12 Steps

Recovery Cards

“Recovery simply means possessing the courage to let go of old ineffective patterns of thought and behavior and a willingness to start fresh.”-Thom Rutledge

 

One thing you are never going to hear me say is an “I AM” affirmation. Popular in most yoga classes, self help books, and hippie dippie new age wellness blogs; they are sayings like, “I am truth”, “I am love”, “I am beautiful”, “I am a force for good”, “I am connected to the Earth”, “I am one with the universe”…you get the idea. These affirmations are supposed to be empowering, change your mind, build confidence, and make you feel good.  Anytime I have heard someone say one of these I cringe on the inside. These affirmations feel so fake and the people who say them just rub me the wrong way…it’s like they view themselves as uppity and better than everyone else. And does anyone really believe they are one with the universe?

 

The other day in therapy we actually spent some time talking about recovery tools and what my tools have been/are. I talked about how when I first began recovery the first thing they teach you to do is disassociate–anytime my ED (Melvin) said something I was to recognize it and say the opposite. The idea of disassociation is to draw awareness to these thoughts, begin to break the cycle, and replace them with truth. Sometimes people use affirmations, like what I mentioned above, or in my case I would say “this is not true” or “this is my disorder/Melvin not me”. It is a great tool and it works but eventually it begins to breakdown. For example, I’m immune to it. I have disassociated so much that it’s habit and it doesn’t have the same affect anymore. I say my opposite truth and I’m still in the cycle. Which as my therapist says, it’s ok we just got to find a new tool.

 

IMG_2945

 

At this same time I found my Recovery Cards. I haven’t seen these things in YEARS!  I was cleaning out purses and purging shit and I found them in a purse pocket. I didn’t open them. I couldn’t bring myself to–it’s not like mementos you have kept from an old boyfriend that is laced with bad memories. For some reason I avoided them, maybe it was because of how I have been feeling about my recovery lately. These cards are makeshift flash cards with various quotes (we all know how much I love a good quote or song lyric!), 12 Step prayers, Bible verses, etc…They basically would calm me down and act as a way to make Melvin’s voice stop.

 

The original clip was still keeping them together. The edges were bent, but the ink was still dark and black. I placed them on my jewelry box so I would see them. With the intention to pick them up and read them. It took me two weeks to pick them up. Honestly, I didn’t even look at them and remove the clip till I sat down to write this post.As I read each one and laid them out on the floor like one of those memory games that you play as a kid, memories flooded back to me. How I use to sit at my job and read these cards because I would begin to have a panic attack. How I would curl up in a ball in bed because I couldn’t make myself eat even though I was starving and I knew I needed to. They would remind me that I am making the right choice, choosing life. That recovery is worth it and that each day “I did my best and that’s okay”.

 

IMG_2944

 

I can’t remember why I stopped using them. I guess I thought I didn’t need them. Or maybe they stopped working. Who knows? I do know that as I look at these cards beside me the words on them ring true. They may not be your typical affirmations and make me one with the universe but they do center me. That when I’m “at peace with my own soul then heaven and earth will be a peace with me” and that “every morning is a chance at a new day”. 

 

“Just because you relapse does not mean you’re a failure. Relapse is part of your recovery. You will have times you slip and break, but that in no way s means you are a failure. Recovery takes time, it takes trys, it takes work, and it takes fails. If you relapse you didn’t fail, you just slipped. Take a deep breath and start over. You will get there, don’t doubt yourself”.-anon

Stepping into Karma

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”-Step 12, EDA Version

karma: Sanskrit for action

 

In many different spiritual paths we are called to help and be of service to others. Through serving others we are able to show people that kindness does exist in what can be seen as a cruel world. That there is something more to life than just the everyday drudgery of Facebook scrolling, Neflixing, coffee drinking, working that 9-5, and sleeping. For those of us who have chosen a recovered life it is imperative that we serve others who were once (still) like us by sharing our story and helping them out.

Step 12 is an action step calling for us to be stewards and it reminds me of another action: karma. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, but the concept of “what goes around comes around” isn’t what karma truly is. My favorite explanation of karma is by Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With Heart, “karma means that nothing arises by itself. Every experience is conditioned by that which precedes it. Thus our life is a series of interrelated patterns” (273). Kornfield later states, “the intention or attitude that we bring to each situation of life determines the kind of karma we want to create. Day to day, moment to  moment, we can begin to see the creation of the patterns of karma based on the intentions in our heart” (279).

 

singing-bowl-2576487_640

 

This is precisely what those of us in recovery are to do with our daily lives while waving our recovery flags. Our hearts are to be so devoted to recovery that everything we do is to be intentional. Our intentions for sharing our stories isn’t to be boastful and “hey, look at me” it is to be honest, real, and selfless. We are intentionally making new patterns of behavior to correct patterns of the past.  It reminds me of a quote from my EDA Book, “As we begin to realize that our world has been changed for the better through the step work we have done, we simultaneously become aware that the gift of life in recovery comes with the responsibility to share it with others. Now that we have begun to experience healing in our lives we must extend a hand to those who still suffer”.

I hadn’t really thought much about my own personal recovery lately. I have been falling short on my steps–honestly I haven’t been living a 12 Step life. I lost my mission that I sat out to do when I first began this blog. I began imageoftheheart to share my experience with others who suffer or know people who are suffering, to help them make sense of this disordered world. And what have I been doing? Nothing. I haven’t been generating any  karma, just a pool of nothing.

 

volunteers-2654003_640

 

Over the past month people have reached out to me. I have answered questions on how to support loved ones with EDs. I’ve shared posts with those who are new to recovery. I even helped someone seek recovery. Between the Facebook messages and emails something began to stir within me. Something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Purpose. Direction. A moving current of karma. This karma current swelled within my heart and helped me get back on track. To start the steps over, to be intentional in my recovery and not just throw it to the side like stale piece of bread.

If what Kornfield says is true, “The heart is our garden, and along with each action there is an intention that is planted like a seed. The result of the patterns of our karma is the fruit of these seeds.(277)”. I want to sow beautiful fruit-ripe, juicy, organic recovery fruit. I am tired of have OK, slightly spotty recovery fruit. Since this is a new month I am taking accountability for my actions and starting over. Tilling up my soil and ready to sow new fruit that is sweet with karma.

How is the karma in your life? Are you generating positive action while sowing sweet fruit or are you just skirting by and sowing OK fruit? Are living with intention and removing yourself out of your actions towards others? If you aren’t happy with the answers or the taste of your fruit then take some time to re-focus. Make an intention to be intentional. Lend a helping hand to someone in need, share your story, hold space for others. Generate karma.

 

meditation-2151342_640

Yamas, Niyamas, and the 12 Steps

For yoga teacher training we had to write a research paper. I really wanted my paper to be a reflection of what myself and where I want to take yoga. I want to take yoga in the theraupetic route, helping those with ED’s, mental illness, and other addictions overcome their mountain. As we studied two of the eight limbs of yoga: yamas and niyamas, I realized how similar they are to the 12 Steps. I use the 12 Steps as much as I can and I was starting to incorporate the yamas and niyamas in my life, I realized that they can be a great tool for those in recovery. This is how I got the idea for my research paper. My paper is a brief overview of a bigger topic and hopefully one day I can dive deeper and expand on this topic.

~~~~

“To the pure of heart comes also a quiet spirit, one-pointed thought, the victory over sensuality, and fitness to behold the soul.” Yoga Sutras II.41

 

Patanjali encompassed the essence of self-realization, self discovery, and the journey of a recovered life in this sutra. That particular sutra can be about embarking on the yoga journey or a journey of a recovered life from codependency, eating disorders, addictions, or unhealthy behaviors. Yoga can be used in combination with the 12 Steps to help a person who is recovery to become the best version of themselves. Though some people may think that the 12 Steps are unrelated to yoga, they would think otherwise after reviewing the two limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali: the Yamas (moral disciplines) and Niyamas (moral guidelines). Even after review, the similarities between the yamas and niyamas and the 12 steps are apparent. The two limbs and the 12 Steps can help complement each other and together help an individual on their recovery journey.

The 12 Steps were written by Bill Wilson, a prominent businessman and alcoholic, who also founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. In 1938, his teachings and the 12 Steps were published in what is known as the Big Book (www.12step.com). The steps are faith based, meaning that they use spiritual concepts and the surrender of the participant to a power. Each step is a continuation of the next, they must be completed in order to be effective. When one begins they start with the first step, admitting they are powerless over their addiction or affliction. From there they go on through the following:

2)a power great than us can restore us, 3)we made a decision to turn our will and lives over to God as we understand him, 4) we made a fearless moral inventory, 5)we admitted to God and another our wrongdoings, 6)we’re entirely ready to have God remove these defects, 7)we asked God to remove them, 8)we made a list of all persons harmed, 9)we made direct amends with those we hurt, unless it would cause direct harm, 10) we continue to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong we admit it, 11)through prayer and meditation we come closer to God, 12)having been enlightened by these steps we are to carry this out to others. (Anonymous)

The yamas and niyamas are two parts of the eight limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. When one is on the yogic path these are observances and guidelines that yogi’s or yogini’s abide by. The yamas are known as moral disciplines. They are: ahimsa-non harming, satya-truth, asteya-non-stealing, brahmacharya-purity, and aparigraha-non covetedness/non hoarding/detachment. After that there are the niyamas, moral guidelines. They are: saucha-cleanliness, santosa-contentment, tapas-zeal/passion, svadhyaya-self study, and Isvara Pranidhana-dedication to the Lord through actions (Gates, 2002) (Iyengar, 1976).

As a person delves deeper into the meanings of both the 12 Steps and the first two limbs of yoga begin to notice the similarities. According to Kyczy Hwk, the 12 Steps, yamas, and niyamas provide ways to help with recovery from a variety of addictions with the 12 Steps being a more spiritual practice while the yamas and niyamas and yoga are more of a physical practice (Hawk).When a person on a recovery journey practice the yamas and niyamas they can better understand the Steps because they all have “a spiritual union with ones higher power” (Hawk). Some of the 12 Steps have more than one yama or niyama to go with it while some only have one. There are also some aspects of the first two limbs of yoga that are overarching concepts in the 12 Steps.

The first step has multiple niyamas that are related. Rolf Gates in his book, Meditations from the Mat, says it best, “We can count on the new and the unfamiliar to be awkward. But the awkwardness of that first step is no reason for us to deny ourselves the opportunity to have balance in a given area of our lives. We will have the degree of grace in our lives that we permit ourselves to have”   (Gates, 59). With that grace and the help of their higher power, the participant can then work on certain aspects of aparigraha and saucha. Aparigraha is “about the end of all attachment: letting go of our fears, letting go of our desires, becoming free” (Gates,67), which is an essence of Step 1. Saucha has similarities to Step 1 because of the crazy talk, insanity that is in his or her lives before that first step. Step 2 and 3 could also have some similarities with aparigraha and saucha as well because he or she is letting go of what doesn’t serve them, their addiction of dysfunction, to become free.

Step Four, making a fearless moral inventory, has similarities to asteya and the whole aspect of yoga. When the person on the recovery journey sits down to take their inventory they cover all wrongdoings and “defects of character” (Anonymous). This is something that is constantly done time and time again in the recovered life. Without taking regular inventory the recovered cannot stay recovered and progress in their life and spiritual walk with their higher power. When a yogi or yogini practices asteya they are paying “closer attention to what [they] do, and to put [their] faith in [their] ability to heal” (Gates,46) which is their version of making their own personal inventory.

Step 5 is all about admitting. He or she admits to God, themselves, and someone else (usually in AA it is a sponsor) all their wrongdoings and insight collected from their Step 4 inventory. Satya is the yama that has similarities to Step 5. As Rolf Gates puts clearly in Meditations from the Mat satya is “letting go of pretense and telling the truth about ourselves to another human being” (pg 31); Step 5 and satya is all about speaking truthfully and living that truth.

The next steps that are similar with one or two of the first limbs of yoga are Step 8 and 9. They are about making contact with people the individual has harmed and make direct amends with them. Here is another aspect of aparigraha at work because the individual is making a list of resentments and letting them go. Satya also makes another appearance here because satya is all about truth and the individual is speaking truth to those they have hurt.

After that comes Step 11 where the individual seeks conscious contact with God/higher power to help with their daily life and to better understand God through prayer and meditation. This has similarities to brahmacharya and self study. On the yogic path one practices brahmacharya or purity as a way to keep themselves close to God. In the 12 Steps the individual practices the same and keeps themselves pure by repentance, praying, and working to get their disease under control. As it is stated in Meditations from the Mat, “prayer enables us to tap into the healing power of the universe” (Gates, pg 52).

Lastly is Step 12, where he or she takes what she learns and shares it. In some 12 Step groups they will use the term spiritual awakening to showcase the life changing they undergo. Tapas and santosha are the two niyamas that work with Step 12. Tapas, or burning passion, relates to Step 12 because it is an “enthusiasm for health” (Gates) and it is all about inquiry. Being passionate to inquire about themselves which is the overarching idea of the 12 Steps; to be constantly evaluating your life, what the individual is doing in order to be the best person they can be in keeping the addiction or disease under control. As Gates states,

“Tapas is the spirit of inquiry; it is about having the heart of an explorer. It is the willingness to work hard in practice, the desire to know oneself, the will to be honest. But all of these virtues are predicted on a genuine desire for spiritual health. This desire will give us consistency. We will have good days and bad days, days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and days when the opposite is the case. Years of consistent practice are not built on rigid self-discipline; they are built on the desire to know more.” (Gates, 103)

Santosa is similar to Step 12 because santosa is an alternate way of approaching life, it is a different way to view life. The 12 Steps, just like the yamas and niyamas are about ways to approach different aspects of life, be it a recovered life or not.

In conclusion, there are many similarities between the 12 Steps and the yamas and niyamas of yoga. All three help individuals live a better life and give each individual a moral guidebook and road map to navigate life. With an understanding of the 12 Steps, yamas, and niyamas can help the individual on the road to recovery to better stay on that road and have a greater success rate and a lower chance of relapse.

 

Sources:

Light on Yoga, Iyengar

Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates

EDA 12 Steps

12steps.com

Yoga and the 12 Step Path, Hawk

the hardest amend is the one you make with yourself

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

These two steps can be the hardest, most humbling, and the ones we want to avoid like the plague.  Well actually, most of these steps we want to avoid like the plague, depending on the mood or situation at hand. For those not familiar with this concept it is plain and simple: you sit down and think of all the people that your behavior due to your disease has harmed. Then you pray or gather strength to say an apology to them in some form or fashion, unless it will put you or the other in a place of harming. Then you can just make an internal amend and send them energy.

I have been to the amend drawing board a few times, even before I started the steps. Asking for forgiveness is the most difficult thing one can do. And sometimes the hardest person to ask forgiveness from is yourself. Over many therapy sessions I have attempted to forgive myself for past mistakes (usually mistakes in relationships or self harm via starving). I remember having a therapist make me write letters to myself as a way to start the forgiveness process. Sometimes those worked, sometimes it didn’t. I believe that those of us who tend to live in the past and can’t see past our mistakes have a more difficult time letting go and forgiving than others. I may have started the self amending process but never understood it till recently.

This previous weekend of teacher training it was our silent weekend. Yes, silence. As in no talking, no music, no tv, nothing that makes a sound. I at first was not going to do it but God gave me a husband who “suggests” that I do certain things that I don’t want to do because they are “good for me” and because I love him I do those self improvement things. But, I did it my way. I easily went into the silence. Starting Friday I became more quiet. Saturday I was even more quiet, spoke more intentionally, stepped away from my phone, then at night began my silent episode.

Lately, I have been dealing with a past issue/someone from my past. I could not figure out why this was on my heart. I prayed to figure it out, seeking God’s wisdom to discern this turmoil inside. Staying at my parents house when I am at TT I have access to all my old journals. So I did some past soul searching. Upon reading some embarrassing and hilarious stories, I walked into the silence and read the words on the page. It became clear on why things have been popping up in my head. While I made amends and asked for forgiveness a long time ago, I hadn’t made amends with myself for the mistake. Tears started flowing, filling up the silence, a turmoil of pain and happiness began to fill my insides. I texted my husband because I was feeling emotions and I hate feeling. Luckily he was there for support and let me cry it out. So there in my bed, all covered up with blankets and afghans, in a fortress of solitude, I prayed and made amends. I forgave myself and counted my blessings. I cried out all my anger and emotions that have been filling up my brain since TT started. I moved everything out of my being and into space.

One thing they don’t tell you about stress is that it weighs you down and when it disappears you feel LIGHTER! I swear I felt 10 lbs lighter. Talk about the best way to lose emotional weight, just cry! Or maybe do some yoga, that happens as well.

Ever since that weekend I have been able to keep that lightness, the self-forgiveness, the happiness…and I haven’t felt this great in a long time. So if you haven’t walked into the silence or walked into the room of amending a relationship, do. Who knows what you will find or how you will feel. Don’t avoid the silence. Don’t avoid the emotions. Just go for it and see what happens.

Looking Up

I love it when church ties in with either yoga or mental illness/recovery. Church and Jesus Christ has played a big role in recovery via the 12 Steps and coming back to Christ, trusting him more completely. Knowing that he sustains me and I can overcome with his helps….which is a great tie in to the topic for today.

In service this morning Pastor Tony led us in a sermon called, The One Who Lifts My Head.  The scripture was Psalm 3:1-6:

A Psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom…

O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him”. But you, O Lord (Jehovah), are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord (Jehovah), and he answered me from his holy mountain. I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me (sustained me). I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surrounded me on every side. (NLT)

Pastor Tony then went on to discuss his own time of being lost. Almost burnt out and didn’t know if he could be a preacher. But while on his lawn mower one day he spoke out to God and this came over him. That God will sustain him, keep his promise, and lift his head high.We each all go through trials, as he said today: “If you aren’t going through one you are getting ready to go through one. Jesus loves us too much not to put us through a trial.” While we go through these trials it is important to cry out to God and ask him to lift our head. He can and he will. He lifts our head up and watches over us or in some translations it says sustain us. He is our strength, rock, strong tower.

One of the most moving parts was that he listed all these things one can go through and he mentioned depression. Most of the time mental illness is skirted in the church so it was great he mentioned depression. These verses are wonderful for those who are depressed. Depression is hard, you really can’t lift your head high. You think the worst. Nothing fuels you, nothing sustains you. While you may feel that, or your body can’t do anything but lay in bed, God can do it all. We just have to rely on him and let him wrap us in his glory while shielding us from our inner selves. With his power and faithfulness we won’t be afraid of the enemies that are surrounding us.

True, this is easier said than done. I know some of you all are thinking that. But that is why we constantly turn ourselves over to him (a huge base of the 12 steps).  It is that humbling, that earnest longing to be able to lift our head, that longing for life, that gives us the determination and the ability to be like the David in this Psalm and ask God to sustain us.

I ask you this week to meditate on this Psalm. See what comes up when you meditate. If you practice yoga, make this your intention. Pray it.

Lift your head high, because no one wants to see your forehead, we all want to see your beautiful face.

Christian Quotes, Sayings, Jesus Loves You, Drake

J.Alfred Prufrock and New Friends

This past weekend was another yoga teacher training extravaganza. While I didn’t have any panic attacks or  self-harming, I did have another break through…well in a way. I found two other lovely ladies who are rising above the same situations as I am. I felt so alive and happy to know that I am not alone. When you suffer from ED’s or other mental health issues you feel alone and that no one understands you. Then you find someone else you automatically feel relieved and have that extra support. It was such a blessing to discuss our situations and become support sisters! Now, I know that if I am having a depressive mood or feel overwhelmed with this training I have two other ladies that I can talk to openly and not be afraid of what they will say because they will understand where I am coming from! Joy. O the 12 Steps at work….this sharing is a prime example of Step 12 (sharing with others to help them on their recovery journey).

While on my drive home I began to think about this weekend and one of my favorite poems: The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock. It is such a sad, powerful, emotional poem. Ever since I first read this at the age of 16 it struck a chord with me. I knew the sadness Prufrock had. How it can be overwhelming to be in crowds and talk to people (even though I am EXTREMELY extroverted), that we all prepare our face to meet those new faces/hide a bit of ourselves or all of ourselves, will one change we make really change the world/can we change it?/do we dare to make the change?, the losing of precious moments, gathering the strength to make the next move and just to live fully. There is so much that this poem encompasses that literally I could write five blog entries on it alone.

There are so many beautiful lines that scream heartache and self-doubt, which all of us, not even those with mental health issues, can face. We all have our own love song. What is yours?

~~~

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

When…

For those of us in recovery one always thinks about what it/a recovered life will look like when we are recovered. Are we ever recovered? There are some individuals who believe you can recover fully. Then there are others, like myself, who don’t believe in a full recovery. That you are never recovered, you still have the issues but you learn to handle them better. There will still be struggles with your mental health, addiction, eating disorder, but by following/working the 12 Steps, prayer/meditation, going to support groups, whatever your new strategy is you can manage your issue(s).

When I first embarked on the recovery journey I looked around for clues. For pictures. For ideas of when I would be recovered. I keep thinking, “How will I know I am recovered?”, “What does it look like?”. After working the 12 Steps and working with others I came to the conclusion that I will never be recovered, BUT, I can imagine my life without my eating disorder and exercise addiction.

Here is how I imagine/drew my life without Melvin….

In the book, Life Without Ed by Jenni Schafer (a must read!!!!!), her therapist Thom Rutledge has activities for those of us reading the book to help us separate from our ED. The one that really shaped my outlook on the recovered life is the activity on page 111 where Thom has the reader define our recovery. He writes, “It is important to be able to identify and describe something about what you want for yourself–if you intend to find it, that is. Can you define your recovery? Do you know what you have in mind when you think about recovering from your eating disorder? Not what your mother or father or brother or boyfriend or therapist or nutritionist think your recovery should be. Do you know what you want it to be?” (page 111). He gives the reader three categories to work out: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. Here is mine, a mix of what I wrote two years ago that still ring so true as I sit here and blog this:

Spiritually, I will be able to focus in church service on Jesus Christ and worshiping not what I am going to eat for lunch or dinner or tomorrow’s breakfast. I will be able to let myself go and open my heart to the spirit and not be reserved. 

Mentally, I will be able to be present in the moment and not check out.

Emotionally, I will be stable and control my emotions/stress/anxiety. I will have developed enough skills to avoid melting down, anger, and emotionally withdrawing from situations. * let us add to this: I will be more open and communicative with my husband and love him with patience*

Physically, I will not rely on birth control to have my periods and will have a healthy ratio of lean muscle to body fat. I will also not put worth on a number that is on a scale. *let us add to this: I will be happy with myself in a swim suit or tight clothing, and I will stop thinking my legs look like cottage cheese when I know that they have muscle*

Another way I shaped my life is defining my “sane life”. In Step 1 of the 12 Steps you admit powerlessness and insanity. Insanity being doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. One can also think of Step 1 as being out of control. It is in Step 2 that you are given the questions : “How do you define sanity? What would a sane life look like? Which eating disorder {insert your habit} behaviors, habits, and attitudes kept you from acting sanely in the past?”

Here is what I wrote in response to those questions on 10/26/2011 (and it still is true to this day)

My definition of a sanity is not me at this present moment. I want to be a happy, self acceptant, non-compulsive behavioral, non-ED individual. A sane life for me would be me married to my boyfriend *which I did!*, away from TN, I’m a successful dancer, healthy (mentally, physically, spiritually), looks good, happy, helping fellow dancers and people with ED’s. Most of all: NO MELVIN. So many ED behaviors have kept me from being sane. Always counting and measuring, always be concerned with calorie content, always looking at myself in reflective surfaces all the time. Never being confident at integral points in time, being perfect. 

I also like the following quotes that define recovery. I found them in some of older journals in the early days of my journey and I still find so much meaning in them:

“Recovery does not mean cure. Rather recovery is an attitude, a stance, and a way of approaching the day’s challenges. It is not a perfectly linear journey. There are times of rapid gains and disappointing relapses. There are times of just living, just staying quiet, resting and regrouping. Each person’s journey of recovery is unique. Each person must find what works for them. This means that we must have the opportunity to try and to fail and to try again.” Project HEAL

“Don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to lose.” Anon

“Being recovered is when a person can accept his or her natural body size and shape and no longer has a self-destructive relationship with food or exercise. When you are recovered, food and weight take a proper perspective in your life, and what you weigh is not more important than who you are; in face, actual numbers are of little or no importance at all. When recovered, you will not compromise your health or betray your soul to look a certain way, wear a certain size, or reach a certain number on a scale. When you are recovered you do not use eating disorder behaviors to deal with, distract from, or cope with other problems.” Carolyn Costin

I look upon the words I journaled and the quotes from others and see that I still have a long way to go. But I am WAY closer to that sane life than I was when I started that journey a little over two years ago. In the words of my first therapist Dr. Smith, “Recovery is a marathon not a sprint.” Also, I will never be totally sane and perfect till I reach Heaven. But these goals/definitions give me hope and strength to wake up and work towards my defined life.

To those who read this and are in recovery I would like to know your goals/definition of your life without your ED etc…comment and share. We are all in this recovery journey together!

Peace and Namaste.