Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Confession time!  I’ve spent most of my life afraid of the dark.  Last Friday when my 3.75  year old insisted on going in the haunted house at his school, I’ll admit I was less than thrilled.  Even though I know it’s the drama club in masks, I just really don’t like being surprised, being caught off-guard.  I put on my brave face and we went in.  We only had to turn two corners before he freaked and we had to run out the front.  I was totally relieved.

This got me thinking about my fear of the dark in general.  There have been times in my adult life where I was too afraid to get up and go pee in the night.  I was sure I was going to encounter a ghost walking down the hall to go get the baby.  Maybe an axe murderer was hiding in the closet.  Mostly I suffered from the feeling that my impending doom was surely lurking there in the dark.

I noticed the other night that this feeling has gone away since I stopped drinking.  I sleepily stumble down the hall nearly every night to get the baby without even thinking about the serial killer behind the door.  I wonder if because I was a periodic, I was perpetually suffering from PAWS.  I have heard some alcoholics who have claimed to have experienced that inexplicable feeling of impending doom right after stopping drinking.

It’s great to not be so fearful, but it’s even better to have the reminder of just how sick I was and how much better I am now.  Still not interested in haunted houses, however.

Hope you have a Happy Sober Halloween!

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I’m Eating Chocolate Right Now

Pretty sure my keyboard is getting chocolate smudges.  I’m having a sweet attack and am just going to go with it.  I’m worried about my husband’s family in NY.  Sandy is approaching and each time we get on the phone they sound more and more scared.  My father-in-law said it is the worst storm he has ever seen and it hasn’t even touched down yet.

My dog has something wrong with her nose.  I’ve been trying to treat it for weeks and it’s getting worse.  I’m taking her to the vet in an hour and am already pissed off by the bill.  Whatever it is, and it’s always a lot, there isn’t room in the budget.

I got socked with a major drinking craving on Saturday that left me in tears.  We had an extremely rare date night planned, and I got upset that I couldn’t drink.  I played out the fantasy to then end, and even though it ended in me trying to drunkenly add up the babysitter’s money and then overpaying due to literal fuzzy math, I couldn’t shake it.  My 1st step is annoyingly solid sometimes.  Surprisingly what made me feel better was my sponsor telling me that at 16 years sober she gets craving every now and then.  She said that our natural state is to want a drink, and that made me feel like less of a freak.

So what do these three different things have in common?  Weather, illness, alcoholism?  Three things that I’m totally powerless over.  I’ve started reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron.  She was talking about control being an illusion.  The big things like natural disasters, sicknesses and oh yes, addictions smash that illusion to pieces.  It throws our powerlessness in our face, and that is quite uncomfortable.  I’ve managed to stop at 4 pieces and feel pretty satisfied.  A little chocolate and reflection goes a long way.

It’s Heeeeere!

The Halloween candy has arrived.  We live on a steep hill and don’t get trick-or-treaters because kids are lazy little buggers these days.  I don’t have a good reason to have the candy in the house, and am glad to not have to waste money on it.  Although yesterday I saw mini bags of Pirate’s Booty and made a mental note.  Happy gluten-free Halloween, kids.

Last night we went to a Halloween festival at my son’s school.  It was adorable, but I let the stress of getting dressed and out the door get to me.  Then I spent the whole time chasing them in opposite directions.  The Power Ranger insisted on going in the haunted house which is hilarious because he often gets scared watching Dora.  The butterfly just wanted to play in leaf piles.  I got into self-pity because my husband has been working so much these last two weeks.  I expertly turned the Halloween festival into, “OH MY GOD I ALWAYS HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING ALL BY MYSELF!”  I’m awesome.

Anyway, we came home with the first Halloween candy of the season.  It’s only noteworthy because I really don’t give a crap.  I don’t want to eat it.  I look at it and see chemicals and diarrhea.  Sorry.  Since reading It Starts With Food, this type of highly-processed stuff doesn’t appeal to me.  And since my Whole30, well I’m pretty sure that even a little of that stuff would end in zits and an upset stomach.  If I wanted to fall head-first into a sweet binge, I’d probably take the time to bake something so I know what’s in it.  I now am so aware of the consequences of my choices.  And since I’m not drinking, those consequences are a lot more uncomfortable than they used to be.

How are you feeling about the Halloween candy?

Getting Right-Sized

Getting emotionally right-sized is something that comes up in almost every conversation I have with my sponsor. I suspect that leveling the playing field of life will be central to my recovery from alcoholism, but it recently it occurred to me that getting right-sized is the literal goal of my food recovery.

One of the reasons I cited for my drinking is that I felt overwhelmed by the task of living. The day-to-day stuff you have to do to keep life moving forward for myself, my kids, my husband felt so monumental. Sometimes it seemed to me like I was responsible for making the earth revolve. I saw myself failing at a responsibility I didn’t even want. So I drank and ate because it numbed the feelings of failure. Plus, didn’t I deserve something for all my hard work?

This perspective I had of being the one in control, the one keeping everything and everyone moving forward, was a result of an inflated ego and it lead to the inflation of my body. And you know something, I’m not alone in this. In talking to others who struggle with overeating and being overweight, I think we all share this notion of having more power and control over life than we actually do. The most common thread I see is that we view ourselves as being able to manage the happiness of others. I can’t tell you how many overweight women I’ve heard identify as people pleasers. And there are those of us who don’t even realize we are doing it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think people pleasing, controlling and manipulating life, doing doing doing, etc. are symptoms of an enlarged ego. Not ego in the sense of self-esteem, but ego in the sense of believing I have that much power over others. Ego in the sense of believing I can make life turn out the way I think it should be. My sponsor calls it playing God. I don’t know if ego gets much bigger than that.

Then there is the flip side. I had a bout of anorexia in my teens. It was brought on by a distinct feeling of powerlessness. It felt like I had misread the rule book of life. It felt like nothing I did or said mattered to anyone. It felt like life was slipping through my hands. The women I have known who struggle with anorexia have said similar things to me. I don’t know about them, but preceding this feeling of uselessness was the idea that same belief that if I did x, y, z that I was somehow guaranteed something. When things didn’t go according to plan, I started to believe that maybe there was nothing I could do to get the life I wanted.

Two opposite sides of the coin, but both founded on the same mistaken belief. I can’t say it more perfectly than the Big Book does, “Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well?” I think putting some cracks in that delusion was the beginning of me getting right-sized. Not everything is up to me, but I’m not a victim of life either.

It’s a half-baked theory, but wondering what everyone’s experience has been with this.

Off My Game

It’s been almost a week since we got back from our trip to Arizona.  I can’t call it a vacation.  I’m pretty sure on vacations you visit beaches not relatives.  It was a challenging week for me.  We stayed with my mom.  This trip being with her was like being with a walking, talking example of all of my least favorite character defects.  I’m so much like her, and I hate that so much.

I have not named or listed my character defects, but boy they are sure easy to spot when another person is acting them out.  Critical, judgmental, impatient, dismissive, insecure, people-pleasing.  (There are, of course, more.)  Actually the people-pleasing is one of my favorites because I’ll never forget the first time I heard someone in rooms say that it’s really people-manipulating.  Now the term people-pleasing makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

My mom has this great way of never saying what she really wants and then being angry about not getting it.  Or maybe she doesn’t.  Who the hell knows?  The point is that I’m constantly trying to predict what is going to make her happy.  I’m modifying my own behavior and attempting to modify my husband’s and children’s behavior in order  to keep things copacetic with her.  It’s maddening.  I knew I was doing this.  I knew that it wasn’t going to work.  I just didn’t know how to stop.  Too much fear, I guess.

Anyway, I’m grateful to be home and back to my routines.  My meetings, my gym, my food and most of all my giant Tempur-Pedic bed.  I was in a real bad funk for the last 2 days of the trip.  Having lots of drinking fantasies and getting real down that I was having them.  I feel like I should be better than that shit now.  I told myself they would pass and I’d start to feel peace again once I got my groove back.  I was right.

I know eventually I’ll have to get better at venturing outside the bubble.  Dining out, social functions, travel; I’ve really avoided those things in these last 8 months.  Last night I went out to dinner with a group of sober gals and it was wonderful.  Absolutely no remorse about the fact I cannot drink and gratitude for the reprieve.

Crying Out Now Anniversary Video

I’m one of the women in this video.  Right now I’m hemming and hawing about whether or not to share it on my Facebook wall.  The issue isn’t that I’m afraid of what people will say, but of what people won’t say.  I’m afraid I’ll share it and not get a single goddamn like or comment.  I’m afraid that I’ll put myself out there in a very vulnerable way and not be acknowledged.  That’s some ego shit going on, so I’m going to sit on this for now.

A big “Thank You!” to Ellie at Crying Out Now for putting this together.

5th Step

I finished my 5th step today. We’ve been slogging through it for a while now, having to break it up in installments. We did my fear and sex inventory today. I wrote the inventory several months ago, and actually got a little chuckle about how dramatic some of the fears were. No laughing about the sex inventory, however. Poor guys.

I read in my 12 & 12 this morning about the feeling of oneness with God and man that some people get after their 5th. That didn’t happen to me. I felt pretty depressed after leaving my sponsor’s place. I had already arranged that I would be able to take the hour to reflect afterwards as the Big Book suggests, but I had this overwhelming feeling of, “now what?” I couldn’t put my finger on it. Uneasy.

I came home and sat in our hammock. I went over the steps so far and concluded I have, indeed, completed them all to the best of my ability. Then I got to thinking about my higher power. I was raised atheist, but when push came to shove, it was not hard for me to accept that there are many forces at work in the universe that are bigger than me and beyond my comprehension. I have lots of ideas about the God that is “out there.” Consciousness, nature, creativity, divine order, love. Honestly I don’t worry so much about defining it. And I’ve heard people share in the rooms about coming to a point in their sobriety where they had to get a bigger God. That doesn’t feel like a problem to me because my God is big. Like, everything big.

What I struggle with is making God personal to me. I don’t understand how to do that. Today my sponsor talked about how the Big Book says that God is inside us. That got my attention.

In the hammock I recalled a day in my first weeks of sobriety. I was sitting in a park with my temporary sponsor reading her some writing I had done for my first step. The last thing I wrote and the only thing I remember is that I felt I was broken because I was incapable of loving. Not incapable of being loved, but of loving. This really frightened me because here I was a mom of a 3 year old and a 6 month old, and feeling like I didn’t know how to love these kids. They were burdened with a mom who couldn’t love. They were fucked.

This fear has greatly subsided, but it’s still under there. What occurred to me today is that if God is the stuff that connects us all together (love), and if God is inside me, then this belief that I am unable to love is the root of all my problems. It is me not believing in God.

I am capable of loving, I just don’t know how to do it very well. I don’t know how to do it without fear. Some times I look at my kids and my love for them makes me want to fall to pieces. And now I see that the drinking, the overeating, the compulsive Facebooking and whatever else are me trying to run away from the pain of loving. It’s not about me and my pain, though. I want to start living in the space of, “What can I contribute to this?” instead of “How can I avoid feeling hurt here?”

I don’t know how to get there, though. So I’m placing faith in the steps and those that came before me. I’m moving forward and asking for the ways in which I block myself from feeling love to be removed. I’d like them all to be taken, but how about getting cracking on fear first? Ok, God?