Posted by: innerpilgrimage | April 10, 2011


      I actually nearly tanked my food yesterday. Seriously. I was sliding all over the place, cheating within my food plan. I held to my food plan literally, but not spiritually. That is really hard to admit, and I count yesterday as a day of abstinence technically, but I want to be rigorously honest and say it could have gone either way–depending.

      However, I also consider it a day of abstinence because I got awareness from it. My food plan is loose enough for this purpose–I want to see where the compulsion sneaks in so casually. I use it as a tool to find the answers. When my food starts to get messy within my food plan? Something is eating me, and I need to address it, or that bright line will be crossed within the next few days.
      The obvious binges are gone. I can’t bring myself to eat a bag of candy any more. I generally don’t want to eat more than one or two servings of any classic binge food. That is a food battle I have been granted victory over time. Moving starches and proteins and fruits and other components of what I normally would consider discretionary calories as a complete unit is how I play the game. And when I do that? I know I’m sliding within my plan and there is something I am hiding from. Some day, I hope that the simple awareness of the subtlety of the face of my compulsion. And now that it’s out, I am standing here questioning whether I did break abstinence or not.
      I did not eat outside of my food plan. I did not exceed the calories or undereat yesterday. But I did eat more than I intended of a certain food and I used the healthy parts of my food plan then set the unhealthy calories (fats and sugars) into the discretionary calories. This is actually within how my food plan should work. This is part of the imperfection of the process. This is where I do my best work, seeing that I am opting to separate out calories in order to want what I want and get it. And this is the core of the compulsion as I face it today.
      So what precisely, was eating me?
      Social anorexia.
      I have been isolating in a meditative way, turning away from the growth I have been journaling both here and inside my pen-and-paper journal. There is a middle path I know is the balance between the extremes of my addict obsession. I have a cycle which I recognize. I martyr myself by denying my spiritual, physical, or mental needs in order to earn approval. Then I binge on something. The sneakiness has everything to do with how it slides around addictions. It wasn’t about the food, but the martyrdom within the sex and love addiction, the need not to binge socially and get the emotional high of being attractive (making myself an object) left me starving myself socially because I don’t trust myself. Well, the hard pull the other way expressed itself in a mania of wanting to find that approval, pulling hard the other way, then sliding it to my other addictions–smoking and food. Trying to get the high within limits. But the core issue is trying to get the high through excess. Any high through excess. Thank HP I even have a food plan that has a bright line like that and permission to move about the food plan’s cabin freely within it. Without that freedom within limits, I couldn’t see what’s going on all around my life.
      Now, seeing as I was not perfect with my food, I understand that this is the point when I usually beat myself up and tear down my self-esteem. And I am struggling with that part of the cycle, because I saw the issue, worked it with my Higher Power, and found a middle-of-the-road solution. I have what I need to be able to learn how to live in balance with my sex and love addiction binge-and-starve cycles. How to live in moderation. I have a nice section in my pen-and-paper journal about how to make small talk, how to socialize without TMI or complete emotional withdrawal. It’s footwork that I can do to find a middle road, just like my food plan was about finding a middle road. If I deny myself pleasure in a diet, I am not enjoying the “enough” that is supposed to be part of abstinence. Defining food abstinence is hard, because it can become a diet (restrictive martyrdom, or powerlessness and unmanageability by controlling what goes in my mouth and not respecting my body’s natural hunger rhythms). Abstinence, for me, is the process of learning to live in “enough” regarding food. To not starve myself in order to earn approval of society as a whole (by being thin, and therefore socially acceptable) and to not binge because I feel I won’t get my unfair share and I will starve. In reality? I’m not going to starve. Food is not an issue. I live in a country where food is plentiful, available 24-7. I even have the fortune to live in a place where my whims can be serviced at any time. The fear of having to survive (and I know where to go if I lost everything; I know where to find the basic human needs if the financial bottom fell out of my life) is not something I have to worry about today. I will not starve unless I choose to starve.
      This translates through both the approval and the food addiction, which are so deeply connected that I find they cannot be disconnected even as I work the steps. I tried. I cannot disconnect them because the food and the approval addiction are so closely interlinked. Food represents love, and if my heart is starving? In addiction-mind, I will turn hard toward what I can control physically–how much food and what kind of food can be put into my body. So it makes sense that my food plan would get rough when I am having issues with succumbing to social and emotional anorexia. I become a hungry ghost, and there is no amount of food which can even touch the emptiness that I feel when I am disconnected from the emotional stimulation of moderate social interaction.
      So, my current footwork, which I intuit (ie. got from the gut-feeling reassurance and confidence of my Higher Power) is the right thing is to get acquainted with the world. Do a meet-and-greet, stop standing on the wall waiting to be asked to dance. Trust that I am a spiritual being having human experiences. Know down to my soul that I have the mental resources to small-talk people and make acquaintances–that I am neither meant to sequester myself in a monastic, spiritual life or party like I have a billion-dollar trust fund. There is an in-between, and that’s the path I am supposed to be walking in order to find my purpose.
      Balance in recovery, on my path, is not about running from extreme to extreme. That’s addiction. Balance in recovery is creating casual social connections to feed the social need I have; balance in recovery is eating enough to maintain a healthy body at this height. It is also recognizing that the middle path is not a tightrope but a wide road. I can go toward one side or the other and not be harmed or harm others. I can learn from this natural forward motion, because fighting to stay in the perfect center does not serve my purpose. I am meant to learn, and sometimes straying one way or the other allows me a course correction when I need it–it brings the spiritual lessons to bear as I return to the approximate middle of the path.
      It’s a good way to live, knowing that I am not meant to zig-zag from roadside ditch to roadside ditch–it’s definitely less exhausting. And as I walk along the middle of the road, relaxing as my feet fall where they’re supposed to instead of freaking out if they don’t land on the precise center? I can focus on the journey instead of how well I am journeying (definitely the mental issue at hand, the biggest issue in mental recovery I face).
      I’m not sure if it makes too much sense, but to summarize?
      My food plan is a mirror of my social plan. Both are about moderation; both allow me opportunities to practice moderation. My food and social/love/approval addictions are the same spiritual hunger, one manifested as the physical interaction with food and one manifested as the mental interaction with people. Both are interconnected with the spiritual, yet neither can fulfill the spiritual need or feed the spiritual hunger. Yet just as my body hungers for food, my mind hungers for social interaction. Just as my food addiction manifests as permitting binges or restricting food, my approval addiction manifests as manipulation to gain intimate approval from or isolation from people. And just like I have a food plan which allows me to learn and grow, I can develop a social plan which will allow me to learn and grow.
      The core of my recovery is nourishing the right foundation with the right sustenance. If my body is hungry, I feed it physical nourishment through food; if my mind is hungry, I feed it mental nourishment through education and social interaction; if my spirit is hungry, I feed it spiritual nourishment through prayer and meditation. If my body is weak, I can exercise it to build physical strength; if my mind is weak, I can educate it to build mental strength; if my spirit is weak, I can surrender to it to build spiritual strength. Each foundation has a means to make the whole self of me healthy. I just have to remember that all are interconnected yet cannot be used as a replacement for the others. If my body is hungry, reading and socializing or praying and meditating won’t feed it. If my mind is hungry, eating or praying and meditating won’t feed it. If my spirit is hungry, eating or reading and socializing won’t feed it. Yet if I do all of it–eat when my body is hungry, read and socialize when my mind is hungry, and pray and meditate when my spirit is hungry? Then I become a whole and healthy person.
      And that, thank you very much, is the point of recovery for me.
      My name is Jess and I have been challenged by the gifts of being eating-disordered and approval-disordered. I manifest the extremes in both these addictions, and I use them both to try to feed the hunger for the spiritual. I feel fortunate to have these opportunities to empathize with people in the same straits I am–seeking physical and mental means to feed the spiritual self–because the struggles I face and work through means that there is hope that life doesn’t have to be only suffering. That the peace we beg for to no one and to nothingness in the middle of the darkest nights of our lives can manifest itself in any of our lives.
      There may not be a cure for the hungry spirit, but there is a solution. And my solution is working 12 Step programs to build a healthy and complete human being–physically, mental, and spiritually.


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