Tag Archive: Twelve-Step Program


Broken but not severed

tree-callingWhat an evolution of thought plagued me while en route to my recovery meeting this morning! I didn’t want to go, but I knew I need to be involved. I almost gave into the impulse to do what I wanted rather than what I knew. Then it hit me like a big bang: I have to go to a recovery meeting, because when I begin to think I don’t need a meeting or the program, my thoughts betray that I am the sickest one in my head, and maybe even the sickest one in the meeting room I’m trying to avoid.

“Abstinence” in Overeaters Anonymous (or anywhere else, including the dictionary) is the action of refraining. (Technically, OA’s official definition of abstinence elaborates, but I shortened it for emphasis.) My personal declaration of abstinence has several food types and behaviors, but the primary point of my abstinence is that I will refrain from the “F- it, I’m eating!” response. (“F- it” is shorthand for “Forget it!” If you thought otherwise, get your mind out of the gutter. If you didn’t think otherwise, get real!) That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want in a given circumstance. If I am not careful, I can live in any number of “F- it”s that have nothing to do with my primary addiction of food.

“That’s the nature of my disorder – to know what I should do but do what I want”

I’m in good company according to reliable historical documents. My great-to-the-Nth-power grandparents, Adam and Eve, had one ordinance to follow in Eden. Wouldn’t you know it was a food-related abstinence rule! (Who says God doesn’t care about what we eat?) The sticky part of this bun is that when what they wanted conflicted with what they knew, they chose to block God out and indulge in the ripe, juicy succulence of the tree of “thou shalt not.”

I don’t know if it’s every human’s experience, because the only human I’ve ever been is me. I know, though, that the dysfunction caused by this tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like is so powerful that it took the Creator of Earth coming down from Heaven to pay for the discrepancy and remind humans of the priority. So it must be more common than rare.

“…tug of war between what the higher self knows and the lower self feels like…”

The epiphany dawning on my cranial committee today is that if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already, whether I’m stuffing my face or not. When I permit myself to say, “F- it, I’m watching TV instead of studying,” or, “F- it, I’m buying that expensive item even though I’m out of money,” or, “F- it, I’m sick of caging my rage, I’ll let the fur fly this once,” I’m doing just as much spiritual damage to myself (and those around me) as if I had stopped by the bakery for a dozen doughnuts and destroyed the evidence down my gullet before arriving home. In fact maybe even more since, in the process, I’m lying to myself about how “recovered” I am and how little I need a recovery program in my life  just because my bathroom scales don’t groan when I get on them anymore.

“…if I am living in half of my “thou shalt not” statement then I’m 50% across the line already…”

The pretentious me (okay, more pretentious me) used to look at addicts of other substances or behaviors and say, “At least I don’t have it that bad.” The truth is, I have it worse than anyone when I’m thinking that way. Jesus observed two similar people in Luke 18:11, when he condemned the Pharisee who thought he was shiny stuff compared to the “sinners” around him. Frankly, the comparison is lopsided in my direction anyway, since the alcoholic or drug addict have to go to special lengths and pay tariffs or drug dealers to get their teeter to totter and it only takes a sandwich to make me crazy. Clearly, I’m still in need of a Savior. Daily. Hourly. Ok, each breath is a do-over. I’ll get the next one right.

 

“I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can…”

Truth is I’m not The Little Engine that Could, but I’m not the caboose either. (Don’t you dare call me a “Bozo on the bus!” I have a problem with clowns.) Instead I’m a very important passenger car following at exactly the right distance from my Higher Power, the only Engine that can, and He is faithful to provide exactly what I need to follow in line as long as I stay connected to Him. Want on this train? Hitching in is optional, progress is our destination, and anytime you want off your first dozen doughnuts is on me. Okay, not really. Considering the train wreck I have been, I’m just happy to be on a track at all and linked with such fine people as those in recovery from various addictions. Thanks for sharing the journey, for going ahead or falling in behind. We make this thing go when we link together and drag each other along.

Photo credit: Woman's Day

Photo credit: Woman’s Day

Confession time! The transformation of recovery isn’t complete when Self keeps taking charge.

For the last couple weeks, I have moved, for the most part, into a guest bedroom in my house, partially to study without disturbing my precious bride, but mostly to hide from disappointment. I have repeatedly told the one who loves me that I was giving her “space to have her own way.” The truth is I have grown increasingly impatient, even intolerant, with her decisions lately. I have judged her actions as being based on her whim and emotion, when they are more than likely only lacking what I would deem an appropriate level of consideration of my own will, wish, and way. Either way, I am using isolation as a shield for disappointment, whether the expectations that feed it are realistic and fair or not.

Last night, while I fell asleep alongside her for a change, my mind and mouth were engaged even in the twilight of wakefulness. In the mental fog where the lies that support justifications begin to buckle under the weight of truth, I had some profound thoughts that escaped by way of mumbled, almost hypnotic, verbal expression. I confessed to my precious bride that, more than anything else, I am afraid of her. Not that I am afraid of her intentions or convictions, but that her intellect is not behind the wheel. After acknowledging my fear that her emotional navigation would run us, or more accurately – me, amok, I was forced to acknowledge that isolating myself from her to prevent injury puts my own emotions at the helm of my life, and so, constitutes me becoming the monster of which I was afraid.

The last thought I remember uttering before drifting off was that she is worth whatever pain I may experience, whatever it takes. As I recall what Christ endured for His Church (Ephesians 5:25), I am reminded that I have “not yet suffered to the point of shedding (my) blood” (Hebrews 12:4). I have not done everything I can. I have avoided pain by disengaging. I have behaved according to my own self-interest rather than sacrificing myself “as an act of worship” (Romans 12:1) giving preference to those around me. “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11) I have put Self on the throne of God yet again!

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (AA, 62).

Holy Father, rescue me from the bondage of self!* I have wandered back into my old cage, and it is dark and lonely in here. Deliver me so I can be relevant to those You have placed in my path, and that You, not me, may be glorified. Make Your light shine on me and reflect onto others, that they may be attracted to You and discover for themselves that You are able and willing to deliver us from our prisons, no matter how comfortable we have made them. Empower me to do Your will only always. Through Christ our Lord, amen!

 

* (a variation of AA’s Step Three Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63)

white flag surrenderWhile I believe the world was created in an instant cosmic response of obedience to God’s word, I believe that same God designed an order of things – an order defined by variances of growth or decay. In this balance, homeostasis is delicate and requires change to be kept in check. Failure to sense imbalance can lead to indifference, then to neglect, finally to decay. That is one of the main reasons I find maintenance in recovery so difficult. When I am free from my obsession of food and weight, I am liberated from the constant weigh-ins, content with what I see in the mirror because I am looking at the spiritual child of God and not his outline. A few extra pounds attached themselves to me while I was in the bliss of just such anesthetized ignorance – routine that looks just like spiritual fitness only isn’t. Awareness of this unwanted growth came just as my enemy would will it: timed perfectly in a bed of weakness, insecurity, and self-doubt. Clearly, not a fit spiritual condition.

I have been sick with a respiratory infection to varying degrees for twelve weeks. Twelve weeks! I have been on and off powerful antibiotics, breathing treatments, and even steroids. Some of the medicines I have taken came with warnings that they might make me “edgy,” a gentle euphemism for a condition I used to call home. They cannot, however, take the blame for what happened yesterday.

Just like most spiritual attacks, this one was well orchestrated to undermine a ministry commitment. Yesterday was our rotation for church prayer ministry, and it involved both my precious bride and me. No good attack comes from only one direction or by only one weapon, and so it was with this one. The weakness that comes by disease affects the body, but it takes something more to erode the spirit. This one, unfortunately, was complete.

My physical illness has been so chronic that my wife declared by assertion that she was taking over the lawn maintenance responsibilities whether I liked it or not. She rightly pointed out that caring for the lawn aggravates my allergies, and argued that we cannot afford for me to be sick. This tied together two insecurities, physical and financial, rolled them into a ball, and gagged me to silence. So, with my body bound by affliction, and my opinion choked out by insecurities, I was cast into helplessness. Well, not entirely. Yet.

I bought a new self-propelled lawn mower, set it up, and showed my precious bride how to run it. I offered suggestions, but was soon made aware that they were being taken as manipulative assertions of my selfish way and will. In keeping with my living amends, I kept my advice quiet. Mostly. Its new operator lowered the deck on the lawnmower so that the previously well-manicured lawn was shaved bald. When I asked why, I was told it was to keep from having to mow as often. I gritted my teeth, but somehow managed to delicately sum up the hours of research I had done on the optimal height of grass. The exchange was positive and concluded with mutual agreement. When the second week went by without any trimming or edging, I spoke up again. I was told the neglect was intentional, an effort to grow centipede grass runners which would then be cut and transplanted in areas of thinner grass population. I agonized in silence for a steamy couple days. Then, in a single hour of defiance, I donned my particulate filter mask and tore through the chore of trimming and weeding the front yard with the most contemptible resentment of my recent recollection. What could just as easily have been performed as an act of love was, for me that day, a venomous blast of selfish, fearful, insecure anger. But that was almost a week past, merely groundwork for the attack that would come yesterday.

My work on the front yard went unrecognized, and perhaps unnoticed. Wounds fester better when left unattended.

The spiritual topography on which it was fought would have a lot to do with how this battle was lost. With the mountains of financial insecurity defined by retirement, college expenses, and an unanticipated job loss in the family, it was easier to pin me down against the insecurity of the eyes of the neighborhood homeowner’s association. But that would have left some wiggle room. To be sure I didn’t survive the onslaught, my other weaknesses were covered in the several hours before, as conversations bounced off my frailties like a pinball racking up bonus points. Old hurts and fears were brought up in benign ways like viewing harmless artifacts in a museum. But their ghosts lingered and began to swirl around me. I began to remember the painful fear of abandonment, rejection, failure, and isolation as “remember when” and “what if” made themselves at home on my left and right.

This is the climate in which my weigh-in came. I had tried to fasten a pair of shorts and their belt the day before and noticed they were tight like some of my tee shirts had lately begun to feel. I made a commitment then to weigh on Sunday morning. In retrospect, I admit that could surely have been planned better. Seven pounds may not seem like much for a guy who used to gain and lose that in two days, but it is a lot when confirming fears of a delicate balance lost. As much as I tried to remind myself that pounds are not my responsibility, but are the result of many choices which are, I still read the scale, “Seven pounds of failure!”

As my bride and I readied ourselves for church, the casual, if not playful, conversation turned too quickly for the slippery surface of a frightened compulsive overeater faced with failure on a bed of every imaginable insecurity. Wounded, scared, and backed into a corner, I bared my teeth the way any beast, no matter how fluffy or cuddly, will do when cornered. I harmed again, spewing venomous curses, laying down my will like it was law, and issuing threats.

Now, I am sitting in the dark, alone. The isolation and abandonment I feared has become my sentence. That, and the awareness of the uncomfortable constriction of my belt around my waist. She’ll be back. I know this well enough that it should never have been a fear in the first place. But she will not be happy about it. Of that I should have been reverently afraid. My selfishness makes me needlessly and harmfully afraid. To defend myself against the things I fear, I have perpetrated acts that have realized those very fears. Again!

So I admit to God, to myself, and to you the exact nature of my wrongs. I am entirely ready to let God remove my defects of character. I have humbly asked God to remove my shortcomings, have chronicled my harm, and am ready to mend what I have broken.

God, grant me the opportunity to live in a mended fashion, but to trust You to do the mending. Help me to flex rather than snap, to give rather than grab. Help me concern myself with the emotional welfare of those around me rather than what I might lose or fail to attain. You are the owner of all, and I have no reason to insist on anything. May Your will be done, and Your glory magnified!

 

white chipsDear sponsor,

As a result of my recent lack of exercise and increase in girth and weight, I am making a change in my plan of eating (POE). I am reducing my daily energy intake by 150 calories. I also plan to eliminate the daily breakfast egg as well as the single red potato lately taken at suppertime. This will put my caloric target at 2150 rather than 2300. When I get back on my feet and off my butt I will reexamine my energy intake. Until then, I’m splitting the difference between what I have been doing and the RDA of 2000. My food log is still published online at http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/diary/who/TLJax/.

 

 

 

Going Against the Current

 Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭14‬:‭9‬ NLT)

Friends of Earth make sport of children of Heaven who make introspection a habit and holiness a goal. “Nobody likes a saint,” mockers say. Just yesterday I was ridiculed by one of my childhood mentors who tried to tell me that “self-flagellation,” which was his word to describe my practice of living Twelve-Step life surrendered to God, was unnecessary and unproductive. I have to remember that the broken world will resist my amends-making, because disorder does not well tolerate order. It goes against the current.

Holy Father, today, accept this broken offering and transfigure it into a useful beacon to You. Give me grace to continue on the upstream path You have set before me. Never let me forget what waits ahead: more perfect unity with You.

Quieting the Mob

  “But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed.” (‭Luke‬ ‭23‬:‭23‬ NLT)

The voices we permit to prevail direct our thoughts, our rationale, and finally our actions. Pilate succumbed to a crowd manipulated by fear and greed and so sent our Lord to the cross. We are perpetrators of Pilate’s corruption when we, filled with worry or regret, demand our addictions be set free while we give up the King of our Sunday to satisfy a Thursday night whim.

Holy Father, today, I quiet the voices of my worry and shame, and I turn to You, seeking Your still, soft voice. Let Your quiet whisper call my every fiber to attention and make my actions Your own design. You who gave me ears to hear, let me know Your voice, and call me like a favored lamb into Your strong and protective embrace.