This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door
and invite them in.
Funny how we stumble upon things sometimes. This poem says far more eloquently than I could have what I have been going through - what I am going through. This, it seems, is some kind of dark night. I am beginning to acknowledge that I have been feeling weird for a little while in my life. Something not sitting quite right in my life.
So often, I make that something a thing external to me - a situation, relationship, work, project, or behaviour. But those things, those conflicts and troubles, are simply reflections of what is happening within.
A number of years ago, I began to extricate myself from a framework that I had built my whole life within and around for a number of years. That framework was 'recovery', as described in 12 step fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous. I spent a number of years using this model, which says that addiction is a disease and that recovery is a process that is ongoing throughout life. Freedom, happiness and joy are available in recovery, but be very clear that once an addict, always an addict in the sense that you will never be totally free of the illness.
I am a student of A Course in Miracles, which states that in this world there are two and only two thought systems - a thought system based on love, and one based on fear. ACIM teaches unequivocally that only one of them is real - love; the other (fear) is an illusion, however convincing and real it might appear to be. It also says that 'Everyone teaches, and teaches all the time', and that in every single moment, we are either teaching love or fear to ourselves and to one another. What I teach, I reinforce in myself. What I put out, I make stronger in myself.
I came to a place a number of years ago where I got really fed up of 'teaching' that I was a broken person with some kind of illness or disease, rather than simply a child of God who has, on a cosmic level, deeply forgotten the Truth of who I really am. I began to see my life and my journey differently. I felt trapped rather than empowered by the 12 step model. And so I walked away, contradicting the key message which is to 'Keep coming back' - initially to keep your own recovery going, and secondly, and crucially, to carry the message of recovery to the addict who still suffers.
For a number of years, things have been really, really okay. Yes, of course, I've overindulged with food at times. Yes, sometimes I've been obsessed with my weight. My body size has gone up and down. And, I have experienced freedom, joy and peace that is simply unattainable in active addiction. I haven't missed berating myself for 'being an addict'. I have really had time and space to question, explore and remember that first and foremost I am a person. At times when I was very involved in 12 step fellowships, I found myself unable to relate to other people. I felt different. I thought I was in a unique group of people who were strangely superior because of their extreme responses to life - the highs, the lows and the irrational and self-destructive behaviour so prevalent in active addiction - and dare I say, in addicts. I experienced a sick kind of arrogance about still having 'crazy' relationships, head or family interactions, about never being able to move beyond my brokenness. It was a burden, being an addict. It plagued me and I started to believe that certain things in life would always elude me, such as a loving, healthy relationship.
I stepped away from 12 step and began to rediscover myself as a woman, as a dancer, as a shaman, as an explorer, as a writer, as a lover, as a soulful, creative being. I made mistakes, sure, but over time, I let go of a lot of the terminology and practised what I study in ACIM. The lack of love in my life wasn't down to me being an addict or 'ill' in some way - it was just an area where I'd forgotten who I really was and where there was a lack of love.
Which is all well and good, and has been so important for me to experience.
But today, I sat by a pond and looked at the sky and admitted something that I've been denying and denying - that I am having some kind of a relapse with binge eating. If eating disorders are an illness in the way that eczema is, then this period in my life is one in which I am 'flaring up'.
Here are my 'dirty' secrets.
I have been eating secretly, getting closer and closer to the cusp of the No Man's Land that is bingeing. Not quite bingeing, but beginning to slip and slide towards that awful, deadening, horrendous territory that kills my spirit and cuts me off from life. It was just the odd thing for a while, sneaking chocolate while my beloved was out or ordering the most sugary piece of cake on the menu and eating it even though I didn't really want it (this is key), but I can't deny that prowling the dessert aisles in Tesco or eating a full packet of chocolate biscuits on the bus home or buying and hiding food and then eating it when I'm in the house on my own is happy, joyous and free.
I have been trying to comfort myself, and trying to hurt myself. Food is one of my oldest and best ways of doing that.
While I think that it's the external stuff that concerns me about my behaviour - namely that I'll start to put weight on, that I will waste a lot of money, and time - what is truly frightening is the effect it has on my spirit. Very quickly, I come to a place of thinking about death. A lot. And not wanting to be here, in this body. Life begins to feel pointless, exhausting, devastating, lonely. It begins to feel this way and then a huge wave threatens to engulf me and I don't know how I'm going to be able to keep going.
It has begun to feel this way recently.
|I so related to this piece of art when I saw it a few years ago.|
I lived in this place, experiencing relief from it only on days when I was so cut off and shut down, or stressed out and consumed by perfectionism, for days and days and days that sprawled endlessly into months and years. It is hell. It is torture. And I do not want to go back.
And yet... I find myself acting out, and each time I do, that awful place begins to seep into my life a little bit more.
So it seems that there is work to be done. I want to welcome in this guest, as Rumi so beautifully said, allowing it to come in and clear me out in order to make way for new delight. If there is something I need to get clarity on, know, understand or express, let it surface. If there are beliefs I am dragging around, let them emerge. I have seen too much of life in the last few years to truly want to re-enter active addiction. But I must be doing all this secret eating for a reason.
Today I wore an elastic band around my wrist (a fucking great tool that Nige thought up. Sorry to swear but despite my resistance it is so helpful). Every time I noticed that I was having a fear-based thought, I twanged the band. This has so many brilliant effects. It brings me back into my body. It brings me back into the moment. It reminds me that there are my thoughts, and then there are my Thoughts. I do not have to listen to every thought. I can stop and challenge and question them. As I twanged away, catching myself over and over, I began to feel myself come to life again, a sugar hangover having left me depleted physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Questions need to be answered at this time - honestly, in the cold light of these November days.
What am I committed to?
What, truly, is my goal?
Am I willing to do whatever it takes to move through this and return to love?
Am I ready to ask for help?
Today, realising the seriousness of the situation I am in - last time I started to sink into binge eating, it swallowed a couple of years of my life - gave me a humility and a willingness to surrender that I badly need.
Addict or not, I need help.
I accept that for today, there is an urge in me to seek oblivion through food.
I realise that the result is that I become cut off from myself and others - and crucially, so crucially, from God.
I remember that I have a choice, and that even though I must eat, I can definitely choose loving, safe foods.
I can pray and ask for the desire to binge to be removed.
I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I can choose to be honest, despite the huge resistance to posting this and to being seen to be in a mess, weak and not a teacher to anyone.
I am in the business of saving my life here. If that means I am 'not ready' to coach, teach, lead workshops or circles or anything else, then so be it. I will not wear a mask and pretend that everything is fine. I see this happening so often in the world, and it breaks my heart (there are people in my orbit with awful, awful things happening and they will not take the risk to reach out and ask for help). I will show them and myself that it is safe to be vulnerable, by being real, transparent and honest.
And you know what? It is actually a relief to have written this tonight. Despite the overpowering thoughts I had earlier about sneaking cake and biscuits, I didn't do it. Here I sit at twenty to ten, and although my head is aching, I feel clearer. I know I am going to bed tonight proud of me, more connected, in a state of surrender rather than self will, and feeling grateful. I want to be here in the land of the living with you.
Will you walk with me awhile?