Posted by: innerpilgrimage | January 16, 2013

The Metaphor: Disease and Dis-Ease

      I’ve had a lingering cold for a while, and I realized what a fantastic metaphor it is for recovery.

      So, I got stressed out over the holidays and pushed myself. Thought I was managing it, despite knowing I would get sick once I stopped running full burners and relaxed. Right after the holidays, I got sick. I self-cared only long enough to get just well enough to get up and overtax myself again. I’ve been sick on-and-off since then, and even the symptoms changed. Over the last couple of days, I’ve gone from the incessant cough to clear nasal passages but something in my sinuses (when I feel pressure) makes my nose bleed. Absolutely bizarre. The nosebleed stuff seems to be gone, but there’s no guarantee. However, I am resting enough and am taking vitamin supplements along with eating abstinently (which, in my case, is generally healthy and balanced). My body is getting what it needs nutritionally, and it’s healing when I rest enough.
      When I self-care.
      In recovery, I started out as an addict pushing my dis-ease. Exhausted all of the time avoiding emotions, being left with only three expressions of the volcanic outburst when the pressure grew too much: rage, panic, and terror. It’s the flight-flight-freeze response out-of-proportion to the event which triggers it. Definitely denial there’s a problem. In essence, the white-knuckle control (putting energy into the feelings so they become incendiary then explosive) shifting to a total out-of-control outburst to take the pressure off. Only ever enough to leave the immediate danger zone and enter the regular danger zone. It doesn’t work as a life, so I turned to compulsive enmeshment (codependency), compulsive need for approval (love and sex, to be attractive, desirable, and lovable–despite my definition of “lovability” being based on metrics that have nothing to do with love), and compulsive punitive eating or starving to physically mess with my chemistry. Overeating numbed and distracted by creating lethargy and physical stomach pain when I overate to the point I was overfull and feeling it. Undereating drops seratonin levels, apparently, giving a false sense of calmness and control. Reaching that state of calmness and control over calamity and chaos can drive a person to keep hitting that button, I suppose. A predisposition to trying to find any way to fabricate serenity and peace when everything appears to be falling apart? A reduction of stress just enough to get back up and make myself sicker as I became acclimated to the highs and demanded more of myself. The growth of the addiction can have everything to do with a desperate attempt to self-medicate instead of actually self-care.
      So, there’s the initial metaphor: I kept going because I judged I had to keep going until I dropped. No one else had to (though anyone not working as hard as I was to enmesh, to avoid predating for “love”, and to numb out with compulsive food behaviors was “inferior” to my broken perceptions and attitudes about what society wants from us). I think of the tangled mass of what I have done to try to support the illusion that I am “in control”. I think I was the only one who thought I was–a delusional state of believing that I had my act together or that I was hiding the inner chaos really well. It was clear I was in trouble, and I was sick as I kept the secret from myself that this was only getting worse.
      Admitting I couldn’t keep going like that and walking into an OA room was that moment in this cold when I was so exhausted I just had to return to bed and sleep. My body was exhausted, in pain, pushed to its limits, and it won simply by shouting wordlessly much louder than the nagging judgment, attitude, and criticism that I don’t have to slow down when I’m sick. The very real feeling I would fall over of this was followed by finally saying, “I can’t take any more, I really am falling over of this.”
      With the cold, I admitted with guilt and misery that I was going to be sick for a few days in bed, to get over the cold. With the addiction, I admitted with guilt and misery that I couldn’t stand under the growing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain of addiction. So, I rested. I self-cared the cold and I started feeling better. I self-cared with a food plan, and I started losing weight. Once I thought I was well enough, I got up and started pushing myself. The cold lingered and I started feeling worse and started having other symptoms. In addiction, I cut back the distraction of the food addiction and found a sexual-and-toxic-love approval dis-ease waiting. I had a little healing, but illness (both the recent cold and the decades of compulsive need to seek sexual and attractiveness approval) lingered.
      The codependency was there. I knew I was unsafe as a person, that I was breaching boundaries in other people, but I blamed the desire for the approval. The masks I put up as I morphed into what I thought people wanted, throwing out the net again and again. I crashed. And when I did, I accepted help. To affect this recent cold, I started taking vitamins to give my body what it needed besides basic nutrition (which was hard, because I didn’t want to eat–I just wanted to sleep) to heal. To affect the addiction, I started listening to friends in program and gave my SLAA program what it needed besides seat-time (which was hard because I didn’t want to gel my bottom lines, I wanted to live in denial of this deeply shame-based addiction). My two bottom lines were a jolt to the system that this went deeper, just like I was profoundly aware I was working myself into walking pneumonia if I didn’t actually take time out to recover and self-care.
      Well, now the deep-lung cough (which I knew would become really dangerous if I kept coughing but stopped coughing stuff up) is pretty-much gone, but I have the sinusitis with the awareness that whatever disease I had before has moved up out of my lungs into my head. The need for sexual/romantic approval has moved from a “just men” predatory behavior to an “anyone” predatory behavior.
      Despite all of this, I’ve found my Higher Power is healing the cold as I surrender to the need to rest and eat nutritionally in order to let Nature do its thing. Surrender plus effort is being applied here. I have to surrender to the reality that healing myself and others has NOTHING to do with me. As an atheist who follows naturalism (that nature and its laws, not the supernatural and its transcendency, governs the Universe), I believe that as long as I am living? I have the ability to heal. The elderly get ill all of the time and recover, so the idea that there’s just a slow descent into infirmity and decay as long as there is life doesn’t appear to apply in practice.
      Age simply requires more time to let the natural healing occur.
      So, my creator (the natural laws governing life and the creation through meiosis of a human zygote) set me up as a living being capable of healing the assaults to the physical form. As long as I am alive, this physical vessel is a learning system which creates antibodies and white blood cells to deal with whatever ailment comes at it. Sometimes, things can get deadly. That’s reality. The body can’t take every hit that comes its way. But for the common cold (this wasn’t the flu nor did this cold turn into pneumonia, both for which I am profoundly grateful)? It can take on this ailment if I am willing to put in the effort to assist the body in giving it what it needs to let nature heal the illness over time and be ready for this same illness in the future–blocking it from even affecting me by having white blood cells ready to go to identify and assault the threat and keep me unaware that I even was affected by a bacteria or virus.
      This? Is a great model for spiritual recovery. When my physical, mental, and emotional self is challenged, I am in a better position to have spiritual healing. The messages of discomfort and loss allow me to accept the dis-ease: I am uneasy with things are. I rush around distracting myself from the truth that I am sick and need to take care of myself in order to stop fighting the healing. I accept in addiction, I run at a high level of stress which will only make me sicker until I possibly can’t recover. Ailments are ailments. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. And I am becoming aware that I can, for now, apply the Hermetic concept, “As above, so below; as within, so without,” on the microcosmic and macrocosmic scale. Well, at least on the physical dis-ease and spiritual dis-ease scale.
      Of course, the spirituality I follow understands that the physical (the self-as-ego, the belief that I am the Universe’s center because I am at the center of my perceptions) and the spiritual (a means/doorway to experience eternity, absoluteness, and infinity despite being ephemeral, relative, and finite) are simply parts of nature. There is an everything-concept. It gets labeled as Higher Power, God/Goddess, The Creator, Nature, the All, the Universe. The break comes when transcendence enters the picture. My opinion is that transcendence cannot exist. The concept of a Being which is omnipotent and omniscient and eternal is oxymoronic. Any discrete being cannot be those things, in my opinion, because those are part of “The All”. God is not me by definition, because I pray for intercession and rely on the benevolence of an external source to make good things happen. Well, if something is finite (if it’s not me or you or anyone living or dead, then that God is finite), then it follows that it can’t be “The All”. That means it’s also relative and transitory. Transcendence is spiritual alchemy at that point, trying to turn a base into gold. To transcend everything is to become nothing, to literally not-be. Therefore, God is a Being I can become codependent with–which I did, giving this intellectual concept (fueled by dogma) power over me and letting this anthromorphized concept enmesh completely with my mental state.
      Others’ opinions are that God exists as a Being and can transcend. I accept this as a mystery, something made up of possibilities to which no human being can prove or disprove. Therefore, the existence of God for others does not harm me. The people can attempt to enmesh with me in order to argue their opinion has Absolute Truthiness to it and mine does not. It’s only opinion, however, based on individual experience and the subsequent contemplation of that experience to answer the unanswerable. And yes, I fully admit that my atheism is equal in value and measure to theism. Both are opinions, judgments, and attitudes which have been set in mental concrete, and unless one is shown irrefutably to be what is as it is? We will argue over the truth of transcendence using our limited words and treat a mystery as a secret–the unanswerable being given an easy answer in order to assuage the dismay (as Pascal put it) at having no definitive answer at all to the mystery of being.
      I observe that nothing else in nature transcends nature; therefore, God as Higher Power is me living as a codependent–a current state of spiritual dis-ease I want to heal. Whatever mysteries I come in contact with through breaking free of the ego and experiencing the immanence (non-transcendent state of being within a greater system) and immensity (the vastness and enormity of the greater system, itself) of reality is enough to create spiritual experiences, even as an atheist. It’s not about contemplating the mysteries, either. Contemplation is applying my relative mind (a perspective-based sensing and logic-ordering tool) to the absolute. I can’t grasp it mentally. It’s too big. While some people find this an uncomfortable idea, I don’t. I am comforted by the humility that no one is greater or less than me. We will all be forgotten in time, when humanity has passed into the silence.
      Despite ending in silence, there is a peace knowing we all existed. We are all part of eternity simply by being. It doesn’t require a transcendent soul (which I accept may or may not exist, but that will eternally be beyond me, since it’s immeasurable–despite attempts to measure it). While I accept the idea of transcendence is a comforting one, I’ve had many false and comforting beliefs in my life which don’t measure up with the awe of breaking free of the ego and finding full acceptance in the wonder of reality. As a living being, I can experience sempiternity and become the serenity of lacking nothing and feeling removed from time in that moment. I am today and here and now, like all other beings, part of the vastness of reality, of nature. I am part of eternity, even if my mind, body, emotions end.
      Of course, transcendence could be part of reality, that we might even transcend, as energy, to an alternative concurrent Universe which is part of the reality of everything. Part of healing is progressing to a new state of experience and awareness. It honestly doesn’t matter what I think about God or transcendence or the transcendent soul. Those are only thoughts which can be expressed as opinion. Everything I write isn’t absolute truth. Sure, some things I write could be true; I definitely think it appears true when I write it. But is it true-with-a-capital-T? Well, when I have spiritual experiences, it doesn’t matter: That yearning to answer the mysteries simply vanishes. In fact, all yearning vanishes, and I am at total peace.
      To contemplate and distinguish between samsara and nirvana is to be in samsara, it has been said. In essence, becoming the observer of that-which-cannot-be-contemplated leaves me in ego. The spiritual journey is fully experiential, definitely ineffable. I return to ego to describe it for others, relate it as a story. For me, the nature of human being is to exist with an ego which can be surrendered in order to have spiritual experiences. Those experiences can change the thoughts I have about reality and the Universe. They cannot be related to me by others; they are a journey I travel. I cannot tell others to follow in my footsteps, because focusing on footsteps or on me or on the path I am on leaves them as the observer in contemplation instead of the being experiencing the spiritual for themselves.
      Healing is part of that ineffable journey. We can receive intervention and effort to create the opportunity to heal; once the effort has been made and the energy has been directed to promote an environment where healing can occur? The healing happens without intervention. This is the art of surrender to me. I cannot heal. I have no power to heal. Can I put effort into improving my chances of healing? Definitely. To do that? I have learned through program that self-care is the way. From this recent cold (and the many before it which have worsened because I’ve resisted healing) to the addictions, self-care is the way to promote an environment where healing can occur.
      Well, for today, I hypothesize that I’ve spent decades neglecting my body, emotions, and spirit; I have embraced the idea that willpower through mental effort is an acceptable substitute and I am able to do all things through my mental willpower. I also now accept this is not self-care. As a human do-ing (stuck in unmanageability and the extremely egotistical opinion that my mind is superior at managing my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs better than simply listening to my body, senses, and spirit), I judged that all things could be quested for logically and achieved through perseverence and cleverness. Definitely intelligence. Even wisdom, to me, has become an intellectually-based one. For example, I have an erroneous opinion that a Ph.D. is wiser than a high-school graduate. Historically, I give authority to all who have earned the external intellect-based awards and judge inferior and requiring serious intervention those who have not. And, since this is my ego doing the judging? Those who have more educational awards than me are superior and deserve supplication and praise (as long as they earned them; my lofty opinion is that honorary degrees do not count) and those who have the same or less are inferior and deserve disdain and criticism. This isn’t a healing state of mind. This is one which creates a parent-child relationship, a master class and a slave class based on intellectual achievement and the external validation of it.
      I see through reproducible results that attitudes like this can cause intense discomfort and dis-ease. This is no beautiful lie, here. There’s a part of me that considers this a very mean-spirited attitude to have toward me and others, since I’ve met some deeply compassionate and emotionally safe people who don’t possess these external validations of intellectual achievement. I also have found that many who possess these external validations of intellectual achievement wield them as weapons. I don’t trust psychologists or psychiatrists because they have been granted power by society to throw me into a mental prison if I don’t agree with them and do what they tell me. In other words, if I don’t let them enmesh with me and become the parent-figure to my child-figure. I’m becoming less afraid of the therapeutic community because I am in OA, SLAA, and CoDA, and I know through fellowship and research that a lot of therapists out there support the use of 12-Step programs in concert with individual therapy to heal addictions. So, returning to one-on-one therapy while working program in OA, SLAA, and CoDA is a possibility, now that I can see the benefits of having a therapist support my desire to grow as a whole person instead of simply complain for 50 minutes every week and never make any real progress toward a balanced physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life.
      In summation (despite the mental meanderings)? I have come to the thought that healing is part of nature and it is among the things which the Serenity Prayer states is something to accept with grace as that which I cannot change. The courage to choose mental, emotional, and physical behaviors to reduce resistance and increase self-care (something I can apply effort toward) to healing (something I can only surrender to) is something I can take action on. The difficulty is that I don’t really understand self-care because I have few points of reference or models of self-care. I perceive that self-care is something healthy people do naturally; I perceive they get the benefits of a more content and balanced existence from self-care, and they appear to me as safe people with healthy boundaries and mental flexibility. So, I am currently researching what self-care really is at every level: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. And just like food abstinence is a model of self-care in action, that my relationship with food (which has, historically, received some measure of anthromorphic transsubstantiation–the lifetime commitment of chocolate on the thighs, for example, would be considered positive if it were a person emotionally committed to a relationship) is a means for me to understand my dysfunctional attitudes toward relationships with men and my dysfunctional attitudes toward relationships with humanity as individuals and as a whole. I have tried to mentally force through willpower my way to health and found myself sicker every time. The experiment is done, and it’s a successful experiment. The result may not be what I wanted at the outset, but I have learned that trying to heal anything through shame, guilt, and self-abuse is counterproductive.
      I’ve also realized that healing doesn’t belong to me; I want to think I can heal myself and others. This is erroneous to think I have the power to heal, because the power to heal is part of the mystery of nature. Healing just is. I’ve also seen that despite getting in my own way in order to delude myself that I have anything to do with healing (except for creating an environment for myself and others which supports healing), I heal anyway. I think this can apply not only to the physical but the mental, emotional, and spiritual.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food, sexual/relationship approval addict, and codependent. I realize this was a spewing of my beliefs, but I remind myself that this is primarily a journal I can return to and see the progress I make and what triggers me. To anyone who slogs through this, I offer this: “Take what you want, and leave the rest.”
      After all, it’s just my opinion, and my opinion is relative to my experience, not absolute.


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