Thursday, December 01, 2011

Admitting Addiction

This was my share today on my OA link. I'm sharing it here because maybe it will enlighten you just a bit about what I deal with every day.

Hi, I'm The Diva, and I'm a food addict. Today is the first day I have said those words and understood what they meant when I said them. Last night - well, the wee hours of this morning, to be exact - found me in a food rage when the unplanned snack I was looking for was nowhere to be found. I stood hunched over the sink breathing hard and hanging onto the counter feeling like if I let go I would be choosing to give in to an uncontrollable rampage. I truly have no way of expressing the divine recognition that poured through me that (1) I was beyond all self-control, but (2) that I was also at a decision point - I could find some unsatisfying substitute food and go on a feeding frenzy until the demon was sated into submission, or I could open my hand and let go of the need. I kept remembering my therapist's words: the only way to change your behavior is to change your behavior.

 I don't know why the words sank in just at that moment, but they did. I knew I could do exactly what I have done so many times before, but reality stepped in and quietly showed me mental pictures of just exactly what "satisfaction" I have ever received by doing that. I recognized in that moment that I did not have to give in to the monster inside me that was screaming for release. I could do something different.

 So I did. I got that final grip on myself, walked into the living room, sat down in my chair, grabbed my journal for once and started writing. As I did, the enormous realization rose up and grabbed my throat. I knew in that instant what it meant to be an addict in desperate need of a fix, and it shook me to my core. The ranting and raving kind of died in my throat. And I felt better. One simple paragraph is all it took.

 And that's where I am today. Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Answer

A friend asked a really good set of questions on the "What's Eating Me?" post.  He asked, "I've heard you discuss this behavior as self-protective in the past, and I've always been puzzled by that terminology. How is it self-protective? Against what (or whom) are you protecting yourself? Are there healthier alternatives available that will give you the same - or at least adequate - protection?"

That's a really good set of questions and I'm going to see what answers I have. The specifics are different for everyone, but eating disorders and other addictions in general are about control. In my case, it hearkens back to my high school years and even before when my entire life was controlled by my parents. I really never felt like I had any kind of autonomy and this was the way I exercised that for myself. They really did try to control my eating as well, but I found some pretty ingenious ways around that - like breaking into the locked freezer in our basement. Yes, they actually locked the freezer for the specific purpose of keeping me out of it.

I could go round and round with the blame game but that also doesn't serve a purpose any longer. It all just is what it is and I'm trying not to hold them responsible for choices I've made as an adult.  I'll be honest - some days I still get very angry about things I remember, but I also remember that they did the very best they could.  They never set out to hurt me - in fact I know that pretty much everything they ever did was what they felt was in my best interests.  Sometimes that makes it worse because how can I be angry at someone who made choices they thought were best for me? It makes me feel like a horrible and undeserving daughter.

So...back to the self-protection issue because I've really not answered that yet.  The shortest answer is the strangest - I protect myself from being hurt by hurting myself first.  My brain follows a twisted and convoluted logic that is often paradoxical.  I don't want to enter the labyrinth because there's a 50/50 chance that there just might be a minotaur at the center, so if I hobble myself at the outset then I never have to face that possibility.

My eating disorder provides me an excuse.  "Well, it's not really ME they've rejected, it's my weight, which is clearly changeable, and I could change it any time I want to, so that proves that I don't have to."  QED.  Make sense? Yeah, not to me either, when I'm in my right mind, but when I'm immersed in my disease, this is a perfectly logical train of thought to me.  In the end, I'm really terrified that someone - anyone - will reject ME, not just my weight.  As long as I have the built-in excuse, I don't have to face reality - I can just live in that fantasy world where it's all the fault of my weight, not my choices.  This is what Attila and I have been battling over for so long.

As for what are the healthier alternatives....  I'm not sure that "alternatives" are what I'm looking for.  What I'm looking to do is combat that thinking altogether, not replace one bad choice with something a little less bad.  First, I need to be able to recognize these thoughts for what they are when they come up.  It's not as easy as it sounds because these thoughts are the disease speaking, and it's good at disguising its voice to make me think this is my good, solid logic speaking.  Once I've recognized it, the second thing is to understand that these thoughts are, principally, lies.  The next step is to combat these lies with the truth about myself.  Then...believe these truths in the moment.  This is the trickiest step because that voice is still there insisting that these lies ARE the truth - but I know they are not.  I am not an ugly, horrible person.  I am a nice, kind woman who has a lot of amazing and wonderful friends who are my friends because they LIKE me, not because they want something from me or because they pity me.  (Yes, all these things are actual lies my disease tells me.)  Sometimes I'm good at combating that, sometimes not, but every time I fight back, I get stronger and my disease gets weaker.

Does that answer your question?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another Diagnostic Moment

So tonight I'm having a few similar feelings to last night, but not to such extremes. My dinner was much more controlled than last night, but I recognized an urge that I can't remember recognizing before. Once I had eaten an appropriate plate of dinner, I went back to get the remaining portion of mashed potatoes. I realized as I was putting them on my plate that I could and should wait for a bit before having seconds so that my body could adjust to what I had already eaten. Immediately on the heels of that thought was the recognition that I did not want to wait because I was afraid that I would hit my fullness point and would not get to eat the mashed potatoes.

Why fear?
I don't understand what I'm so afraid of. I have never wanted for food in my life. I was not deprived either as a child nor as an adult. I cannot understand this pathological need to fill my body with food to the detriment of the rest of my life. I want to know what drives my need because maybe if I learn that I can figure out how to stop it.

I know, though, that the answer lies not in the comprehension, but rather in the obedience to what I know to be right action driven by God's will in my life. It's hard for me to stop myself and ask God if this is His will for me right now, but I have to begin to do it. The funny thing is, the very need to ask that question generally indicates that I already know the answer, but I don't like it. Here's the kicker: neither God, nor OA, nor Attila have ever told me I have to like it; in fact all I have to do is do it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's Eating Me?
I wish I had an answer for that question. Eating the way I did today makes me feel less than human. I'm really outing myself today and laying my vulnerability bare here by talking about the specifics of what I ate, which is not something I usually do to this degree except with my most trusted inner circle of friends, but maybe I can learn something or help someone else learn something by bringing my secret bingeing out in the open.

Lunch was leftover sesame chicken (about half a standard Chinese restaurant serving, sans rice) followed by a soup bowl of homemade chicken and noodles. I knew while I was eating the sesame chicken that it would be sufficient on its own. I knew this, and yet there was this odd fear in my gut - a feeling that somehow it would be insufficient and that would be A Bad Thing. My gut, however, couldn't tell me anything about why it would be A Bad Thing, it just did its utmost to convince me that my only path to survival lay in pretending I hadn't recognized my knowledge.

And so I did. In effect, I ate two lunches. This does nothing to convince me that I know what a proper portion size is, which was the topic of my latest conversation with Attila (my therapist). It also does nothing to convince me that I have any means at my disposal to actually defeat this ugly disease.

I followed the same foolish path with my dinner, only it was lemonade I filled up on, having not realized quite how thirsty I was until a large glassful had gone down. The funny thing is that that's a trick used by many dieters - drink a glass of water before eating so you will feel full faster. Ironic, seeing as I didn't want to feel full so I could eat whatever I wanted. Musta been the rebel inside me because I did it anyway and am really pissed at myself for it. I ate 3 mutantly enormous cheese-stuffed mushrooms, a bowl of baked potato soup, a large garlic cheese-stuffed chicken breast (and as if the cheese were not enough fat, the chicken was lightly breaded and fried), asparagus, and a mountain of mashed potatoes. I ate all but half the mashed potatoes.

I'm still unhappy even sitting here writing about it, but all I can do now is pray for God's forgiveness (done), try to forgive myself (or at least not beat myself up about it), and use this as a "diagnostic moment" as my nutritionist calls it. I can think about what moved me to do this today, pray about it, and plan for the next time I feel like this - for when I feel that need to eat past my levels of comfortability and fullness; past that knowledge that this is not what is best for me, not what I need, not even what I really want. I need to plan to think about what hole I'm trying to fill and find a healthier way to fill it. I did try to think about this today, but I was all too willing to do what was comforting and familiar - the behaviors I've engaged in for the past almost thirty years - the very behaviors that no longer protect me the way they I designed them to do.

What's eating me? I am.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I've been under siege for the last couple of days. It hasn't been anything earth shattering; just a constant barrage of small, irritating arrows fired in yet another spiritual battle. Some of those arrows - OK, many - have found their mark. My skin is spiderwebbed with tiny, stinging cuts. None of the individual arrows has been enough to stop me in my tracks, but when I start adding up all the little slices, I start to feel the pain:
  • Running late after work with no time for my planned dinner.
  • Having my deposit held for 7 business days (though I need the funds now).
  • Experiencing transmission trouble on the highway.
  • Doing laundry solo.
  • Washing only two loads of laundry because of a broken dryer button.
  • Getting home later than I wanted so I wasn't in bed at a reasonable hour.
  • Waking up to a lovely cold morning with light snow flurries!! (No, wait - that was a GOOD part!) a dead car battery.
  • Losing my wallet with my AAA card.
  • Finding that my AAA card is expired anyway.
  • My car battery not keeping a charge even after my neighbor jumped it.
  • Paying $250 for car work that did not fix the problem.
  • Waking up to a dead car battery, verse two.
  • Going in to work 2 hours late for the second day running.
  • Having to replace my alternator to the tune of $400.
  • Having my credit card declined because I forgot to transfer money from one account to the other so I can't get my car until tomorrow morning.
  • Having my eating completely off schedule all day.
Well, that's most of it. Like I said - nothing earth shattering, just ... a really bad couple of days.

Yesterday, when I recognized I was dealing with spiritual warfare, I called my friend Blondie. Blondie is truly a Godsend. An amazing lady with a wonderfully peaceful presence, she reminded me straight off that God is right there with me. She reminded me that I need to turn that worry over to the God Who carries me through all things. I was reminded of a favorite Bible verse:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord." --Philippians 4:6-7, paraphrase
I've kept that in the forefront of my mind and have recited that many, many times over the last 2 days.

Then something occurred that put it all in perspective.

A 28-year-old new mommy - a friend of a friend - had a massive heart attack while working out. She was taken to the hospital where it appeared she was brain dead. Her boyfriend and family have been preparing their goodbyes. As soon as I heard about this, I put urgent prayer requests on my facebook page: "Her chances of survival are impossibly slim, but we are the people of God and we know that, in the words of Max Lucado, 'He still moves stones.' Please pray for an outright miracle. With God ALL things are possible." In moments several folks had joined me in prayer.

It was Gideon all over. Remember him? God worked it out that Gideon's meager army of 300 water lappers defeated an army of well over 100,000. The reason? He wanted to prove beyond all doubt that this victory could only belong to God. He wanted there to be no question at all that He alone wielded Gideon's sword. Um, wait. Did I say sword? My mistake! There were no swords - only trumpets. God defeated an army of 100,000 + sword-wielding men ... with trumpets. Seriously. Does that leave any question as to Whom that victory belongs? It's absolutely unbelievable - impossible, even.

Or is it? This grieving man brought their baby girl to see her mommy, and her mommy ... woke up. Such a simple, yet unquestionably profound event. She simply woke up. The miracle we prayed for happened! In His omnipotent sovereignty, our ineffable God can and does do anything He chooses - His might is limitless! He took a situation that was completely outside the realm of human control and brought it to an amazing conclusion for the benefit of His children.

I am a woman of faith, and yet I find myself amazed at this result. I am a bit abashed at my amazement. I prayed for this result, yet even I did not truly expect that God would save this young woman. Oh, foolish me!

And yet I look at these minor irritations in my day - the car trouble, the cash flow, the little blips that don't even register on the radar - and I have the nerve to complain. I have the nerve not to trust that my Father, who held and healed the broken hearts of this woman and her grief-stricken family, will bring me through these momentary hassles. I repeat - Oh, foolish me! He brought Lazarus back from the grave, yet I worry about how I'm getting to work in the morning.

So. Perspective, anyone?

Yeah. Perspective. I haz it.

You know what? I choose to shift my perspective on each of these events in my life. I choose first, to see them as only minor irritations, not life-changing catastrophes. And let's go one step further: I choose to be grateful for each of these events, including the car trouble. I choose to see God's protection in that. He ordered it that I would experience these troubles here at home rather than in three weeks when I'm traveling through a probably-snowy Iowa. He ordered these events so that I would take stock of my finances; so that I would remember that life is about much more than having the perfect Christmas dishes; so that I would be reminded that my car is a gift, not a birthright. He ordered these events so that I would grow closer to Him - so that I would always be reminded Who has already won any spiritual battles I might encounter.

And that's what perspective is all about, Charlie Brown.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Girl on the Couch

Some months ago I read Girl on the Couch: Life, Love, and Confessions of a Normal Neurotic by Lorna Martin. It was an eye opener.

p. 46: "...[W]hat I liked to call spontaneous and adventurous was really nothing more than reckless and irresponsible."

p. 47: "Do I value my life so little?"

p. 48: "Impulse drives the inner brat. Spontaneous people are flexible and like to do things on the spur of the moment. Impulsive people take spontaneity to the extreme. They are ruled by their inner brats. They don't think about the consequences of their actions. They can be naive, like children."

pp. 58-59: "...[T]he client's experience of psychoanalytic therapy was rarely easy or smooth."

p. 59: "For therapy to be effective, the client needed to be unsettled and challenged."

p. 65: "It's not pleasant discovering you're not the person you thought you were."

Conclusion: Therapy should be a disorienting experience.

Dandy. ><

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Peace
So I had a hard time at church this afternoon.

I pulled in to my sister's house at 1:40 with ten minutes to spare to change for their Catholic Christmas mass (I'm Lutheran, but I go to church with them because I want to be with my family). We get there and I have to walk in in the sleety rain with no umbrella and we parked way out.

Then, we get in the church and my nephew's father-in-law is ushering. He seats my sister and her husband in the pew with all the rest of my family - my nephew and his wife and their little guys, my niece's sister and her hubby and kids. There's no room for me.

Their pews are not squish friendly because they have barriers halfway down, so I get stuck back 2 rows on the opposite side of the church in the middle of strangers. After driving all morning to be there to be at church together, I am separated from my family by a gulf that felt so much more than physical.

The people in front and behind them had only 3 people in a pew built to accommodate four fannies. The people behind them said they were saving a spot for someone. Right. This person mysteriously never showed. In my opinion, it was completely rude. They clearly knew that we were family and just didn't give a crap.

Being across the aisle in the midst of strangers made me feel isolated, not cared about.... Silly maybe, but it brought home with Windex clarity the fact that I am alone in my world. I no longer have my mother to be my foil, my partner, my best friend and that grieves me to the soul. My sis tried to come sit with me but I wouldn't let her. She should be with her hubby and son, you know? I didn't want to split them up just so I'd be not alone. It would have felt really selfish to me and I would have had an attack of the guilts.

I couldn't help it - I started crying. I cried through the first half of the service. I knew Sis felt bad, but what could she do? It wasn't her fault. But there I sat on Christmas Eve, the most wondrous, joyous night, and all I could do was cry. I just sat realizing that I am completely ... superfluous. They were a complete family without me and I ... am not a family on my own.

It just hurt so much to recognize that.

When I told my dear friend Oregano (name changed to protect both the innocent and the horribly guilty - you'll have to figure out which one he is on your own) this later tonight, he responded, "Hon, you've got your own kind of family. We're your family."

Lord bless the man. He's right and I know it, but the family he speaks of is built from an online community of wonderful, loving people. Many of us have met in person and we are valuable to one another, certainly, but they are not HERE and it wouldn't disrupt their daily lives if I disappeared off the planet. I know if something happened to me they would mourn, but in very realistic terms, I am superfluous - peripheral, maybe - in the lives of everyone I know, online and in real life, including my own blood family. Not negligible, necessarily, but not intrinsic.

I did try to put my big-girl panties on and deal with it, and I mostly did because I reminded myself that the purpose of being in church is NOT being together with my family, but rather worshiping the God I love and serve and glorifying His name. Thus, I shook it off for a while, until I came home and started recounting the tale to Oregano this evening and then I cried through my mascara for the second time today. (Memo to me - buy waterproof mascara.) I kept telling myself earlier - it's NOT all about me. There are plenty of lonelier people in the world, and plenty of people who can't even visit a church on Christmas because Christianity is illegal in their lands. But there I sat revisiting the awful feelings I had in the church.

Sometimes just saying or writing things makes all the difference - sharing that awful feeling inside. It makes me feel so much less alone.

Oregano told me to "keep smiling." Right. Can't always smile on the outside when it's not true to the inside, you know?

And then it spilled over afresh, and the tears came anew and I realized I wasn't over it. I was bruised and lonely and hurting, and that's NOT trivial and I had no need to feel embarrassed, even though I did this afternoon. But it washed over me in a great wave and without thinking, for once in my life I did the right thing.

I looked up and said "I have to take this to You, Lord, 'cuz ain't nobody else can fix it. No one 'cept You." And then came the peace. The peace that passes all understanding. It was there and it filled me. And even if I cry with grief for my mother, I don't have to cry for my own loneliness. I am loved by the Lover of my Soul, my Father and Creator. And on this wonderful, beautiful, sad, joyous, sparkling Christmas, that is all I need.

I pray that each of you receives all the miraculous blessings of this holy season.