Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 25, 2012

The Book of Days: Awareness

      Well, yesterday was a pretty good day, even as today is rocky. Lots of changes, frustrations, and the like. But hey–if I’m not starving them away or bingeing them down? I think I’m doing pretty well.

      I ended up with a new tablet with much more power, so I am learning how to use it. This is a challenge, because I am just swinging wildly at times to try to figure out what I’m doing. I’m not sure if the formatting will work. I normally use html stuff (ah, the glorious ampersand-nbsp; which creates my lovely indents!) through the internet. However, with the advent of leaving the go-go 00’s (2000-2009) and entering the twenty-teens? And no, it’s not an Apple product. I was once a big fan a lo-o-o-ong time ago, when Apple blew the doors off the PC market in terms of functionality. Now? Nope. It’s an accessory to me, like a bracelet or a purse. But I digress.
      It’s been one week since my Psycho-Jessie freakout. I think I found the source of the manic panic. See, I abstinently ate a piece of pie. It was on my food plan from the night before, a check box added to allow for one slice of pie from this really great little off-the-beaten-path cafe. Homemade. So, I made room in my food plan. The problem? Well, I don’t eat much sugar. Now, I’m not a white-foods abstinent, but I don’t sugar it up much. The fruit pie I had earlier in the month (also abstinently) wasn’t super-sweet, so I was fine. So, I had my piece of pecan pie, and I will swear I sugar-rushed like a madwoman.
      Lunch was late, so the crash was devastating. And, well, the other voters in my family took me to a restaurant where lard made 98% of the foods a no-go right off the bat. I ordered something I knew I could eat abstinently, and it was inedible. Actually inedible. As in, I took a bite and it was so gross, I spat that bite into a napkin because I refused to have something that disgusting even enter the back of my mouth. The other downside was that everything nearby was fast food, and I do not do fast food. Oh, and I had to clear my food plan of the lunch I had just counted toward it. So, drained of the sugary badness, with low blood sugar because I hadn’t eaten, and faced with something I was unwilling to feed my dog (who was there)? I got a lesson in pre-Step One thinking.
      I have spent so much time in varying modes of clarity, I was broadsided by the inability to think. I run an inner monologue with a highly visual imagination, and it was white noise swirling around in total chaos. There was no filter between chaotic brain and mouth. The mania of the addict brain was in control, and I was far off the rez in term of rational thought. If acceptance is the answer, I couldn’t split seconds long enough to get there. Was it a slip or a relapse? No. I ate abstinently. This was a lesson, a reminder that vigilance in program does lead to the promises of recovery.
      The lesson? Well, firstly, I probably should have been nose-deep in that Big Book I brought along. Yes, I brought my Big Book in my crochet bag. It was an “Acceptance is the Answer” day, and I didn’t turn to the book I had been inspired to bring along for just such an occasion. Didn’t speak the Serenity Prayer. Didn’t try to let it go to the Higher Power I didn’t feel I had any more. I did not surrender a damned thing, and I fell on my butt right back in the Hell that was life before program. So, in the future? When I freak out, it’s time to bring out the Big Book, turn to “Acceptance is the Answer” and read before reacting. If I have a storm raging in my brain, a reminder of why it’s there is surrendering to recovery instead of enslaving myself to addiction.
      Second? I wasn’t mindful about my life in abstinence and what my food plan which promotes sanity actually looks like. A lot of mistakes were made. First, I ate something which didn’t trigger a binge, but it triggered character defects. I have eaten a low-sugar diet for so long that the sudden burst of processed sweetener (which I once ate like it was about to be a legally banned food) messed up an already hard-to-accept day. Second, I was running on the HALT diet. I had gotten so little sleep the night before, that I was on exhaustion’s edge and was rocking the T: Tired. After I didn’t eat a little too long (getting naturally low blood sugar despite the sugar rush hours earlier), I suffered from H: Hungry. I felt like I couldn’t explain what I was fearing (that something I wanted dearly might not manifest because of forces outside my control), so I had a cameo appearance by L: Lonely. When my son’s and husband’s meals were fine and I was given inedible food, I submitted to A: Anger. There it was, the HALT diet. I was so in the need to white-knuckle control the uncontrollable, that it tore me up, threw me down, and tossed me around.
      So, what I learned? Trigger foods that trigger character defect binges are just as much trigger foods as those which trigger food binges. Bringing the Big Book was recovered; not opening it when I needed it was addicted. Honesty, Openness, and Willingness in all things is how I stay sanely progressing in recovery. Eat when I’m hungry, not when it’s convenient (that convenience is the argument that my inner anorexic uses to attack from the basement of my food plan). My body was born with the ability to sense what nourishment is required and when–which I consider the definition of normal eating. And eating things like sweets has become a practice of real moderation. Today, for example, I had a square of fair-trade, organic chocolate. Not only is it socially responsible (the chocolate is not pesticide-laden slavery chocolate from the Ivory Coast–like most cheap chocolate is), I’m simply not getting the huge sugar hits I did before abstinence. And this is not a diet to me, so nothing is excluded from my food plan (normal eating) as long as it’s part of it before I start eating in the morning–as long as moderation is applied (also normal eating).
      However, it appears that pecan pie is back on the trigger foods list, as a character defect trigger. Excluding things from my trigger list is like a person with dairy senistivies or allergies excluding milk from their diets: Quality of life is at stake. For this reason alone, I empathize with people who remove white foods from their diets. I understand food sensitivity. I don’t eat chicken, for example, because it gives me mild stomach flu symptoms. And now? I don’t eat pecan pie because it sets me up for a terrifying lack of clarity. What makes that lack of clarity so terrifying is because I lived that before I entered the rooms. Sure, I can get scatterbrained because of HALT. But what happened last Saturday was like being dropped back into life before OA, and I never again want to go back if I can help it. People who avoid white foods? Understand that those foods trigger an intense lack of clarity they don’t want to go back to. I definitely and totally respect that.
      So, uh, recovered behaviors I can take action on:
      (1) Carry the Big Book everywhere and tag Acceptance is the Answer so I can turn to it immediately. Reading can split seconds and slap me into surrender mode by reminding my I have free will to choose recovery and sanity.
      (2) Accept that my new definition of trigger foods are “Any foods which trigger reduced mental or physical quality of life.” Could I have eaten a bite of pecan pie? Yes and no. Yes, I could have eaten one bite and not been triggered into a full-blown sugar rush. No, because one slice today is like a whole pie was ten years ago. I don’t want just one bite today, just like I didn’t want just once slice back then. And to be brutally honest? The fantasy of it is a bridge too far from the reality. No one makes it how I remember my grandfather made it. That’s what I want, and I owe it to myself to let the search for something that only exists in my memories (and may not even exist there realistically) go.
      (3) HOW am I using HALT? Am I being Honest, Open, and Willing to admit when I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and/or Tired? What am I trying to hide from that will make things that much worse if I am hit with the Four Riders of the Binge-pocalypse? Being Honest, Open, and Willing–even to myself in any form of writing–can mean the difference between a numbing binge or a self-abusive food restriction.
      I’m not unhappy with that list. I was expecting more, but those three things are pretty good awareness hits.
      So, on to the transition to atheism. I know it’s what I know as my personal truth because I haven’t had serenity like this in a very long time. Well, serenity and clarity knowing something. The difficulty is learning how to connect atheism and program as it stands. Again, “Acceptance is the Answer” is part of the recovered solution. See, the Big Book and the steps, as I’ve said before, reflect the culture in which they were written. God-the-Father is at the core of it. And to those who say, “But ‘We Agnostics’ is for your kind!” No, it’s not. It tells us to be theological agnostics. This is not a secular spiritual program. And yes, spirituality and atheism can work together. The issue at hand is looking at the word “spiritual” and finding the secular humanist language in it.
      Take Step Eleven, where we’re asked to pray and meditate on the will of our Higher Power for us. My HP has no intellect or will. To be honest, to follow the Twelve Steps precisely as written triggers the SLAA stuff. I want a savior. That’s what I hunt for when I am in the toxic love addiction, seeking the heady chemical romance high. I hunger for a dose of approval, and it is as heady as heroin as described in Trainspotters. Not having it is as horrible as the description of coming down from that high. So, following the Twelve Steps precisely as written triggers me.
      That said? The Steps are that path to self-determination for me. I see them, and I know with every assurance the path to freedom from my food control obsession and my toxic love obsession are the steps. Beneath the words as written are the steps’ true meaning. And with patience and a true Step Zero attitude–being willing to do whatever it takes to get what others have–I can have a life of recovery, too.
      For most of my almost-three-years in program, I thought Step Zero meant I had to take on God-the-Father in order to recover. Not at all. However, I am not reinventing the wheel in order to tailor this stuff to myself. This is the journey of intense study to understand the secular humanist approach to the Twelve Steps. By accepting that the way I filter the world is fundamentally busted. And as I’ve learned this is a journey through me to surrender to the nature of being human, itself? To the nature of understanding I am not God as much as God-the-Father does not exist to me? That is part of the trailhead as I walk mindfully along a secular path to recovery.
      Acceptance–or, rather, the lack thereof–is where I hit a wall.
      See, the Big Book has contradictions, too. Of course, this doesn’t mean it should be scrapped. It was written by imperfect humans, just as every religious text out there was. I am told in program that I am allowed any Higher Power of my own understanding. Unfortunately, the capital-letter He’s and Him’s aren’t particularly conducive to a secular recovery. It’s like I’m being told, “Go ahead and pick any deity you want–as long as it’s one of the Abrahamic ones.” I mean, I couldn’t really even face this as a Goddess-worshipping pagan without resentment–and that actually has the intelligent and externally willed deity to turn toward.
      What I’ve touched on so far for my recovery? Well, gratitude and hope are for everyone, with or without an intelligent, will-driven deity. As a product of my own upbringing, I still am addicted to the God-as-Father concept, despite how the established religion poisoned me personally. I was taught one thing then was introduced to its polar opposite in the same deity. I have no problem with a consistent deity. The inconsistencies put in by imperfect people took the documents I am supposed to believe are the word of said perfect deity. That’s a horrible thing to do to a perfect and loving deity–make it a bloodthirsty slave master, by the accounts of its own prophets and priests. I agree 100% with the concept that Christianity taught me as a kindergartener. It’s what I was taught when I entered the main church to listen to the sermons for the adults that I lost faith. Mostly because that’s where I read the Bible, because the pastor spent an hour (and sometimes an hour-and-a-half) boring me to death. This was where the clock-watching I did in middle and high school began. This was religion as a punitive time-out from my parents, who spent a Godless Sunday morning eating caviar crepes and drinking champagne. Kid you not, that was a regular thing my mother made for her and my father. So, it’s not inconceivable that, once I wanted out, the conflict between my parents wanting their time alone on Sunday mornings and my desire to get away from the agony that Jesus didn’t love me (I kept turning my heart and life over, yet I kept that slow march to puberty and felt guilt for nature doing what nature does because it was “sinful”). I think that may have had a part in my desire, at eleven, to seek ending my life as a solution. I couldn’t win. I’d learned God hated sinners, could read my mind, and God-as-Father wasn’t just going to hit me. No, this Deific Daddy had a Lake of Fire waiting for me because I was an evil sinner whose sins personally were bourne in the pain of Jesus Christ’s torture, condemnation, and crucifixion.
      Personally? Assuming that the Gospels are truth (which they aren’t, in my opinion, but whatever) I would have voted for Jesus to have lived to a ripe old age, having had 30 or 50 years of teaching compassion and kindness. I mean, seriously. Consider this realistically for a moment. A good man who teaches people to be decent and loving. Who teaches people how to use the power of faith to not only heal the sick but feed the hungry. Oh, and let’s not forget the resurrection of the dead. How can a deity who supposedly loves His children (ie., all of us) leave this on the earth for only three years then torture that being and tell us, “Follow me because you should feel like utter crap for what people did two thousand years ago to my kid–because I let them.”
      This is what the religion I grew up with looks like to me. This is why I get angry when I here the He’s and Him’s and Thee’s and Thy’s in program–even as I’m told that I can have any Higher Power I want. Bullshit. If I treat the Big Book as written? I have to be a follower of an Abrahamic religion. Well, or one of any number of paternal-deity religions. I can’t HAVE recovery without a program bowing down to an external, intelligent, will-possessing magical sky wizard. And that? That is the core of my Toxic Love Addiction right there–looking for God in a man, so I can worship him and he can save me with earthly riches. Being ready to enslave myself to a human being just to get the rewards.
      That is messed up.
      Okay, so . . . now that I have perpetrated the myth of the perma-angry atheist? Here’s where the recovery sets in. Oh yes, all of that above is anti-HOW, the HALT approach to life, Non-Acceptance as the Disease, and so on. This is the resentment which leads to those Questions that OA sponsor who got me into really working Step Four added: “What was/is my part in this?” and “What can I do about it today?”
      To recover from this character defective resentment, which is one of the deep, dark and recently uncovered resentments coming from peeling back those layers in SLAA? Recovery means seeking acceptance as the answer.
      Christianity inspires some people to recovery, period. It inspires some to a greater good because they live the faith, not shackle themselves to the religion. My resentment is my opinion, based on my anger and resentment at my personal experience. Currently, I see the followers of any religion as misguided slaves to fantasy. That’s as addicted a concept as thinking that salvation is in a man with vast monetary wealth or in the last candy in a five-pound Valentine’s Day heart box (Oh, yes–I looked at those and wanted bad romances with them, even in program). Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems. Through recovery, I can accept there is a secular path through program–because there is. Through recovery, I can accept that those who follow religions are equally capable of working the program as I am. Through recovery, I can accept that it’s okay for them to have an external concept of an intelligent and will-driven Higher Parent figure to lift them up from the Hell that is addiction. Through recovery, I can accept that atheism is right for me, that I don’t have to bow to the pressure of people telling me that a deity willing to murder its perfect child means I owe my allegiance to it. That I don’t have to succumb to the fear that because I am not that deity’s perfect kid, I am in for a really, really, really bad time at the whim of said deity. That my own life, which through personal experience as a parent of a son, has less value than the son’s life.
      This is the point where I uncover those addict rules in order to apply recovery to them, despite the program bowing down to the Abrahamic religions inherently. Program has room for me; recovery can bring me serenity even as the He’s and Him’s and Thee’s and Thy’s are read out. That I don’t have to trigger in meeting when I hear those words or the word “God”. That nature, itself, is so vast and glorious. That life, itself, can be a Higher Power I can believe in, and so much beyond that is out there to be a Higher Power of my own understanding.
      Acceptance is the answer. The solution. The source of recovery. Do I need to change the steps? Not at all. However, I see that, as a secular humanist, Step Zero means that I go under the theist language to the source. That I accept I can be grateful for without being grateful to. That I don’t have to attribute hope to anything. That I can say, “I don’t know,” with a sense of comfort–that same comfort people find when surrendering their wills and problems to God. People equally imperfect as I am came up with life-changing books. The language doesn’t matter. It’s what I know underneath that language which will create a recovery in a person who does not believe I can turn my will and my life over to God–because God doesn’t exist for me.
      So, as I travel through this journey, I hope that we all can find acceptance. I truly believe my loathing of religion (because I feel like I’m on the outside looking in and can’t enslave myself to a deity I find odious at best) can become a recovered acceptance of it. I hope that in time, this anger at perceiving that I was duped into believing in God and turning that pain into two devastating addictions to cope with the depression that I was going to be tortured eternally over a human nature and the biological impulses I could not control in thought even as I could in action. Yes, religion contributed to the addiction. I turned to religion to heal the pain that I was in an insecure relationship with my parents. I relied on God not to screw me over with puberty, to bless me with eternal childhood because I prayed and submitted and believed my little heart out. That betrayal at the parent-child level then at the God-parishioner level (and remember, God was omniscient, omnipotent, and love to me) made me believe I was less precious than a bacteria to God or humanity.
      And now? That burden is lifted. That which was once sinful is just part of part and parcel to being a living creature with an advanced brain and the ability to communicate and use tools to do so. I am part of everything–no greater or less than anything else. And there is no psychotic deity above me ready to smack me down, to punish me by torturing the people I love (Oh, yes–if God exists, it has a lot to explain about why the Hell an innocent toddler got cancer. And that whole higher-purpose bullshit doesn’t fly, because I saw nurses and doctors in that hospital while my child was being poisoned and resurrected, but I didn’t feel God’s presence). I refuse to believe in a God which allows the torture of the little children it tells me not to let suffer.
      It’s easier to know that this is part of primate nature (which it is) and that we, as thinking beings, can rise above that and be ethical toward each other–even if it is “inconvenient.”
      And I accept that I’m being a pain in the butt about this, but I’m in good company. Newly-minted Christians, ex-smokers, and vegans are just as big pains in the ass and have opinions on how others should live just like them. My hope is that I trust program will bring me to a recovered state where I can be a peaceful atheist (instead of the current rabidly pissed-off one who feels I wasted four decades being a salvation junkie unable to get the quality high people said was out there).
      Long post, but just one more entry in the Book of Jess’s Days. And yes, I am grateful for waking up this morning to arrive here at this awareness. I just am not burdened by having to owe gratitude to an invisible being which can’t be bothered to prove it exists (if it does).
      My name is Jess, and I am a binge eater and food anorexic and binge bad-romance addict and social anorexic. I have been a rebel without a cause or clue for far too long. I trust the anger will subside as the recovery takes hold. I trust that some day I won’t bristle at the word “God” or the use of “He” and “Him” and “His” in the steps that I know are going to save my life if I work them to the best of my ability. The best of my ability is to work the steps as intended, not written. That is my commitment to Step Zero–to do whatever it takes to have recovery . . . and that is to be Recovering without God.



  1. With this post you have helped me see a path. I am an atheist and am so afraid of the reactions of others that I never discuss religion or spirituality. The “God” word makes me angry and I haven’t been able to accept “Group Of D…” As a suitable substitute as suggested by my sponsor.
    I appreciate the idea that I can accept that those with “faith” are trying to help and can also accept that I can work the program without faith in a deity. You have helped me find hope that I can manage my overeating without the program itself becoming a trigger.

    Thank you.

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