Posted by: innerpilgrimage | February 17, 2011

Powerless Within, Too

      I have been physically around, though not particularly emotionally. I’ve ended up looking over my first three steps to understand more what’s been happening to me.

      I am still abstinent, which is nice. And I’ve stabilized my weight, which is also nice. I haven’t gone above 161 lbs. over the month, and today I am 160.0 lbs., which tells me that my food plan, as it is, works. Eating between 1500 and 2500 daily calories works for me, and I think I want to settle at 160 lbs., give or take 5 lbs. I am not sure how it will change when my Plan of Action is put into motion, the ninth tool of recovery which will surely be see more play in OA literature in the coming year.
      I am not sure if marking the scale’s measurements is important or not. I suppose it will be a part of my life for the next year or so. If I stabilize at approximately 160 lbs. from now until October, I am guessing this is where I am supposed to be.
      October 27, 2009: 267 lbs, by a doctor’s scale.
      November 30, 2009: 253 lbs. by a scale at a store.
      December 21, 2009: 246 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      January 14, 2010: 232 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      February 14, 2010: 221 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      March 14, 2010: 214.4 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      April 14, 2010: 201.8 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      May 14, 2010: 195.6 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      June 14, 2010: 191.8 lbs. by the scale I currently use. Confirmed by the doctor’s scale.
      July 14, 2010: 181.4 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      August 14, 2010: 178.0 lbs. by the scale I currently use. I am at “goal weight”, within 5 lbs. up or down of 175 lbs.
      September 14, 2010: 180.0 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      October 14, 2010: 170.6 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      November 14, 2010: 164.8. lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      December 14, 2010: 164 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      January 14, 2011: 159.0 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      February 14, 2011: 160.6 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      Part of me wants to push to 150 lbs., but there really is no need. I’ve lost just over 120 lbs. since June of 2009 and almost 110 lbs. since the end of October. I attribute OA to the loss of the whole amount, considering that I would never have kept it off without OA–I would probably be pushing 300 lbs. and still be seeking religion to find Truth.
      I’ve been reading a borrowed book from the library, Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum. It’s about the desire to find scientific proof of spiritual activity in the mid-1800s by attempting to separate the real events from the events created by fraudulent illusionists who used their sleight-of-hand talents to fool the gullible with dazzling performances. I have not gotten too far into it–right now, they’re collecting some powerhouse scientists of the 1800s to get into the fray and study events unrelated to the pay-for-play seances that were the rage at the time.
      It’s interesting that, when religion and science started its battle, humanity sought to use the scientific method to pursue G-d. This is definitely a good read. A dense read, yes, but a good read. Ms. Blum is a strong writer who uses contextual quotes from the major players of the time and exposes relevant events in science at the time to show the intense desire for man to be something more than a complex biological automaton which is created, functions, then shuts down.
      Anyway, it got me to thinking more about the steps over the last couple of days. I initially intuited that I wanted to start from the beginning and really understand how recovery through the steps and the face of my addiction affects me. I flipped through another book at the library, one which promised results outside of a 12-Step program. I looked through the character assets that I couldn’t muster in myself and returned the book to the shelf. On my own, I don’t possess those qualities. While others might find that book useful and the answer, I felt as though the author did not understand what I was dealing with, here.
      One of the things mentioned was that addiction is not a disease, as 12-Step programs insist it is. Despite that argument, the author did admit that treating addiction like one would treat a disease does seem to work. I suppose this person looked at disease as I looked at it. It took actually examining the most basic definition of disease, an abnormal condition which impairs the function of a biological organism. Yeah, my addiction impaired my function. And, after being told over and over again, “Use a little willpower!” until I felt completely alone, clearly the actions I took in full-blown addiction were abnormal. So, perhaps, if we don’t try to re-define addiction as a viral or bacterial infection (or even a cancer), we can definitely define addiction as a disease. But cultural context being as it is, addiction is merely choice fueled by habit which can be cured by using what we addicts don’t have–for whatever reason.
      Step One acknowledges this. For those who aren’t terribly familiar with the steps, Step One states, “We admitted we were powerless over [our addict substance]–that our lives had become unmanageable.”
      The concept of it can be paralyzing in the fear that it can engender. It takes so much to stop shying away from it, to walk from the belief that only through one’s personal (and missing) willpower can one keep the threads of control over it. I faced the fear that if I admitted I was powerless, I would end up fused to my couch’s cushion cover, weighing hundreds more pounds than my highest weight up until that point. To admit powerlessness was to commit myself to death, to release myself to the omnipresent food hurricane–of which I was living in the eye.
      I knew I couldn’t eat like I had been any more. Despair and hope commingled as I started on my journey. I put my heart into it because I had finally decided OA was the last stop for me after years of dieting, of trying to starve, of promising myself tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. If OA didn’t work, I resolved, I would resign myself to a slow food suicide. There would be no help for me. I would be lost eternally to it.
      So, you see my fear’s legs, that it had power over me. I prayed to fear, and it was a generous G-d, giving me as much fear as I could not handle whenever I asked for it.
      To say I was powerless meant that the only shield I had from that paralyzing terror, food, had to be put aside. I had to stand in the rain of terror, unprotected by my parka of food and weight.
      Hope made me surrender just enough to try abstinence. And, sixteen months later, I am a physical recovery success story. While I appreciate the miracle for what it is–and it is a huge miracle, one which can inspire newcomers to stick around when they see my before picture, hear that I lived in that body for over a decade, then stare at me in utter disbelief that I am the same person–it is not the goal of being in program for me.
      This week, I realized that I am not in control of my feelings. That sucked. I had accepted I was not in control of others, and I was okay with that. As long as I could muster the strength to deal with whatever what in my skin, I was okay. But now . . . I face the reality that something within me is equally uncontrolled, and I hate it.
      Yet, it’s not entirely a place of despair. The natural emotions (sadness, anger, fear, and ebullience) come and go, flow and ebb. They don’t stick, despite my childhood memories of them doing so. When they stuck, it was because I was stuck. I held onto them instead of using them in a healthy manner then releasing them. Well, not elation. Never elation. For some reason, the bad feelings stuck until the happiness was treated like fear–a warning sign of worse things to come.
      Footwork comes into play after the emotion arrives. Footwork, or the recovered efforts I use to emulate normalcy by practicing normal behaviors, is the part which requires the strength to change what I can. I cannot control the natural emotions, just like I cannot control people. I cannot keep them from flowing into me. I can, however, use their arrivals to understand what caused it (though not always–some triggers are very well hidden within me). If I can associate an event to a natural emotion, then I have received a powerful opportunity for recovery. I define recovery as the daily practice of choosing to expose those natural emotions and learn from them, then change my actions consciously is order to avoid harm to others. While I cannot prevent all resentments, I can deal with people with honesty and kindness and know that I did my part to avoid harm to others. If they felt I harmed them, that is theirs to deal with.
      I have the knowledge of what to do. If I feel sad, I need to grieve something and make real changes in order to live after it has passed through my life. If I feel angry, I need to take constructive action in order to make right what makes me angry. I want fairness, in general, not unfairness in my favor; therefore, I believe that the actions in order to balance things (which will likely anger the people who are unfairly benefitted in that situation) are not harmful in general. While I won’t pull a Robin Hood and lie, cheat, and steal to balance things, I certainly can put my efforts toward what I think is good–from human rights to education to fighting discrimination against the GBLT and the weight-challenged community. Respect for all is important to me; “The Other” only feeds the next base emotion: fear. When I feel fear–as I did when I was asked to choose to be powerless and to accept that my life was a demilitarized zone in which no one got out unscathed–I know it is time to muster the strength mentioned by the Serenity Prayer and harden it with the promise of Step Three–a Higher Power will give me what I need if I only surrender that white-knuckle control over, well, the illusion that I am in control of my life. I like that fear is like a yellow sign on the road of my life: a warning to prepare and be aware for what is to come. I also like the idea that fear is the only path I can use to reach courage. I want to be courageous. Therefore, when I feel fear, it is a signal that I have a chance to practice the character asset of courage. It actually dissipates the fear sometimes when I feel the joy of knowing life has just dropped an opportunity to practice courage into my lap. Ebullience is the hardest because it is the one we want to hold onto the most. When I feel ebullience–or the eager enjoyment of a person, place, or situation–I actually don’t really know what to do. I mean, what should I do except enjoy it for as long as it lasts and try to hold onto it? Except as soon as I grab at it, I feel fear that I can’t hold to it. I feel anger that it leaves. I feel sadness even before it’s gone–which drives that joy away faster. I think perhaps the footwork for happiness is simply to sit in thankfulness for that opportunity to appreciate a good event. To have been given a good memory. To humbly appreciate the chance to live longer through laughter and love. So, I guess I will try that. It sounds reasonable, to appreciate that it even passed through my life.
      So, back to Step One.
      I am powerless over my addictions. I certainly feel it more when I deal with the approval-seeking than I do with the food. I wore my food addiction on my sleeve (and pants legs, and shirt from and face–just about everywhere on my body); the physical recovery of weight loss is unmistakeable, like the physical recoveries of a dry drunk or a clean drug addict. Just like that dry drunk or clean junkie, the physical recovery does little more than pull the curtain aside to reveal what’s there. It takes that spiritual awakening promised in Step Twelve to really make the difference. Moving the substance doesn’t fix the problem; it merely moves aside what’s obscuring the problem.
      After almost a year-and-a-half of being in OA, I am enjoying the process of learning the depth of meaning of the steps. While I am going through this so very slowly, doing that Stepwork Waltz (1, 2, 3 . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . 1, 2, 3 . . .) yet again, I gain new insight into surrender and why I keep struggling with it. Sometimes sooner yet sometimes later, I see when I wrest control of my life from my Higher Power. I am happy that Step Two is firmly implanted. It is the medium through which I can slide from Step One to Step Three. I believe in my Higher Power as I define it (and I believe in everyone else’s as they define theirs). But it does take that Step Eleven work to admit I am taking it back, that if I am successful in grabbing it back I will lose that lovely miracle of physical recovery, that I will again be hiding deep in the addiction. I don’t want to return to the addiction, so I close my eyes and beg to have it taken–guilt-ridden or not for trying to take it back yet again.
      My HP, as I define it, doesn’t mind that I do it. Sometimes I think that waltz I dance with it is part of the process of recovery, that I need regular reminders about how crappy my life can be when I am buffeted by the negative emotions I grip to when I am “in control of my life”. When I am in control, the only thing I seem to do is punish myself by living in yesterday because I can’t grieve those losses, by being destructive today because I am angry I can’t get out of the melancholy and blame the rest of the world for it, and by living in tomorrow by fearing it will go as bad as today went. Ebullience has no place in my life. Chaotic mania? Hell yes. That’s part of the funbunnies of having the approval addiction. The chemical high of seeking acceptance, the delirium that I can hold onto it as readily as I can the negative emotions, always comes with an awful post-high crash that leaves me sadder, angrier, and more fearful than before.
      It kinda makes it appealing to let go and start enjoying life by letting the things which I can’t control get put back into the control of my HP. When the illusion that I can control the world around me doesn’t weigh down my shoulders is lifted, I feel stronger. I feel capable of dealing with the things that overwhelmed me because of the long shadows cast by the twilight of my addiction (as opposed to a Twilight addiction, which I do not possess whatsoever). In the bright light of recovery, problems are exposed as they are, not as I perceive them. Illusion does not get in the way of what is there, and I can turn to program to deal with it.
      I have the tools; I just have to practice using them. Yes, it is hard sometimes. That’s probably the number one reason I retreat toward addiction. Sometimes I get tired by the challenge. Perhaps that’s when I need to let go more than ever instead of try to overcommit myself to recovery. Screw “perhaps”. That’s when I need to let it go to my HP. That’s my warning, when I am making no headway in recovery and face frustration that I’m not. Recovery isn’t a flow of revelations one after the other for me. Some people get that, and that’s wonderful for them. But just like the natural flow of the primary emotions, recovery flows and ebbs. I have to start respecting that; when I respect it and my natural emotions, perhaps I will spend more time moving forward and working Step Four to the best of my ability.
      As for my Step Four stuff, I have done it so far to the best of my ability. I have a lot of stuff I can bring to the table. Perhaps it is time to compile what I wrote and bring it forward to the person I want to do Step Five with. I’m certainly ready to get this going, and I have the openness to get the ball rolling on my resentments again. I just am not quite sure who I resent–outside of one person in program whose personality has caused me consternation until I finally let go. Letting go was the best thing I’ve done so far. I feel a lot better and don’t feel a need to eat over it.
      It looks like today’s lesson is about letting go. And it’s time for me to let go and go experience life yet again.
      My name is Jess, I am a binge eater and food anorexic, an approval (“love”) addict and social anorexic. I feel a lot stronger having shared this. It’s nice to be easing back into recovery. I was really worried I would finally relapse this last month, and I humbly appreciate that my abstinence held this time. Very humbly. Very appreciatively. I was very close a few times. Very, very close.


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