Archives for posts with tag: addictive behavior

tape measure on pretty day 002

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

This morning at Centering Prayer I was reminded of the importance of being tethered to the God of our understanding by our longing to be connected to the love of our Creator. In other words, our willingness to surrender ourselves to attain a connection with the total love that created us and is part of us is crucial in this journey we call life. If we are not willing to surrender our “I-ness,” our ego, if you will, then our own self-will creates a barrier between us and our Higher Power.

What immediately came to my mind was the realization that my surrender of wanting to be in control and to be independent (my “I-ness”) is not a one time, all or nothing occurrence. My surrender of self will is like one of those small round tape measures that let you pull out the tape measure to any length you want and then, at the push of a button, the tape measure is immediately retracted. When I surrender self and connect with God’s love I will eventually allow someone or something  to push my “ego-button” so that my connection  with God is severed and I retract back into my ego-driven isolation.

I have worked so hard and so long at not being dependent or co-dependent on any person, place, or thing that it is difficult for me to realize the God of my choosing cannot be limited to or defined by one of those categories. To not accept my total dependence on God for every breath I take is sheer insanity, but my ego keeps desperately hanging on to that denial.

My ego has been having a denial party ever since my best friend died this summer. I found myself submerged in grief, despair, anger, and the feeling that no matter what I did, I was going to die anyway, so I might as well live for the moment and stop denying myself what gives me pleasure. Fortunately, for me, that did not send me back into practicing my addiction to alcohol. However, I did start eating what I wanted to when I wanted to. Was I suicidal? No, being a diabetic, I still did not eat sugar, flour, bread, or high glycemic fruits and vegetables. But I did over indulge in protein, milk products, fats, and nuts.

Guess what happened? The usual——I gained some weight, food stopped tasting good, and nothing was filling my “emptiness.” It wasn’t until I stopped the denial/self-pity party and started weighing and measuring my foods again, saying please and thank you to God every day, and taking baby steps towards regular exercising that food started tasting good again and I started feeling “okay” again. Of course, my body rebelled and let me know it did not like “detox”—–but, being the “surrender, take it back, surrender again” type person I am, I was used to that  and it didn’t really bother me.

I guess what I am saying is I finally “got my groove back” and was in right-relationship with my Higher Power. It felt good. It felt like, as I heard a friend put it at a meeting recently, “I just stopped fighting the water and turned over and started floating on my back.”

I think I did so just in time because last night I had another medical crisis that kept me awake for several hours and convinced me once again that God is in control when all else fails. I experienced symptoms for several hours that usually either put me in the ER or in the hospital for a week or so or both, and I knew I had to surrender and trust God. I was able to stop fighting the pain,  to accept it, to take my prescribed medicine, and to turn myself, my will,  and my pain over to God with the understanding that I might still need to go to the ER if the medication did not work. God and the medicine worked their magic—–I was able to sleep for a few hours, and when I awoke the pain and nausea were gone.  The relief is indescribable, and I am most grateful for God’s gift of another day of life. God bless and keep you.

Chocolate Fix

Chocolate Fix

Dear Readers:

I have been spending my summer getting cataracts surgery and adding eye drops to both eyes for seemingly forever. I have not been doing any creative writing, but I did find myself searching for something chocolate to drown out the bitter after- taste that is a side effect of the eye drops. This was a challenge since I cannot eat sugar in any form. Here is what I came up with, and I must admit I am addicted to it. Go figure.

High Protein Sugar-Free Chocolate Cheesecake Fix

Ingredients:

2 oz cream cheese

3 1/2 T small curd cottage cheese

3 T plain Greek yogurt

3 T sour cream

2/3 C Splenda

1 1/2-2 T sugar free instant chocolate pudding mix

2 T Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

Warning/Disclaimer: Friends have told me this addictive. Eating it has been described as eating fudge, “licking the icing bowl,” and/or eating chocolate cheesecake without the crust.

Instructions:

  1. Soften cream cheese slightly in microwave. I do 50% strength for 30 seconds but have also done 15-20 seconds on high in “less potent” micro-waves.
  2. Add yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Initially cream ingredients together, then mix more briskly. Goal is to make sure cream cheese is distributed evenly.
  3. Carefully fold in Splenda, then mix more briskly (not quite beating).
  4. Add chocolate pudding mix and cocoa; again carefully fold in and then mix more briskly. Mix will thicken at this point.

Can be eaten immediately or covered and chilled in refrigerator. The finished product is the  consistency of thick icing or peanut butter; will not harden enough to be eaten in pieces like candy.  Picture is of portion size that is half of the recipe.

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Needlework by S. Staples; photograph by K. Farwell

 

Once again I feel that urge to write. This morning’s sermon got me to thinking—–which is sometimes a dangerous thing. Usually I either think “rebuttals” and “disagreements” (when I am in my critical persona, one I learned from my mother) or I find myself embellishing one of the ideas presented. Today was an embellish day. The sermon itself was a wonderful one that did an excellent job of explaining what Lent is all about. I had not thought of it as an opportunity to exercise and strengthen my temptation resisting skills until I heard this morning’s sermon by Rvd. Edie.

She explained that temptation is a process. First, we become aware of an idea—-you know, those ideas commercials, for instance, are always planting in our heads. The second step is entertaining the idea—–this is a crucial step where the idea/temptation builds its strength and attractiveness to us primarily by us actively focusing our attention on it. The last step, of course, is to act on the idea. She discussed how we need to exercise and strengthen our attention skills and our ability to  intentionally re-focus our attention away from the idea that tempts us so that the last step of the process for us is choosing not to give into the temptation.

This is where I started embellishing as I listened to her sermon. As a person who practices the 12 steps of recovery I am quite familiar with these steps. When I see a commercial for a candy bar I can focus my attention on that and even begin to taste it with my imagination. Then my mind can build on the idea by telling myself, “Oh, come on, one little candy bar” won’t hurt you.” If I keep my attention going down that road, it won’t be long before I act on the idea and actually find myself eating that candy bar—-and another, and another until I make myself sick.

For a long time I have been telling myself and others in recovery to “follow it through” when the idea of having a drink comes to you—-not with thoughts of how wonderful a drink would be but with memories of what really happens to us when we take that drink and keep drinking. I have to do the same thing with thoughts of eating foods with flour or sugar in them. Giving in to either obsession has the potential to kill me. I wish I was exaggerating—-but I am not.

So, here’s the “kicker.” Those of us in recovery get to exercise “healthy attention” every day of our lives one day at a time. There is no magical end after forty days when we can go back to having what we’ve been practicing avoiding without facing deadly consequences. With all that exercise, you’d think we would develop immensely strong will power. Instead of exercising my “self-will” (which has, historically, been what has always gotten me in trouble) I have learned I can only be empowered to make healthy choices if I turn my will over to God and let God focus my attention and guide my actions.

I don’t always do so perfectly. Letting go of self-will is sometimes a daily struggle especially with food.  After all, I have to eat every day to live; therefore,  food triggers in my life are much stronger because of my daily consumption than they are with alcohol because that daily consumption ended for me over three decades ago.

I am learning to let fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to eat….” float right through my crowded mind. Contemplative prayer has helped me with that because I am learning not to fight my thoughts—-just to acknowledge them and to let them “float by” without giving them undue attention. I am learning to focus my attention on consenting to God’s love—–in my prayers and in my daily life. And that includes focusing my attention away from tempting food or alcohol thoughts.  It is not that I have given up certain foods or alcohol for Lent—–rather I have given them up for life and for living. I can only do that one day at a time by turning my will and my life over to the care and love of God as I understand Him/Her. May God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I awoke this morning from a very insightful dream.  In this dream I was once again married and being ignored by my husband. As in life, he was very self-absorbed. However, in my dream he had asked me if I “minded” something. I started to answer with a truly co-dependent response, “only about what it might do to you.” I caught myself mid-sentence in this scene and instead had the courage to tell him what I really thought without holding back so he “wouldn’t get upset.”  Of course, in this dream scene as I was talking my husband stomped off totally ignoring my answer to his question. In the dream I got angry enough to follow him around as he tried to evade me and  forcibly communicated my feelings and thoughts. Not surprisingly, they poured out of me——a veritable flood of emotions centered on abandonment issues and my anger and hurt over always be ignored.

You see, my life used to be like that. And this dream showed me, after all these years, the part I played in contributing to the sad state of affairs our marriage was in. I grew up in a family that taught me at an early age not to communicate feelings and to expect those around me to intuitively know what I wanted without me having to tell them because it was wrong to “want anything for yourself.”  This was the perfect upbringing to create a nurse who married a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, depression, and a vast array of other “take care of me” issues.  I thought I was careful to avoid the role of care taker, but indirectly, and some times directly, I did so any way. I bought property in the middle of of the woods—-a cottage that was secluded and would feel more safe to him than a home in town would.

I started a pattern of living my life centered around meeting his emotional needs and neglecting my own. I got to the place where I wasn’t even able to acknowledge what I was feeling—-denial worked. I learned early into our marriage that I had to walk on egg shells and that the slightest comment or action that insinuated challenging what he said or wanted could trigger his anger. I was very afraid of his temper although he never struck me.

I am ashamed it has taken almost a decade for me to realize, thanks to this dream, that in never telling him what I was feeling or what I wanted I was setting myself up to be a doormat.  I did tell him sometimes, and fights usually resulted.  My childhood taught behavior of silent martyrdom was further reinforced. I have to take responsibility for contributing to and maintaining the dysfunctional communication patterns in our marriage.  Before this morning, I tended to blame him for all the problems we had, but now I can see I set the stage for what happened, and then I played my part well.

Where was God in all this? Definitely not at the center of my heart and being as He currently is but, instead, more on the “fringes of my soul” where I went to pray  automatically and superficially most of the time. At times, I viewed God as just another male authority figure that intimidated me. I am very grateful that as my life has unfolded I have discoverd that perception of God was totally wrong.

God is now with me every moment. God is a part of my being so interwoven into my essence that all I have to do is think the word “consent” and I know his love is engulfing me, guiding me, and is always there to help  me handle life’s challenges.

Those who knew me then and now know I am now much more assertive about saying what I think, feel, and need—–sometimes abrasively so (I’m working on my sarcasm). They also know the part my faith plays in my life now because I write, talk, and hopefully act in a way that reflects that.

So, the lesson I learned from this dream is no one can know what I’m feeling, needing, or wanting unless I tell them. God can, of course, but my fellow human beings cannot. If I want my relationships with other humans to be healthy, then I need to communicate my feelings and thoughts directly—-implying them or communicating them non-verbally with my facial expressions or tone of voice is not an effective means of communication.  Putting the needs of others first over my own is also a threat to building and maintaining  healthy relationships. When Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves I believe he was also telling us that we need to love ourselves. There is a lot of wisdom in the recovery slogan “to thy own self be true.” God bless and keep you.

courage and believe rocks

Image courtesy of  BJWOK ,/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, a friend asked me  how to do a 4th step inventory when most of the wrong [in her life] was done by someone else. As far as I know, this was the first time this person had considered applying these steps to her own life. I found myself having real trouble trying to answer that question in a way that made sense and was helpful to someone with little or no exposure to twelve step recovery. Therefore, I am going to try to answer that question more effectively in today’s blog. I obviously need to figure out the answer for myself!

The 4th step involves looking at character defects/shortcomings we recognize in how we relate to ourselves, others, and God.  Then we think about how these got started in our lives, what feelings or emotions seem to be at the root of them, and who or what we resent for the causative incident(s). We try to determine what “drive/defect/feeling” in us was associated with the resented incident/person. We look at the attitudes and behavior patterns that have shaped our lives—–not just our eating, drinking, gambling, etc.

However, when we look at patterns we often realize our own specific addictive behaviors or strongly linked to underlying problematic deep-rooted feelings or needs. We often eat or drink  (etc.) seeking comfort and/or escape from our painful or uncomfortable emotions (fear, anger, distrust, etc.).

A lot of our 4th step inventory is about discovering how we have harmed/hurt ourselves because of all of the above. For many of us, our 5th step “amends” are “living amends” to ourselves accomplished by living according to the guidance of program principles and/or our faith—–the change in our behavior and attitudes demonstrates our transformation/progress in recovery. Sometimes our living amends are the best kind to make to ourselves and others because actions speak louder than words.

It is also important to look at our assets when we take our inventory. Specifically, we can look at the attitudes, emotions, and behaviors that are the opposite of those that are the “defects” we’ve just inventoried. Acknowledging our positive assets—-or our progress towards them—-helps us realize not only the good in our past but the transformation that is taking place in the present as we practice recovery principles.

If we find ourselves wondering, “What do I do when it is others that need to make amends to me?” we are taking someone else’s inventory other than our own. The key is looking at our own lives from a holistic perspective and not just focusing on a specific action like how I hurt someone when I over ate or drank too much. That can be included in our inventory, of course, but hopefully, a holistic, in-depth inventory will explore and acknowledge much more. This is important because the drinking, eating, etc. is often a “symptom” of our underlying problem(s), and doing this type of in-depth inventory does a better job of acknowledging and working through the underlying problems.

By the way, these twelve steps are actually a “recipe for living” that can help anyone transform their lives. That is one of the reasons I talked about them at length in today’s blog. For more help understanding what character defects and program principles actually are, I would refer my readers to the 2nd edition of “Drop the Rock: Removing Character Defects” by  Bill P. Todd W. Sara S. and published in 2005 by Hazelden. God bless and keep you.

girl and tablet

Image courtesy of yingyo/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes I think I’ve never grown up—-that I can get lost in the land of play and stay for hours. Sometimes that is exactly what my soul needs to rejuvenate itself.  Last night I downloaded a free game on my KindleHD, and I played it for about thirty minutes. It “sucked the juice” out of my Kindle, and I had to stop playing and recharge “my toy.”  While it was charging I got on my laptop and purchased the PC version of the game —–then I stayed up until almost 1:00 AM playing the new game.  When I went to bed I immediately fell asleep, but one of the images I remember seeing right before I woke up this morning was an image of the new game’s screen.

So, am I caught in yet another addiction? If so, as long as it does no harm, I am not going to worry about it. If it becomes all I do, if I stop loving and feeding my dogs, if I stop eating, exercising, drinking fluids, etc. so I can continue playing “the game” then I am in trouble! If my game playing starts to interfere with my functioning then I am approaching the land of “disorder” as it is defined by those who work in mental health.

I must admit, though, that my childhood games were healthier for me. They involved no electricity, and they taught my mind to be creative and introduced me to the land of imagination. I did not have any other children to play with on my isolated farm, but that didn’t stop the fun. There were trees, moss, baby birds, frogs, terrapins (Latin and “hillbilly” for land turtle), fireflies, and June Bugs to play with, and the games got my body  moving and exercising right along with my brain. If I encountered a snake, wasp, spider, or scorpion I knew to keep as far away as possible.  It was another day and time, and children could play freely without fearing abduction or worse.

I need to go back to analyzing what is happening when I get deeply engrossed in playing an electronic game.  One of the ways I cope with anxiety or stress is to engage in “comfort activity.” In the past that has been drinking alcohol and compulsively eating. Both of these activities are turned over to my Higher Power now on a daily basis, so I think the allure of last night’s game was a direct response to my not so healthy co-dependency needs to control and fix other people. Yesterday I wrote about a friend’s terminal addiction to alcohol, and I think my deep excursion into electronic game playing last night was a means of escaping into a “comfort activity” so I would stop worrying about something I cannot fix.

Praying helps me a lot with accepting and living with things I cannot change, but once in a while, escape into something that totally occupies my mind and gives me a “time-out”  from obsessive thinking about whatever is bothering me is extremely helpful. The “recovery guru” who sits in my head and facilitates the “healthier committee meetings” that take place therein has not failed, however, to remind me to be careful that whatever escape I find does not become just another addictive crutch.

Enough. I know severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes are forecast for our region today, so I wish all my readers who live nearby a safe and hopefully uneventful day.  Come to think of it, that is not a bad wish for everyone!  May God bless and keep you.

Eating Apple

Image courtesy of  imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to Altman (2004,  Meal by Meal: 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating, Kindle Locations 3867-3868, New World Library, Kindle Edition), Mae West once said “One reason I don’t drink is that I want to know when I’m having a good time.” I have to admit that quote caught my attention and gave me a deep, belly-centered chuckle. However, there is much truth in it. Now that I am on a spiritual journey I don’t want to let any of my addictions take away my ability to know what I am experiencing.

Much of what I have read this afternoon has called my attention to the unspiritual manner in which I eat. For those of you who don’t know,  my addictions include both compulsive eating and alcoholism. I have been in recovery from alcohol for over three decades, but my eating is another story. I have to practice “controlled eating” every day if I am to live—-something I would never try doing with alcohol. I can sometimes go for months and years at a time letting my Higher Power guide my eating, but there always comes that time when I want to “try it on my own again.”

Not surprisingly, my excursions back into self-controlled eating lead to weight gain and feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and, yes, shame that I have “fallen into the same old hole again.” The good news now though is I don’t have to fall as far—-or fall to the point that I almost die. I can’t seem to tolerate feeling “distanced from God” these days; and that is what happens when I take control of my food back from my Higher Power. He helps me recognize the negative physical and psychological consequences my unhealthy eating triggers, and I realize that once again my own addictive behavior has kept me from fully enjoying and appreciating God’s grace. These periods of “slip time” don’t last nearly as long as they used to, and I don’t know if it is because I am more spiritual or have just grown older and wiser. I know part of it is that I have “tasted” the grace of being 100% in relationship with my Higher Power and  it gets harder and harder to tolerate the self-imposed vacations I take from that level of closeness.  So, I think Mae West was right—I want to fully appreciate being a human being walking hand in hand with God, and I am less and less attracted to doing anything that takes me away from that—-which, in my case, is drinking alcohol or compulsively eating—eating my way, when I want, and how I want. See that word “I” starting to assert itself? For me, that is the word that usually ruins things.

Very quickly in closing, I want to share some advice from the author cited at the beginning of today’s blog (Donald Altman). I think his suggestions will help me learn to eat in a healthier, more mindful manner.  Basically he suggests taking a breath between bites and focusing on your breathing. He suggests concentrating on being aware of the taste, smell, texture, etc. of the food in your mouth. His instruction to “chew up to twenty-five times before swallowing” (Kindle Locations 3644-3648) will be the hardest one for me to follow; however, something tells me the breathing and extensive chewing are both extremely important practices for me to adopt. Of course, it is also important to be aware of feelings and emotions associated with eating.  I can tell that I have NOT been a mindful eater in the past—-and that Mae West would say I’ve probably missed out on a good time! God bless and keep you.