Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Gifts to Deal with My Addictions

I quit smoking six weeks ago. I quit my compulsive sugar and carbohydrate eating over 15 months ago. I've quit my daily coffee drinking, limiting it to once a week and special occasions. I knew I needed to stop the ping-pong effect of moving from one addiction to another to medicate from feeling whatever was bothering me. That is the mental recitation I give myself on why I have stopped these behaviors. It is a deliberate decision to be healthy, to move along in The Healing Lane. What I have to face in dealing with my addictions gives me compassion for others in fighting theirs.

I still struggle with wanting to smoke, to eat, to escape either into a numbing effect or by fleeing the situation entirely. It isn't as difficult a struggle as it once was; I can gauge and see the progress I am making. It is no longer a daily struggle. Some days, though, it is an hourly struggle.  During those times, I have come to rely greatly on the strength of the program and the tools available to me. They aren't merely tools to me, they are gifts. Perhaps the most obvious and appreciated gifts are my friends. I have come to depend on them as resources of encouragement, strength, hope, humor, honesty, acceptance, and love. Other gifts include the self-help books and writings about codependency, addiction, and the many facets of recovery.  There is the gift of the 12-step program, the gift of therapy, the gift of the meetings, and the gift of a sponsor.  I have to remind myself that I am a gift, too. I am equipped with insight, love, compassion, intelligence, strength and courage. I am not alone and not abandoned, but it is my journey and my life, and it is my choice about how I handle a problem. It is my struggle, and only I can do the actual work of my recover.

Sunday was a difficult day. I spent a good portion of it in tears and feeling overwhelmed, small, and sad. I wasn't even sure what the root cause was. I desired to be freed from the pain I was feeling, and wanted so badly to eat, smoke, flee, escape, … but these are all unhealthy choices, so it became as much about not acting out and just feeling the pain, as it was uncovering the source of the pain. I write about this today because I survived Sunday’s trial by not acting out. That was the victory - just surviving it. Sometimes that is the lesson. Fortunately, Monday follows Sunday which means I get the hour of power session with Debra (talk about a gift!) and the opportunity to talk and address the source of the pain and what triggers me. Those issues are indeed part of therapy and aren't always easily answered. I continue to press into my pain, my thoughts and feelings and I believe I am moving along the Healing Lane. She is the one that reminded me that this is still fairly new behavior for me. I’m facing whatever it is that I don’t want to feel, and that is a big deal. Overcoming compulsive behavior is a major change. Part of that crying is the withdrawal of not giving into that compulsive drive.  

There is a part of me that wants to dismiss this whole addict behavior stuff. It is embarrassing and carries an element of shame with it. Looking at the outward effects of being a food addict (150 pounds overweight) and then a smoker (admit it, it is among the most disdained of habits) I have felt so weak and irresponsible. So the fact that I finally dealt with the compulsiveness has the accompanying thought “it’s about time.” I also recognize now that by minimizing my efforts, I discount myself. To combat this, I announce the victory. Here goes - I am day 44 of not smoking and 15+ months of not eating sugar and grains.  I will continue to lean into whatever it is I need to feel. I embrace my future, knowing that better days are ahead. God has graced me with all blessings, and I thank Him for the gifts of friendship, recovery, and myself.

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