Friday, April 30, 2010

Change the Question

Here is an old dialog between me and the seductive voices of compulsion promising comfort and happiness:
Me ~ feeling bored and not wanting to tackle anything on my to-do list.

Voices ~ "Here, we'll take care of you. You don't need to be feeling bored and down. Let's just comfort ourselves with a little treat in town, shall we? We need to go to the grocery store for milk anyway. Let's just see if we can find something to make us feel better."

M ~ "I don't really need to go to town. It can wait until tomorrow.

V ~ "Well, yes, sure it can. But why not do it now and get it over with. Besides, we deserve a treat. What shall we have?"

M ~ "My pants are getting much too tight. I really shouldn't eat any more sweets."

V ~ "Well we can find something with nuts or something that's delicious but not so sweet."

M ~ "No, I really don't think so. Not this time."

V ~ "It'll be OK, just this once. And we'll feel much better."

M ~ "But I really shouldn't."

V ~ "Never mind about that. It's no big deal. We'll get something reasonable..."

The argument would go on like that for a long time, until at some point I would just give up and know that I would buy a bag of candy coated peanuts and eat all of them in the car on the way home, even as I was telling myself I could save some for tomorrow or to share with my husband. And now, stuffed, uncomfortable, shamed and regretful, where was the happiness pledged by the voices? Definitely not as promised.

Margaret Bullitt-Jonas writes about this type of self-conversation in her book Holy Hunger, and says this:

The argument would escalate rapidly, inexorably, until my mind was filled with the din. In effect, I'd be distracted from the grief, and the voice of sorrow would be silenced. The clamorous debate would absorb my attention, eclipse my awarness, extinguish every other concern, smother every nuance of feeling, until absolutely nothing mattered to me but the single question: Should I eat right now or not?

Re-reading that passage, my idea is to change the question, to be vigilant about Should I eat... questions and short-circuit them by asking some other question. Change the question. One possibility is to distract myself with a question on a totally different subject, such as: Which one thing on my to-do list can I get done right now? What were the names of all of my gradeschool teachers? What fabrics might I use for the next quilt I make? Another possibility is to seek awareness of the original feeling and explore it more deeply by asking such questions as: What might be underneath my feelings of boredom? What might be contributing to my feelings of boredom today?

Yes, it's day-14 of abstinence, yet periodically, the siren song of Should I eat... pops into my mind. Whenever this happens, I will notice it and change the question.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on Being Me

Good day so far! I had lunch in town with a dear friend, with whom I've spent very little quality time in recent months. She's away a lot and the times we've had together have either been on the fly or with other people. It was great to sit and talk with her face to face, relaxed and unhurried.

After catching up a bit on travels and family news, we got on the subject of being me in a partnership or marriage... of being who I am rather than what I perceive he wants me to be. We've both experienced some difficulties in that department... maintaining identity and purpose, making decisions for the good of self, freedom of expression. A delicate balance that seems too often to get tipped in favor of the spouse... his identity, his purpose, his needs. It has to be a two-way deal, of course. We have to bend, of course. But what about when we are feeling that our very essence is lost?

Hey, I'm not on a pitty-pot here about my marriage. Hiding who I am, hiding my feelings, not expressing my needs goes way back to childhood years for me. And very early in life, I learned to sooth the me in hiding with sweets. A life-time pattern, it carried right into my late-in-life marriage. I don't need to assert myself or stand up for myself when I can run to the kitchen and slather peanut butter and jelly and butter on a couple of pieces of toast, do I?

Well no more. On the way home from our lunch, I started thinking about a passage in Holy Hunger, where the author, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, wrote this in her journal:
...On that momentous morning, I leaped out of bed in a rage. I put on loud music... Sometimes music can startle me awake. Sometimes when the boat is becalmed and the sails hang limp, music can blow wind into my sails... I stood with my feet planted firmly on the ground and proclaimed one simple fact. I announced one basic truth: This is my life. My life belongs to me and to no one else. It is mine. I will face it, choose it, work with it. I will not live someone else's life; I will live my own.
Holy Hunger is such an important book for me right now!!! I love typing the passage above. It resonates and says it's OK to want to be me, to begin a discovery of who I am!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Want to Write About Faith...

Today my emotions are all over the map... One minute I'm elated, bouncing around, getting things done. The next minute I'm hurt by some little thing my husband said. Then there's the crabby me... grumpy and wanting solitude. Oh, there's more... here comes the gloomy me, feeling sorry for myself and the world.

I guess this is to be expected. It's only day-12 of my sobriety. Not even close to being a habit yet, sobriety is still a big change for me. Nothing to dull my emotions, so they go all wonky. My husband is being pretty understanding about it, for which I'm very grateful.

Maybe prayer would help settle me down a bit, pull me together, make me feel less wonky... Prayer and the God/higher power thing will probably occupy a considerable space here in my journal, in my heart and thinking, in the forseeable future.

I came into OA knowing that I need and want to find a spiritual connection and a sense of trust in some stronger other, outside of myself. What do I believe right now? Hmmmm. Most of the time I believe that there exists a force of greater good in the universe. But today I'm finding it difficult to believe and trust even that much. Most of the time I believe in the concept of totem animals, that an animal spirit is with me since my birth and is available as a guide when I am open to it. How can I get to a spiritual place?

Poetry and writing my own poems help. Here is one by David Whyte that says better than I can how I'm feeling.

I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful, even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

I want to be open to faith. Someone in my OA group said to pray whether or not you believe. Good idea! And so, my prayer is this: Let this simple journal entry be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feeling My Feelings

Hmmmm. I initially wrote the title of this post as:

Feeling my Feelings

with no capital letter for the word my. Now this is a little thing... but telling about my level of self-worth right now. So I changed it!

My feelings. I have them and I want to own them. I believe naming them and writing about them in this journal will help. So, here goes... Today I feel lonely and afraid. I am afraid of being alone. I am afraid my mother will die soon. I am afraid every time the phone rings that it will be my sister-in-law saying my mother has passed away. I am afraid of how it will feel to not have a mother. I am afraid of starting to cry and never stopping. I am afraid of being alone now and especially as I get older.

I can't fix this situation, especially I can't fix this situation by eating sugar. I am lonely and afraid of being alone in this world. That's just the way it is today. I am taking it in, feeling my feelings

Monday, April 26, 2010

Buckets of Tums

Holy Hunger by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas is the catalyst that brought me, finally, to the realization that I am a compulsive overeater and that there is hope for recovery through the 12-step program of Overeaters Anonymous. Bless you, MBJ!

On page 81 she includes one of her journal entries. Here is a passage I underlined from that entry:
I'm plugged up with food. My legs are swollen. They ache when I walk. My cheeks are fat. My stomach bulges. I hate my body. I'm ashamed of what I've done to it so quickly, so ruthlessly. There is much despair within the greed.... Even as I stuffed myself, I knew it was hopeless. The cake would never fill me. Even if I loosened my belt and ate again until I bulged, still I'd be yearning for more. There is such despair in knowing this, even as I continue to eat... I am bloated, burping, uncomfortable. I skirt the grief.
I so relate. I've been there, done that and felt the shame/despair and skirted it. With every binge, even mild meal-time overeating, I'd get the most terrible indigestion and heart burn. Horrible! I'd gobble tums, take antacid tablets, and then more tums. Everyday, multiple tums. Good calcium source, I'd rationalize to myself. Yeah, like bones are my problem!

Today, day-10 of sobriety, I suddenly realize I haven't had a single tums in 9 days, not one! Not suffering indigestion and heart burn is definitely a benefit of not puting more in my tummy than my body needs!!!!

Oh, and by the way, I remained abstinent today at the restaurant. Gotta remember humility... getting too smug and thinking I can do this might start to look like the old diet days when I thought I could control my eating. My husband helped me by offering not to eat pancakes. My OA group helped by being there in my mind, their understanding and support surrounding me in some way I can hardly fathom.

The Scale

All the diets... all the pounds lost, recorded and charted pound-by-pound, then gained without measuring until one day my big-big-girl jeans are so tight I can't stand it. So I get on the scale, face the fact of my highest ever weight, and the cycle begins all over again. How many cycles like that in my life? I don't want to estimate. It's staggering.

I've got will power! Yes, I do. I can do the diets. They all work, because I stick to them. But I am a compulsive overeater and one day, sooner or later, my will power fades, the binges begin again and the pounds come back. Overeaters Anonymous calls it a progressive and incurable disease. Whatever it is, I absolutely know that I can not beat it with will power and diets.

Today is my 10th day of sobriety. I actually think of it that way. Abstinence from compulsive overeating is sobriety in my book. Today I will face my first real challenge of abstinence. My husband and our neighbors are going out for breakfast at a place where we have always enjoyed having pancakes. Although my husband offered to abstain from pancakes and syrup, I told him that I am the one who needs to abstain and that I must get used to having non-binge-trigger foods while those around me are having the very things I will not eat. I pray for assistance with this challenge.

What I really want to address in this post is the scale. I've been thinking about the scale for 10 days, wondering if I should weigh and record my weight. OA guidelines suggest weighing once a month. However, I don't want OA to be all about weight loss. My weight is the result of compulsive overeating, yes. But under my binges and overeating is a deep hole. It is this lonely, frightening, sad place that I want to address.

So I think I will let go of the scale. Let go of the pounds, at least for now. The goal of abstinence is not weight loss for me right now. The goal is sanity!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Food Plan

Thinking about a food plan and abstinence... Tricky... Which foods will go on the abstinence list? For sure my binge foods. They are:
  • Anything chocolate or with chocolate in it
  • cookies
  • cake
  • cheese cake
  • pie
  • almost all pastries (maybe all, I'm not sure about this one yet)
  • licorice
  • candy coated peanuts (Boston beans)
These foods I don't eat at all. One day at a time I abstain from eating them, even a bite, even a taste, no matter what!

Then there are the trigger foods, the ones that often trigger a binge on things in the list above. I'm not so sure about my trigger foods. I need to pay attention to which foods make me want to "cheat" on my abstinence. These are the ones I suspect right now:
  • bread
  • butter
  • salad dressings
  • breakfast cereal
  • sweetener (Splenda)
  • avocados
  • jam, jelly
I'll have to keep my eyes on these items and also pay attention to everything I eat for signs of trigger foods.

Right now, for today anyway, my food plan is to eat three meals, no second helpings and nothing between meals. In addition, I will define a meal as food that will fit on one bowl or one plate. If I'm eating something liquid, it's OK if a bowl sits on a plate. Right now, for today anyway, I will abstain from my binge foods no matter what.

OK, now that I've taken care of food issues for the day... Relax, paint, walk... get away from food and from thinking about food! YES!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Feeling Pissy and Trapped

Not eating compulsively since last Saturday… that’s 7 full days. Not eating and feeling pissy and trapped. Trapped in a body and mind that has relied on compulsive consumption of sugar since childhood… probably beginning when we went to live with Grandma, which would make it 62 years of compulsive overeating.

Before when I’ve been on a diet, I never faced the compulsive part of my eating… I just managed my food for a time. But the compulsive part of me sat back quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) waiting for a time when its voice could promise me solace again and I would turn from managing my food in a healthy way to overeating and frequent sugar binges.

Well, now I hit bottom. I don’t want to be trapped by compulsive eating anymore. It is killing me. I am sick to death of it. I am killing myself… probably both literally… my health robbed of it’s prime by the type of eating I do and the weight I carry around… but more importantly my essence killed. Murdered with food. Hidden away. Denied. Strong words. I believe it is true.

So hard to know what I really want. What I've wanted for 65 years has been ignored while I substituted readily available "foods" with fat and sugar in them. Well, I can’t have X, so I’ll have candy. At some point I started to lose track of what I want… didn’t even comprehend any specifics. Just a vague feeling of wanting, which could immediately be dulled by sweets.

How bad is it tonight? Two double-scoop, chocolate ice cream cones back-to-back from Baskin & Robbins? Oh yes? Well, OK. What did I really want a week ago when I devoured a chocolate/chocolate Dove Bar purchased at the drug store, followed immediately by a Dove candy bar from the grocery store??? I haven’t a clue. Not a clue at all.

The voices said I deserved to eat these wonderful chocolate things one more time before I became abstinent. Well, that’s the way with the voices… they know what to say to get me to overeat compulsively. They know how to make it sound so sensible. The voices happen when I feel empty and denied and trapped. I feel trapped today and there is no solace in sugar. I just have to sit with feeling trapped and let it be there, like it or not.

Ten things I want…
  1. I want to connect with a higher power, to find another name for it, to experience trust and faith. Is there really a basic goodness I can tap into and ask for help? Is there really a power greater than I which will help me?
  2. I want to connect with my feelings and feel them. I want to know what I want.
  3. I want to be at peace with who I am and where I am. That’s a tall order. It requires finding a space where I don’t feel trapped.
  4. I want to take care of my body and give it a chance to flourish and live well.
  5. I want to paint.
  6. I want to bead.
  7. I want to sew.
  8. I want to let go of worry.
  9. I want to be more open to love from many sources, to receive it, acknowledge it, take it in and wrap myself with it.
  10. I want to go visit Mom again.
Well, that was good. Ten things lists are good! I feel less pissy now and less trapped. Good!