Posted by: innerpilgrimage | October 29, 2012

Waking Up to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds

      There is something pleasant about waking up to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” in the morning. If one has never done this, it’s a nice little song of hope for today. Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be all right.
     

      Just sitting there listening, the hope of a new day in recovery. The hope of a new opportunity to take self-care time. The hope of changing my attitudes with “prayer” (affirmations) and meditation. To add things I enjoy doing into my life and self-care activities which will create a healthy mind, body, and esprit.
      I’ve been working the program since I got to CoDA. I’ve read quite a bit of literature. I’ve had some huge changes since the week M— died, and I am meditative that even though I am working impatiently toward recovery, things are actually moving forward well. For the first time, I am not fearful of Step Eight and Nine. While, yes, I have the rest of the steps to go through in order to reach the real and lasting work of Step Eight, I know I am where I belong. Every little thing is gonna be all right as I travel progressively through the steps.
     
      STEP ZERO: SURRENDER TO SURRENDER
     
      If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps. [Big Book, page 58, line 16]
     
      This pre-step is pretty groovy, especially if one has ever met a person living the promises in a meeting:
     
      THE BIG BOOK PROMISES
     
(1) We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
(2) We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
(3) We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
(4) No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
(5) That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
(6) We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
(7) Self-seeking will slip away.
(8) Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
(9) Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
(10) We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
(11) We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
(12) 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 CoDA PROMISES
     
1. I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.
2. I am no longer controlled by my fears. I overcome my fears and act with courage, integrity and dignity.
3.. I know a new freedom.
4. I release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I am aware enough not to repeat it.
5. I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved.
6. I learn to see myself as equal to others. My new and renewed relationships are all with equal partners.
7. I am capable of developing and maintaining healthy and loving relationships. The need to control and manipulate others will disappear as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy.
8. I learn that it is possible to mend – to become more loving, intimate and supportive. I have the choice of communicating with my family in a way which is safe for me and respectful of them.
9. I acknowledge that I am a unique and precious creation.
10. I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth.
11. I trust the guidance I receive from my higher power and come to believe in my own capabilities.
12. I gradually experience serenity, strength, and spiritual growth in my daily life.
     
     
      THE SLAA PROMISES
     
1. We will regain control of our lives.
2. We will begin to feel dignity and respect for ourselves.
3. The loneliness will subside and we will begin to enjoy being alone.
4. We will no longer be plagued by an unceasing sense of longing.
5. In the company of family and friends, we will be with them in body and mind.
6. We will pursue interests and activities that we desire for ourselves.
7. Love will be a committed, thoughtful decision rather than a feeling by which we are overwhelmed.
8. We will love and accept ourselves.
9. We will relate to others from a state of wholeness.
10. We will extend ourselves for the purpose of nurturing our own or another’s spiritual growth.
11. We will make peace with our past and make amends to those we have hurt.
12. We will be thankful for what has been given us, what has been taken away, and what has been left behind.
     
     
      I’ve met people living the promises. That’s quite a thing, to see a person in full recovered acceptance. A person who’s had the spiritual awakening as the result of the worked twelve steps. You can see it in their eyes, in how they sit, in how they are in what can only be described as full-blown acceptance. No anger. Actual peace. Speaking deliberately and calmly. Listening attentively, fully. A person living the promises is the program in action, and if any of us ever finds someone who lives the promises? That’s the person we want to become. That is the promise of working a daily recovery.
     
      It’s not hard to surrender to being a recovered person. I think anyone affected by a vigilant pursuit of the tools of recovery experiences it from time to time. That is the “what we have” that we are willing to go to any length to get. What was the length I went? Well, I went to the length of sliding back to Step Zero, itself, then starting over. I questioned God, program, recovery. All of it. Recovery made me an atheist. The atheism is keeping me sanely eating (despite it getting messy, I am still abstinent and it’s getting better as I progress through mourning my friend and mentor, M—) despite a huge and shocking change to my life in the past couple of months. It started with my anger at religion and my rebellion against all things God. It has brought me to a sense that I am good without God and I am good that others have God. When I needed people who had a transcendent spiritual life, the opportunity made itself known. I had M— and I have Amy. Their honesty, openness, and willingness to live the best of a transcendent spirituality–as beautiful, creative, unique human beings–has brought me to the peaceful reality that I have a lot to learn from people who are meditatively spiritual and are conduits of the love of a transcendent Higher Power. It helps, not harms, me to embrace these people–just as it helps, not harms, me to embrace atheists in program like Fred T.
      For me, willingness to do whatever it takes was to walk a road I never considered before program. I am so grateful I have gotten the opportunity to evolve hugely since August. I was clearly giving up. It wasn’t unforseeable. In January 2012, I was losing it. In May, not much had changed with my outlook, though I was living outside of the rooms even as I maintained abstinence and surrendered my food compulsion daily. Minute-to-minute? It got slippery. However, at the end of the day? I ate within the boundaries of a sane food plan. Abstinence was my solace and refuge. It was the one self-care thing I have done. I was 100% aware that if I let go of that one, small connection to recovery? I was going back to the oubliette of despair in a life of addiction. It took time, but I am back in the rooms. I am seeking an OA meeting, as well.
      Oh my.
      So, it turned out that I was so distracted and scattered, the OA meeting I thought I was going to on Friday morning? Is tomorrow morning. Oddly enough, I am not kicking myself as I normally do over not paying attention well enough. Actually, I’ve found a new sense of hope in that tomorrow morning, I will be in an OA Step/Traditions study room. That’s pretty exciting–but not manically exciting. I am actually smiling right now, knowing that somewhere between Friday and today, I surrendered to something and recovery got traction in me. I have the experience (I went on Friday morning and was sad a meeting that wasn’t even there had closed–missed opportunities for newcomers), I have the strength (I am going tomorrow, and I am really happy that I don’t have to search high and low for what I need to self-care in OA), and I have hope (recovery is taking hold in a different and exciting way–and I am still an atheist).
      Everything is gonna be all right, and I see that Step Zero is working in my life. I want what people living in recovery have. I embrace the gift of a recovered life as an option instead of lament the lack of a normal life as an option. I don’t want to be normal any more. I want to be recovered, and I am currently recovered from a life of survival through seeking external solutions to internal problems. Much different outlook than what I was dealing with the first half of the year.
      In the third quarter of 2012, I am in the game. I am rallying. Doing whatever it takes involves working on a secular recovery I understand and can surrender to fully. This week, I am attending meetings in three groups: Two CoDA meetings on Monday (today), an OA meeting on Tuesday, SLAA on Thursday, and a CoDA women’s group on Saturday. Five meetings per week until I move in February and begin a Saturday morning recovery blitz of OA and CoDA. Five meetings from none for a few months. That? Is progress, not perfection, as a secular program member.
      I am doing whatever it takes to work the steps this time. Three years I have been in OA, and I haven’t surrendered to getting a fully fearless fourth step. I did do a fourth step early on. I even did a fifth, sixth, and seventh–though as a transcendentally-guided recovering addict. I became addicted to recovery, got the bliss high and lived in grandiosity as Miss OA. I had my act together, I thought addictively, and I knew better. I became my own HP and lost that Transcendent Reality HP. The time was not lost. Three years setting up a foundation to land in CoDA meetings I’ve belonged in for years and years. In fact, I look back at a lot of entries, and I see the denial that I belonged in the CoDA rooms, too. At first, I blamed the food. Then, I blamed the seduction of seduction. Today, I have nothing and no one to blame–though in full honesty, openness, and willingness? I feel resentments toward people for laying the foundations of a life of survival. I feel resentful toward myself that I didn’t get into the rooms sooner. Yet . . . I feel content that I was supposed to live in that kind of addiction in order to reach this kind of recovery. I am calm, not manic, about it. I am relaxing that it will take the time it takes in order to set me into a life of daily surrender to knowledge I can’t unlearn. I appreciate that when I was not ready to enter a CoDA room, I walked a path of layers to the CoDA room. I was not ready for CoDA in 2009. I wasn’t ready for it in 2010. I am ready for it today.
     
      STEP ONE
     
      SLAA and CoDA encourage a written Step One with the same depth of awareness and vigilance as a written Step Four; OA has a written Step One in its workbook, but it’s not necessary to do more than act as if I know I have a problem with food. Honestly, being morbidly obese made it self-evident that I was a compulsive eater who couldn’t stop eating–even when I wanted to stop eating. The three years of recovery from OA makes this awareness so clear to myself that my life is unmanageable and I am powerless over it. When I observe it with a recovered mind yet still act in an addicted manner? I am living in action an unmanageable life. And boy, oh, boy . . . do I feel the powerlessness that even with the recovered awareness, I still act in addiction!
      When I walked into the OA rooms, I ate compulsively and couldn’t imagine not eating compulsively. When I walked into the SLAA rooms, I related to people with a toxic mindset and self-abused over the thoughts I had. Again, I couldn’t imagine living any way but that way. When I walked into the CoDA rooms, I knew I was codependent because the bottom lines M— had helped me reveal to myself were clearly codependency more than sex-based. Definitely enmeshment and boundary issues, which I have struggled with since the beginning of therapeutic intervention in my life. After my first CoDA meeting, I took an online test and was fully honest. My recovered self knew the healthy answers, but I answered honestly about my actions anyway. I was considered 92% codependent. To put this into perspective, a normal person is 0% to 25% codependent. My spouse is 17% codependent, which is normal.
      I am highly codependent in action and addicted thought, even if my recovered self knows better. I am grateful I am not in denial that the addict life does not work, but I am still in that state of acting out a life of powerlessness and unmanageability.
      So, I admit honestly and fully that I am, indeed, powerless over food and toxic love and codependence. Knowing better doesn’t make my life unmanageable. Even with the abstinence, my life is unmanageable because I can surrender the food compulsion but I can’t surrender the compulsion to deny myself self-care, to enmesh with others, and to have no boundaries with myself or others. I am a binge-arexic in all areas of my life, and I have enough recovery to know there is a solution which resonates with me.
      So, with this open and honest admission, I complete Step One. Yes, I am going to do the written Step Ones as well, so I can dredge up things to help me on my way toward a surrendered recovery. Effort plus surrender.
     
      STEP TWO
     
      Well, since August I have been working the came to believe part of program. I find comfort in believing reality can restore me to sanity. Not normalcy. Never normalcy. I fought with that for quite a while, and I fully and openly admit that I was resistant to the idea that a life of recovery has gifts associated with it. I didn’t ask for nor wanted to be an addict of anything. However, that power greater than me has room for addiction. It is a very real modality. Recovery is also part of reality; I wouldn’t have boxes of recovery literature to read if it didn’t. The Big Book wouldn’t exist if it didn’t. The 12-Step groups, therapist-led groups, and psychotherapy (both in- and outpatient) would not exist if those weren’t part of reality.
      It’s easy to accept reality as a means to restore sanity. I mean, the whole point of therapy is to accept that I live in delusion yet can learn to live outside of it. In a room filled with equals (neurotics helping neurotics, as I’ve been told by my spouse), I am comforted by the presence of a treatment modality which helps me avoid the transference of authority over my life to a therapeutic professional. I am aware that perhaps that was why I never got traction in therapy: I gave my will and my life over to the care of a therapist and made that therapist my savior-deity. When the therapist failed to save me (because I enmeshed instead of surrendered, and I relied on a fallible human to do my work for me instead of relied on me to do it), I got resentful. The worst of it was when a therapist threatened my security, and I went into full-blown codependency mode. I used active parenting techniques to keep my freedom from inpatient therapy because I sought behavioral therapy instead of examination of my childhood and yet more brain-warping medication as a treatment modality. I smiled, agreed, and did my best to survive the hour.
      I do not trust being behind closed doors with a person who can legally take away my freedom if I don’t play ball. Therapy with an authority figure who takes on the authority I offer so willingly doesn’t help me recover from codependency. It works for others. It is excluded for me, if only because I cannot recover in a situation where I am not equals with the people I express my experiences to. I resist making effort in one-on-one therapy. And I honestly am open to ending up in an inappropriate relationship with a therapist. That’s something I appreciate so much through the decades of visiting therapists. I sought women, and the sexual aspect never entered into it. I keep being willing to go, but I accept, now that how I act out my codependency really does make me a better candidate for 12-step recovery than other treatment modalities. I tried them, just like I tried diets. They didn’t work. I have kept 100 lbs. of weight off for two years in OA abstinence. I am living proof that the twelve-step programs work for me. I choose to twelve-step, and I choose to do it as a secular member–because recovery and program brought me to the truth that I do not believe in transcendence. Recovery and program brought me to the truth that transcendence is a beautiful tool for others in program. It is THE program and MY recovery–even if it means I question program literature’s mixed messages that I can recover without a transcendent God yet spends the rest of the book referring to one and telling me I have to act as if I believe in one until I do. I can’t currently look at the word God without connecting it to a transcendent being. I have hope that some day, I will have full acceptance of that powerful word. That I can see God and feel that non-transcendent reality (which has no will or plan for me because it is not a discrete sentience) when I see the word. For now, I appreciate that others in program find comfort in the religious prayers. I am working that part of the effort, accepting that even if I opt out? The people who opt in bring their experience, strength, and hope so I can recover. In recovery, I understand it doesn’t matter where it’s sourced from. I know this, but I do not yet Know this. However, if I can approach it with a recovered mindset, it’s only a matter of time before I accept it as a life-affirming reality.
     
      STEP THREE
     
      Turning my will and life over to a sentient being has gotten me in so much trouble. No matter how big I made my Higher Power, the minute I took on the belief it was sentient? I rebelled. My authentic self, I believe, was probably screaming silently about codependency issues with submission to a sentient power. To be fixed without any surrendered effort on my part. To be blunt? Even God faced my wrath when the answers didn’t come.
      Well, I now believe that anything defined as being is within reality and cannot transcend reality. Non-transcendent beings, my authentic self accepts fully (no rebellion, and a sense of serenity), are all relative, finite, and transitory (limited). I can explain, using the God of my childhood.
      The God of my childhood (my default deity, no matter how I try), is not part of me and everyone and everything that was, is, and will be. That makes the God of my childhood relative–not absolute. It has a will separate from mine, and I have to go out of my way to consciously communicate with it. I can turn away from it by rebelling against it or simply denying it exists. The God of my childhood, therefore, is not absolute like reality.
      Starting with the same explanation for God’s relative nature, the God of my childhood is finite. If it isn’t me and everyone else, too? If God-as-other exists separate from me and lives in a discrete location separate from earth and from the transcendent punishment plane called Hell? God is finite. Reality includes Heaven, Earth, and Hell–along with every real and transcendent location ever imagined. God is contained in reality and apparently has a finite boundary, since God is not in Hell. Therefore, the God of my childhood is finite.
      The God of my childhood came onto the scene later than the first belief in transcendence. I consider that the compassion present in Neanderthal burials are excellent evidence that transcendence has been around since humanity was able to consider the absoulte, infinite, and eternal. The Venus of WIllendorf is an ideal, and that is–in essence–the definition of a deity. Religion evolved, and the God of my childhood was not self-evident from the beginning. Add to it that the Abrahamic religions are fractured and factioned as people rebelled against what others in authority believed? And add to it that Judaism is last-gasping as a living religion, preparing to transcend into the realm of mythology? The God of my childhood, sprung from Judaism as written in the Old Testament, is finite. The God of my childhood has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is part of a transitory belief system, played out in the fracturing of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam from the Abrahamic origination. Each of these have fractured, as well, and sects exist under the umbrella of each of these religions. The God of my childhood has evolved and changed. That is part of nature, of a living being. That means the God of my childhood can and will die. The God of my childhood, therefore, is limited and transitory.
      As a codependent, I enmesh with sentient, relative, finite, and transitory beings. I did, as a child, enmesh with the God of the Church of the Nazarene. Like every being which is sentient, relative, finite, and transitory which became a target of my enmeshment? I gave it full authority over me to fix me up. I believed with my little heart as fully as a child can. I prayed for release from the insane life I had. The God of my childhood never sent anyone in to draw me out–and even when I worked recovery with a transcendent being? I always had opportunities to find a way out. I clung to that God of my childhood, and I was left in a situation which made me an addict. If I were to say, “The transcendent God of my childhood is my Higher Power,” then I also must (painfully) admit that it abandoned me to the abuse. The God of my childhood, then, supports physical abuse of children, supports addiction, supports lying to protect the family secrets. Supports inauthenticity. Definitely supports the use of church as a Sunday morning free babysitting service.
      How can I find sanity with a sentient being like that? And there is no other transitory being out there which gets the He/His/Him transcendent father qualities attributed in my mind. If I follow Big Book, verbatim, I am not going to find sanity or recovery. And, as grim as it is to admit this: When M— died, I had no problem accepting that death was part of nature and no purpose was necessary. If I did accept that transitory God, I would be struggling with the question, “What was the purpose of removing a man from the world who lived as a good Christian? He gave his time, his effort, his love, his compassion, and his effort to make the world a better place. He lived this way in Your name, God. Why would you leave Fred Phelps and James Dobson around yet take this guy? Have You written the world off?”
      In atheism, I accept that it is a tragedy for the community. A man who contributed to actively bettering the world is gone, and his absence is felt. But I don’t have anything more to consider and question besides that. I can think it’s unfair, sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that we all die. That’s reality. It’s a part of reality that is unpleasant, but it is part of reality which supports the grief and renewal process. And in my contemplation of the unfairness of losing a friend and a mentor, a person who committed to helping me finally get to Step Twelve? I realized that the qualities he expressed in the world are ones I am ready to adopt. More service in program. Accepting that I am codependent and acting on it by joining CoDA. Committing to the twelve steps as an atheist instead of taking on someone else’s transcendent deity. Accepting that I can celebrate the differences of the membership as a gift, that we are not all in cultish lock-step. Being grateful we recover at individual paces, and being even more grateful that I can learn as much about my authentic self from a newcomer as an old timer. Knowing that I am a layered addict, accepting it, not falling into despair nor overcommitting manically. Okay, yes, I still compulsively overcommit, but I am working on it. I have personally experienced the pitfalls of turning program into a dogmatic religion in which I try to earn normalcy by going through the motions.
      I don’t want to be normal any more. A normal person cannot help an addict. A normal person doesn’t understand whatsoever how a life can become so derailed that self-will doesn’t help. Does this mean that I think every addict needs twelve step to move from survival mode to a thriving life? Not at all. Some people do great with one-on-one therapy. Some people do great with therapist-led group therapy. Some people thrive in Recovery, Inc. and other groups which encourage will-training to force a change. For me, the twelve step fellowship works. It is a group of equals, so my desire to have a savior authority is not indulged. It is a fellowship-driven recovery, so my compulsive social anorexia is not indulged. It is a program of surrender and personal accountability and responsibility, so my self-abuse that I am not strong or smart or competent enough is not indulged. Well, not innately, anyway. It is personal choice to do any of those things, but the environment supports a sane and physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy journey of recovery. That fits me well, and every time I turn away, I turn back. I’ve tried the others, and I’ve fallen into resentment that others haven’t fixed me or I haven’t struggled with the personal will to fix myself through behavior modification and a treatment language I just don’t connect to. I have lived some of the promises. I have lived in acceptance. I have made choices which were uncomfortable and non-compulsive, and the reward is that I do not sit and replay the event in my head and beat myself up using my mistakes as a means to tear myself down. I gain self-affirming awareness; I lose self-defeating denial. I gain so much from program, and I appreciate that it is even here.
      Is program perfect? Goodness, no. I still worry about how certain people in certain groups will react to the reality I am an atheist. I definitely fear the people who strongly believe that Jesus is the only way to get to Step Twelve. However, they are teachers, as well, of acceptance and forgiveness and boundary-setting in program. They have much to teach me about what I want in recovery and what I want to let go of in addiction. Their lessons about their own recoveries help mine–even if I don’t receive support when I raise my hand and say, “Surrender to program brought me to atheism, and losing God–no matter how hard it was to admit that I wasn’t just rebelling to be a brat–were part of that ‘any length to go to get it.’ ” The challenge of recovery as an atheist is no picnic. It would be so much easier to do it as an American Protestant, because that’s who it was written for. However, I trust the slogan that program/recovery is simple but not easy. I didn’t choose to be an addict; I chose life, and retreating into compulsivity and addiction was how I survived. I didn’t choose to be an atheist; it was revealed to me by surrendering to a program I believe works for those who relate to it. I did choose to walk into a meeting room and stay this time. I did choose to stop denying I had ninety-nine problems, and the outmoded use of addiction to survive instead of actually thriving in a safe situation was the source of all of them. I choose to be recovered by program, by me, and by the fellowship–out of the sea of addiction in which I was drowning and into the lifeboat of recovery. I am recovered, which pisses some people off. However, I understand now what it means when a person says, “I am recovered.” It means I hit rock bottom before I died, and I put my hand in someone else’s in order to live.
      I am recovered (pulled) from a sure death by addiction; I am recovering (healing) from this mental, physical, and spiritual illness on a daily basis. That’s really nice to consider.
     
      My name is Jess. I am a many-layered addict, compulsive about food, about toxic romance, about codependency.
     
      This is my message to you.

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