Acceptance, Steps

Full Boil

Life has been crazy since I last posted, and I’m not sure it has really settled down.  There has been office drama, political upset in the nation, and then I received an email yesterday from a friend to say she has early-onset dementia which will likely be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.

Can I scream now?

This is the part of recovery that I have a hard time with:  How do I maintain serenity when everything in my world — and even inside my — is at a full boil?  It is an uphill climb to a place of acceptance of the myriad events that are out of my control.  I cannot make our president a sane and reasonable person.  I cannot fix everything that is wrong with the work culture at my office.  I cannot cure diseases.

My faith informs me that my Higher Power is with me at these times, but I find no comfort there.  I would try to cry, but I am at the office and we all know there is no crying in Marketing.

I know that I must take care of myself in order to have the strength to be an activist of any stripe, and I must take care of myself in order to be a friend to those who need me.  I know I must be gentle with myself as I curse that I’ve not been to the gym and my clothing is tight and . . . coming to the realization that when I feel powerless I also think I am ugly, useless, and impotent.

That is the difficulty of a program that emphasizes powerlessness.  The concept is valid:  It is only ego that makes me believe that worrying about something will change the outcomes, or that fixing what’s wrong in the world is something I can do on my own.  The Serenity Prayer has me asking for the serenity to accept what I cannot change, but courage to change the things I can (i.e, myself), and to have wisdom to know the difference.

So, the water is boiling, and I cannot stop it.  But I want to remember that when water boils it is in the midst of transformation, and transformation comes at a price.  In my case, the price is my ego, my lingering belief that I can change anything, the nagging feeling that it is my responsibility to make it all better for everyone, and the inability to accept the heat of the moment.

Here’s another proverb, one for which I cannot find an original reference, but one that was told to me by a Jewish friend:  “The same fire that turns metal into gold will burn clay into ashes.”  Whether I am metal or clay, I will find out in time.  To my thinking, either outcome teaches me something I need to know.




There was an ice storm upon us.  It had been sweeping across the country, running south of us, but we got rain on Sunday afternoon and it froze overnight.  It is an unusual winter in many ways.  The coldest temperatures were in December, before Christmas, and we usually have a lot more snow on the ground.  But this winter we’ve had only a dusting of snow so far, and freezing rain some days.

I don’t enjoy it when a winter storm is on the way.  This is something that has come upon me only in the past few years or so, that I can recall.  Or, perhaps, I am only aware of the anxiety now, as I have become aware of other times I have felt the trigger to eat based on whatever anxiety has built up in my head.  Fortunately, it was a Sunday and I was able to be at home.  I could rest when I needed to, snuggle up with the dogs when I needed to, and/or knit as I binge watched episodes of Call the Midwife on Netflix.

One of the things I’ve been grateful for lately has been communication, particularly with my sponsor who often reminds me that my feelings are OK, no matter what kind of feelings I’m having.  It may not be comfortable to have the feelings — especially anxiety, sadness, hurt, and the like — but it is OK to feel these things.

It seems like such a basic thing to say, “Your feelings are OK,” and yet it has been a bit of life training that I missed out on.  Somehow it was never a good thing to have any feelings of depression or anxiety or anger.  “Girls don’t get mad.”  “No one likes you if you don’t smile.”  Granted, it’s true that it’s difficult to be around someone who is dealing with grief or fear or anything of that nature, but just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we have a right to demand, “Snap out of it!”

Like so many things in life, even what appears to  be negative actually has a purpose.  I learned that in Steps 6 and 7, in which we list our defects of character and then ask our Higher Power to remove these defects.  I remember being frightened of doing Steps 3 through 9 because I didn’t want to admit any of the crap about myself.  It was hard enough to live with it, why would I want to tell anyone else about it, too? In fact, when I first went to a 12-Step meeting more than 20 years ago, I didn’t last very long because I was afraid of doing a 4th Step inventory, of admitting anything to my HP or another human being (Step 5), to say nothing of listing my defects!

What I discovered in going through that entire process (from about 2014 onward) is that I actually need my defects because each one of them gives me something.  At first all I could see was that a character defect gave me an excuse to eat.  Later I realized that some character defects (especially self-righteous anger) gave me a way to claim moral high ground, and other character defects (procrastination and subsequent lying) kept me from having to deal with the uncomfortable confrontation that usually results in being honest about not wanting to do something in the first place.

As I have grown in my understanding over the past couple of years, I have learned that even some of my best traits can become defects when they are in overdrive.  For example, I’m good at planning ahead, but when it goes into overdrive I work myself into anxiety, and anxiety often gives me an excuse to isolate (another common problem for addicts).  The fact that I have depression and anxiety is not a defect of character; the defect comes when I isolate rather than reaching out to someone.  In fact, one of my defects of character is to believe that I shouldn’t have those feelings.

Ice can be treacherous, but it can be aesthetically pleasing to look at.  An ice storm earlier this week was a scary thing, but it gave me a paid day off from work and I needed that time to relax.  Anxiety isn’t fun to have, but it got me to call my sponsor in order to get a lifeline to reality (and thus to lessen my anxiety).  Depression and food addiction are not anything I’m proud of, but they got me at last to a place of coping and recovery.