Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 1, 2012

My 2012 New Year’s Evolutions: An Attitude of Gratitude

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 1 Day

      I’ve found over the years that whenever I made New Year’s Resolutions, I found myself equally addicted and in the same place mentally as the year before–though my body had aged a year. Since recovery, I’ve found that this one day should not be held above any other as a day to make substantial changes to my life. The simplest and most substantial change I can make, which takes splitting one second at any point during any day during any week during any month during any year, is to stop and get grateful for what is present in my life today, what I surrendered to get done today, and what addicted thoughts and behaviors have been taken away over time which are reflected in today’s recovered thoughts and behaviors. I once resolved to change; today I am resolute that change is part of life, and I want to embrace change more often than not.

      Before I go on, I’d like to offer hope for anyone who decides to trip over this blog and question whether 12-Stepping is right for them. Part of the Holiday Eating Season’s devastating consequences is that all of us compulsive addicts are affected by the stress of the season. ‘Tis the season to act out our addictions because of the excruciating vulnerability. Imperfect holidays (which we possibly promised ourselves wouldn’t happen this season) and the stress leading up to them can completely drain us into turning toward our tried-and-untrue methods from the past, just to get away from the constant white-noise anxiety which comes from the holidays. So, if someone woke up at rock bottom today, felt completely empty as a human being, and decided they can’t live like this any more? There is no cure. There is, however, a solution. That solution has promises which actually do come true, and which are seen in the rooms every day. You just gotta walk into one. One hour in the grand scheme of things. A twenty-fourth of a day, 1/164 of a week, 1/8766 of a year (or 1/8790 of a leap year, like 2012). That is nothing compared to the time we spend in addiction when there is no recovery in our lives.
     
      The Promises of AA (aka The Ninth Step Promises)
     
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
     
      The SLAA Signs of Recovery
     
1. We seek to develop a daily relationship with a Higher Power, knowing that we are not alone in our efforts to heal ourselves from our addiction.
2. We are willing to be vulnerable because the capacity to trust has been restored to us by our faith in a Higher Power.
3. We surrender, one day at a time, our whole life strategy of, and our obsession with the pursuit of romantic and sexual intrigue and emotional dependency.
4. We learn to avoid situations that may put us at risk physically, morally, psychologically or spiritually.
5. We learn to accept and love ourselves, to take responsibility for our own lives, and to take care of our own needs before involving ourselves with others.
6. We become willing to ask for help, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and learning to trust and accept others.
7. We allow ourselves to work through the pain of our low self-esteem and our fears of abandonment and responsibility. We learn to feel comfortable in solitude.
8. We begin to accept our imperfections and mistakes as part of being human, healing our shame and perfectionism while working on our character defects.
9. We begin to substitute honesty for self-destructive ways of expressing emotions and feelings.
10. We become honest in expressing who we are, developing true intimacy in our relationships with ourselves and others.
11. We learn to value sex as a by-product of sharing, commitment, trust and cooperation in a partnership.
12. We are restored to sanity, on a daily basis, by participating in the process of recovery.

     
      When I first started program and came across The Ninth Step Promises, I didn’t believe it. I mean, look at them! That’s a pretty damned desirable life, right there. However, they’re not kidding when they say it happens. Even before I reached the Ninth Step, even as I worked Step Four for the first time, it was happening. The recovery I have has changed how I approach life completely. I see and experience the world with two minds, with two sets of reality-views. And, whenever I take the time to split those seconds and act instead of react? I have the freedom to choose honesty over manipulation, openness over secret-keeping, and willingness over non-acceptance. Every time I choose recovery, I receive peace. I walk into the next moment unburdened, because there’s nothing to hide, to carry, to fight. Is it easy? Not at all. Though progress will never earn the goal of perfection, the desire for perfection does leave us. Practice leads to the promises being fulfilled in our lives every day–simply because we choose honesty, openness, and willingness to practice reality-sense instead of deception, all-or-nothing judgmentalism, and recalcitrance to practice self-delusion. Think about it this way–if I don’t even pick up a manipulation or a deception to carry it today, how can it burden me tomorrow? If I am reassured I told the truth to the best of my abilities and acted upon that truth, then I don’t need others’ shoulda-woulda-coulda opinions to guide me. Their opinions are from their experiences, and since they haven’t lived inside my head since I was born? They can’t even begin to know what really is best for me.
      So, when people think I’m a cultist? That’s them making an all-or-nothing judgment about program, supplementing their arguments with the tumultuous history of the first generation of addicts who struggled all their lives to maintain recovery. We are all in recovery; we are never ultimately recovered. However, as we practice recovery, we are set at crossroads. Some challenge us so much that we turn toward our addictions; some trigger the courage-building we started on the day we walked into the rooms.
     
      So, what am I grateful for? Well, my first gratitude is that I was given the gift of a substantial weight loss in OA which has been maintained by a power greater than myself (ie. the reality of eating mostly sensibly for two years and the real effect on a human body). I remind myself aloud, especially in meeting, that my weight loss was a gift given. I did not do it. How do I know? Because when I was trying to do it for decades, I couldn’t. I worked with punitive one-size-fits-all diets built by others. My food plan is personalized to me, just as every food plan should be personalized and tweaked for every individual in program. You’re welcome to ask about my food plan, though I will always give the caveat that it’s how I did it. A food plan is as personal as one’s favorite color, one’s favorite experience, one’s favorite hobbies. Those things may be shared with many others, but the combination of energy we put into each of them is unique to the Universe. Many people may love green, may have gone to Paris, France, for the first time on a birthday, may enjoy beading and crochet and music and four-wheeling up to little towns nestled in winter-snowy evergreen-thick mountains. However, their favorite green may be more blue or yellow, they may have gone to France at fifteen instead of thirty-two, and they may have a different tree-surrounded paradise they travel to. Our experiences make up our lives; the energy behind them may connect us, but the individualization is what makes our life’s addition to this Universe something so special. The chance against each of us not only being here but being us-as-we-are is astronomical. It took a miraculous synchronicity to make a viable pregnancy which resulted in a human being who was brought into the world to be challenged by it. Even as we slog along every mind-numbing day back-and-forth to mind-numbing work, we are still that miraculous event. Waking up in the morning is a miracle, itself. The billions of cells which make up the human vessel we journey in didn’t decide to stage a coup and separate overnight. The things we take for granted are all miracles, are all things which are worth a moment of gratitude.
      I have big gratitudes and tiny ones even just from 2011. Big gratitudes include the gift of spending 2011 at a consistent weight, the gift of being granted a second year of OA abstinence (and the resulting brass coin), the gift of reaching my first year of attendance in SLAA. Even the seemingly bad had wonderful lessons. This year, I had a day in serenity on Easter, being surrounded by both religious and deeply faithful people; at dawn on Easter Monday, I was up considering if I wanted to return to the church of my youth. I had a moment of enlightenment that morning; I am not meant for a religion-based community. It was a lesson which received deep grief, because I wanted to be part of something like that. Well, I am an agnostic. There is something I do not understand and cannot explain about it, but I don’t need to. It’s not my place to define it, just connect to it. I sense the authenticity when I pray and meditate; I am given opportunities–some almost imperceptible and some dramatically huge–upon which to choose recovered behavior or addicted behavior.
      Do I think religion is a crock any more (and yes, I did on-and-off for a long, long time)? Nope. Some people thrive in the community and find intimate one-on-one relationships with a Higher Power through them. That is something I am grateful for–the many paths to reach that profound place where we feel part of the Universe instead of separate from it. When I’m in my own head, I miss opportunities. I am blind and deaf and numb to everything, and that potential energy is made kinetic by creating a complete sensory blackout to what is happening all around me. Complete sensory blackout to life is like choosing a life of emptiness, of disconnection, of simply living as a prisoner of the void within.
      Little gratitudes include waking up with my spouse beside me, a place to live, food to eat, money to pay bills. Even smaller ones are opening doors for people, saying hello or smiling to people I pass by when I’m out and about, and the hummingbird feeder which has brought a half-dozen hummingbirds to live in the tree just beyond my patio. They buzz the feeder daily, each with their amazing patterns. I’ve seen them perch instead of just hover a moment before zooming off. I’ve heard their many different calls, and the whizzing zoom like mini jets flying around makes me smile. They’re amazing little creatures which make me smile, and this holiday season, I got to enjoy the iridescent ruby-hooded and emerald-winged males flit in the sun to the feeder–not six feet from where I write my WordPress entries. And I have just noticed I need to refill the feeder, so I can see them today, as I’ve seen them daily since October. They’re so tiny, so merry, so pretty. And I watch them with a peaceful smile, feeling connected to the beauty that is all around me in the natural world–simply by their daily presence in my life.
      I feel gratitude for what I’ve learned that cannot be seen or touched. Awareness is something that appears so small on the outset. And I am aware that things which would have left me completely devastated are now opportunities to practice acceptance. Time is becoming relative to me; yesterday and tomorrow are memories and fantasies; today is the only real moment. Living one day at a time (and yes, I do have to remind myself when I begin to work myself up into a state on non-acceptance) makes life easier. I can remind myself I just have to start something, put energy into it. This helped when I decided to crochet hats and scarves for people in 2011–starting in May. I made nearly 100 crocheted items over those seven months, and I got off my behind around Thanksgiving to donate to the homeless just over thirty matched hat-scarf sets and a half-dozen crocheted hats (Oh! A male hummingbird just came by, with its red throat and hood and bright green back and wings . . . and now it’s gone). The pattern is called The Boyfriend Hat, though mine was a crocheted version of a ribbed hat with a turned-up brim for warming ears. When I started, I crocheted beanies and cloches, and the first ones I gave away met with disappoval. As in, I was led to the homeless services area by my well-intentioned supervisor when I volunteered at Saint Vincent de Paul, was pointed to a couple to give them away, went through the excruciating interaction, and was rejected. That sucked. She tried to get me to give them to someone else, and I said no. So, I dropped them off and committed to find a better pattern, which I tripped over when I hit a bargain bin at a megachain bookstore. The Cozy Crochet Kit by Melissa Leapman has a pattern called Boyfriend’s Hat, and I use it constantly. It used to take two days to make one, but now I can whip an adult’s hat together in two hours or a kid’s hat together in one. It’s also on Page 109 of Cozy Crochet by Ms. Leapman, which is apparently more affordable than trying to get the boxed kit. Both appear out-of-print, so I am grateful I had a synchronicity moment which eventually allowed me to give warmth at the holidays this year to people who needed it. Of course, for Ravelry.com members? Here is Melissa Leapman’s Boyfriend’s Hat, as well. It’s a great crochet pattern, really, really simple (just half-double crochets and a little bit of stitching), and it makes a very, very warm hat. Definitely a wonderful gift to give away.
      That, I think, is my deepest gratitude: I am encouraged by the Universe to extend myself to people. Sadly, it’s also my greatest challenge, because trusting people have the best intentions toward me has left me enmeshed regularly. This is also where I appreciate the gift of recovery: I am learning to look within for my answers instead of seeking external people, places, and situations to “fix me”. Whenever I feel the beginning of anxiety, I accept it’s time to start talking truthfully until what I’m trying to hide gets exposed. I set it down and stop carrying it like I once did on my body. I was asked at my last OA meeting if I’ve taken the time to lift and carry the weight I lost. I would have to walk around with a hundred-and-ten pounds, probably having to do it in a ruggedized backpack to keep it from falling apart. A hundred-and-ten pounds, which I carried for years–give or take fifty pounds. That’s amazing to think, that I wore my addiction in such a concrete manner. And, like I prayed I could when I was in addiction, I can put it down this time. I can split one second and put down that extra weight. I can split the next second and simply walk away from that excess weight.
      Just like I can with addicted thoughts, with lies, with the desire to hide from the world instead of go out into it and seek my authenticity through trial-and-success. Yup, even failures are successes, because I can learn by the unpleasant feelings I have been gifted with (anger, fear, sadness) that I don’t want to have that in my life. I actually feel the weight, the ache, the burn of carrying something no one can see or sense. In one split second, I can choose to practice being a recovered person instead of an addict, and I can use the energy I put into the addiction for a greater life of freedom from food and toxic love addiction.
     
      And I am deeply grateful that recovery is even part of reality at all. Deeply grateful and deeply humbled by the commitment to Bill W., a man who died before I was in full-blown addiction, to help himself and a group of people through a simple program which pulls drowning people from a sea of self-delusion and lifts them into the boat of a fully-lived life.
     
      My name is Jess, and I am a food binge-arexic, toxic love addict, and real love avoidant. 2012 is a good year so far. It doesn’t matter what happens over the next 365 days (seeing as 2012 is a leap year). It matters that, just for today, I am putting the energy of humble gratitude into the world. Tomorrow is tomorrow, and it gets to stay there until I arrive at January 2, 2012. It’s not my business to try and wrangle control over something that doesn’t actually exist yet. So, today? I am going to be grateful for what has been put into my life today, what has been taken from my life today, and what has been left behind today.
      Just for today.

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