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.


Acceptance, My Head

Up from the Gravy

nature-794126_1280One of my favorite mondegreens is “Up from the gravy, a rose!” which is originally from a Protestant hymn, “Up from the Grave, He Arose!”  It’s not the song itself that I care for, but I like the idea that from the yucky brown gravy of my days, I can rise, so I will admit that the metaphor is apt.

I’ve been having some gravy days, for certain.  Part of it is due to some kind of illness I’ve been fighting, and part of it is that I carry around a lot of emotional baggage that spills out when certain of my buttons are pushed.  For example, on Wednesday at the office I had taken a goodly size swig of soda pop, then I turned in my chair and out came this enormous belch.  I exclaimed and excused myself (because I’m sure that people in the next county heard that belch!), but a couple guys in the office kept giggling and making remarks.  I felt deeply embarrassed.  I also started feeling worse about myself as the giggling and remarks continued.  I sent an email to both guys to ask that they refrain from teasing me for things that are out of my control.  One apologized; the other replied asking why I thought they were amused. (For him, I believe it was derision.)

It was near the end of the day, so I went home.  I called my sponsor on the way, crying so miserably that I could barely see the road.  My sponsor told me that s/he has been in similar situations and had similar feelings, and that the most difficult thing is to hold two ideas in my head and heart at the same time:  (1) I feel crappy / unloved / worthless, but (2) I’m OK because I’m doing the best I can, so fuck anyone who wants to make fun of me or the situation.

Yes, that’s hard.  The feelings I have are valid.  The feelings are real.  But, even being valid and real feelings doesn’t make them true.  Just because I feel badly about myself doesn’t mean that I am a bad person.  Just because I feel embarrassed, doesn’t make me an embarrassment of a human being.  Just because it’s true that I’m obese doesn’t mean I am less worthy of respect, love, and encouragement.

It still took me more than a day to get over it. I’m glad to report that sleep is a great healer.  But, in the midst of feeling grief for the loss of dignity that was visited upon me, I was tempted to severely restrict my diet as a kind of punishment for the event.  My thinking was, “If I weren’t fat, I wouldn’t be so disgusting.”  I was tempted to become smaller, to take up less space in the world, to shrink from being in order to no longer upset anyone around me (something that comes from growing up with critical parents, and worse).

It took me more than a day to get over it, but I’m glad I have a program and a sponsor and a Higher Power to set me up again after I fall.  Everything about this program says, “Don’t harm yourself because someone else is a shit-head.”  (My paraphrase.)  Severe dieting, rigid exercise programs, struggling to be small:  All of these things are diseased responses to a world rich with ugly, muddy gravy.

So, I took some time for myself to relax, pet the dogs, work on a project.  I talked to another friend on the phone. I grieved.  I slept.  And then I got up in the morning, took a shower, put on clean clothes, and headed to the office.  Renewed.  A rose among the crud.  It hasn’t been the easiest day.  I’m still feeling a little fragile.  But the recovering part of me is strong, like the stem that holds up the rosebud.  I have broken through the crud today, and that’s worth singing about.

Milky Way

50 Reasons to Eat


How deep is the ocean? How high is the sky?  That’s probably how many reasons I can think of to eat.  I write this because yesterday, when I was on my way home from work, I telephoned a friend just to talk until I got past the turn-off for a Dairy Queen where I have stopped in the past (at least once a day) for an ice cream cone.  We were laughing about it because we understand that an addict can come up with any reason to indulge.  I told him that I’ve written lists in the past (e.g., 100 things I’m thankful for), so I would write a list of 100 reasons why I have eaten and/or overeaten.  As you can see, I’ve stopped at 50 reasons because the redundancy of underlying themes was getting to be embarrassing.

NOTE:  Excepting reason #1 on this list, there is no foundation of actual hunger or need to eat in any of these excuses.

  1. I feel actual hunger (a legitimate reason to eat, but there’s no guarantee that I will choose something beneficial to my health).
  2. I *might* feel actual hunger in an hour (or 2 or 3) and I have no guarantee that I will be able to get food when I need it.
  3. I might never get to eat this particular food again any time soon.  In fact, I might go a lifetime and never have this wonderful food again, so I should eat more of it.
  4. I should eat so that I don’t blow up at someone in the office.
  5. I need to eat to calm down so that I can concentrate.
  6. I know I should sleep, but I want to stay up and finish watching this program (or read this book or work on this project), so I’ll eat to stay awake.
  7. I can’t sleep.  I should eat something that will help me sleep.
  8. I might wake up in the night feeling hungry, so I need to eat something before bed.
  9. This book I’m reading mentions food.
  10. We’re at the theatre and I always have popcorn when I watch a movie.
  11. I’m sitting here with nothing to do while I watch this TV program, so I will eat.
  12. I’m working on this project and it’s really intense, so I’ll eat to fuel my ability to work on this.
  13. I feel good.  I can eat anything I like.
  14. There is leftover food. I should eat it before someone else does.
  15. Oh, look:  cookies!
  16. They make my favorite cake at this store.
  17. Coffee and strudel — a perfect treat when talking with a friend!
  18. I’m late for work.
  19. I had a good workout.
  20. It’s cold out.
  21. There’s a storm coming.  Might be a blizzard / tornado.
  22. I was thinking of how my mom made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches when I was a kid.
  23. Pancakes.  I want pancakes, and I want them now.
  24. Oh, look, it’s a festival.  Let’s get funnel cakes!
  25. The boss brought in doughnuts for a meeting but only a few were eaten.  I should eat some to make sure he doesn’t feel bad for bringing in food that no one wanted to eat.
  26. Wow, there’s candy leftover from that trade show!
  27. It’s just a small piece.  I’ll be good.
  28. I didn’t win the Powerball.
  29. Nobody likes me.
  30. I hate everything.
  31. I’m never going to have a Hollywood-perfect body, so why try?
  32. My husband went to all the trouble to cook this, so I should eat it.  I don’t want him to feel bad for his efforts.
  33. It only tastes good when it’s first cooked.  It’s terrible when it’s reheated.
  34. Hey, is that a potato chip that fell out of the bag yesterday?
  35. Oooh, someone is warming up soup in the microwave!
  36. Is that fresh bread I smell?
  37. Fresh coffee!  What can I eat as I drink my fresh coffee?
  38. Chocolate would be good right now.
  39. I’ll order in pizza because I need to work through my lunch hour.
  40. It’s 4 o’clock and I’m hungry, but I still need to work another hour.  I’ll have some of the leftover pizza.
  41. I’m on vacation, so I’ll eat whatever I want.
  42. I’ve already blown my diet / food plan / exercise plan, so I’ll just eat this.
  43. I’ll start over again tomorrow.
  44. I’ll start over again on Monday.
  45. I’m just going to blow my diet / food plan / exercise plan anyway; it might as well be today.
  46. Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, and they always have the best chocolates in the store for this.
  47. Oh, look! A new flavor of M&Ms!
  48. Those little Girl Scouts are working so hard to sell their cookies.
  49. The neighbor kid is coming around to sell popcorn again for his Scout troop.  I should be a good neighbor and help out.  Popcorn is at least healthy.
  50. It’s a day that ends in “Y.”
Truth on Tuesday

The Miracle of Freedom (sort of)


Somebody brought in a plate of goodies and plopped it on the table in the break room.  I am pleasantly surprised to find myself able to walk away, but I’m still obsessing a little bit in my head.  Part of my thinks, “Oh. Cookies.  That’s interesting.”  Another part of me thinks, “Hmm, I wonder how they taste?”  Still another part of me rationalizes, “I should eat one because I might not get another chance.”  The devil on my shoulder says, “Take one or two. It won’t matter.”  The angel on my other shoulder says, “Take care of yourself.  You don’t need cookies today.”  And my inner beast says, “OMFG, COOOOOOOOKIESSS!!!”

Here’s the truth:  Glad as I am that I’m not stuffing myself with cookies (because, you know, I might never get to taste a cookie ever again in my entire life), the crazy is still there inside of me.

In the program, we talk a lot about miracles.  Miracles come in all sizes and shapes.  Today the miracle is that I’m not physically crazy for cookies even though I’m fighting a few battles in my head.  I’m not a person who really believes in miracles because the ones that happen to me often don’t seem as spectacular as I think anything called a miracle should be.  Inasmuch as I’m grateful for today’s little miracle, I want the big one.  I want it now.

Here’s some more truth:  I rarely want anything in a small way.  Whether it’s cookies or recovery, I want it BIG.  I want it to be MAGNIFICENT.  I want it to be INSPIRING and I want it to go viral.  A lot of that is ego.  A lot of the desire for the BIG miracle is because the feeling of wanting to eat junk food is overwhelming at times, but the lack of desire is *meh.*

Imagine this:  You’re in your house, maybe watching TV, and suddenly there are fire alarms going off.  You don’t just sit on the sofa and say to yourself, “Oh, fire alarms.”  No.  You jump up and you run to the door.  Well, that’s how it feels inside me most of the time when I’m craving something to eat (usually junk food).  It’s like there is a fire and I physically need to get up and run to the food for safety, for calmness, for satisfaction, for relief from the tension.

And here’s the God’s-honest-truth:  Recovery really isn’t spectacular.  It’s having to deal with the inner demons that come out to play as soon as I don’t give in to food cravings.  On a good day, it’s just calmness (i.e., a lack of the drama that has been part of my life for longer than I can remember).

So, maybe in time I will find joy in the quietness.  Maybe in time I will realize that freedom from the addiction is a magnificent gift even if it’s not celebrated with fireworks and rainbows.  Until that  release finally comes, I’ve got friends and I’ve got a program and I’m going to take this just one day at a time.


Acceptance, Steps

One Resolution, and I Kept It


My one resolution in 2016 was to learn to like myself.  It took nearly the whole year, and I’m still not good at doing it every day, but I finally learned at least how to go about it.

I learned that the only path to liking myself was to accept myself at this moment, to accept that I am where I need to be, and that I have value as I am now.

This insight came after a phone call with my sponsor, a good friend in the program, who reminded me that, even though I might not like my current situation or circumstances, accepting that my Higher Power (HP) loves me and accepts me exactly where I am at this moment is the key to loving myself.  If I can accept that I am where I need to be, that my HP knows this and loves me as I am, then I can love myself.  If I love myself, then I can learn to be kind to myself, and being kind to myself is the root of positive changes.

I admit that it was emotionally overwhelming to come to that realization.  I admit that I wanted to live in that moment of pure bliss and acceptance forever.

But acceptance is a process, not a static state.  It is the daily practice of releasing the illusion of control; of developing a habit of turning to my HP for assurance rather than relying on food to give me emotional strength.

Paradoxically (or, perhaps not), it is in turning inward for strength that I feel most weakened.  I want the easy crutch of my addiction.  I want the easy excuse of hating myself and my situation so that I an eat until I self destruct.

This year’s goal is to continue to good work I began last year.  This year’s goal is to make choices (in food as well as in managing stress) that honor the goodness that my HP sees in me.  This year’s goal is transformation of mind and spirit; whether it shows up in my body is completely incidental.





The 400 lb Phone


The telephone, whether a cell phone or a land line, is an essential tool of recovery.  Too often I need to reach out to my sponsor or to someone else in program.  The time we spend on the phone is like a meeting in miniature.  We know the steps.  We share our experience, strength, and hope, and then we get on with the day.

Paradoxically, it’s hard to reach out, either to ask for help or even to say hello.  We call it the 400 lb phone for a reason:  it’s hard to pick up the receiver.  It’s like that day I was on my way to the gym but didn’t want to go, and I was in tears from my torn feelings:  do the thing I need to do, or do the thing I want to do?  But just getting to the parking lot of gym made it easier to go inside, and being inside made it easier to do the workout, and going the first time made it easier to go the second time.  So, picking up the phone, dialing a number — small steps toward the goal of reaching out.

I received a call today from someone in the program, and it was great.  The caller was trying to get out of his/her head, and I needed someone to talk to for a moment.  Someone made the call to help him/herself and ended up doing a service (another of the tools of recovery), and thus we did Step 12 work with each other.

For all the crud that happened today, that unexpected call was a bright spot.  And that tells me that maybe I need to reach out not only for myself but to see whether I might be someone else’s lifeline.