I just . . . I could not stay in a place like that. I couldn’t.
      So, in tears, I tried to get my head together while exhausted. I left the place and got something to eat (I had not eaten since the evening before), then started the trek to my ex-spouse’s place. I parked in the only safe place I could think of–their driveway, next to his car.
      This was one of those HP moments. My HP took care of me, and for $10 more per night, I ended up in an extended stay place that had dishes and cutlery in the clean kitchen. The sheets smelled like bleach, as did the towels. Despite the recent outbreak of bedbugs at hotels all over the U.S., there were none there. The floors were clean, the refrigerator and bathroom was clean . . . everything was clean. The furniture was in good repair, and I even had a fireplace and a dishwasher! The two places were night-and-day to each other. I had a wonderful stay at this second place . . . a Motel 6 Studio. I’m naming it because this place was amazing for the price. Now, I had felt burned by the other place, so they let me check the room before I committed to it. And I told the housekeeper who showed it to me that it was perfect, and I told the hotel manager who checked me in that it was perfect. It was comfortable, clean, and had a fireplace I enjoyed late last week. They also had a room with a jacuzzi tub available, but I didn’t need a jacuzzi tub. I felt it was more important to keep it open for a couple who could use it more than me. But it was available, and the place was clean, and I was truly happy with it for the whole week. To the point I worked very hard to keep it clean throughout the week. I tend to leave coffee cup rings all over counters (bad, bad habit), but I was using napkins and wiping the counters after my in-room meals (I saved a lot of money and my abstinence doing it that way–vegetables are for other people out there, it seems).
      My ex-spouse has a blended family, and my son with him was the eldest of seven kids in the house by about 10 years. His fiancee is pretty level-headed, despite living a life which honestly was taxing my own mental patience after only a few days. The life that she seems to be able to live out of addiction is the same life I lived in addiction. It was an interesting lesson, to experience how a life I could not handle then or now because I was hypersensitive to the chaos all around (and there was, with six young children, four of them pre-school aged, having cabin fever and the flu because it was Winter) and two more families living on the 2-acre lot.
      On my son’s birthday, I gave flowers to the women (and my son’s deceased half-sister) who had influenced my life there, and who had a part in helping me get through the months I lived there. When I was there the first time, pregnant, I visited my son’s aunt’s grave (she died at eighteen in an automobile accident, less than two weeks before she would have turned nineteen), and I found peace there talking to her. My ex-spouse’s grandmother passed away while we were married; we went to the funeral, my parents paying to have us fly out to attend it. And I hand-carved a headstone while I was out there for my son’s deceased half-sister–which is still there with its lamb laying down in front of a sunrise over a couple of hills on one side and a cross on the other.
      I visited them all twice, the day after I arrived and the day of my son’s birthday. On my son’s birthday, I left flowers for them and thanked them for influencing my life and for being part of the peace I found while I was there. Then I gave flowers to my ex-mother-in-law and my ex-spouse’s new fiancee because they had done so much to help raise my son into a young man with dreams and goals for his future.
      One of the greatest gifts I received was the ability to crochet, a skill taught me by my ex-spouse’s late grandmother. She and I would sit facing each other (as opposed to side-by-side) because I crochet left-handed. Doing everything mirrored to her allowed me to be able to learn. I never got really good, and I am currently re-teaching myself basic crochet so I can finally advance to making clothing besides hats and scarves. That gift helped my abstinence almost 20 years later–she taught me in 1992, when I first arrived there. Having something to do with my hands besides stuff my face with food was a blessing.
      I am loath to admit I did not make it to meeting last week, and, as I became increasingly ill over the week, I did have issues. I did not gain or lose weight there, and I held on to my abstinence by the slenderest thread a few days that week. I should have phoned my sponsor but did not. I also did not eat as well as usual; I ate more sweets than normal. The stress was pretty intense at times.
      Well, everything went okay, however. From the birthday dinner at the house to the birthday dinner out with just my son and my son’s girlfriend, it went okay. I did have one major bout of temper (I lost my wallet for about 15 minutes and freaked out because I needed it to get home), which I apologized to my son for. We laughed over it afterward, joking about how I went monkeynuts. Laughing at myself is probably the best gift I have received from abstinence, and I made it clear I did not blame him for the loss of my wallet or any of the temper I had–something I would have while still in addiction. This was all me, and I knew it was part of my progress as I learned about how certain stressors (especially getting ill) can affect my mental well-being.
      I did read some literature, having taken my books with me when I went. I ended up spending time reading books I had written and cleaning the hotel room to decompress, as well. But I did not write, and I did not work on my Step Four Inventory. I learned a lot this trip, especially about the stressors which trigger me to act out in addiction.
      Now that I am home, I am recovering from the flu and from the small amount of eating out I did and moderate amount of eating sweets, which affected my body negatively, as well. I am back to a lower-fat diet, again, and I am slowly recovering from the flu. I don’t fear my parents’ visit next week because I am not in a place completely alien to me. The fantasy that things would go awry in a certain way on my trip did not come to pass. While I was challenged, it was in unexpected ways. But I did gain a lot of insight and, now that I am home in a more comfortable situation, I am doing better.
      The trip was about progress, not perfection. I learned about my eating under stress, about how illness affects my eating. I learned that everything changed yet was still familiar enough that I could get around. I learned about me through this trip, that neither I nor the world could stand still completely. It was a relief to see the changes reflected in the places I had lived; like me, there were improvements and changes which reflected the past fifteen-to-twenty years. Growth and change is part of the natural order of things–even if some changes aren’t as desirable as others (to me, at least). But the change is important, the change is part of what makes life special. And if places and people can change, so can I through recovery.
      My name is Jess, and I am a binge eater and food anorexic, a love addict and social anorexic. I had setbacks, but I learned from them. Progress, not perfection. And even failure can have a success drawn from it as long as I remember that even backsliding can be used to learn something about challenges to my recovery.


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