Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 1, 2011

Eating Healthy, Loving Toxically: The Relationship Between Food and Love

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 32 Days

      Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, and Terence Gorski, co-author of Staying Sober, are attributed with a comparison list of Real Love versus Toxic Love. It’s all over the internet, and it’s a great foundation for learning to step outside the social conventions of what “love” is. Media and our culture has taught us that toxic love is real love–which just isn’t true.

      Well, I had an HP moment this morning while trying to shift into recovery mode through a morning reading and prayer and meditation this morning. Yesterday was a challenge, where I was consistently faced with the slogan “Thank God for the seemingly bad” as potentially life-changing terrible things ended up with results far less horrible than they could have been. Yesterday morning, someone bumped my rear fender in my car and left only light scratches–the bumper was still firm, and I wasn’t thrown forward with the impact. It was very minor, so I just told the person to be more aware because it’s kinda dangerous driving right now in my metro area. Then, at an OA meeting last night, I poured very hot tea on my lap accidentally. Though my skin got reddened, I’m fine this morning. No blistering, no pain this morning. I feel fortunate I didn’t have to go to the hospital, and I feel fortunate only I got the tea dumped on me. But yes, it sucked.
      Thank HP for the seemingly bad. I grow in adversity better than I grow in the illusion of security.
      So, this morning, I picked up the photocopy I have of pretty-much this web page, which I had left out last night after considering that something was up regarding it–even if I wasn’t ready to look. Well, this morning I thought of it again, and I looked. I realized I have been trying to mold an unrealistic fantasy relationship with a sponsor, or a friend in group who I could perfectly rely on to serve my needs over theirs. The rules I set on my willingness to become vulnerable were exposed this morning, and I decided I wanted to share. After all, my obsession with food is symbiotically connected to the obsession with manipulating people in relationships through toxic means. Just as I was a junk food binger who felt I deserved to eat whatever I wanted how I wanted when I wanted (even if it meant I was starving myself for nutrition and running headlong into diabetes and heart failure), I binge on toxic love. Because it’s not as concrete in the physical world as food is? I could hide from the reality that even as I say I’m saying I am trying to love healthy, I still fill my heart with the things which make me feel sick and depressed and generally insane. The parallel to my OA binge style is eerie–I said I was trying to eat healthy, yet I still filled my cart with the things that made me feel sick and depressed and generally insane. That said, I can also take away from this the gratitude that I chose an addict substance in food which allows me to do two things: (1) I can use OA as a laboratory for what works and what doesn’t, and (2) I can see the parallels and shift from low gear (the food addiction) to high gear (the toxic love addiction) and back. It’s interesting when people admit in group they are thankful for the gift of addiction. At first I thought it was nuts, but over time I have found that I have come to appreciate having empathy like that. I could never have empathy for people without my addictions. I would probably be one of those people who say, “Show a little willpower!” By the way, that’s extremely rude to do to anyone, and it’s one of my big triggers. I will act out, as much as I don’t want to. Hopefully, I can learn to speak in kindness about the cruelty of speaking in that way. After all, we all have places where we’re weak–it’s part of the human condition. Plus, a person willing to say that is showing no willpower when it comes to trying to control others’ lives. After all, it’s our job to clean up our side of the street, not take others’ moral inventories while the trash piles up behind us. But it still pisses me off, something I need to surrender to HP about and do Steps Six and Seven over.
      So, back to that toxic love thing. I started journaling in my personal book, and I realized this would do better being some honesty work out in the world. I am sick right now, because I am holding so many secrets in about how I feel and what I need and how scared I am to trust others. The problem is that, based on the rules I threw up between me and willingness to be vulnerable, I am setting even the kindest person in the world up to fail. Why?
      I am demanding perfection as payment for my “trust”. That, by the way, is manipulation–which means I wouldn’t be honest anyway. See, with the toxic love addiction, I need the unwavering, drop-everything attention of the person. To keep them from walking away, I can’t be honest because that would mean I was risking losing the person’s attention. So, I was telling myself I would be vulnerable (just like I used to tell myself, “I can eat just one and save the rest for later”) while preparing to seek out my poison of choice: toxic love.
      So, anyway, that honesty is now out there. Oddly enough, confessing that vulnerability (and the truth of how I get my love jones filled with that thrilling poison called “romantic obsession”) doesn’t hurt because someone might be helped by me being honest–or at least not feel alone in the fear of treating people like that when I want to treat them with real love and have them treat me the same. And, of course, in my desire not to actually harm others, I hide. Binge-arexia, both with food and with love. I binge on the toxic stuff; I am anorexic when it comes to the healthy stuff. Yup, it sounds as insane to me as it probably does to anyone reading this. This is definitely where Step Two comes into play, because being restored to a sanity where I don’t seek out the poison to feel alive even as I’m killing myself with my substances of choice. And turning away from the good in life–what my body, mind, and soul needs–leaves me constantly starving for something substantive which will allow me to live a healthy life.
      On to the next honesty.
Real Love – Development of self first priority.
Toxic love – Obsession with relationship or other.

      This is where love addiction gets freaking sneaky. It’s like those “healthy options” snack alternatives that grace shelves. I’m here to stand as a living testament that they are still unhealthy if you eat the whole box. I never got on the Olestra bandwagon, thank goodness, because of the anal leakage threatened by it. Anal leakage? Seriously? That screams poison if your body treats a supposedly healthy alternative to full-fat anything like the intestinal flu. Well, my toxic love addiction was being cunning, baffling, powerful, and persistent as it disguised itself as recovery.
      See, vulnerability is recovery. Right now, I am being honest, which I haven’t been to myself or others. The signals that I wasn’t were there in a very recently unmanageable life which I have been powerless over for the last few weeks–since the holidays began. I certainly haven’t been writing any of it here as I planned and schemed to find “the perfect friend” to whom I could trust to be vulnerable to.
      I remember making a “Perfect Guy” list as a teenager. I think we all indulge in that sometimes–writing down what the person would look like and act like. The fantasy becomes an unrealistic ideal to which we strive. For me, the reward was staying out of trouble, but the magical thinking kept me suffering in my own head. I want a savior when I indulge in that toxic thinking. I obsess over finding a person who does not exist. In doing that, I overlook the two most important facts: I am responsible to change the things I can within myself, and no one but me can go within and petition a power greater than myself for the willpower to do so. If I am tired of recovery? I’m making myself busy with addiction. True recovery is energizing–just like writing this entry is. I’m unloading truth. Even as I know people will judge me for being a manipulative bitch or a weak-willed fool who joined a cult (yup, people think that), someone will read this and know they aren’t alone. They don’t need to speak the fears, uncertainty, and doubt aloud. Just the awareness changes the game and lets the star of hope twinkle in the internal void. Trust me–I’ve been living in that hopeless darkness for the past few weeks. Yesterday was like revisiting rock bottom, and I even sat with myself and petitioned HP to get me through yesterday. Just get me through the day, because I knew things would change. While I didn’t expect to have a complete reversal this morning, I am humbled by the reality that when I open that door of surrender even slightly, HP rushes in with healing.
      That surrender to growth through honesty is development of myself as my first priority. Obsessing about putting rules on being vulnerable to “The Perfect 12-Step Buddy or Sponsor” is toxicity.
Real 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)

      This is the essence of “Progress, not perfection,” in terms of love addiction. As a spiritual being having human experiences, the most human experience is the awareness of the passage of time. Well, if time changes mountains and rivers and cities, why am I demanding it freeze just for me? I have a cycle of beginnings and endings and renewal like everything on this planet. To feel I should be the exception to the rule is addict thinking.
      I can see this in my demand not to become vulnerable to anyone but a person who would commit to being my BFF. I’ve lost friends through time and geography, and I just stopped getting involved. Losing people who know me well hurts–just like being around people who know me well yet are still individuals with their own opinions (which conflict with mine) hurts.
      This reminds me that I am choosing to feel upset because of the addict-mind rule that a person has to be perfect in order to be lovable. To keep them around, I think I have to be perfect, too. In comes the manipulation, to forward-think all the way to the end of my life instead of be humbly grateful for today. And, of course, because it’s a drug? That toxic love has to be intense. I gotta get my high, right? So, the all-the-time, commit-to-me-only thinking cheats everyone. And the toxic love withdrawal symptoms suck, as anyone who’s had a whirlwind month-long fling can attest. We experience the intense attraction at the beginning, the exhausting focus, the arguments as people still evolve despite trying to stay the same, and, finally, the bitter and destructive ending which leaves devastating rules-of-engagement in its aftermath.
      Not a way to live. No wonder so many people are single by choice. If that’s the status quo? Getting involved with another human being is an exercise in pain endurance.
      That is not love, and that the media glorifies that obsession and calls it love is sad. Love does not hurt. Yes, we may experience loss (part of the natural process of being part of the physical world), but the love, itself, does not hurt. If it hurts? It’s probably poison in the first place, and that’s one’s body and mind and soul reacting to the toxicity.
Real Love – Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships.
Toxic love – Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.

      Oh, this one is a lulu for me, because this is how I do love. This is the essence of mindfulness toward others versus manipulation of others. What’s worse is that I know something is completely off-kilter when I do it. The lament I so often sing is a warning sign I am approaching love toxically:
      “I feel like I don’t have an identity of my own: I’m someone’s wife, mother, employee, friend. What I am not is Jess.”
      That is a red flag I have ignored for a long time. That longing (part of the obsessive pursuit and obsessive isolation because I don’t want to harm others) to feel real means I’m not approaching life on real terms. When I feel solid, I know I’m doing it right. The very essence of Jessness is an honest and vulnerable person who seeks to help others. That’s it. Does it matter if others don’t have the same sense of self-ness? No. It matters that I am aligned with this in myself. My side of the street, not another person’s.
      It is manipulation to demand someone commit to me on such an intense level that I get my obsession hit. That is harm, and that is why I spend more time hiding from the world than being out in it looking for the synchronicities which allow me to do the most life-affirming actions.
      I’ll continue this either later today or tomorrow. The list is 13-or-so items long, and I have stuff I have to do. Already, however, the honesty has lightened my shoulders and has given me the energy to get through today. Much better than feeling the physical pain of the rules I set on the world weighing me down so that my shoulders slump and the corners of my mouth are dragged downward.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and love binge-arexic. I am so happy I’ve got my star to guide me again, because this holiday season has been a challenge. Now that I can’t numb with food (which is depressing to my addicted self) because it simply does not work, I am left with the choice to binge on manipulation (which is painful) or to practice anorexic isolation. Well, there are kids waiting for me to make sure they get toys this year. I already donated 30-plus hats and scarves two days ago, which was fortuitous because we’re getting into freezing overnight temperatures this weekend. That commitment to crochet hats and scarves since May, even through 110-plus degree days means that someone will have some small warmth because I committed to it.
      One person making a difference in 30 lives. It’s not 7 billion, but it’s 30 lives more than if I had moped as I have every year before.


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