Posted by: innerpilgrimage | March 15, 2011

Et tu, Brutae? Love and Betrayal and Addiction Mentality

      Fifteen years ago, on the Ides of March (one of the most meme-worthy lunar calendar related events in Western history), I met my husband for the first time. I consider it an HP moment before I knew it, one of those “Wake up, Jess!” moments in my life.

      We married a year to the day later, mostly because of the significance of the Ides of March to both of us, as somewhat nerdy intellectual types. In other words, because we both knew about it in history and literature? It was just one more peer-to-peer connection we made.
      I consider my spouse to be one of the most intelligent men I’ve met. He runs up and slides down learning curves all of the time, riding the sine waves of intellectual and knowledge-pursuit. You can’t stop this man from learning. I wouldn’t want to, either.
      He is (I sincerely believe) the reason I pulled my head out of my backside far enough to look for a door to pass through–to die to the life of addictive affliction and find recovery through a 12-Step program.
      Now, he’s not an addict whatsoever. He doesn’t get why I do what I do. This does help me, despite him not having the empathy for what I deal with when I get stuck in my own head and rattle around looking for ways to cover over my natural reactions to events with food or secondary emotional drama. He’s a realist; I’m an illusionist. Yet, because I want to be a realist, I not only am able to use his view on the world to compare to mine (in order to see where I’m acting addicted) but to introduce addicted life concepts to non-addicted people in a safe setting. If I can explain it quick-n-dirty to him, I can explain it to others.
      He was also the catalyst for a huge change. After bouncing around in my own unfulfillable approval and food addictions for years, he couldn’t live with the insanity. He threatened to walk. And the first door opened, one I had to walk through in order to find OA’s door and reach physical recovery beyond my wildest dreams.
      Unfortunately, while I do have physical and some mental and spiritual recovery in program, I am still fighting myself. I know what’s healthy for me–progressing through the 12 Steps. But I am taking a walk into the unknown, and that’s scary. Addiction may be Hell, but it’s a known Hell.
      Because of the relationship we’ve developed over 15 years, I’ve learned that a person can be reliable to me. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to be perfect–I am lovable at any size, any sanity. I am encouraged to grow, and every leap of faith I take seems to have him waiting there with a big smile on his face. Not to catch me. Never to catch me. I am supposed to catch myself, part of learning to become a whole and recovered human being. I know love, even if I don’t entirely know it. And it scares the living, mother-effing crap outta me.
      I can love; I know I’ve felt it whenever I’ve felt vulnerable enough to be loved or harmed and take that leap of faith known as trust. This is good. I can be trustworthy and dedicated, despite my alternate odd desire to be dishonest and obsessive about reaching toward the goal of perfection through manipulating the world into accepting my grand delusion. Of course, my version of perfection has a gift basket filled with goodies like my parents’ approval, the approval of the world, a body only found on the pages of magazines, and a slew of papers that say I am qualified to be superior to the bloody world. To be “the best” at everything. To, in essence, discard my humility and my acceptance that I am human, too. To be a Goddess in a meat sack, demanding the adoration and adulation of the masses.
      Yea-heh-heh. I was thinking the same thing–more than a little nutty, right? Well, reality says I’m just like everyone else. I use trial-and-error while walking through life. I’ve also been given the gift of being challenged not to have received a constant love throughout childhood–either from family or a deity. Been given the gift of being challenged by my desire to use scientific methods to learn what will consistently create the biochemical reactions which make up “love”, so I can use it on those people who couldn’t have given me what I needed because they were simply part of a chain of not having and being enough. I have been given empathy for people who caused me harm back then, because I know what it’s like not to be able to give others the freely-offered affection and approval and acceptance that comes with being a loving human being.
      In other words, the minute I become vulnerable to love, red flags go up. I am vulnerable to intense pain when people are just people and either accidentally hurt me or purposefully hurt me. Imperfection is part of the human condition. “To err is human; to forgive, divine” didn’t come from nowhere, after all. Having been slapped down, punished, forced to fight for approval (which was inappropriately termed “love”) . . . that was a greater education than the unwanted college preparatory school education I received which was meant to get me ready for a grand and glorious future searching for the one thing that I was talented at which my parents would approve of.
      I was told once, by my father, that he didn’t care what I did, as long as it was in a well-lit place. That’s not true, since my resume is filled with well-lit fast-food places and a well-lit home (where I take care of my family and write novels), and a well-lit hospital (where I sat for a year beside my cancer-afflicted preschooler). Well-lit wasn’t the criterion for an approval-worthy career. But no one cared to give me any clues until after the fact. Life isn’t always well-lit, and the path I’ve chosen winds through darkness which requires my footwork to illuminate it.
      My frustration with people got to the point that I planned to become a primatologist and run off to Africa just to get away. I wanted to be Jane Goodall or Dian Fossey (without the machete-murdering grad student, though). My experiment finding approval in the hu-monkey population had failed. It was time to take a step back and try getting approval from greater apes. Well, that wasn’t where I was supposed to go–addiction or no–and I ended up here with a foundation I can work with. A half-lifetime filled with failed perfection experiments and tripping over my true self in moments of complete and exhausted surrender.
      I guess in ramping up for my next anniversary, instead of expressing love through gifts and baked goods and a greeting card, it’s time to express it through real vulnerability. After all, he’s already committed to 15 years of ups and downs, addiction and recovery, hardships and security. If that’s not love, what is? The social anorexic who retreats emotionally whenever things start tilting (even if they’re already righting themselves) should take a break. But damn, it’s hard work.
      Name’s Jess. I’m addicted to controlling food and approval in my life. It is exhausting–much more tiring than becoming vulnerable and experiencing life as it’s meant to be experienced. But it is terrifying, because I can’t tell the shadows from the real threats. Illumination is needed. And to illuminate my life? I need to become vulnerable to it, to open my eyes instead of covering them and hoping it will just go away.



  1. Ah, Jess. I’ve never read the words of someone who has described me and my insanities so well, not even my own. I hope you never stop adding to this blog; I’ve learned so much about the illness, the addiction(s), and I keep reaching for the realist inside of me, when so often I want to fall back on the fantasy, over and over.

    Thanks again.


    • Hey Andi,

      Thank you so much for what you wrote, and I hope I don’t stop adding to the blog, too–even if it sometimes isn’t daily (because I’m working on my pen-and-paper journal). Food addiction is a tough one, with the world out there telling us, “Use a little willpower already!” I used a lot of willpower. I used it, got discouraged after I succeeded and didn’t find what I was looking for, then failed again and again. My willpower got used up until I had no willpower left.

      Your comment reminds me of an AA slogan about fantasy: “If faith without works is dead, willingness without actions is fantasy.” I do that a lot–get all willing then expect the willingness to make everything happen for me. Get all up in the hope that things are gonna change and that I’m gonna get that perfect life . . . forgetting that (1) there is no such thing as a perfect life and (2) the willingness is just the thought process of moving the mental blocks aside to get off my butt and start journeying the path of recovery–doing the footwork necessary.

      And keep reaching for that realist. That’s part of the mental recovery, where we’re “Privately divided by a world so undecided” (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow ( [Hey Oh!] ) ). Living in two minds is part of working program, part of the life in recovery. And I’m not the only one (what a relief!) who does this, because again and again people in program–OA and others–have talked about having those two “voices”: one of reason and reality and one of self-seeking and fantasy. People with more experience in program have told me it gets easier to get away from that inner addict as one practices “listening” to their recovered self.

      It’s like that story about the grandfather and the grandson talking about their inner selves. The grandfather points out that within him are two wolves fighting for control–one which is kind and tame and the other which is wild and vicious. The boy asks his grandfather which will win. And the grandfather says: “The one I feed.” What we feed with our energy is what will live inside us. And, through personal experience, once we become aware that there is an option besides addiction? We can never entirely go back. That’s nice to know–that I can never entirely go back to that time of blissless ignorance, when I was suffering and was in despair because I believed I had no options. Yes, I can relapse. I can turn back to the addiction and submit to it completely. But I will always have the knowledge that recovery is one phone call or one visit to an OA meeting away. Hands are out there to help me up. All I have to do is grab hold.

  2. Jess-
    This was beautifully written. My boyfriend and I sound much like you and your husband. I am the illusionist and he is the realist. I can’t wait to continue reading your posts. I am a struggling over-eater and I just started blogging my journey. Thank you for sharing yours.

  3. Hey FluffyG!

    Thank you so much for your heartfelt response to what I wrote. It is often so hard to express the truth that working the program isn’t for the faint-hearted looking for a diet to get to a goal weight (where all of our ills are cured and we get the perfect life, of course!).

    I really appreciate that by being as honest as possible, by writing things I really don’t want to expose in myself, I can connect to others. This disease thrives on isolation; I cannot forget how different I felt, how I never understood how people saw food so much differently than I did. And when I heard for the first time what I saw, felt, and experienced in addiction then heard that the person didn’t live that way every second of every day of every week of every month of every year of their lives . . . there was a rush of relief and hope in my own life.

    I am so pleased you’re blogging your journey. It’s so important that people who do think, feel, and experience an abusive relationship with food have a place to see that others are out there who think, feel, and experience the same things yet are working their ways out. I held tight onto the blogs that were out there when I started. They helped me a lot while I was trying to figure out what had happened to me so that I felt helpless in certain aisles of the grocery store or on streets or in restaurants or even in my own kitchen (where I stored my drug of choice) and in my own living room (where I used it most often).

    Experience, Strength, and Hope are the cornerstones of the message, just as Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness are the cornerstones of the program. And even if OA isn’t right for everyone, for those it is right for? It is a life-changing journey filled with so many wonderful possibilities that life becomes an experience instead of a chore.

    And I am very happy to have your hand slapped in mine as we walk, for together we can do what we could never do alone.

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