Triple-posting today. I have a lot on my mind, and it’s not all connected. So 2 posts, plus pictures later.
Just FYI: if you are a member of a 12-step group, you might want to skip this post. I have some things I need to vent about, and you won’t like them one bit. (And yes, I have extensive experience with these groups, so I know whereof I speak.) There is also some God stuff in here, although I’m not necessarily Christian, and I don’t care if you are or not. Everybody’s got their own path, so if you’re an atheist or a pagan or an evangelical and it’s working for you, good for you! Really. I’m not being sarcastic, although I know that’s hard to believe. ;) What is that disclaimer they put on DVD interviews? “The opinions expressed herein are solely the opinions of the people interviewed and do not represent the opinions of Big Movie Company in any way.” Or something like that. Same principle.
Anyway . . .
I’m pretty sure I’m an alcoholic. If I’m not, I’m well on my way. And I know why: as hard as I’ve been trying to deal with the emotions behind the food issues, I’m not really trying as hard as I should be. So I’ve been in the process of swapping one addiction (food or the lack thereof) for another (drinking). I guess I could be a skinny lush, but since more than one or two drinks generally trigger a binge, I won’t be skinny; I’ll be a fat lush, and in that case I might as well just stick to the bingeing! LOL
I’ve already been through therapy. I’ve already been to the OA (Overeaters Anonymous) meetings, and there are a LOT of people in my family who are part of AA. I know what my problems are intellectually and intellectually I know how to fix them. I wish it were that easy. :P
Here’s my thing with 12-step groups: I think they’re a great tool, but not the whole answer. It’s like needing to cross a river: the 12-step group is the boat that helps you across, but at some point, in order to move on with your life, you have to GET OUT OF THE BOAT. If you want to cross the river, you can’t just stay in the boat, bobbing around forever. In a way, a 12-step group can become an addiction in itself (in my experience).
I really started feeling this way when I went to OA. The whole idea that I was sick and could never get well just didn’t sit right with me. I could see the sickness, but not the “no cure.” And those people were nuts (so much for my “no judgment” resolution! LOL). They’d plan out what they were going to eat the next day, and if for their 3PM snack they had an apple instead of the pickle they had planned, that was BAD and OUT OF CONTROL. Frankly, that didn’t seem all that different from my anorexic attitudes in college. I went to a few meetings in a few different places, but just didn’t see how continuing to beat myself up, telling myself I was a sick victim and exercising freakish control attitudes were going to help me.
I think trying to apply the principle of a 12-step group to eating is tough though, because in AA or NA you “just” cut the substance out of your life. I guess you can do that with food too, but anorexia isn’t really something to aspire to. :P So you can’t just hide from the addiction to food. You have to face it head on, stare it down, dig deep into the dark well of your unconscious and clean it out, dragging all the detritus into the light of day to be examined and discarded. That’s how you heal. Not by hiding. Not by swapping one addiction for another.
Did you know that 90% of “recovering” alcoholics have what is clinically considered an addiction to sugar? And that in many ways, sugar does the same thing to your brain chemicals that alcohol does? That’s not the kind of recovery I want: swapping sugar for alcohol or alcohol for food or whatever for whatever-else. YOU’RE STILL HIDING FROM YOUR PROBLEMS. I’m tired of hiding.
So I’m not going to AA. I DON’T believe that I can never regain control of my behavior. I DON’T believe that treating the symptom of drinking will make the problem of hiding go away. I DON’T believe that I am sick, a victim of circumstance, a “poor baby” who is misunderstood by the world. I DON’T BELIEVE IT. I CHOSE THIS. I CAN CHOOSE SOMETHING ELSE.
Now. I know that not all AA people feel this way. I don’t believe that when Bill W and Dr. Bob started the program that they meant it to become a banner for victimhood. I think that used sensibly and responsibly and with a willingness to examine your inner life it can be a great thing. But 99% of the AA and OA people I know (I don’t know any NAs, so I can’t speak of them) have embraced their victimhood with a passion. I DON’T WANT TO BE A VICTIM.
So with that in mind . . .
I’ve been going to this church. (I swear this is not a tangent, although it may take me a while to tie it back into alcoholism and food. Bear with me.) It’s a Religious Science church, which is NOT Christian Science or Scientology. RS actually came out of the teachings of Thoreau and Emerson, as distilled by Ernest Holmes. (This is where I TOTALLY fit in with the Cereal State! LOL) The basic tenets are:
- We are not “children” of God. We are MANIFESTATIONS of God.
- As manifestations of God, we all have the potential to become Buddhas and Christs – it just depends on how much work you’re willing to do.
- Since God is everywhere, omnipresent and omni-active, God is WITHIN us as well as outside us. We are part of God and God is part of us.
- Our purpose in life is to overcome our egos and allow God to live as us, through us, which means that we are to become windows of peace, love, gratitude and forgiveness. (Think Dalai Lama, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Krishna, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc)
- Heaven and Hell are states of mind: Heaven is when you live in the peace and awareness of God, and Hell is when you allow your ego, your judgment, your fears to block the flow of God and create stagnation in your life.
- ALL the religions have the same basic ideas and as such are equally valid: Love everyone. Practice radical forgiveness. Be grateful. Don’t judge anyone.
There’s plenty more (as in any religion), but you get the general idea.
So I’ve been listening to a lot of these sermons on CD. And I know that all my bingeing and hiding and drinking and running away is due to the fact that I am TERRIFIED. Of what, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s everything. I’m afraid of failing, because what will I do then? I’m afraid of succeeding, because everyone will expect so much more from me and what if I can’t do it and I fail? I’m afraid of losing my excuses: “I don’t have an agent because I don’t weigh 12 pounds.” I’m simultaneously terrified of losing my victimhood and sick of living with it. I’m afraid of the voices in my head telling me I’m not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, blond enough, tall enough, young enough, self-disciplined enough, strong enough, tan enough. Sometimes I just want to mainline a bottle of wine and 2 pints of ice cream just to make them SHUT UP. Sometimes I do mainline a bottle of wine and 2 pints of ice cream for just that reason. But the next morning they’re always back, and with new ammo, because NOW I’ve had a bottle of wine and 2 pints of ice cream! Now I’m REALLY not thin enough, self-disciplined enough or strong enough.
I had been meditating and doing yoga regularly, and I was doing better. I was listening to a sermon every day and it was getting easier to remember that all those fears and voices are just the panicked, dying cries of an ego. The ego, you know, doesn’t understand the difference between transformation and annihilation. So when you try to transform, it gets scared. I was doing well, though, because I would hear those voices and I was getting to a point where I could deal with them calmly, knowing what they were and that it was ok to be panicked and scared. Knowing that I didn’t have to hide from them.
Then I started “losing weight.” For me, that is my ego’s foot in the door. The drive to be something different than myself, to be something better, something ELSE just activates all those panicked voices, and I forget that those voices are transitory. I lost sight of having more energy and being ok with my body the way it was, NO MATTER WHAT. As soon as I lost sight of that, ironically, I stopped losing weight. Funny how that works. Real funny. Ha . . . Ha. :P
So it’s time to take a deep breath and remember that drinking and plowing through ice cream are simply responses to fear. Various fears that basically boil down to one: what if I’m not good enough the way I am? And then I have to remember that if I am a manifestation of God, a unique and divine way that God is expressing itself on the planet, then I AM ALWAYS GOOD ENOUGH. I just have to be willing to sit in stillness and listen and remember. (The Reverend at my church likes to say, “Remember to remember!” LOL)
So I have a list of circumstantial goals at home on my bathroom mirror: when I want an agent by, when I want my union card by, that kind of stuff. But I have to remember to include goals like meditating every day and reading something that’s good for my soul every day. I’m learning to juggle my internal development with my external development; I can do one or the other, but both is tough. Obviously it has to be done though, because doing one at a time hasn’t worked very well so far; they’re too interconnected.
And I know from experience that if I do that inner work, the addictions fall away. It’s weird. And when I stop doing the inner work, about 2 weeks later I’m back to the addictions. Not just addictions to substances, either - addictions to attitudes, too. I get caught up in judgment and victimization really fast.
So . . . inner work. Meditate every day and read or listen to something good for my soul every day. I can do this. I have to do this. The alternatives aren’t pretty.