Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 14, 2011

Two Years in the Life: 24 Months of 24 Hours

      I’m not sure if it’s a downer or not that I don’t feel much-changed, that I don’t feel as intensely as I did last October 14. However, I ended October 13 in a level of serene “perfect” abstinence, because I had no cravings late in the evening. At dinner, I ate half of it and put the other half aside, not feeling any sense of being deprived. Yesterday was a really good day in abstinence, partially because I made less-processed food choices from the beginning of the day and partially because I accepted it was the second anniversary of my first relapse. I know what it feels like to find abstinence after relapse, and I know what relapse mentality feels like. Most important, I know what to do when the relapse mentality takes over. All of these things are gifts given to me. I didn’t earn them, I simply accepted them.

      While I am a mess emotionally right now, the food is taking care of itself. That is a miracle which I am finding myself deeply humbled by. Surrender is a process, and I am living the process right now. I am not saying it with grandiosity or vanity. Today is just as important as that very first day. It is just one day in the life, just like that first twenty-four hours was. Yes, I’m raw enough that I am struggling with emotions, but the food is still out of the way.
      Of course, Steps 6 and 7 work on that authentic emotional observation–not letting emotions rule my life and drive me to amends-requiring behavior, and Steps 10 through 12 maintain it. I almost look forward to year three, for I sense the struggle I had with food two years ago is now a struggle to start feeling my emotions (as opposed to pushing them down and waiting for a Mt. Vesuvius-type eruption). Abstinent or not, this next year is about integrating a life as a spiritual being having human experiences. I’m not a house divided, and I can’t keep treating myself like a spiritual being suffering a human existence. Authenticity–through Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness–is the next part of the journey. It will be the healing factor which will work every other addict behavior I practice, and I have the abstinence with food to model my emotional recovery with.
      For those who want to see what two years of being a food addict with an abstinent food plan can do? Here are the numbers:
      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.
      March 14, 2011: 156.2 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      April 14, 2011: 158.4 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      May 14, 2011: 160.4 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      June 14, 2011: 162.6 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      July 14, 2011: 159.0 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      August 14, 2011: 155.4 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      September 14, 2011: 160.2 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      October 14, 2011: 162.8 lbs. by the scale I currently use.
      Last month, I said I expected to be back to 158 lbs, but I’m finding that being in the low 160s actually feels healthier. I have more energy (despite getting bad sleep, for whatever reason). I have considered the possibility that I was supposed to drop to 152-ish to learn a lesson about anorexia. I know, right now, I feel good at 163-ish, and feeling healthy really was the point of coming to OA in the first place. I said aloud in group before I even started abstinence that my goal was to be healthy–not a particular weight, though it’s been a focus at times. It’s probably the #1 red flag that I’m treating abstinence like a diet. Thank HP that it’s easier to notice those red flags, so I can try to “get right” (Talk/Listen to my Higher Power, be honest, be open to the responsibility of a changing life, be willing to change when it’s clear that it’s time).
      I have a meeting today, one which does give out coins. Will I get a coin today? Well, if they have a 2-year coin? Yes. If they don’t have one? No. I’m working letting go of the outcome, working on separating my sense of self-worth from that coin. If I’m not just a body and brain, I certainly am not a little silver coin. I am a spiritual being which is currently incarnated in a food and toxic love addict. Hm, I just got an inspired thought . . . I have a list of toxic love characteristics balanced with actual love characteristics from my SLAA home group. Why not work on toxic love abstinence just for today? I have a “diet plan” right in front of me which I can use, and I can identify my worst-offender triggers from that list. The healthy options are sitting right there. I think I will choose one from that list and see if I can practice the authentic love alternative to it until I can split seconds with it. It doesn’t have to be a perfect toxic love abstinence (the food may seem so easy because the core of my food addiction is this emotional roller coaster my self-deluding ego likes to call “love”–bleh). And, as Les Parrott, PhD, stated in his book, 3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice, it really is the art of going from a “Whatever” attitude to a “Whatever It Takes” attitude. I quote Step Zero from Big Book to support this in our own program:
      “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it–then you are ready to take certain steps.” (p. 58, Big Book, 4th ed.)
      That’s really a great way to live life, in general. It’s a “Whatever It Takes” attitude. For me, it’s getting that 4th Step Inventory at least revealed to me at this point. Small steps daily toward a complete inventory. Since fear is my big stumbling block (I fear change, I fear losing abstinence, I fear lots of little things that make up a great big morass of character defects), the courage to complete that second Fourth Step Inventory will help. Even going through my previous inventory and getting to the self-questioning (What was my contribution? and What can I do about it?) in order to manifest real change in my life will change the nature of my inventory. Doing what I’ve done so far (about 5 pages, back and front) has already revealed patterns, and having an alternative to repeating the insane addict-mind behavior is relieving. Also, looking at my contribution with fearlessness allows me to see where I fall back onto autopilot thinking when life appears too stressful. Life is life; how I approach it determines “good” or “bad”. Things which once would completely throw me into suffering are treated with a sense of greater purpose–even as a lesson I am supposed to be learning. I spread around the misery when I feel desperately out of control. Most active addicts seem to, because active addicts are of the sincere (though sick) opinion that our emotions and actions come from the actions of others.
      This is simply not true. People go through life every day letting minor stuff (and sometimes major setbacks) roll off them. They can use that energy to propel them forward with the lesson learned. Society’s high achievers don’t let failure cripple them like I let failure cripple me (and which I’ve observed has crippled others).
      So, back to toxic love.
      There’s a website,, which has the list on two of its entries: HERE and HERE.
      Attributed to Melody Beattie and Terence Gorski, following are the Characteristics of Love vs. Toxic Love:

1. Love – Development of self first priority.
Toxic love – Obsession with relationship or other.

2. Love – Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow.
Toxic love – Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)

3. Love – Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships.
Toxic love – Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.

4. Love – Encouragement of each other’s expanding; secure in own worth.
Toxic love – Preoccupation with other’s behavior; fear of other changing.

5. Love – Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature.)
Toxic love – Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects “supply.”

6. Love – Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together.
Toxic love – Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.

7. Love – Embracing of each other’s individuality.
Toxic love – Trying to change other to own image.

8. Love – Relationship deals with all aspects of reality.
Toxic love – Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.

9. Love – Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other’s mood.
Toxic love – Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.

10. Love – Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.)
Toxic love – Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings.)

11. Love – Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship.
Toxic love – Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear & need for immediate gratification.

12. Love – Ability to enjoy being alone.
Toxic love – Unable to endure separation; clinging.

13. Love – Cycle of comfort and contentment.
Toxic love – Cycle of pain and despair.
      I was introduced to the concept of our cultural definition of romantic, obsessive attachment as “love” decades ago, when I was in college. Melody Beattie, by the way, is the author of Codependent No More and The Language of Letting Go, two powerhouse books in recovery from codependence (or, in essence, toxic love addiction). Terence Gorski writes books on recovery and avoiding relapse, including in 12 Step programs. So, these folks get the whole addiction-recovery duality and the harmful relationships which we get into based on the broken thinking of often well-intentioned people.
+       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +      

      I went to meeting today, and they had a two-year coin, so I have it in my pocket. I love that they passed it around, sending prayers and hope and love into it. Apparently, actively listening to the speaker (Never know when an HP message is going to strike, right?) impressed her and made her feel like she was really talking to someone, and she thanked me.
      I am still feeling so loved right now, from HP and the fellowship. I had a bit of struggle about the donation I planned to make, which involved me finally saying to myself aloud that I would give it whether or not I got the coin. See, I’m a $2 weekly donor who donates the value of any coins I receive on the week I give . . . though I think, for the sake of keeping the rooms open, I’m going to go to $3 or $5, since people donated enough to keep the door open at the first meeting I attended.
      Next week, I’m speaking. I am a little nervous, since I tend to over-share. I am going to pray and write a lot this coming week to figure out what to say, though I do know the topic–inspired by someone in the room. I think I can talk on that topic, too (Black and White Thinking in Addiction versus Technicolor Thinking in Recovery). I am going to go out of the Big Book on this one, since this group is Big Book based. That also means it’s time to persevere on my Fourth Step Inventory, to look at what I remember (and judge as right/wrong or good/bad) and what I decided to delude myself was good. The full picture (technicolor thinking) is how I can learn from my past, instead of making judgments on how I perceived others harmed me. Awareness is part of that, too. I live a richer life because I am willing to take in more of it.
      Oh, I got a great analogy from a share today that I want to pass along with my personal observations, too, since it spoke to me. Addiction is like a splinter in the finger, buried deep under the skin. You know the kind, the ones that require using a needle to get to before it can be pulled out. Removing the splinter hurts worse than the splinter, itself, and the focus on that pain can keep us from taking the time to do it. Yet, if we don’t remove the splinter, what is the price down the road?
      Well, leaving a splinter in a finger still hurts. It hurts constantly and consistently. The foreign object also puts one at the risk of getting an infection. Infection, of course, leads to yet more pain and could lead to losing the finger or hand or arm–if one insists on not removing the splinter at any point in time. The price is aggressive change, worse pain, and the regret of not handling it when it first was an issue.
      Addiction and recovery are like this. I fear surrender sometimes because of the change that will come because I follow intuition over self-willed self-destruction. Sure, I know that the emotions I don’t deal with harm me. They hurt quite a lot underneath the layer of self-delusion and denial. I say that I am fine, but I really am F.I.N.E (F’d Up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional) inside. Bottling it up instead of getting it out because I fear the pain (Steps 4 and 5 and 8 and 9, in particular) of getting the actual problem to the surface and surrendering to the honest and authentic emotions which I attached to it. Yet once that is out? It’s out.
      The ache subsides over time. The grief of losing what I thought I knew passes. I am open to serenity because my system is cleaned of that foreign object, the thoughts that came from accepting someone else’s words as personal truths. The only personal truth is that only I can know what’s best for me as I travel through life, and the fastest way to it is to surrender to a Higher Power instead of struggle with what I think (which always, always has a more powerful thought which overcomes the hopeful thought I can change). Ingrained thoughts can only be defeated by deep truths. One of the deepest truths is, “If this is making me suffer, I am out of alignment with my authentic self.” When I am following what’s best for my authentic self (and in turn, what’s best for everyone–since I am patient and gentle and empathetic and loving-kind and don’t see intended harm in every little unintentional hurt), I experience peace and serenity and even joy. I am energized and ready to give of the abundance that’s flowing through me. So, I give without expectation, and I don’t feel robbed of any power because it’s flowing freely and has no end.
      Believing I can find peace and love and serenity in food is an alien thought. In reality, I know that food is fuel meant to keep my body moving and functioning. If I give it better food, it will perform better. If I give it junk, my body will become a human-shaped dump. That experiment was easily proved by my breakfasts over the last two days. I feel a lot better because I didn’t eat as many processed foods yesterday and today. The chemicals used in processed foods make me sluggish and lethargic, and I can feel their effects pretty quickly. When I go with the component parts (like yesterday morning and this morning, when I had oatmeal with a couple of tablespoons of raisins and a couple of tablespoons of raw walnuts), I don’t even get the binge cravings. Right now, after eating a lunch of vegetables and homemade tortillas (I have a great low-fat recipe for tortillas which I got from the internet 10 years ago), I feel fantastic. No desire to go after the processed foods in my kitchen (like my husband’s emergency lunch stash of cereal bars with fruit and nuts, or the ice cream in the freezer, or even the organic cookies in the cabinet). I don’t anticipate even eating any of those things today. Definitely a big step from craving peanut butter and chocolate just a few days ago. I feel emotionally, mentally, and physically balanced. I feel sated, relaxed, and food is just not even in my periphery right now.
      That is the essence of my abstinence right there. Right now, feeling this good, is probably the best time to open up to the Fourth Step Inventory. I don’t have the stress of the preservatives and random chemicals in the processed chow futzing with my body chemistry right now, so the fear of doing it isn’t feeling like a giant monster instead of a little annoying critter with pointy teeth.
      Hm. Well, I’ve got a lot of footwork ahead of me this week. I guess it’s time to split those seconds . . . and turn “Whatever” into “Whatever It Takes.” I actually am looking forward to this challenge this week, to see how surrendering to this will change my life by putting me onto the path of progress instead of procrastination-playacting-pursuing-perfection.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and toxic love addict. I feel like I am at a trailhead and there’s a great vista waiting for me at the end of this part of my journey. There are many mountains to climb, many hidden valleys to discover, many beautiful sunsets to be surprised by, and many opportunities to share it all with people who want to live in wonder, too. Being set at a trailhead is nice after feeling so lost. I have a direction to walk. I may stumble, and I may even get off the beaten path a few times, but as long as I try to stay mindful and keep moving forward a step at a time? I think I can reach an outcome which will surprise me more than I ever imagined.
      Just like today did.



  1. Congratulations Jess! That little silver coin is just a symbol, but a symbol of something truly grand. It shows that you have kept your commitment to yourself and your recovery for these 2 years instead of the commitment to self-destruction by spoon. I hope you got one today!

    I both love and hate the days when abstinence is “easy”. I worry if I’m headed for a slip, or worse, a fall. Yet that is what I prayed for at the beginning, to make my abstinence second nature to me. Obviously I still have some fear. I think if it gets too easy, or too comfortable that means I have gone numb again. I think I will inventory that again to see if a new layer dislodges.

    Thank you Jess,


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