Posted by: innerpilgrimage | December 25, 2011

Civilization: Beyond the Borders of Metropolis, Into the Woods

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 8 days

      Yesterday, I spent most of the day in nature, enjoying the beauty of the northern parts of Arizona. It’s not all desert and Phoenix (and Tucson); the mountains are quite lovely–as anyone who’s driven Interstate 40 instead of Interstate 10 through Arizona can attest.

      We went up north, not quite as far as Sedona. As we left the big city filled with malls and stress, it was like the hatred of the holidays just melted. I felt serene on the country roads–dirt, of course. At the end of the road was a paradise of kindness, where people were happy to wave in passing on the dirt track up to a little town nestled in firs and pines. Real people, good people, people whose lives are shaped by living in a patch of paradise far away from a place thick with commercialism and the overstimulation that comes with commercialism.
      Descending into metro Phoenix was like putting on a hair shirt. The journey which had melted the stress away layered it all back on as I returned to the constant barrage of cars and consumerism. The day before Christmas, and people were out and about, buying last-minute gifts which have already been opened and which will probably be returned in the coming weeks.
      I felt serenity at altitude; I felt the addiction come back in force when I returned here. This place, which inspired a person last week to decide it was worth jumping into freeway traffic from an overpass (I still have no idea if the person actually jumped, or if their desperation to stop being invisible in a sea of people was alleviated with the closure of a major freeway system), returned me deep into the addiction. I felt that shaky ground beneath my feet, that thin crust upon which I tread while walking between sanity and insanity.
      And I broke.
      That sucked, by the way. That evening, back “safe” at home, I got all over my spouse because I wanted to have more presents. I. Kid. You. Not. I didn’t know what presents I wanted, but they would have had to be many and perfect and represent the consumerism that I really do not want to even be a part of. I complained about a gift which I had asked for, which my spouse and child had hunted for. I ended up with an email from for that gift. Acceptance was not part of the equation as it had been the rest of the day in paradise. Acceptance had gone out the window and into the night sky, lost among people flying in to spend Christmas with family.
      What couldn’t I accept?
      Well, I was frustrated that what I wanted, a scent from a bath shop which (for the second time in my life) was discontinued for whatever corporate reason. That pissed me off, because I knew the end was near last year. The end arrived between December 2010 and December 2011, and what was left was sitting in a warehouse somewhere–going bad. So, I realized I had to go out and get a new scent, which was acceptance-rejection number one.
      Acceptance rejection number two had to do with the reality-check that the really interesting hoodie I had gotten up in that little general store up in paradise shouldn’t have been wrapped so I could open it as my “Night-Before” gift. I wanted presents en masse. I mean, it was that toddler, “All the prezzies! Mine! Mine! Mine!” reaction. I was not in my right mind; I was powerless over the price-tag approval message (“One’s worth is equal to the value of what was purchased, and the less money spent on me, the less loved I am”–yeah, that is as nutty as it sounds, but it’s one of my learned coping mechanisms to gauge if I’m approved-of or not). Then? Oh, then, the martyr kicked in.
      So, the little brat wanted all of the presents and the martyr said I was being a little brat for wanting any presents (because the holiday season is about the joy of giving, right?). So, powerless over the unmanageable battle between aspects of the same damned addiction, I threw down.
      I said I didn’t want what was given, and my recovered self–which I imagined was sitting at the side with a hose, ready to keep the snarling “all” and the clawing “nothing” at bay if they decided to attack my abstinence–was waiting it out. The words came out (“I didn’t want this! This is an awful gift!” or something to that effect) of the tantrum-addict, and the martyr-addict swooped in with guilt immediately. Shame, guilt, self-loathing. Oh, I was a mess. Yet, in that complete chaos, I saw forty years of holiday Hell finally be exposed in complete VistaVision and TechniColor clarity.
      I was pretty vain, let me tell you. I thought I’d gotten more control over my addiction because I didn’t have too angry a holiday season this time around. I could tally more calmness (um, that wasn’t calmness, it was active social avoidance!) and less tantrums from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And I took credit, apparently, for the serenity I received as a gift up in the beauty of nature. I thought I missed the bullet this year, that I could get through without being an unappreciative brat before turning on myself viciously with shame and guilt for being said unappreciative brat. Recovery stepped in for most of the season, not me. I didn’t have the usual the vitriol meant to hurt someone who went out of their way to make me happy, but it flared up really hugely last night. Once I’d reacted in a way that required amends, I started talking with brutal honesty.
      I wasn’t going to let myself get away with an “I don’t know,” this time. Not when I’d fallen down the hole into the addiction and slammed into that rocky bottom waiting below. Honest about my feelings, honest about the irrationality, honest about the battling duality. As I poured out the truth, recovery took hold. And I saw it for what it is, and I realized the decades of holiday loathing were unwrapped before me. And I was then, and I am now, grateful.
      This doesn’t mean the martyr and perfectionist are taking the day off. However, I see them and accept this is part of the holiday season in addiction. I can work with this over the next year, surrendering to gratitude and acceptance with the commitment of a person who, as Step Zero tells us, “[has] decided [she wants] what we have and [is] willing to go to any length to get it[.]” (Big Book, page 58). I want sanity during the next holiday season. I am willing to go to any length, including completing Step Four so I can move on to Steps Five through Twelve. I want the spiritual awakening that comes from faith in program, in a Higher Power, in the people who are recovering alongside me all around the world. Some must have figured out how to get through the holiday season mostly unscathed–if not completely unscathed. Well, at least not have a temper tantrum like a child instead of being grateful that I am not alone and I am in recovery.
      The serenity of paradise is not external; I can access that beauty and learn not to grieve being in a metro area–longing to return to the quiet of paradise. The reality is that the peace came from within as I connected to the wonder of the beauty of nature and my Higher Power through that. The wonder is here, too, even if I get fretful about the hunger to chase down external sources of that serenity (can’t be done–serenity, like change, comes from within). I carried my connection to my Higher Power with me into that little town, became vulnerable, and I was received well. I didn’t fear being criticized for appreciating what those who had retreated to paradise had learned. Being able to relate to their life choice to leave the chaos and enter quiet made it easier to be vulnerable. I carried that with me, too, the desire to have my opinion be supported by other people. Being polite was appreciated instead of disdained or outright ignored.
      As I journey through life, I carry both addiction and recovery within me, now. I can’t go back to that time of only-addiction (smattered with moments of enlightenment, few and far between but always longed for). The journey begins within. It is enacted by the body and brain through this world. Outside of me is not something I can or should try to manipulate into my curious and vacillating definition of “right” and “perfection”. Outside of me is like space outside of Earth–I can’t change any of it, nor is it helpful at all to. The Universe is balanced with me in it, not balanced because I am controlling it. I am a part of a living system in a Solar System which miraculously has allowed complex life to exist on its third planet. I can look up and see the Universe and wonder at it; I can look around and see the life all around me and wonder at it. I can enjoy the beauty in all things–yes, even in the metropolitan area which is a hotbed of first world problems–and I can appreciate the gift that I woke up this morning and have breathed in and out all morning at this point and partway into the afternoon.
      I am here; I am alive; I am able to experience life; I am able to contribute out of that gratitude. The addiction and its armoring of me is stopping me from realizing these truths consistently, and I am ready to let it wane as recovery waxes in my life. Will I ever be relieved of the addiction? No. But I can learn to accept it as a gift, something which allows me to sit in a room this afternoon and be thankful for what has been given, what has been taken away, and what has been left behind.
      My name is Jess. I am a food binge-arexic, toxic love addict, and real love avoidant. The toxic love addiction is about looking outside of me; the real love avoidance is about turning away from looking within (out of fear). Recovery is the gift of shifting the polarity of this life-approach. And, as I have seen in the people working recovery in meetings, serenity comes from turning away from looking without and embracing looking within. The food is simply a reflection of this; surrendering my food plan to a power greater than myself and trusting the intuitive messages about what is the right amount and what my body wants as fuel (as opposed to what my addiction thinks will Magic-Pill cure the anxiety I feel when I choose not to accept a person, place, or situation) is practice for surrendering my toxic love addiction to a power greater than myself and trusting the messages about what is love and what my soul needs as fuel.


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