Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 14, 2013

The Mystery Machine: I Would Have Gotten Away With It, Too!

      I have a secret you already know about you, even if you don’t think it yet.

      You, I, and everyone are already whole.
     
      There is no external journey to take. Nothing to collect. No prizes to achieve. As Michelangelo is reported to have said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Stepwork is the effort to chip away and let go of what is not part of “the angel” (the mental/spiritual/emotional/physical self in a thriving state) within us and the surrender to let the angel within us be revealed. In my own recovery, I’ve realized, that’s it. And this is less a secret than a mystery, because every whole being is made up of possibilities and potential.
      I am a mental-dominated addict. Not sure how many of us are, but I have made my mental self a tyrant over my physical, spiritual, and emotional self. The addictions I picked up make perfect sense in this concept. Compulsive overeating (or, as my spouse has observed about me, I was an anorexic even when I was overweight) is the I THINK tyrannizing the I AM. Romantic obsession, compulsive sex and love addiction, is the I THINK tyrannizing the I FEEL. Codependency, that hunger to be whole and seeking it through controlling others or seeking others to make all of my decisions for me and love me unconditionally and feed my self-esteem without fail, is the I THINK tyrannizing the I BELIEVE. When the I THINK was powerless over it all and life was painfully unmanageable at every point? The shadows of I THINK I AM, I THINK I FEEL, and I THINK I BELIEVE took over, and the darkness of addiction consumed every waking moment. I live as a fiction when I judge myself as an I THINK being. The other parts of the whole person atrophy but don’t die. They can’t, because I am still alive.
      It’s amazing to consider The Promises (I have 36 through OA, SLAA, and CoDA) for a moment. They seemed (and sometimes still seem) so alien to this addict just starting to accept that powerlessness and unmanageability that is the daily practice of suffering. Personally, when I first saw them, I wanted them but I had no idea how to get them. I memorized the twelve steps but I didn’t understand outside of the I THINK tyrant’s world view: The steps were a recipe I could follow logically, manipulate through a special kind of mental alchemy, and get a magic prize. But part of me knew that wasn’t how it worked. I’d spent so much time suffering the mental tyrant within. I considered (and still do) how that mental tyrant harmed others–a point of shame and guilt which kept the mental tyrant pointing out that it was the fault of every other system to not fall in line and be obedient to the Dogmatic (though oddly arbitrary) Laws of I THINK.
      How did I build up layers of not-angel in the first place? Well, I suspect when I sought an answer to the mysteries of loss, they were provided. And I was sad because I thought that was it. I recall when I was three or four, my great-grandmother died. Dis-ease with that was in the air, but I was given no understanding that it’s one of those parts of the mystery of life. All living things die; all things end. Not understanding the loss, what I was experiencing, not being given the truth that no one knows why . . . so I adventured for why and found dogma. Thought masquerading as a spiritual journey. That sense of wonder is God, I was told. This is what God said, and what was written down by ancients much wiser than you. Much more in tune with God than you. This is the answer. So, I THINK I BELIEVE was born, and it worked for a while until I sensed a dis-ease that it didn’t actually answer the why (just was opinions which honestly didn’t apply to 20th century sensibilities). So, I THINK I THINK and I THINK I BELIEVE were set and I AM and I FEEL had dis-ease trying to pick up the slack by joining I THINK in handling I BELIEVE.
      I FEEL was a rough one, because every emotion seemed overwhelming. Every alarm that I THINK I BELIEVE was the wrong direction for me was misinterpreted. I THINK I FEEL got a foot in the door because of the dis-ease of others with my emotions. “Don’t be so hypersensitive,” was told to me a lot. I was hypersensitive, constantly emotionally raw and buffeted around in an emotional storm. I AM began to eat compulsively to numb this away through nutritional chemistry, and I AM felt the dis-ease of malnutrition (sweet-salty-fatty isn’t healthy, but it’s what I chased) and I gained weight. “Use a little willpower,” replaced the excuse: “It’s just baby fat; she’ll grow out of it.” Then? Off to a weight loss camp where others would fix my weight problem since I was not trusted to do so by the caretakers in my life.
      So, the revered (in my upbringing) I THINK was dropped in to control I FEEL and I AM. And when puberty hit? Oh, brother. I AM and I FEEL were freaking out because I BELIEVE was already malnourished and weak. I FEEL got stricken down when the emotional energy got so much that it actually shut down. I stopped feeling. Couldn’t raise any feelings at all for a couple of weeks. The first to come back was fear I would never feel sadness or joy or passion (anger) again. The emotional maelstrom came back, and then that numbed time was remembered nostalgically. It became the I THINK I FEEL goal: To be emotionally deadened, so I could function as a logical and reasonable and intelligent person.
      I gained a lot of weight and broke 200 lbs. after that breakdown. I won’t call it a mental one, since my judgments, opinions, self-criticism were all in place. It was a complete emotional short; not mental at all. So, there it is: the building up of that which is not “the angel” around “the angel”.
      Carving that stuff back is one of those difficult tasks. Logically, I consider Michelangelo’s statement to be crap (though spiritually and emotionally, I believe and feel the hidden truth in it). I’ve carved things before, and there wasn’t a masterpiece hidden within. My sculpting instructor didn’t really like it and the arbitrary letter this authority handed my fragile and approval-hungry self-esteem just carved into I THINK I AM WORTHY even more. I accept my part in this. It was that instructor’s opinion, and I could have taken the grade and not feared potential employers would look at my grades and reject me utterly–sending me onto the streets because they judged me unworthy. I thought they were smarter than me because they controlled a resource I wanted (a career). To support that manic panic was the dogmatic judgment that simply by my parents recombining genetic material together, I had an obligation to be superior in all things. Be the best . . . or else.
      I tested the or else, and I didn’t die of not being “the best”. Didn’t do much with it, but it was a necessary lesson for 20 years into the future.
      Well, this whole time? I AM, I FEEL, and I BELIEVE have made cameo appearances. My body has been pretty healthy despite the abuse. My emotions, when shoved into the hole, come up as a volcanic eruption and every loss is emotionally overwhelming. And I have experienced wonder out in nature, when I’ve let myself be quiet and have experienced things which are spectacular and inexplicable–yet don’t need a logical explanation.
     
      So, at this point? I admit wholly that I am unmaking the thoughts surrounding that whole person inside the block of strange mental build-up. I am in the process of un-learning. Of letting go of the thought that I can think myself to wholeness, when it hasn’t worked for 40 years.
     
      How the twelve steps apply here is something I considered today, and I’m putting down what I understood (unlearning that it’s an external journey to get a quest item, or a recipe which bakes a perfect life). In Step One, I admit that I am finite, relative, and transitory. I admit that control, unlovability, and low (or grandiose) self esteem are mental constructs. They lead to expectations (beautiful lies) which are often shattered by reality (ugly truth). Truth may appear ugly when the fantasy of perfection is treated more real than the gratitude that I am something instead of nothing, and not only am I part of reality as a being? I was given the gift of being alive.
      In Step Two, I trust that I am whole already–whether I think I am or not. I am a being of spirit, body, emotion, and mind, and nothing can take those away as long as I am alive. The Higher Power that can restore me to sanity is expressed by the mysteries and the inherent possibilities of accepting mystery as part of being.
      In Step Three, I acknowledge I can return to sanity by surrendering to that whole being I’ve pretended isn’t within. I surrender to the mysteries and take the effort to chip away at the judgments, attitudes, criticisms, and enmeshments to reveal the whole person already there. I trust opportunities abound to practice wholeness and grow my trust in my body, my emotions, and my spiritual experience.
      In Step Four, I write down where and when I violated boundaries in my externally-motivated quest to have a perfect existence (as I perceive it). I make a real effort to examine where I judged myself as blameless or as a victim and surrender to the reality that I put energy into those situations because I had a judgment or opinion which I believed was true and that I enmeshed with others to feed my hunger for control, lovability, and self-esteem.
      In Step Five, I discuss with another person how I have been hiding my wholeness (and hiding from it), not respecting the wholeness of myself or others. I can respectfully listen to what they perceive. A person in fellowship once pointed out what I was blind to–the core issues of my SLAA addiction–because I had so many little examples distracting me from the overarching problem. Clarity from a new perspective really can help, if I choose a person who isn’t trying to enmesh with me (offering advice and opinions instead of observations).
      In Step Six, the process of revealing patterns of addict behavior (“Character Defects”) in Steps Four and Five come to bear. I see the mental judgment, criticism, attitudes, and excuses for attempting enmeshment with others. I accept I want to let go of these mental coping mechanisms which I used to keep myself from growing as a whole person and expanding to the possibilities a life of wholeness has to offer.
      In Step Seven, I make the conscious choice to abandon those judgments and attitudes and criticisms. I get out of my own way and surrender to the natural growth and drive to thrive of my whole self.
      In Step Eight, I list who I can recall I harmed over a lifetime of boundary violations of others and prepare to admit it. I decide to change how I treat others and work to find a conscious practice of wholeness. I come up with self-and-other-respecting alternate actions.
      In Step Nine, I put Step Eight into action and have a ritual start to act on these alternate actions which respect my and others’ journeys into and in wholeness.
      In Step Ten, I practice these alternate actions which respect my and others’ journeys into and in wholeness. I accept I practiced addict behavior all of my life, and that I will sometimes default to those coping mechanisms. I recognize them and I practice course correction on a daily basis, strengthening my trust and reliance on my body, emotions, spirit, and mind together.
      In Step Eleven, I engage in wholeness practice by strengthening spirit, body, and emotions. I unlearn the mental dogma of the tyrannical addict self and let my mind grow naturally. I embrace silence, where I can listen to my whole self.
      In Step Twelve, I practice living and thriving in wholeness and encourage others in pain to consider that they are whole. I can encourage others to consider that “enoughness” could be a mental construct, but their personal journeys (whether or not the 12 Steps will even be a part of their journeys) are the only way they can decide for themselves.
     
      And as a caveat? This is just how I am unlearning the dogma of my own tyrannical mind. What I come up with here isn’t to state “This is how EVERYONE must do it.” This is a record of my personal journey, showing the I THINK tyrant that it sucks to be obsessed with controlling I AM, I FEEL, and I BELIEVE. It doesn’t work for me. This is how I can reason with the unreasonable and change how and what I THINK.
     
      My name is Jess. I am a layered addict: food, sexual/emotional approval, and codependency. I am unlearning that wholeness is an external journey. The secret to the statement that this is a spiritual journey is that it’s an internal, not external journey. Nothing outside of me can bring me satiety and serenity. However, when I chip away and let go of the judgments that only mental achievement has value? I can carve all of that away and set myself free.

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