Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Poet's Trick!

Reading Karen's recent post, I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing, reminds me of a trick I learned from a recovering alcoholic. She has a very addictive personality with issues around sex, alcohol and food. She is also a brilliant writer, poet and teacher. I wrote in a poetry group with her for several years and was always impressed with her insights and compassion regarding addiction.

The trick she taught me is to be mindful of when the voice begins to say things like:
  • Just one bite!
  • We need this
  • We deserve this
  • Do it just this one last time
  • Oooh that tastes good, let's just have a little bit more
  • We'll be good tomorrow for sure
When the voice first taps on her shoulder, she looks immediately for a mind distraction. If she's in her car, she begins to count every red car she sees. If the voice penetrates this distraction, she increases the mind chore by also keeping track of every blue car she sees. If there are no cars, she counts trees. If there is nothing to count, she attempts to recite a memorized poem backwards.

During her addiction recovery, she developed a whole bag of mental exercises that she used to confuse and then silence the voice. She claims it only takes a few minutes before sanity returns.

As I wrote here previously, I used to have issues with love addiction. I would constantly obsess (and that's what it is, isn't it... whether it's a drink, a person or chocolate ice cream) about whatever man I currently had a crush on. When I began to obfuscate my own mind with counting cars or naming every teacher I'd ever had or naming state capitals (never could recite poetry, let alone backwards), the obsessive thinking went away. Yes, it came back. Yes, I did more counting. The point is, whenever I was mindful and used her trick, I could remain sane.

Somehow, I never really attempted to use her trick with food obsessing. And right now, one day at a time, I do not seem to have a problem with it.

I believe that addiction (and food obsessing) has it's roots somewhere in avoidance, especially avoidance of feelings. I believe that it is important for me to do more than silence the obsessive voice... that I must also learn to feel my feelings and explore the many layers of my past stuffed under years of over eating. Lots of work to do ahead. Yet at the moment of obsession tapping me on the shoulder, I hope I'll remember "the poet's trick!"


  1. Okay, looks like blogger likes me again. Let me try to recreate my lost comment. Please delete one if both show up.

    First, I thanked you for always making me think. Both here in your own blog and with your comments on mine. They are both thoughtful and though-provoking.

    Second, this post reminded me of one that Journey Beyond Survival shared with me once (in response to something I wrote). She uses "training wheels" to help her get over an obsession with food. They are more physical actions than a mental exercise but the end result of both is distraction, I think.

    Third, regarding your comment on my post today... and if there is a little plea for sanity in there... maybe in the sense that I realize my actual goal is to have control over my eating instead of reaching a certain weight. (I have a post drafted about this that I will publish sometime soon.)

    Fourth, while it is obviously striking a chord for you and aiding in your struggles, the higher power thing is just not me. Both in general, and as relates to my eating. It is interesting because while I understand that concept in life, and certainly see how it plays a key role for so many people, I have a harder time fitting it with eating, for myself, because I think that I am the one wholly (I am ignoring the obvious pun here) responsible. Or irresponsible if the case may be.

    I think you and I could sit down and have a very fascinating conversation about so much of this, the higher power concept especially.

    Okay, that is enough for now. I am so sure that my first comment was so much more eloquent:) But I think this covers the gist of it.

  2. To Karen ~ Thank you so much for taking the time to recreate your comment! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts and feel blessed by your gentle understanding. I also get it about higher power. Once, maybe 20 years ago, I tried OA and could not find any connection with the concept at all, just rejection. I also have always thought that my deal with food was totally/wholly my responsibility. I still lapse into feeling that way. I even brag in my mind about my excellent control. The book "Holy Hunger" was what opened a new door for me... gave me an inkling that maybe it's not wholly up to me. For now, I'm exploring that track and feeling pretty good about it. Thanks again, PB

  3. Hi PB,

    That is a really good trick! Like trying to trip up the devil. Thanks for sharing this!

    One blue car, car blue one, two blue cars, cars blue two....

    Whatever it takes....

  4. I have a lot of distractions that work for me - sometimes as simple as leaving the room! I like the poet's trick, though!

  5. Distractions always work for me. And this is an excellent one to add in, especially when I don't have artwork to concentrate on.

  6. Ooh, I like this! Thanks so much for sharing it! My trick is to say, "Stop it!" whenever I have *those* kinds of thoughts, and it works for me, but the thing about saying it out loud is that people look at you funny. Especially if it's one of those pervasive thought trains and I have to say it quite a few times. This "poet's trick" will be quieter and probably more fun. :)


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