Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 28, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Week Wrap-Up: A Life Lesson in a Little Orange Squash

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 35 Days

      This was a strange set of days, ones which actually deal with my core issues over my eating. Well, actually, my eating was strange. For the first time ever, I nearly broke abstinence by anorexic behavior, not binge behavior.

      Yes, I am still abstinent. I ate much of my plan and ate minimums. Forcing myself to have breakfast on stress days–I don’t want to eat because food doesn’t numb me or get me high any more, so I just don’t really care to eat–is my new reaction. I just get malaise and don’t want to eat.
      Not like it was all bad. I roasted a turkey, all natural. We bought an excellent turkey, and the cost of it was intimidating. However, it worked. I also finally did what I’ve promised to do for decades: make a pumpkin pie from scratch. And my scratch, I mean that I roasted a sugar pumpkin and made the custard filling using an actual pumpkin instead of using canned pumpkin. I made my own crust (Oh, bless Jacques Pepin!) and accepted the imperfect outcome.
      Like recovery, not putting it off was so important. Sometimes just starting makes all of the difference in the world. I have ideas for progress next year, and I am pleased that things I put off because they intimidated me are not insurmountable. It’s a good lesson in terms of surrender. An imperfect start opens the door, and progress can be made from there. It just involves not making excuses, not letting that moment where I deflate (and I actually feel like I am–down to the slouched shoulders and heavy exhale which starts shallow breathing) become everything.
      When I went to get that pumpkin, I had plans. See, I live by 2 grocery stores in the same lot. One’s a smaller market, where I prefer to shop. Well, at Halloween, there were sugar pumpkins everywhere. You couldn’t get away from them. So, being what I considered a rational human being, I thought: “Halloween isn’t a pumpkin pie time, but Thanksgiving is. They’ll still have them at Thanksgiving.”
      They didn’t.
      Now, I had just come from the other store, having gotten the necessary molasses (oh, yes, molasses is necessary for a really really good pumpkin pie custard–it brings out the pie spice better than corn syrup, which I can’t eat any more) and the frozen rolls and salad and ten-pound bag of floury potatoes and other accoutrements for a convenient Thanksgiving during National Novel Writing Month. They had those little pumpkins. I saw them, considered them, then went to the other store.
      Dejected as I went out to the car, I told myself I’d go back to the bigger store, which was just across the parking lot, the next day.
      I stopped. No, I realized, I wouldn’t. I would put off getting the sugar pumpkin. I would make myself busy as I had been the whole time. So, with groceries sitting in my car, I trekked across the lot and bought the pumpkin. At least I would have it, I reasoned. And if I had the pumpkin, I would be one sugar pumpkin closer to making the pie.
      I roasted the pumpkin Wednesday morning and refrigerated it. If I had the roasted pumpkin chunks, I would be one roasted pumpkin closer to the pie.
      Wednesday night, I took the chunks out and put them in a food processor. If I had the pumpkin puree, I would be one pureed, roasted pumpkin closer to the pie.
      It didn’t puree right, so I added the cream. Then I added the molasses and honey. After spice and eggs, all of a sudden I had pumpkin custard. I was one pie filling closer to the pie, and I had butter chunks which had sat in the freezer all day. So, I made the pie.
      I reasoned it didn’t have to be perfect, just made. So, I rolled out an imperfect crust. I poured the imperfect filling into the pie. I baked it for 15 minutes at 400 degress, and I baked it 45 minutes at 350.
      And wouldn’t you know it? I had a homemade pumpkin pie cooling on my stovetop an hour and a half later.
      Was it picture-perfect? Nope. It had huge cracks in the custard. Was the crust perfect? Nope, I had rolled it a little too thick. Was the custard smooth and creamy? Not entirely, but I blended it enough that it was fine. It wasn’t as sweet as I hoped, the crust wasn’t as flavorful as I hoped. Despite those imperfections, I had the awareness that it was not only not hard to do–I knew I could do it next year. Almost twenty years of not making a pumpkin pie by scratch because I feared it being watery and I feared the crust being dumpy, and I had something to work from. I had taken the first step: The fear of failing at this wasn’t unmanageable because I had surrendered in that parking lot. I went with my heart instead of my negative thinking which had stopped me for years.
      Overeaters Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is like that for me. I had to “buy the sugar pumpkin” by walking in the door. I’d put off walking into an OA room for years, promising I would next time. Always next time. Well, when I landed in the rooms? I had my plump orange squash. Working program in OA was like washing and cutting and roasting that pumpkin. Adding the ingredients was like starting the steps, and preparing the crust was like getting a sponsor. Time in the rooms getting experience, strength, and hope baked it all up. And as I’ve resolved the small stuff and come up against the deep cracks in the custard and the imperfect crust relationship? I know as long as I keep open to the possibilities, I can progress to a better and better result by practicing. That’s really the essence of it, isn’t it? Commit to that little start, whether or not it’ll work. Take the next step, even if I’m not sure I can make it the following step. Accept that sometimes it takes mixing in more program to really make recovery work. Have some place to put the work–the people in program who work it with me. And finally, let time perform the miracles and manifest the promises, trusting that the first time will likely look sort-of ugly. But it will be sweet in its completion, knowing that there is room for improvement over time. That no life (or pumpkin pie) will be perfect, but practicing recovered behavior (or practice making pie) can dial down a pretty good life.
      After all, it’s recovered behavior that keeps me recovering. I will never graduate program, and that’s honestly a wonderful gift. I will never have a place I won’t belong, because of Tradition Three. I will always belong to OA and SLAA because I will always desire to not eat compulsively and I will always desire to not live out a pattern of love addiction (and avoidance). I will always have a home-away-from-home–even at the holidays–in the rooms.
      That is a lesson I am very thankful for this year, and it took HP only one little pumpkin to teach me it.
      My name is Jess, and I am compulsive about food and toxic love. They are inextricably linked for me, and they mirror each other in the binge-arexia which I face in both addictions. The holidays trigger both–from the core sense I am “not enough” to the desire to use food to numb out the sadness of it–and my addictive trigger behaviors have evolved into a more complex manifestation of the addiction which is closer to the core of the problem. While it exhausts me sometimes and forces me to actually take the effort to find out what is really recovered self-caring instead of addicted self-soothing, I am making daily progress–recovering the real life I was given when I took my first breath almost 42 years ago.

      Oh, and as an aside? I’ve found that writing can be both recovery work and addiction. This month, I disappeared into my head and wrote 300,000 words in perhaps three weeks. I have never, ever written this much in a short period of time before–and I don’t feel refreshed. I feel drained, which means that writing can be a coping mechanism which I use to retreat from the world in an effort not to hurt people. But I am hurting people when I retreat. **SIGH** Simple, but not easy. Thank HP that it’s one day at a time, that I don’t need to do it all in one day.


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