Posted by: innerpilgrimage | May 29, 2012

A Mini-Meeting Can Happen Anywhere: Wishful Shrinking’s Experience, Strength, and Hope

      I added to my blog links a couple of days ago a blog entitled: Yesterday’s Excess. Written by Wishful Shrinking, this blog is, as I described in the links, “An excellent blog to see what an honest, open-minded, and willing OA recovery and abstinence looks like.” She publishes her food plan, offers her insights, and asks us to consider some pretty powerful recovery-related questions.

      Yesterday (Memorial Day), she left a comment that really made me think. I wanted to respond to it–not to critique but to look at my own recovery thanks to the deep awareness of program she offered.
     
“Another wonderful thought provoking post! Thank you! I have been working my program since March ’10 and I came in with diet thinking. I worked a perfect to the letter program for 68 days. Did everything I was told. Checked every bit of it off the list. I had the ugliest white knuckle abstinence you have ever seen. The obsessive way I worked my program was way crazier then me in disease. Yes there were a couple of miracles that happened too. I am sure you have hear people talk about getting in the life boat. I found out I can tread water outside the life boat for 68 days tops! When I came back after a 6 months hiatus. I did it again. Diet mentality. I got 60 days 4 times before finally getting what I was really looking for. I am in the room for joyous happy and free. I make 3 phone calls a day. If people I call do not work a program of joyous happy and free I do not call them back. They do not have what I want.”
     
      First of all, I want to thank Wishful Shrinking for her support of my recovery. I appreciate her strong recovery, as well. I don’t work a perfect program, to be sure, but I am seeking to work an honest and open-minded one. I am working on being willing to accept that if I have trouble accepting something associated with the program or recovery, it’s how I approach it that’s the problem. I may not be able to change reality, but I certainly can change how I perceive it. A willingness to learn allows my HP to get in with new truths, new things to try, new insights into what my recovery in the program looks like.
      Like W-S, I am a pretty recent refugee to the 12-Step rooms. My first meeting was September 2009; my first day of food abstinence was in October of 2009. Like her, I “came for the vanity”. Because the structure of my first home group was very loose, and because nearly no one had abstinence, I had little to work with. I didn’t understand abstinence, and I fought to learn what it was and what “diet” OA wanted me on to lose weight. I wanted to be healthy, the only actual true thing I said in that mess of a share–despite not really believing it. I wanted to be 198 lbs., because that was the miracle weight I most recently recalled. I had good things happen in my life at 198 lbs., and I wanted it back. It wasn’t the weight, I learned later. It was the sense of purpose and peace. A small respite from the pain of the addiction running full-throttle.
      I was compulsively eating, however. I ignored that truth. I used a bicycle to get around, I went to a gym, and I spent a lot of time not eating because I was working 8-hour days. But when I ate? I ate.
      So, when I started program? I was on the white-knuckle abstinence plan, too. That was pain, itself, that first month. I wasn’t used to eating 2,000 calories per day. I just simply wasn’t. I like to say I relapsed on that first 24 hours, because I did. I thought the addiction could be controlled, and it was totally clear after the mindless autopilot binge at the end of the day that addiction really is cunning, baffling, powerful . . . and persistent. I know the slogan doesn’t have persistent, but an ABC (meeting shorthand for an anorexic-bulimic-compulsive overeater) tagged that on during her share when she returned to program after a major life change that triggered the last step of a relapse. See, she saw the signs before then. She ignored them. That share, years ago, changed my view about the nature of program. I will never, ever consider that my addict-thinking isn’t persistent. I am an addict; it will always be there. That desire to return to the age of innocence, when I was asleep to the truth that compulsion about food was killing me, is still there. I have to be mindful of why I am eating often. When I want to graze, I have my questions (“Am I actually hungry?” “Why do I want to eat, if I’m not hungry?” “What am I hiding from that makes me want to eat this?”).
      A lot of woeful tears, a lot of crying, a lot of going to bed because I couldn’t trust myself awake. I did it all, just to get to the next day. Then, my mind started clearing, and I could start working the program vigorously. Blindly, yes, but I suppose I was fortunate to walk into group as an agnostic. I didn’t want a “Him”. I wanted a Higher Power. And yes, I still bristle at the reference to the paternal deity. That is something I know that is really deeply embedded in my Fourth Step Inventory, deserving quite a lot of acceptance work–and definitely Resentment Prayer practice (p. 552 of the 4th Edition Big Book). Acceptance is still the answer. This isn’t about God the Father or God the Son. I can be in program (Thank you, Tradition Three!) and not be a Christian. I realize how crazy it is that I don’t really get upset at the idea of a Judaic patriarchal deity–despite being a punitive sort. It’s the promise of God being love then seeing in the same New Testament the required purchase price to be lovable. The God of the Gospel of John looks like a predatory love addict. The promises of a toxic love addict (and I have experienced that toxic love addicts lie to get their hit–both as the hunter and hunted) are not to be trusted. One cannot put conditions on unconditional love, yet both are offered up in the same spiritual text. And if you don’t perform the ritual of submission to the church? You get punished in a way that is crueler than any punishment imagined by a human being. It’s eternal, too. What is a child supposed to think? Be perfect, and you get into Heaven. Make just one mistake, one wicked sin, and you get a one-way ticket into suffering. What’s worse? You get to see Jesus come into Hell and pass you by . . . because you can’t honor in your heart the other father-figure in your life, as commanded by G-d to do in the Top Ten list. Oh, and then the guilt of being told that each time we messed up, Jesus felt it on the cross over a millennium before.
      Fear and love cannot coexist simultaneously. Fear is of the mind, and it is loud and panicky, like a screaming rabbit. The love that the heart knows when the mind is clear cannot be known while the head is sending chaotic thoughts into the mind and chaotic emotions into the body.
      I like the parables. I like the teachings of the teacher. I can say that about a lot of religions. It’s when people interpret and use that spiritual truth to lure then bind with rules to gain power over people . . . it’s hard to not accept the reality.
      That said, I have known Christians who live Christ-like and don’t worry about forcing others to come under the banner of any number of fractured sects which follow different rules. They live the principles and attribute it to Christ’s teachings. When I deal with Christians of that nature, I remember the awe and love I felt when I was a child looking up at the morning light flowing through colored stained glass windows on a spring Sunday morning. The faith is beautiful; the religion terrifies me. The word “God” does the same, especially when it’s followed up by “He” and “Him”.
     
      Back to the share. Obsessive working of the food plan and of the program I definitely can relate to. I really like what W-S wrote about the life boat, so much that I want to just let it stand alone here for a moment:
     
      “I am sure you have hear people talk about getting in the life boat. I found out I can tread water outside the life boat for 68 days tops!”
     
      That imagery is absolutely perfect for what I’m doing right now. I am treading water, reaching for the side of the boat when I get too tired. I’m not getting in, though. I am unwilling to surrender and get in again because I think the people in the boat don’t actually care about me. Ooooh, isn’t that a big ego flare-up there! That temperamental toddler strikes again. “I won’t get into the boat with those people, because they don’t understand that I need this and that! I need it to be done my way!” shrieks my inner addict as it splashes angrily at the people in the boat. “I suffered! I am a victim! Love me and save me already! Endure my tantrums! Don’t tell me what to do! I want you to chase me into the water! I don’t want to have to work for my recovery, not after you people were so mean and left me without a sponsor over and over and over again! You’re abandoning me, not the other way around!”
     
      Now, it may be that the toxic love addiction (and real love anorexia) is the primary addiction I have, because somehow giving over my abstinence works. Is it perfect? Not at all. But the food definitely reflects the SLAA stuff. I am cross-addicted, and out of the SLAA boat? I. Am. Drowning. Right. Now. Not even able to tread water. HP has my OA abstinence, but my SLAA withdrawal is nowhere in sight. I can’t hide relapse in OA, but I am a sneaky fluffybunny in SLAA. My addiction gets played out inside my head, and no one can see. I just simply am terminally shy . . . or worse, nice with an agenda. Thank HP it’s not always. I can have hours of serenity and simply being a grateful, compassionate, and kind person. One who has to force herself to eat, yes, but one who can be grateful, compassionate, and kind nonetheless.
      And I am currently on a hiatus, coming up with every reason not to go to even a phone meeting. I have so many options out there . . . and I am not using even one! What am I doing to myself, here?
      Submitting to the bondage slowly. Punishing myself because I feel I deserve punishment for not being [insert judgment of a positive quality here] enough.
     
      Well, I think the answer is also in Wishful Shrinking’s comment. I was there, once. I had finished my Fifth Step, I was dropping weight, I was volunteering and felt I was making a difference in my community. I felt the HP connection. I prayed and meditated every day. Miracles were happening in my life, too.
      Miracles happened because I was working a joyous, happy, and free recovery. I was grateful for being given a second chance at life. I was going to die of something awful–diabetes, heart attack, or something else. I would have suffered and lost the chance to do all of the things I promised myself I would “some day”. I have the ability to do so much of it today.
     
      Now, how does the program bring the miracles of synchronicity and serenity? How do we find a joyous, happy, and free recovery after having suffered the bondage of addiction for so long–a bondage that we once were completely sure was never going to be relieved in our lifetimes? Work the program, uses the principles of the Twelve Steps. Connect to others, make the calls. Get out of the private Hell addiction wants us in. Create unity by reaching out, but always remember that those who want to tread water will not get into the boat. As a current water-treader, I want someone to love me enough to save me.
      That’s where discernment of living the steps, especially Step Zero, comes in. I don’t consider it abandonment or cruelty to seek out those in program who have what we want instead of try to drag the unwilling along. The unwilling are not ready to take the steps; the willing get into the boat and work together to save everyone who wants out of the water and will work to get into the boat and save everyone who wants to work together so that everyone will thrive and come to live in the promises.
      To be honest, when I am serene (well, and thin), people ask me to sponsor them. When I am moody (well, and thin), people don’t. There is a discernable difference between the OA dieter who warms a seat and resents not having a sponsor and the woman who was snatched from death and is humbly grateful for it.
     
      I get it. I finally freaking get it. I’ve been benchwarming for quite a while, demanding the world change around me. There are dozens of meetings around the greater metropolitan area. I would drive a hundred miles to a hospital to save my freaking life if I were dying. Why is twenty such a stretch when program can save my life?
      I am being challenged in my commitment to the program. I’d love to say, “Hah! I am inspired to get up and get cracking and really get moving and go to every meeting until I reach one which has members who live the steps and can inspire me to do the same!”
      But it’s within me, and that’s how change begins. The reality that I will die of this, that I am playing chicken with two addictions because I am a whiner and the convenient meetings don’t have people I connect to or who connect to me . . . well duh!
     
      I. Do. Not. Have. What. They. Want.
     
      That’s a realization to consider. I’ve been bitching and moaning about not knowing what to do. It’s there–all in Step Zero (that’s on page 58 of the 4th ed. Big Book, Chapter Five, “How it Works”). I want the miracles back. I want the peace back. I want to release my will and let my Higher Power place opportunities in front of me which lift me up and challenges I can manage to practice recovery on. Anything I worked mindfully never became too much to handle. When I followed intuitions, I found wonderful opportunities. Life in program, making progress (not perfection!), is a life which anyone would be grateful for. A relaxed life. A life of laughter. One where emotions can be felt and moved through. One where the past really doesn’t have to rule the present or the future.
      And the one person, the only person who can save me . . . is me. Does it mean I don’t have others around to show compassion and love as I have days when the triggers are more hardcore than other days? Actually, it means they are around. That’s the best thing about empathy. When we are drowning and fight with the last of our strength to crawl into the boat, the hands are there to pull us in. Individuals, empathetic individuals, are brought into our lives by our Higher Powers to help us self-care so we can care for others.
      That really is part of the process, isn’t it? To take care of our spiritual, physical, and mental selves first, so that we can make a difference in the lives of people who need to take care of their spiritual, physical, and mental selves. And number one is to trust a Higher Power to put us together with people like that.
     
      My name is Jess and I am a food binge-arexic, a toxic love addict, and a real love avoidant. I think I am going to spend some time reading the Big Book and meditating on Step Zero and the Promises of Recovery (Again–I did this in 2011, at the beginning of April). There really is something there . . . how and when did I lose the fire for recovery? What triggered the belief that the individuals in program abandoned me? Clearly, it’s a resentment that I am making a judgment call on, and that means I have an opinion and am making assumptions based on something in my past. I am demanding perfection of those who are in the rooms with me, and there is something distinctly wrong with that approach to the program and my recovery.

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