Today, I am truly free from the obsession of food. My freedom comes from engaging in the 12 Step process.
The heart of 12 Step recovery is: First I have to quit playing God. Which means I must stop thinking that I can control the world, other people, events – just about anything.
I am willing to stop playing God in my life because I am miserable, desperate, sick and tired of being sick and tired and hopefully, done. Done with the endless loop of my addiction – starving, bingeing, purging, starving, bingeing purging, starving….
This desperation is a gift. The gift that finally allows me to admit that I am powerless over it. Powerless, meaning when it comes to food, I have no power, choice or control. When I put food into me, my body wants more. Often, the foods my body wants more of are carbs and sugars, but I can also gobble down more carrots than a battalion of bunnies. My body is different than the normal person’s – it always wants more, more, more. And there is never enough food to comfort me. I eat until I can’t move and can barely breathe.
But if it were just a physical problem, I’d give up sugar and carbs, and be fine. But I can’t on my own. Lord knows I tried. I went on every diet I’d ever heard of – if you email me the name of a diet I’ve never tried, I’ll send you $20 right now. And I’m completely sure I’ll keep my money!
None of them, not one, worked, because my body really isn’t my biggest problem. My real problem is my mind, obsessed with food. So, every morning after bingeing all night (which became EVERY morning.), I’d swear to myself that I’d NEVER eat like that again. In fact, I planned, I’d never eat again. And i meant it this time!!!!!
But every night, I’d binge again, because my mind tells me I need to eat. It lies to me, day and night, telling me that I need the relief I think I find in food. It tells me that I deserve to eat – that my life is so hard, I need the comfort. It promises me that this is the last time I will EVER binge, so I’d better eat EVERYTHING I possibly can, since I’ll NEVER eat like this again.
That was my life – waking up with the firm resolve never to binge again and then bingeing every night. Only a sick mind could believe a sick mind every single day and day and every single night.
And a sick mind can’t help a sick mind. So I can’t solve my problems. I am powerless. And if I am powerless then I must find Power greater than myself or else I am doomed. If I don’t find Power,I continue to run my life and I never get better – I get worse. And I was getting worse.
So, I gave up. I surrendered and admitted I couldn’t run my life. And I was willing to seek Power greater than myself.
And now I am free.
What does “Power” mean. Well, it means something different to different people. I want this concept to be workable for all – from my friend’s mother who spends most days in church on her knees to the most vehement of atheists, which is how I showed up at my first 12 Step meeting.
Here is a definition I really like for spiritual growth. It’s written in a book called ‘Recovery’ by Rami Shapiro. He is a Rabbi, but the book includes Buddhism, Hinduism, Old Testament, New Testament, Native Indian beliefs and more. Shapiro notes that his definition does not include the word God and he writes:
What I mean by spiritual growth is this: an ever-deepening capacity to embrace life with justice, compassion, curiosity, awe, serenity and humility.
This very definition allowed me to develop my own initial concept of a Higher Power. This was God to me – these qualities.
Twelve Step recovery is all about a spiritual solution – a God guided life. So for me, it began as a life guided by justice, compassion, curiosity, awe,serenity and humility. I then added kindness, goodness, love, tolerance and patience. Through the years, my definition has kept growing.
Where do i find this ‘God”. Twelve Step recovery tells me I find it deep down within, that is where I discover the fundamental idea of God.
For myself, I began by connecting to the intuitive thought. Here’s an example:
You know when you write a self-righteous, angry email, and you go back and forth about whether or not to actually send it? Your mind talks you into it, telling you that you’re justified, because after all you’re right, you should send it, for sure. You hit send. And then right away your whole body cringes desperately, “Oh no. I shouldn’t have done that”? Well, that’s the intuitive thought deep down within that always knows the right thing to do. And that intuitive thought is the hand of God, wanting to guide me. If I learn to quiet my racing mind and listen to the intuitive thought, I’m connecting with Power greater than myself and beginning to live a God-guided life.
There’s got to be something bigger than me, or I’m in big trouble. If I don’t find Power, then I’m still running the show and making all my (warped)decisions. I was 40 years old, a drug addict, an alcoholic and a bulimic. I wasn’t working. I was living on my brother’s couch, until he kicked me out for stealing pills from his wife. AND I WAS MISERABLE.
When I entered the rooms of a 12 Step Fellowship, I heard a speaker say that I had to find ‘God’ (as i understood God)or i was doomed to repeat my addictive behaviors. After the meeting, I, a 40 year old atheist, asked the speaker if she could help me find God, and she said yes with complete confidence. Doubtful, I asked her how. Here’s what she said:
First, I had to lay aside old prejudice. All we’ve believed up to that point. (I figured I could do that. I was so miserable, and I had nothing to show for the life I had believed in.)
Next, I had to be willing to seek God. Just willing. I didn’t need to know anything or have any idea – I just had to be willing. (At that point, I was desperate. What the heck did I have to lose? Sure, I was willing.)
And then I had to pray. (Oops, I’m out. Prayer. I’m an atheist. No way.) But then I remembered. How many nights hanging over my toilet after bingeing my brains out, did these words come out of my mouth, ‘Dear God, please help me.) And then I’d recoil, how ridiculous, there isn’t a God. And if there were, He wouldn’t help the likes of me. But that fundamental idea of God, deep down within me, was there.
Finally, the speaker said I had to pray from my heart and pray with my feet, through the actions I take. These actions are very specific in Step work – the honest self appraisal, the amends to all those that I have hurt and the necessity of working with others.
It’s miraculous stuff. It took the obsession away from me, and freed me from the clamors of an addictive mind.
My own concept of Power assuredly doesn’t match the Pope’s or even Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s. But it does guide me, hold me and keep me safe.
More on the process in future posts.