Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 12, 2011

Trying to Focus on 24 Hours Instead of 24 Months

      Over the last month, I’ve been focused on this Friday. It’s gotten harder to live 24 hours at a time as I near it, and I decided to write a fearless and honest entry about it.

      I worry a little that people might get discouraged hearing that nearing this anniversary can be a challenge. Reaching my first anniversary seemed easier because I was still losing weight. I was working the program more vigilantly than I currently do. I was more involved, though the over-commitment was causing me to resent that I was causing harm to my commitment to program, itself.
      Well, yesterday, I got a HP rescue from a compulsive-eating situation. It wasn’t a binge as planned, but it was a binge-style step toward relapse. See, I impulse-decided I wanted a tablespoon of peanut butter with chocolate syrup. I had a lot riding on it, emotionally. I lied to myself that it would be a salve to my ills. I wasn’t hungry at that point, but I just wanted it. I wanted to feel better, to let food comfort me because I was struggling with the fears of nearing Friday.
      My Higher Power got in the way, and I said aloud that it wouldn’t help, that it wouldn’t fix anything. And I admitted, aloud, that I really didn’t want it. The craving passed as I turned away from it, and I am so thankful that I surrendered and accepted the gift of abstinence consistently offered me–one that I sometimes turn away from when I am faced with discomfort I don’t believe I can handle.
      I have eaten with small compulsive hits here and there. Yes, it’s been within abstinence. I eat a serving and go on, but the fact I’m barely tasting what I eat, that I’m not usually sitting when I eat it, that I am often eating standing in a place my family cannot see . . . all of those are binge habits. If I practice them, I will start bingeing again. I will fall into utter relapse because one serving will become two, and two will become five, and five will become a full-on binge that will take me off the food plan map. Admitting this is hard, but I have eaten within abstinence, even if I was doing it with intent to self-medicate with food. This is a wonderful example of the nature of addiction, in that it’s cunning, baffling, powerful, and persistent. I am abstinent in that I don’t eat more than a serving, but the habit of bingeing is being re-established. I don’t know how I went from being able to eat comfortably in abstinence, yet here I am struggling to control my food plan (and making it a diet instead of true abstinence). It’s powerful in that my mind will be so focused on getting this one serving of what I think I want that everything else fades into the background. It’s persistent in that it erodes my surrender mentality, turning me toward the fallacious opinion that I can take over control of it now that I’ve been “thin” for almost a year.
      That was hard to admit. Part of me feels guilt-ridden because I have given into eating emotionally at all. My ego tells me I need to eat perfectly to give people hope in program. My recovered self tells me that exposing the reality of my journey–there is no “finish line”–helps more than just acting like life is perfect once a food plan has been practiced for more than a year. Being told by someone I love and trust (and I do love this woman because she has been a powerful and humble teacher for me so often) that she was a mess in OA for the first five or six years gave me comfort. This is a woman who works powerful recoveries in multiple groups, and knowing that she’s doing it 24 hours at a time means, to me, that I can get out of my own damned ego and get back to surrendering. Working a perfect program doesn’t help anyone, but working a progressive-recovery program does.
      So, on the eve of getting a tangible reward for the work my Higher Power (not me) has done, I have struggled with my self-serving ego. I want that coin so bad I can taste it (I’m laughing a little here, seeing as wanting something so bad I can taste it is why I entered OA in September of 2009). I see that coin as an achievement I earned, and that is simply not true. I was given the abstinence, just like I will be given a two-year coin at some point in the next week or so. Both are gifts which I can choose to accept or not. As I think about the coin, I am working on the self-serving ego’s shaming that I want to use it to make myself feel grandiose. I want to show the world that I did it. That I succeeded.
      That is the storm of relapse getting closer and closer to my shores of recovery and abstinence. It’s not on the horizon, like it was before. Though I have to say that by being brutally honest here and exposing my self-serving ego’s little secrets from fellow compulsive eaters, it’s retreating to the horizon even as I write this. I don’t have to fail magnificently to glean lessons any more, which is a humbling gift from that Higher Power which lifts me out of obsession when I ask. I will rationalize anything when I’m wresting control of my life from my Higher Power. “It’s just one,” I say. I ignore the reality that “just one” practiced with relapse-thinking (obsessive focus on that one thing, avoiding working the emotions with program by using food to soothe) will lead to relapse.
      I can’t fight reality, I can only choose to put intent out there. I will relapse if I practice relapse intentionally. I will be abstinent if I practice abstinence intentionally. The intent makes things happen in my life, one day at a time. Straddling abstinence and relapse is part of my daily life, and the wolf I feed is the one which thrives.
      Right now, by the way, I am satiated. By admitting this, I’ve fed my soul truth even as I’ve exposed it here. Nourished by truth, I have no desire to use food as a substitute. Right now, in this moment, I am in total, surrendered abstinence. I have no food-binge desires in order to cover up the truth that I don’t work a perfect program. I am humbled by the power of addiction, by the ease of entering addict-space. It takes one grandiose thought that I did this (when I know in my heart this was a gift given to me out of persevering one day at a time). So what if I’ve persevered for nearly 24 months? It really is the 24 hours that did it all, the many 24 hours which landed back-to-back until I started struggling with the desire to hold a coin and use it to feel better about myself–just as I used the food for decades.
      So, my abstinence today, if I surrender to receiving the gift and accepting that it’s not earned but given freely from the Universe on a daily basis (if I am willing to accept it), is not meant to get me one day closer to that coin. Tomorrow’s abstinence belongs in tomorrow, not today. “Just 48 hours,” my addicted ego-self tells me with fear and weak-willed obsession. “I just have to make 48 hours. Well, unless it’s 72 hours. Which it may or may not be . . .” gets my mind busy. With a racing mind comes uncomfortable emotions, ones which I know how to work thanks to the time spent in the rooms and the vast quantity of program literature available to me.
      October 14, 2011 isn’t here yet. It’s just a number, a date. Today, however, I can live in program. I can get up and live with surrendered intent and make real progress on that relapse-abstinence struggle. It won’t go away entirely today because I’ve practiced relapse behaviors. But now I know, I can mindfully practice abstinent behaviors. I can sit and eat in front of people instead of hide. I can turn away from any food that brings me to obsessive, pinpoint thinking, and send it into tomorrow. If I still want it yet it’s not the focus of my life when I think about it, it’s okay to have it. Usually, I find that the desire is gone (just like the impulsive desire for the peanut butter and chocolate is totally gone right now, to the point I can think about it and not want it whatsoever). I can question everything I want to put in my mouth, asking myself, “Is this what will nourish my body or give me actual pleasure to eat, or is this just one more attempt to medicate away discomfort?” I also can ask myself, “Is this really as pleasant a taste-sensory experience as I’m telling myself it is?” In addiction, I eat ideas of food, not the actual food. It’s how I get into binge-mode, creating a lie that something tastes better than it does. When the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy? I eat another and another until my stomach is over-full to nausea, yet I still feel empty inside.
      I can eat when I’m hungry and consciously choose and put onto a plate what I intend to eat. I can also get humble before I nourish my body, remembering that finding pleasure in realistic eating is a gift. I can pray, thanking my Higher Power for the ability to nourish my body with food and the ability to nourish my spirit with program.
      And with that, the struggle has passed. Practicing H.O.W. (Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness) took the desire away. Will it come back later in the day? Possibly. However, until I reach that moment, I can surrender and appreciate that, for right now, I am accepting the gift of real abstinence and I am feeling pretty serene. I really am only as sick as my secrets, and when I drag those secrets into the light (after hiding them out of any number of fears), they fade into nothingness or near-nothingness. I can act on them with intent, surrendering to the infinite willpower sourced from the Universe channeled through me.
      And the only way to channel it is to live these 24 hours and let any future 24-hour periods (even ones with recovery coins attached to them) in the future.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and toxic love addict. I’m avoiding my Fourth Step Inventory, even as I am completing other tasks mindfully and with intent. I don’t want to face my past. It doesn’t matter why I don’t want to–my self-serving ego has a million reasons not to make progress on that inventory. I’ve been submitting to the lie that I’ll do it when I’m inspired to. I have been inspired to make progress on it several times, yet I’ve always found something else to get in its way.
      I am so humbly grateful for this, too, even as my ego is beating me up for “failing” to complete this more detailed, more fearless inventory. Even if I just do one resentment or fear today, I will have practiced surrender. And what I practice, as abstinence and the struggle not to relapse has shown me, is what my life becomes.


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