Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 2, 2011

Are They Distractions from Recovery, or Are They Just Entries on My To-Do List?

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 61 Days

      I am seeing a wicked little pattern here: I actively make November my crunch time for everything, and that’s just not self-caring.

      First of all, November is set aside as a special month for me. Since 2003, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month. This is the month when it’s all about rough-drafting books, when my family is kind enough to let me sequester myself. Unfortunately, I have spent October working on my 2003 National Novel Writing Month winner. I have one book ready for publication, and I have one book ready for galley proofing. That second book was galley-ready in October of 2010, and now it’s ready for a final galley look-see before I toss it out into the world for its cool reception. Not too worried about it, to tell you the truth. This is part of ending a cycle in my life, not about becoming a world-famous author.
      It conflicts with National Novel Writing Month 2011 in that my project for the month is to finish the snarky women’s lit series I started in July of 2005. Twenty books later (or 19 or 21, I am being too lazy right now to count), the series is ready to have its last two books set in the middle and e-published. They’re entertaining, but they’re amuse-bouches. It’s definitely not the dense fare I wrote and am nearly ready to publish in its entirety. Once those two series are out in the world, I have finished a huge cycle begun in 2003. I stopped toying with writing that year, and I became a writer. While my books are more like scripts for teleplays and miniseries (they’re dialogue dense, with some intense action), what has developed over the last eight years of writing for publication is my voice. It’s more pulp fiction than the Great American Novel, but I’m pretty pleased with my pulp fiction, whether or not my characters are brooding and laconic. Perhaps that will be my WriMo 2012 challenge: Write a book with no dialogue whatsoever. No thinking, no speaking. Just action and setting. It’s something to consider.
      So, as I crave to have all of these things done today (You see that addicted thinking, already, don’t ya?), I am getting anxious. Frenetic. Add to it the other commitments I picked up along the way, and I’ve overbooked November.
      I know what happens when I overbook my schedule. Oh yes, I do. I don’t do any of it, rebelling against productivity because I “can’t get it all done in time!” Thank HP for the gracious gift of recovery I have received so far (I am recovering, not recovered), so that I can see what I am doing in an effort to frantically do everything all-at-once. When I try to do it all at once? Nothing gets done.
      So, here are those addicted, fear-building (fear = future failure) human do-ing messages, along with the reality attached to it:
1. I need to publish both of those books before I turn 42.
      I don’t get why my addict mind jumps onto arbitrary time-based finish lines. Why is publishing them by 42 so damned important? I do feel the pressure to end the cycle, so I can start on new things without having those sit in limbo. I suppose I ought to be grateful for the drive to even complete them, considering I shelved them in 2009. Thinking about it, I see why I shelved them. I was transitioning to here and being frantic about publishing wasn’t going to help anyone.
      The other reason I am frantic about publication? I want to stop returning to those worlds and editing them until they make no sense. Of course, after two years of recovery, I have found that I’m able to do things I never considered possible. I actually remember names, now. Seriously. When I started recovery, it took me weeks of repetition to remember names. Now, with a little mindfulness, I can remember a Newcomer’s name throughout the meeting and often at the next one–if the newcomer shares. Forgetting names is a hallmark of the rooms, so never take it personally if people in the chairs forget names. It’s part of the recovery process, to retrain the intensely busy minds that we once medicated ourselves to get away from.
      Well, it is for me, anyway.
      So, when I got my hands on the second book, I actually held the story in my mind as I edited. Seriously. I didn’t forget the plot as I flowed through, cutting scenes which made no sense or changing necessary scenes which didn’t flow properly to the ending. This edit is actually very good, and the edit for the third book is pretty good as well. Not only that, I got a moment of insight into a scene which referred back to the first book–incorrectly. So, I changed that scene, which caused a chain-reaction of changes in the final book of the series. And when I made the changes, the character who was most affected by them got to show in action what I described in setting and dialogue. I am still so grateful for that, because the character buckled under pressure in that scene originally. That’s not how I wrote him. Yes, he has weird priorities, but in that kind of high-pressure situation? He would act as the dialogue described him.
      So, I am going to be grateful I can pass along the PDFs to my spouse, who does my cover work and who gets them bound and printed and shipped here to me. I am going to be grateful that the third book will be published at all, even if it gets published just after my 43rd birthday, in 2012. That permanent merry-go-round of editing and whining and correcting and editing and whining and correcting . . . it’s done. I’m putting out something imperfect, something that reflects me as a spiritual being having human experiences. Besides, I needed the two years in program to really bring the end of the series home. So, they are getting published in HP’s time, not mine; shoving them out the door is me trying to control it all and turning my life unmanageable. That’s turning away from Step One, itself.
2. I need to get that twenty-book series out by January 2012, so I will stop going back there to write and edit and redraft whenever I’m stressed out.
      Over the last two years, writing in that series helped me make huge leaps forward in program spirituality. Sometimes it takes removing my logical mind’s hyper-control over its perception of “What Is and Is NOT” to get the spiritual work done. Noveling does an end-run around my intellect, allowing me to work program creatively because, my logical self reasons, “It’s fiction and therefore doesn’t count.” I work my fears and beliefs out through characters, and I come away having learned something about myself. The books I have written and edited and even rewritten since starting OA are distinctly different than the ones I drafted before OA. The characters do have self-knowledge revelations. Yes, they go through crap-tonnes of drama, but that’s the nature of the genre. It’s got tragedy and comedy interspersed, just like real life. And just like real life, it’s got a couple of people in program, struggling and slipping and sliding and even relapsing.
      This is a good series, one that is going to be tossed out into the world in e-book format. Honestly, I could just relax and even release the books set in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 (kid you not) not long after the day the stories actually end. Add real events in there. Hell, I really should have one particular character “Occupy” the local town (she’s a political activist) and the mother of another character, who lives on the East Coast, struggle with the decision to move West after this snowstorm on the Eastern Seaboard. I rewrote the 2000 election into the first book of the series, with the Main Character pointing out the man who would be president: Al Gore. I even put in her total shock that Bush won.
      So, perhaps I should relax and let this one flow in HP’s time, too. If I really look at it, I’m not going to be retreating into the books to get away from people. Well, okay, not as often as I used to, and only when I’m under so much stress that I choose not to reach out and use the phone to connect with someone in program. I have an alternative to isolation. It is self-care to reach out and use the tool available to me in both my programs.
3. I need to work on my Fourth Step Inventory, even though it will risk my sanity and abstinence to do so.
      While there’s no guarantee I will lose abstinence, I definitely know I won’t lose sanity. I accept, however, that I drop into shame so readily that it might end up causing some harm to my abstinence–at least sliding around with my eating behavior. Or, alternately, I could punish myself with anorexia. At this point, I’ve found that shame is so deep in my psyche that even in recovery I face off with it whenever I make progress.
      I keep forgetting I have done one Fourth Step Inventory, and I have done Step Five by sharing it with a person. The new inventory style is definitely more in-depth, and I see how it’s self-care to recognize the patterns and come up with recovered behaviors which I access from within. I haven’t done a complete inventory, however. I have no fear and no sex inventory. I just worked a bunch of resentments. In my journals, I have a list which I compiled while I was on a trip in January 2011. I’m going through that list, marking off resentments and working them. Many I don’t feel the intense resentment any longer. They’ve worked themselves out in HP’s time, and I have some forgiveness. While I am not totally forgiving, the progress is palpable. I am grateful for the gift of seeing the progress at all, and I am deeply humbled that I was given this gift.
      Shame stops me, still. HP has jumped in even as I started becoming aware. Shame was a topic at my SLAA meeting this week, and I think it was the next lesson HP wants me to address. Yesterday, I intuitively picked off the library shelf a book which I was drawn to check out. Entitled Joy No Matter What: Make 3 Simple Choices to Access Your Inner Joy and authored by Carolyn Hobbs, this book not only has a simple three-step take on what I’m already doing by practicing the 12 Steps, it addresses “negative feelings” and encourages embracing them instead of pushing them away. I had a feeling I needed to embrace them, seeing as isolating to avoid emotional conflict the core issue in SLAA. The whole range of emotions is part of living as an authentic person; in the rooms, people talk about having real emotions instead of just being serene and joyful all of the time. The gift of program is to live a real life, not to get a perfect life. Real life has ups and downs; real life has fear, anger, grief, and joy. How I react to events which enter into my sphere of observation and influence is the part I get to work in program. Dealing with those events with honest emotions instead of hiding my true feelings until I am so overwhelmed I act out character defects just to get away (like an octopus shooting ink before bailing) is part of living honestly. People in program get mad; we feel fear; we experience loss and resulting grief. Program just allows us to retrain ourselves. Anger becomes the gift of energy to change something for the better; fear becomes the opportunity to act with courage; grief becomes a chance to end one cycle in our lives and begin another with what we’ve learned. It’s the approach to life, not life itself, which changes.
      So anyway, Carolyn Hobbs’s book has a chapter within dealing with shame. She goes into pretty good detail about what shame really is and how it affects us. While she doesn’t state “in addiction”, I apply that label without reservation. I even love that she titled the chapter, “Making Friends with Shame”. What an enlightening concept! Instead of trying to control shame (thereby using addicted coping mechanisms which do not work to try to combat shame, which makes my life more unmanageable simply because it generates more shame in the effort!), I am asked to embrace it. Be loving to that part of me, the part that’s kept me out of trouble which could have broken me before I entered the rooms. Shame made me an anorexic. Shame kept me from a lot of choices which would have had devastating consequences to me and to others. Shame has pushed me to apologize.
      Shame, however, doesn’t let go when it’s corrected me. That’s where it fails. Shame is the authoritarian within, the punitive parent which points out my failings at every turn. It criticizes me for taking opportunities, and it criticizes me for missing them. It criticizes me for not standing up for myself, and it criticizes how I stood up for myself. The worst that shame does is demand I take time so I can perform perfectly out of the gate, even as it pressures me to not waste any more time. It attacks me for not being a prodigy, for not being born with the wisdom of a person 100 years old. Shame is no friend.
      To make friends with shame means I consciously forgive myself. Forgetting doesn’t come into play, here, because the suffering I caused myself and others was a lesson I need to learn. Just like I haven’t given up learning to read or learning to do math, I will not give up the life lessons I learned along the way. I just don’t have to relive them in full emotional detail and trigger the shame again. I can forgive the choice I made which went against my authentic self, a choice which was necessary to teach me that lesson because I was stubbornly refusing to learn it any other way. Shame is a punitive conscience, and I have a loving and forgiving conscience awaiting me at the end of breaking the shame habit by replacing it with an honesty habit. Shame comes from secrets; true honesty comes from the awareness that I suffer whenever I choose the illusion (my objectified self, ie. approval-seeking) over reality (my authentic self, ie. purpose-following).
4. I have hats to crochet and a baby jumper to crochet before Thanksgiving. If I don’t do this, I will be a screw-up yet again!
      I admit I did commit to these projects to give away at Christmas. I also committed to make a hat for a woman who is going through cancer treatment and will be dealing with alopecia (hair loss) due to her treatment. That hat will take 2 hours, once I find my crochet hooks. I already made most of the baby jumper, but I want to re-do it in a smaller size that’s easier to get the baby into. Also, my ex-mother in law’s scarf I promised to her in January is not done–but that’s just an hour. I made a bunch of hats and scarves for donation. On December 1, I know I will have the free time to make 1 or 2 hats daily. They probably could use them when their stock runs out in January. So, if I relax and make the cancer patient’s hat today (or when I find my crochet needles), finish the scarf and hat for my mother-in-law the following day, then re-do the baby jumper over the next 5 days, they will get done long before I’m ready to ship them out for Christmas gifts.
      This one conflicts most with National Novel Writing Month. To be honest? I can complete the 50K words in a week instead of commit all 4 weeks to getting the two books done I need to get done. So, I guess I will queue up the crochet projects then start my novels. Or, if inspiration strikes? I will start noveling then.
      Besides, I have a feeling I need to take a week off from book-related stuff to get ready for those novels. I’m sort-of noveled-out because of getting those two novels ready for publication/distribution and galley publication over October. I would be forcing myself to write, and the product would need a full rewrite anyway. I’ll get the fire; I always do. It’s just not kicking on yet.
5. I have cookies to bake over Thanksgiving weekend to give away as presents! I have to do that because I committed to it!
      The operative words there are over Thanksgiving weekend. I already committed the time to it, and I’ve told people that’s what I’m doing that weekend. Despite the warnings of future criticism I am currently getting from my spouse about it even after I’ve been telling him I’ll be doing this for three months (Resentments Ahoy!), I am going ahead with baking and shipping coffee cans of cookies to certain relatives. I’m also setting a few cans aside for my spouse to give out to people and for me to bring to SLAA. (I snerked to myself when I first wrote the sentence and ended it with, “to bring to group”. Taking a coffee can of cookies to OA? Definitely NOT.) So, that’s what I’m doing from that Friday to that Sunday. I am disappointed I didn’t make the family recipe bourbon balls this year, but I’m realizing that perhaps that’s not such a good idea. No one needs an overwhelming bourbon smell and flavor on cookies which won’t do well with it. Maybe next year. So, I’m going to let it go and relax. If I get a chance to make them this year, the opportunity will arise. Considering I am also committed to making a pumpkin pie from scratch (and am finally looking forward to it, now that I realized the secret is to cut up the sugar pumpkin and roast it first)? Bourbon balls are getting shelved yet again.
      Besides, they’re part of the nostalgia of Christmases past. I can see the potential for them to be a trigger food because of that nostalgia. It’s likely my desire to make them comes from regretting that I can’t give my son the experiences I had at the holidays. Of course, that requires me forgetting the tears and disappointment at not getting what I asked for. I still have a resentment about Christmas at 16. I asked for a guitar, because I wanted to learn guitar. I was very clear. They bought me a suitcase, because I was supposed to be going to Paris with my school the following summer. The trip was canceled because of a bombing in a club. So, I had luggage I couldn’t use, no guitar, and a big stinking pile of resentment. I did get the guitar years later, and I still have it. Not having my desire acknowledged and being given something I didn’t want–I expected to use my parents’ luggage or any number of old cases in the garage–has fed both resentment and shame for years. I resented being ignored; I was ashamed because I should have been grateful they were thinking ahead and getting me something useful. Big traffic-jam mess of thoughts up in my head, there. Thank HP for recovery, so I can resolve this and stop guilting myself for being hurt that my clear requests were ignored–that I was, yet again, treated yet again as an inferior who “didn’t know what she needed and could not decide for herself”.
      Yeah, I see the resentment there, too. Every time I decide I know what’s happening in another person’s head (especially if it has to do with victimizing me), I am acting in addiction. Hell, I even feel like a pouty toddler when I do that.
      You know what I am afraid of? I am afraid I will forget. I won’t forget. I might putter and procrastinate and whine and not do it and then shame myself over it. But I defininitely, 100% will not forget.
      In looking at this stuff stacked up, I’m trying to do it all today. It’s like the moment it became November, I felt the time crunch. The alarms in my head went off: “Gotta get it all done today! It’s going to be late! It’s going to be late! People won’t love you if you do it late AGAIN!”
      Pbbt. Man, the holidays are just a minefield of emotions. All of the fantasies trigger every last coping mechanism, every negative emotion, ever illusion-chasing impulse.
      What a wonderful gift, to have awareness of it this holiday season. HP-willing, I will have enough recovery to practice alternative and recovered behaviors instead of let my addicted coping mechanisms run roughshod over me for one more year.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict/anorexic and toxic love addict/social and emotional anorexic. I knew there was something wrong last year, just like the year before. At least I can step back, finally, and observe even as I go through it.
      Progress in Recovery–the greatest gift any recovering addict can receive this holiday season.


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