Sunday, September 28, 2008

ELUL and the Steps

Last weekend, the student rabbi of my congregation gave me an ELUL journal. She had shared that we would have some opportunities to look at ways to journal in this month getting ready for the High Holidays. Since we didn't get to it as a group, she shared it with me. It was truly a gift.

I love how my religion, just like any religion or spiritual practice, matches so closely with the 12 steps.

Here's what I read about the four steps of Selichot, the quest for forgiveness:
1. Honestly admit the harm we have caused.
2. Make amends unless doing so causes further harm.
3. Ask forgiveness from those we have hurt.
4. Turn away from the hurtful behavior and do good.

For me, this fits exactly with my steps, though just not in the same order.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Then, there's Teshuvah, returning to God and godliness. For me, this fits with these steps:
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us, and the power to carry that out.

I am supposed to be almost finished with this journal, since Rosh Hashanah starts tomorrow night. But here I am again, doing it perfectly imperfectly. And now I have yet another tool for my toolbox. Thank God!

Step 2- OA Edition

We just finished step 2 in my online writing workshop. Yesterday, we read step 2 in the OA 12 and 12 in my OA meeting. The beginning of the reading focused on the insanity of the disease of compulsive overeating. There was so much that fit me. Eating way past being full to the point of being uncomfortable over and over again is the one that resonated the most. It really is compulsive behavior.

You know, one of the first things someone told me when I was trying to understand abstinence in OA was to choose one trigger food and abstain from that. For me, it was car candy. If I have candy in the car, I over-eat it. Last week, for the first time in a while, I bought a bag of candy corn and put it in my car. I decided a few days ago to limit myself to 5 pieces in every car trip. That worked for a few days. I thought to myself that maybe I'd figured out a plan of eating car candy. But then yesterday, ON MY WAY TO MY OA MEETING, I finished off the bag. Ok, God, I guess I really AM an addict, and I can't have car candy and eat just a little.

Later in the step 2 OA reading, they talked about the destructive cycle we go through. It talked about how we turn to food for comfort, but we need more and more. It said that we keep seeking that comfort that comes from food, even when it stops working. You could have inserted crack or opiods for food in that passage, and it would have been the same. I really DO have an addiction and I really am powerless over it. There really is insanity in my relationship with food. And I have come to believe that a power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. It works for my disease of codependency. It can work for my disease of compulsive overeating as well.

Friday, September 26, 2008


My partner procrastinated on something, and it looks like it's going to cost her daughter $5,000. She'd been asked to send in her tax returns to the financial aid office. The school hasn't been really firm with the boundary. First they said that her daughter may not be able to register for fall classes. The boundary kept getting pushed. Today, her daughter called crying saying that the deadline was today at 5pm and it'll cost her $5,000. It's now done, and I don't know if it's too late. I also don't know how I feel about it. I don't want my stepdaughter to pay for my partner's mistake, particularly in her senior year. But I don't want to pay for it either.

I'm working on a balance between compassion and detachment. I'm trying to stay on my side of the street. I'm trying to stay in today. And I'm trying to trust that whatever happens as a result of this will be for my stepdaughter's, my partner's and my best.

Monday, September 22, 2008

God of my Growing Understanding

The first time I worked the steps, I believed in the power of the 12 step program and in the power of my group. That was enough for me to continue working the steps despite my status as an Agnostic Jew.

Then, the most recent time I worked the steps, I embraced the idea that I really didn't have to understand, and started praying to the God of my Lack of Understanding.

Now, here I am on Step 2 again, and I'm noticing that I'm much more comfortable with and in tune with a growing understanding of God.

This weekend, my Jewish community had a weekend study. We looked a lot at our undertanding of God. Our visiting student Rabbi talked about being made in God's image not being a physical thing, but rather that when we are doing right in the world, we bring a piece of God to the world. That works for me. She also shared some liturgy describing the relationship between God and people in many different ways and described it as many different entry points into a relationship with God.

I still don't buy the Disney Dad God or the Wrathful God. I don't know that there's someone up there watching every move I make and making decisions based on my behavior. I also don't buy God, the puppeteer, who's got me on a string and I only think I'm making my own decisions.

But God as the still small voice inside me that helps me choose the next right thing, that works for me. God as the message that really speaks to me from a reading or from a friend also works for me.

And regardless of my complete lack of understanding or my growing understanding, the program, and my understanding, works when I work it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AFGO- Pain

I've been working on Step 1, and we had these questions about pain. Here's what I said Saturday when asked what areas of my life are causing me sadness:

"Right now, I'm not experiencing sadness. My disease tends to be one of extremes. Things at work and at home are going well at the moment, and I'm really not sure what to do with myself. When my addict's issues are bouncing up against mine and there's nothing I can do to "make" her do things differently, I have great sadness. I have learned, through much pain, that I really can't control her. So, when she's acting out in ways that affect me, my only choices are to live with it or to make changes that can feel extremely uncomfortable, and in those times of deciding what I'm going to do, I experience great sadness."

Then there was the question that said that pain is a signal to act out my addiction, obsession or compulsion and asked what pain is my loudest signal. I said:

"My loudest signal is perceived abandonment. When my partner withdraws to the bed or refuses to work through an issue with me, it triggers me to act out my own addiction, obsession, and compulsion."

So, what happens? My partner has physical pain, she withdraws from me, and I start acting out in my disease. AFGO!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Using my tools- perfectly imperfectly

Yesterday, I said:

"And guess what? It's the weekend. My addict is piddling around the house, mostly NOT engaging with me. She's also being very loud about her back hurting. I'm not sitting around the house waiting for her to spend time with me. I'm not obsessing about whether she's going to decide to self-medicate and relapse. I'm busy with my own life and my own program. For today, I'm working it, and it's working!!!"

Well for the morning anyway. By night time, I was anxiety ridden over my abandonment issues and triggered over her combination of back pain and isolation and I overate and did not get enough sleep. Sigh. Today's a new day!

My post was supposed to end here, but speaking of today being a new day, my partner just came home after leaving for work. She said she forgot her bra and now she's in a bind. She said she can't afford another occurance, and if she goes in late, she'll get one, but if she takes the day off and goes to the doctor, she won't. I told her calmly, that I can't afford to pay for another day off without pay and that she needs to have a plan for when she runs out of days. She said that she'd have to come up with a plan when that happens. I told her that I need a plan NOW. She said she guesses she'll just go in sick. I asked what would happen if she doesn't. She thought for a bit, and then said that she'd make it up out of her spending money. I said that's fine, or you can do overtime, or whatever else you need to do, but I can't afford to pay for another day of lost wages. I said that this is a very clear boundary in my head, and you need to know it. I said what I meant. I meant what I said. And I said it firmly, but not mean.

One step back, but two steps forward. NOW, on with the day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Using my tools

Today, I did some step 1 work. I did what I committed to myself and the internet that I was gonna do, and addressed my compulsive overeating while working the step. Afterwards, I decided to make some program calls to members of OA. That's getting out of my comfort zone. I'm finally to the point where I'm totally comfortable picking up the phone and calling my naranon friends.

But today, I reached out in particular to someone that I really don't know, but who seems to have what I want. I asked her about her experience working the steps in OA. She told me about her experiences. She pointed me to a 4th step tool that's specific to OA. She told me about a 12 step guide that she used, and agreed to email me with information about the guide. She talked to me about some of her successes and some of her struggles. She talked about getting ahead of herself when on step 4 by thinking about the upcoming work she would have in making amends. She mentioned that she's in more than one recovery program (just like me) and that she wanted to do one inventory, but that that didn't work for her. She found that she needed to address her separate issues separately. She talked to me about things that were getting in the way of her 9th step work, and how she's handling them. I'm so glad I made this call. I hung up feeling very uplifted.

I guess when I think about it, I also did some 12 step work today- carrying the message to those who still suffer. I helped a friend who's got a whole lot of recovery behind her but is very new to step work. And I reached out to somebody online who's where I've been, and shared my experience, strength and hope.

And guess what? It's the weekend. My addict is piddling around the house, mostly NOT engaging with me. She's also being very loud about her back hurting. I'm not sitting around the house waiting for her to spend time with me. I'm not obsessing about whether she's going to decide to self-medicate and relapse. I'm busy with my own life and my own program. For today, I'm working it, and it's working!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stepping it Up again

I went to a new (for me) OA meeting this morning. I have this love/hate relationship with OA. It's taken me forever to identify myself as a compulsive overeater in those rooms. The format of this meeting is 12 and 12. They read and discuss the steps and traditions, rotating back and forth. Apparently, last week they finished tradition 12, so today, we started with Step 1.

Meanwhile, I've started another step study group online, and where are we this week? You guessed it, Step 1.

I'm getting pretty comfortable with my naranon issues, and getting much better at being able to look at myself when I'm working the steps of Naranon. But I've found that when I'm in OA meetings, I tend to focus on the Naranon/Codependency issues rather than my compulsive overeating, even to the point of being unwilling to self identify as a compulsive overeater.

So I made a committment in my OA meeting, and I'm putting it out here to, in order to hold myself accountable. This week, when I'm doing my writing about Step 1, I am going to be intentional about including my compulsive overeating. So, everybody, I'm R, I'm Codependent, I'm a Lesbian, AND I'm a compulsive overeater.