“You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town”
― Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith
Imagine if we lived in a world we didn’t need to recover from? Addiction in all its forms is a way to cope with or somehow make up for the pain of separation from Love. If I get all the things it means they love me. If I give all the things it means I’m good. Either way I think it means we’re indebted. I thought love was free? Somewhere between conception and our first surrender there was a disrupted connection between ourselves and the truth. Maybe it was the result of abusive parents, an illness, accident or Fascism disguised as freedom. We used our poison of choice to fake assimilation and pretend the ways we were being hurt or hurting ourselves or others were fine, justified or hidden. We stayed ignorant, avoiding certain lessons because coming into awareness might’ve meant losing what we had, until we realized hanging on was taking more than it was giving. In this sense, to recover means through a series of steps, tools and realizations we take back the love that was either taken from us or love we gave away. Awakening becomes a new duality offering both more and less space. The cosmos have no borders but our dog is only allowed to poop on a leash in the designated spot. We’re no longer experiencing the burden of a bad habit but find ourselves needing a whole new way to cope with a world that’s still curled up with Suzy Q’s and convenient rationalizations. It’s always been this way. It’s tradition. I don’t want to be left out. I want to get mine. This Suzy Q is an orgasm in my mouth; your argument is irrelevant. Healing work invites us to consciously deconstruct the way we’ve been, reconstruct a new way and figure out how to integrate ourselves back into relationship with the world. Graduated place holders help; the patch, O’Doole’s, or my personal favorite No Pudge Fudge Brownies. It’s a hot pink box of cocoa powder featuring flying pigs. You mix a scoop of the mix with a scoop of yogurt, stick it in the microwave, then boom. One minute mug cake. It’s no frosting filled brownie but it helped me break up with sugar and now, 7 years later I’m over it. To varying degrees recovery changes everything and it’s good (eventually), so good we might feel inspired to tell a few people. Russel Brand is a very funny, extroverted English person whose enlightenment and activism was endorsed by the Dalai Lama. At the moment I’m stuck in ambivalence. I might be having a nationality crisis, but I’m almost certain I don’t want to be a man. It’s probably existential fatigue. Errands feel irrelevant when a white, blonde tween-angel is asking for a what what for Jesus. It’s like Anne says, we can get better but circumstances might have to get worse before the next great awakening. Have we had one yet? I guess it depends on which guru you follow. John said Jesus said consumerism is on its way out; but that was like 2,000 years ago. While we’re waiting, do we join the dancing bears, try to set them free, grab some popcorn and enjoy the show, or go on a little adventure in all of it? I think that’s it. First we’re on their wagon, then maybe we’re off ours. Eventually we find our sweet spot in the revolutions.
Case in point, this Christmas card I saw at Target yesterday. Surrounded by zombies, standing on Goldfish crumbs I stared at consumption and tried to let it be. Tis the season for lots of articles on how to get through the holidays if we find ourselves in one of many categories of ‘other’; how to stay sober, stick to a food plan, navigate political conversations, set boundaries, budget wisely, shop Black Friday deals in a wheelchair, manage the impact of overzealous marketing on vulnerable 3 year olds who can make us feel like the worst parents on earth if we don’t trample other parents for the hot toy. I’m actually fine with the card, not because I don’t love Jesus but because I’m good at healthy detachment. This is our culture. We live in a system that makes it hard for most of us to grow up. We lack meaningful rites of passage. Our current leader is giving us indigestion. Markers of mainstream success are only comfortably accessible to a select few while the rest of us may be driving ourselves to some brink of insanity attempting to reach a decidedly unachievable goal. That might sound extreme but the recent string of sexual assault admissions against mostly wealthy white men in power has left me to wonder if anyone is truly ‘living the dream’. A living nightmare? Maybe not. I’m a dark optimist and believe breakdowns create breakthroughs. I just wonder how much farther down we need to collectively break before the foundation splits open and the light can shine in.
Rejecting a construct is somehow more validated when we can prove it’s our choice. Travel blogging would be so hard. I mean, it’s your world but I’d be really homesick. You must be lonely. Wrong. Travel blogging would be amazing but I’m still paying off our visit to Mexico in June. The year I got divorced I had a lamp, 3 suitcases and a borrowed air mattress. My aunt took me to Busch Gardens on Christmas Day and my mom sent me a couple of outfits for work. I was grateful. I could’t bring myself to mail cards and for the first time in a long time, had no money or means to really do gifts. Accepting my situation offered a little relief but it also added to the existing sense of emptiness, as if my life had just been gutted like a pumpkin. Hello, Fairy Godmother? Are you in there? Nope. I doubt a dead tree in an empty studio apartment would’ve made much difference. There was something very pure about starting over with almost nothing that felt honest in a way that I welcomed. It’s where my recovery began. With each step I was faced with the opportunity to reshape different areas of my life; relationships, beliefs, how I had fun and radically question why I’d done whatever I did before. The only trick is learning how to be ok with trial and error and not caring what other people think. I suck at beach volleyball. Do not trust salsa instructors, guys who ‘drive’ bikes or real estate agents.
Healing from both anorexia and codependence has meant learning to have all kinds of difficult conversations. Liz doesn’t eat that. No she’s not eating. I can’t date someone who doesn’t eat. Oh I forgot you’re vegetarian. Why aren’t you eating? You look too thin. Oh great you gained weight finally! Ok, but what will you eat? Why don’t you just have a bite, it won’t hurt you? You must think I’m so fat. How do you stay so thin? I’m having cookies, look how naughty I’m being. Oh, you’re so good. Why are you going running now?! It’s dark out! Get one for all of them so no one’s feeling are hurt. Haven’t got your donation yet, just a friendly reminder. You are going aren’t you? Why are still in therapy? Are you enlightened npw? You’re not over that yet? I guess you just like being sad. More good news? The more we practice, the easier it gets. Is my diet weird? Yes. Do I still occasionally fall into codependent potholes? Yes. Does it trouble me the way it used to? Much less. Owning our power, understanding what we really think and having what we need to live with reasonable authority over our lives makes it easier to be authentic. I’m 5 years out of poverty and 3 months away from my 40th birthday. Student loan debt doesn’t count except it means the government has technically owned me since birth. W.I.C, Headstart, Section 8, Student Loans into Public Service. It continually blows my mind to say out loud at meetings which programs I represent, knowing that at one time I was a service member. I don’t believe you need money to get real. What keeps resonating are safety and dignity. It’s safer to be real when you’ve got your own bed. It’s easier to have confidence about your choices when you can afford them, as opposed to the way we feel when necessity forces us to settle. A donated, burgundy and brown, corduroy winter coat comes to mind. In God and ones we trust. Telling the truth back in the day left me homeless more than once because there were some truths I was no longer willing to compromise on. We each get decide our when. I read a horrible article on a new age blog about the reasons people don’t have spiritual awakenings and not once did it connect ego defenses to trauma. We fall in line for a reason. But truth is freedom. But we fall in line for a reason. Frosted sugar cookies taste like heaven! Do you know how many empty calories are in that? Yes, and they’re all delicious.
Fa lalala, coming full circle. The first time we wake up screaming oh no till round and round we go and see. We each get to decide what we’ve come to experience.