Posted by: innerpilgrimage | May 15, 2011

The Draw

      So, I bought a lottery ticket on Thursday.

      I didn’t win. Not even three bucks, which would have been fun to put in the basket today. However, the number I got were spiritually significant. Each number corresponded to a life-changing year, to one which gave me quiet gratitude because my life would have been changed forever. Every year had an event which turned out really well, which helped me today in recovery. So, even though I didn’t win the state lottery, I connected with my mother–the draw was on her birthday–and I realized I had a lot to be thankful for, even in full-blown food addiction.
      Addicts, I’ve found, aren’t addicts all the time. Yes, we are driven by our desires to meet our survival and pain-avoidance impelling wants, but we still can have times outside of our addictions. I also learned that I really hate gambling, that it is and never will be an addiction I can slide into. The addiction, itself, causes more pain than it relieves. I don’t have the hope that I will hit it big next time. I know it’s a losing prospect–just like illegal narcotics and alcohol. Yet somehow, I am blind to food control issues (both as a binge eater and as an anorexic) and approval obsession (both as acting out and acting in), and even smoking (which may be linked to the anorexia, because it’s easy not to want to eat when smoking). In anorexia in those first two addictions, I martyr myself. Like denial and suffering will pay off some time in the future. The bingeing is about the past, trying to numb myself to failure and bad memories by going back and trying to correct what went wrong with precisely the same actions that made me unhappy in the first place. Never said it was sane, only that I work those addictions when I am trying to control the world around me.
      Yesterday, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door. My spouse, M—, was with me. I expressed very clearly that I was non-religious. That I sat down and seriously considered it, especially since I was conflicted because I had spiritual enlightenment because of two religious events–being at an Easter morning service overlooking the Pacific Ocean and sitting with a friend’s father at night, listening to his experience, strength, and hope. When I got into the religious text, I learned that there were limiters. That man’s rules had been set down on how to reach G-d, which completely baffles me because without the construct of religion? I’ve found what they say I’ll find.
      This comes down to an intense resentment of religion, which I am working right now. I have trouble with it because I had faith, and my addict is angry because I perceive it was stolen from me by the Christian church. Because somewhere along the way, I was asked to turn from a personal relationship with my Higher Power and put my faith into a physical book. The worst part is that people come to me and disrespect my faith and disrespect me by trying to tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Religion is a conversation people should have when they know each other well; coming to my door to try to recruit me and drop me at the altar in front of their authority figure (a pastor) like a sacrificial lamb isn’t my idea of fun. Especially since it really does appear that these people are trying to validate themselves by bringing me into the fold.
      In the Gospel of John, there is a metaphor for entering Heaven. Jesus is a gate, and the only way to get into the pasture is to go through the gate. If I jump the fence and join the herd, I’m not going to get to be part of the flock. I may look, smell, and feel like every last one of those sheep, but I’m not. I am run from the herd; I am not-saved. I will be punished because I clearly am deluded (in these people’s strongly-held opinions).
      The problem is that they don’t seem to understand I don’t even want to be in the stupid sheep paddock. I want to be on the road, walking the beautiful earth with its tiny miracles. The grass may look greener in the paddock, but it only appears so. It’s precisely the same grass inside as outside, in my experience.
      So, people say, “I understand, but,” to me, and I immediately know it’s not a conversation of Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness. They’re unwilling to hear my views, respect me. They have to get their numbers, in my perception, basically trying to earn an Employee of the Month award on commission. I sense that they’re salesmen doing a hard-sell. And hard-selling salespeople trigger negative and judgmental perceptions in me for the same reason: The connection they’re making is insincere, false, a lie. If I let them in, they’ve “won”. They have effectively manipulated me into buying something I do not want and certainly do not need.
      HOWEVER, this did net positive results. In the evening, someone from one of my groups needed someone to listen. This person even warned me–if I wasn’t ready for hearing some crazy stuff, if I could not tolerate it, then the person would call someone else. As an addict, I know that crazy stuff is part of the addiction. We are all crazy in it, and to turn away from someone because of expectations that recovery is supposed to be rainbows and magical unicorns is self-deluding. Recovery is messy, but getting my hands dirty in order to learn is part of the process. And the people who are facing the hardest challenges are the ones I learn most from.
      I know some people toss out “Pray” with a knowing smile. That is, in theory, good. But sometimes we do need more specifics. For me, it’s about self-care. We can only give from a place of abundance, from the cup that overfloweth. If we’re giving from our dregs, the resentments grow because our desires and wants aren’t being met. This is a choice to self-care. And since self-care is about the individual, it comes down to asking the individual to think of things that allow them to self-care.
      This person also made choices from a place of sanity, of building real connections, of creating safe situations. I was inspired, myself, and I reflected back to the person that the choices they had made were recovered choices . . . even as this person suffered from the hurt and pain. I also got a chance to deal with a food-trigger situation by asking, “Are you hungry?” and “If you ate this, would you be eating it because you want it, or because you want to numb yourself?” Clarity helps a lot more than, “pray”, because getting into the silence in order to get into the now can be a huge challenge.
      I find even in program that people are worried about telling me things, like others judge them because of it. Yes, this does happen, because I am guilty of it, too. I certainly would be addict-mind gleeful if a person came to me questioning their religion, because that is a resentment of mine. I might even advise more than ask questions for people to get answers. Now, yes, I do express my beliefs about self-care and recovered choices in order to give the person hope that they’re practicing recovery that day. That they are making progress. Anything done in addiction, especially the things we feel guilt and shame over, should be listened to. And generally, people are pretty smart about the legal-versus-illegal stuff. I would always consider telling a person acting out with narcotics to speak to someone in NA, simply because I don’t understand it–it’s not my addiction. Same goes for gamblers. There is a level of sex addiction which involves kids that I would get upset about, but for my own self-care, I would tell them to speak to a professional . . . since it is my responsibility to protect children. It’s one I take very seriously. They are not protected under the law when they converse with me, and–having been a child of physical abuse, having known the devastation sexual abuse has from having friends who were sexually abused as kids and treated like the perpetrator instead of the victim–I am not the person to talk to about it. Yet if it’s about food or seeking approval if one feels frustrated and lost and not-enough? I am your gal. Even if a person goes to an orgy with consenting adults (haven’t gotten that call yet) and calls me the morning after? I can listen and offer experience, strength, hope and potentially a path to getting into that HP connection so one can pray and meditate and not feel so isolated.
      Sure, it’s not perfect, which is why I’m really not ready to be a sponsor. I still have authority-martyr issues manifested by my approval addiction. I’m nowhere near having relief from that addiction on a regular basis–I go from the temptation to act out to the punitive isolation (putting walls between me and the world so I can do no harm to others, even if it’s harming me–which I consider acceptable alternative to harming others). But it’s getting easier, and when people end up walking away from the conversation laughing or smiling or feeling better and more connected? I’ve served from a place of abundance.
      In other words, if I am at my dregs, I will revert to bossy advice-giving and irritated “You’re an idiot and apparently can’t figure this out, so I’ll do it” rescuing and build a pile of resentments. That’s not recovery at all. That’s not compassion at all. And that leaves people feeling worse.
      So, yes, in recovery, I have to shift mental gears into humility. Anything a person can say is a potential acting-out or binge for me. Well, not the kids or the gambling or the drugs, but anything between consenting adults that feeds the approval-hit or me consenting to a binge of epic proportions is fair game in my life. The focus to progress, to do no harm to others puts firm boundaries up. And even if I am using the anorexic side as a solution, I know that my Higher Power is moving me toward balance slowly by helping me practice not-bingeing and not-acting-out first. When that’s consistent, then I will be challenged more to do the self-care stuff . . . which is manifesting already by having people enter my life to talk religion with me and try to control the world around them by controlling my thoughts.
      Religion, to me, is suffering. It’s about suffering and fighting and struggling for a future reward that is not actually guaranteed. It’s buying a lottery ticket to Heaven, hoping that if one buys enough tickets, one will have a greater chance of getting there. The thing is, I’m not even sure there’s a lottery at all in the State of Enlightenment. I cannot know. And since there are so many religions selling tickets to their own lotteries and promising payouts from a third party? There’s no guarantee except the playbook they hold tightly to–like a life preserver in the middle of the ocean.
      I can’t worship a book. I look at it, and I see the hand of people in it. Yes, I see inspiration, too, but I have been inspired by many secular books since before I was able to read. If I choose one religion, I am saying that all others are wrong. I am entering the zone of authority, of “g-d-space” by stating with moral conviction that a deity set these down and everyone else is deluded. Yet, I have seen true faith manifested in many religions . . . even outside of religion. I mean, talk to an atheist some time. There is some serious true faith going there based on observational conclusions from scientific hypotheses, and it’s as compelling an argument as the people who believe that a deity (or deities) did it all.
      I got no rulebook for my faith. It’s as alive as the world around me. Yes, I have a sense of the eternal because, when I ride “the now”, time isn’t. Less than a minute or a whole hour can elapse; time just isn’t part of the equation any more. I feel connected, sometimes even losing the sense of the boundaries of my skin. I feel electrified, like a light and warmth flows through me. I feel intense peace, my petty problems which I languished and bemoaned even minutes before are inconsequential to the point of non-existence in my life. I am part of everything and nothing, I exist and do not exist. The past is gone; the future is gone. Only my body and brain can begin and end the connection, because I live in a world of beginnings, endings, and rebirths. The only thing that I experience in that state is the expansive source of love and power and hope that has no beginning and no end, is not part of time, is not part of expectations, is not part of assumptions, is not rightness or wrongness, is not goodness or badness. I know no anger; I know no sadness; I know no fear; I even know no elation. My senses and the meanings I put on the sensory input are disconnected. I just know balance and peace.
      And that, to me, is how I touch eternity–without a book or an authority figure or a savior to tell me how.
      My name is Jess. I am an addict of extremes–food and approval, trying to balance self-care with care of others. I can’t do this without a Higher Power. I tried, and I fell into despair, fear, and rage. I harmed others and myself. The process of growth is clearly working slowly, starting with focusing on ceasing harm to others first, so I can self-care and reach a balanced life of consistent connection between body, mind, and soul.
      Yup. I won the lottery . . . even if my bank balance has not changed from yesterday morning to this morning.


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