Friday, August 31, 2012

Expanding my use of the Serenity Prayer

I had a good conversation with a close friend this week about the changes I'm embarking on and my fears and hesitations around doing so. In the course of our discussion, Meredith suggested that I began to look for some novel avenues of satisfaction, specifically around pleasure, love, and joy, as these are things that I am still looking to food to satisfy.

While the idea wasn't surprising to me, what did come up unexpectedly were thoughts about the Serenity Prayer. And I realized that I've always thought about those "things"--accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and know the difference--as being about problems. Some problems we can fix, some we can't, sort it out.

I had not thought about it as also talking about possibilities, that the things we can change can be how we do things, how we relate to self and others, how we get happy. That it can be about what we want, not just what we don't want.

So I'm embarking on a quest to find new sources of satisfaction for myself, to see what else I can change. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Waiting to change: Willing to be willing or jump?

I told my therapist this week that I was praying to be willing to be willing to take the next step in my relationship with food. She thought a moment and then wondered aloud whether it was necessary to be willing or whether one could just jump? She went on to say that neither was better, just different ways of going about it.

I had thought that when I wrote the last couple of blogs that I was ready to let my current addiction focus go. But I have continued to buy and eat FrutStix although at a reduced pace. So I've been waiting to be ready.

Anna and I talked at length about what I'm waiting for. Out of the discussion and my thinking about since then have come these ideas: I'm waiting for it to be easy. I'm waiting for it to not hurt. I'm waiting to know exactly how to do something I don't know how to do. None of these things have much to do with willingness. They have to do with fear. Or conversely, they have to do with courage.

I'm not talking about a diet or abstaining from some other particular foods. I'm talking about giving up going numb. Not using food or work or Netflix or novels to save me from myself.

What I feel lies ahead is an abyss, a sort of black hole, a midnight-inky desert of monsters and pain. The overeating and overworking and over-watching and over-reading keep me in the borderlands. Anna is encouraging me to find the courage and the resolve to set out on the journey into and through this part of myself. So that I can come out the other side.

I'm finding it hard to do that without knowing in advance what lies on that other side.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

All the money I've spent on addiction

In preparation for next week's Women and Money group, I've been updating my financial assets. I try to be dispassionate about money and how about much I have and if there will be enough for a graceful old age should I live that long, and I got to thinking about how much money my addictions have cost me over the years.

I spent most of my allowance on candy until I left home. I spent most of my discretionary income on sweets in early adulthood and then on alcohol. I liked to eat out and drink good wine and I spent a lot of money that way. And while I was a conscientious employee and a hard-worker, my drinking also kept me in low-paying jobs as they were often easier to drink around. Even as a college professor, I was too desperate to find work and took a very low-paying first job, not realizing that all my subsequent teaching salaries would be based on increments of that low rate.

But the biggest financial drain was the alcohol itself. I had early developed a taste for good wine and good bourbon and I found the money to drink good stuff, telling myself it would create less of a hangover. And maybe in the beginning it did. But I was probably spending $20 a day for a lot of years.

Then after I got sober, I spent not quite as much but still a lot on sweets again. I liked gourmet chocolates and expensive ice creams and I consumed a lot. I don't eat desserts now but I still buy lots of food, more than I can eat. Interesting to see what all lies underneath that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Desire and happiness vs. craving

"Although desires can be remarkably stubborn, they share a goal—happiness—and this can form the common ground for an effective dialogue: If a desire doesn’t really produce happiness, it contradicts its reason for being."  - Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "Pushing the Limits"
This quote came across my desk this morning and I realized that for me, this is talking about addictive craving . When I am in craving, it feels like desire. If I can just eat that, I will be happy. But that isn't what happens. All that happens is that if I eat enough of whatever it is (or drink or shop or work), the craving goes away. And the absence of craving is not happiness. It does have a peaceful aspect to it. I am less agitated, less anxious, less restless, less crazy. But I am not happy even though I tell myself I will be.

I admire people who are easily satisfied. One piece of chocolate, one drink, one movie, one book, one new shirt. That has so seldom been true for me. I don't necessarily want more of everything but if it's good, if it tastes good or feels good, I can't seem to get enough. I can't seem to get satisfied. I eat a good lunch and I am still wanting something. I have a nice evening with friends and I am still wanting something.

It is helpful for me to consider whether an impulse or a feeling is a desire or a craving. I desire to sell my novel to a publishing house. I would really like that. It would give me a sense of deep satisfaction. That's a different feeling in my heart and my body from the one that says eat banana popsicles right now and eat a lot of them. Interesting to observe.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Another sober truth that I don't want to admit

On February 14, 2010, I stopped eating desserts: candy, cake, ice cream, pudding, cookies, scones, muffins, waffles, pancakes, anything that is basically a sweet treat. Since then, I've had occasional treats of low-sugar granola or nut bars and all fruit popsicles. And I can no longer deny that over the last several months, the popsicles have gotten out of hand.

I've gone from 1-2 a day of my favorite to a box of 4 a day to 2 boxes a day to 3 boxes a day. I feel uneasy if I don't have a good supply. I eat them whether I'm hungry or not. I mostly don't taste them; I'm just looking to get sated in some way. The ones I'm fixated on are non-fat, low-sugar and made with with clean ingredients and not many calories. But when I'm eating a dozen a day, the sugar adds up, the calories add up, the pounds add up, and the nagging gets louder that I'm back in addiction.

This is not something I realized just today. I admitted the creeping problem last week at my Women and Food group. The old need to have a stash to feel secure. But I didn't want to give it up and so all week I just ate however many I wanted. The old last hurrah!

But yesterday, when I put on first one new shirt and then a second and they were both tight in an unfriendly way, I knew all those bars were settling down to stay. The scale confirmed it this morning. And I am getting myself ready to grieve the loss of this soother, getting ready to be uncomfortable again. Such a process of letting go.