Okay, where am I in recovery… day 53
When I first started AA I asked this woman to be my sponsor but she was quite clear she would only help me with drinking, not anything else. I should have noted that right off but I didn’t. I can’t even remember the last time I drank – my current issue is anorexia. I have since discovered that the way the alcoholic brain works is nearly exactly the way an anorexic brain works so I identify with practically everything everyone is talking about and besides, as mentioned my drinking way, way, way back in the day was insane.
Just a few correlations….
- drink to get drunk/numb —– restrict to escape/numb
- crossed moral lines to drink —– lied to everyone and myself about losing weight
- hid behind alcohol in bars, etc —– tried to disappear via shrinking
- both —– felt included and a part of the crowd, so to speak
On the flip side….
- both —– when not drinking or starving, felt like an outsider, had walls up, pain, pain, pain… couldn’t cope with people, life, changes, anything.
- both —– felt a sense of increasing urgency to get numb, like I was running away from the nightmare of my life and it was catching up to me. I had to drink more and more as fast as possible; had to restrict and exercise more and more —– all to find that place of safety, all to feel like I could live in my own skin.
So yeah, not working for me.
I read The Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and replaced the work alcohol with anorexia and was blown away with how well it fit. And then I read the first chapter, Bill W’s story, and again, was blown away. How many times had I resolved to be better the next day only to wake up realizing I had continued with behavior? That utter feeling of defeat but knowing it would start all over again. Standing on the scale to relieve my anxiety but then the least little thing causing me to feel as big as a house again. On and on and on.
The first sponsor said to go to meetings and talk, and call her once a day. Not one thing about the steps (12 steps of AA). There’s a saying that some say, Meeting Makers Make it. But the reality is that meeting makers don’t make it, period. My friend Zack decided to be my sponsor. I didn’t ask, he simply told me after a meeting, “You need to work the steps, now.” And so we did. The 1st three deal with the god issue. Well, I was at a point of desperation and willing to do anything so I recited prayers from the book. Really, I had no clue how to pray and I felt nothing in the way of spirituality. But it specifically says “made a decision” and so I did. Those three are the get right with god (or a higher power which can be anything), the next 4 are action steps for getting right with ourselves, the next 2 are getting right with other people and the last 3 are service, or rather, a way of living.
So I did step 4 which is a personal inventory of my life re: resentments. Wow, that was humbling and hard to do. Of course I wanted to complicate it completely but Zack kept bringing me back to making it simple so I did.
- mom — emotional abuse
- mom — “you must be thin & beautiful to be a success” mantra
- mom – ignored sexual trauma
- her boyfriend — commented on how lucky I was that I had cushion on my butt so I could sit comfortably
- usaf — forced me to x, y, z
4 pages long from childhood to present. I then read it in front of the both of them, Zack & Lilly (step 5), and they weren’t shocked but they did observe that the basis of everything I wrote was fear. They acknowledged I was a victim, although I hate that term, and qualified me for being in the program. I know it sounds weird but it was a relief.
Next was a list of shortcomings or character defects (step 6). I didn’t really think I had any because I tried to hide all my life and just did what was required to make everyone around me happy. What a shock to see that the top of the list was self-pity, next was arrogance (being thinner than everyone made me feel better than them, you know the deal), anger, fear, and more. Step 7 was praying to have all them removed. Prayer to what? Basically I just recited the prayer that was written and an odd thing happened, I cried. I finally, for the first time, took responsibility for being manipulative, dishonest, and completely self-absorbed.
On the god thing – I kept trying to figure out a definition. First I tried using ancestors as one. All my ancestors create who I am today for better or worse, or the lineage in my zen training, or orishas (a completely different topic). I then thought of the universe, stars, galaxies, all of it but none of what I tried felt right. But I was willing so I printed all the prayers in the 12 steps and just said those.
By the way, I did have to write some letters of forgiveness with some of those resentments. That was difficult and I found myself falling into a deeper and deeper funk till Zack, once again, uncomplicated it all for me. My stupid overactive brain. I’d rather identify as a think-aholic at times, or a self-aholic!
Step 8 is making a list of people I’ve harmed and step 9 is making amends. Well, well, well. I realized, only after doing the previous steps that there were quite a large number of people I’ve harmed, my younger self being at the top of the list. Also, just to give an example of what I found was the nameless people I had relationships with. Because of my trauma background, once we had sex I dumped them. That was like a confirmation that they were yet one more abuser. Who knew I was the one at fault. They were just trying to have a relationship and some of them actually loved me. Well, what the heck, how to I make amends for that??? Also, many people are dead, that I’ve done wrong to. So I created what is called a Living Amends.
In the meantime I had created some personal vows, based on the bodhisattva vows which reflect a person who sets aside there own path of enlightenment to help others. I was told awhile back to turn those vows to a personal reflection in order to heal. How can I help others if I’m not able to help myself. I read several versions and this is what I came up for myself. My amends is to say these vows daily to heal the inside of me that I had damaged utterly over the years.
The first includes me with people since I always felt as an outsider, and asserts treating myself as I do other people.
I am a part of all sentient beings, I vow to meet myself with kindness and compassion.
The second is because I disdain my disability and have been basically punishing myself for not being able to do what I used to do and accusing myself laziness when, in fact, I require extra rest to deal with chronic pain issues.
I vow to be loving and patient with myself especially when pain and suffering are present.
The third is turning my focus outward, to humbly hear wisdom from everything around me whether it is someone talking at a meeting, listening to a dharma talk, or observing nature.
I vow to listen and learn from the unlimited wisdom of the dharma.
And the fourth is like step 11, a willingness to be open minded to what comes, as well as allowing that I’m not all bad, that there is a part of me that already has serenity; I just need to accept it and foster it.
I vow to freely surrender to the matchless mystery of the buddha way and acknowledge the spark of serenity within.
The other one I had mentioned, about hurting people in relationships. I created this living amends: Allowing others to care and love me; not to sabotage friendships in order to avoid being vulnerable; to allow them to kale their own decisions on staying in or leaving the friendship.
Step 10 is to continue doing this on a daily basis. Not the whole thing but being mindful and aware through out the day. If I hurt someone or just slight them, make an immediate amends, “sorry about that,” and recognizing when I’m having a pity party or reacting in fear. And this is what I’m going to use this blog for partially, writing about issues that come up. Writing for me is cathartic and reveals things I wouldn’t normally think about or conclude. This is what I wanted the blog to be but I had to go through and let go of all that. Step 11 is continued development and relationship with a higher power. By the way, after doing these steps, it forced me to me knees so to speak. the weight of all of it was overwhelming, especially since I keep eating and following my recovery plan through all this. I gave up trying to define a higher power to satisfy my intellectual side and decided to use the people of AA’s higher power. There are millions of people in AA and I assume one of their higher powers will stick. Why not? Some people use the energy around them, some use traditional religions, some use, well, weird stuff but whatever. I use the term god but not in the christian sense but in the higher power sense. It’s the common term in AA and everyone understands that it is not religiously affiliated or affiliated with any definition at all. Weird eh?
Just a quick note on all that writing and how I finally found relief, how I finally got relieved of all that defiance and willfulness.
We all went camping a few weeks ago. I brought everything I had written from step 4-9, keeping only the living amends. I printed out appropriate prayers and then on one night we built a fire. I said the appropriate prayer and put that part of my writing in the fire. I did in front of Zack & Lilly. It really was quite powerful. I was rather surprised at it all. I realized I had been holding on to all that writing as a way of punishing myself and beating myself over the head with all those bad things that I did and people had done to me. Wow…
Step 12 says that we have a spiritual awakening as the result of the steps. People think they have to have that in order to actually do them. No, one simply needs willingness and to make a decision. That’s what I did and I finally feel settled. I wasn’t looking for happiness or any of that. I never felt settled in myself and that is what I got.
I am now on the road to recovery. I end this right before going to see my nutritionist, just as I ended part 2 of my recovery post. I have to tell you, my appointments are far, far different then they were before. Also, I don’t have to see her every week anymore!
Okay, I’m out of here…