I completed my step 4 (well, 99%) on Sunday.  I talked to my wonderful sponsor, R on Monday and confirmed that we have another week and a half until schedules align so that we can go over it together and move forward.  I thought that that was that and I had put it out of my head.

Doing the actual work of step 4 was no party.

Denial is a shock absorber.  We know what we need to know, when we need to know it, on God’s timing.

Step 4 for me dealt with a lot of denial and things came up that I didn’t plan.  R mentioned that that happens for a lot of people, but I did not think it would for me.  Because *I* am very in touch with my feelings of course.  I went through my resentments, fears, hurts, all the while listing things very matter of factly, knowingly leaving H out of my lists because I didn’t resent him any more- I totally accepted what he did to me and had forgiven him based on his own extreme changes.  I had recognized how I contributed to all that happened in my marriage a million times over and simply did not need to include him on the list.

So on and on I went.  A good hour or more into it, after writing about my “real” resentments- the ones that I acknowledged logically, my hand just started writing about H.  And it wrote and wrote and I cried and wrote and cried some more.  I didn’t expect it, didn’t plan it, didn’t think about it or approve of what I was writing, it just happened.  Still, I get a little teary thinking of that sadness that came out of no where when writing my resentments about him.  I don’t really get it.  Do I still resent my husband for real?  I don’t think so, I really REALLY don’t.  My mother and my husband- I totally just roll with the way they hurt me and deal with it and move on.  With my mother, I “move on” by limiting my interactions with her, by not caring about her or loving her; with my husband I “move on” by applying God’s forgiveness and acceptance and appreciating the work he has done and the man he is now.  But I don’t RESENT him in a way that I’m still holding on to that pain.  So I’m not even sure if that was real- if my pain in those moments of writing it out, was real.  I will leave it and talk about it with R.

Mostly the sadness of step 4 besides H coming up, was dealing with my mother.  In a numb and calculated way, I wrote down all of the things for which I resented her, struggling with column 4 (my role in it, how I may have indirectly or directly contributed), because I know I didn’t deserve that poor treatment as a child and realize no child deserves such cruelty.  I didn’t cry about that because, well, I’m SO OVER IT.  I do resent her, but I’m not upset about it.  It just is what it is.

So that was Saturday and Sunday while H was working.

Fast forward to last night, and something amazing happened that I am still trying to digest, and intensely want to hold on to and remember.

Dark room.  Calming voice.  99 degrees.  40 percent humidity.  One hour and 15 minutes of delicious hot yoga.  Challenging hot yoga.  Side crows, hurdlers pose, inversions, headstands and wheels with slippery, sweaty hands and mat.  Cleansing low side twists, squats, nice long pigeon holds and my first time trying a frog stretch, moments of gratitude and praises to God.  It was with my favorite teacher who leads you through the flow with beautiful words and uplifting, soul reaching kindness that you can just feel.  A teacher who reminds us that we are exactly where we need to be often throughout the practice, and takes us back to our intention a few times as well.  She sees everyone in that room and lifts them up with love and thoughtfulness in her words, spirit, cues, attention and heart.  No one is invisible.

For that 75 minute practice, she feels like my best friend, even though I barely know the woman.

Needless to say, it was a really good practice.

She said something towards the very end, right before the final rest pose (I can never get the name right), she said something about how other peoples judgements and expectations belong to them, that we can let them go and not take them on, to just be here, to appreciate what our body can do, to let go of what other people think or say or whatever- that all those things need not matter to us.  I’m totally paraphrasing and at that point in the heat, I may just be hearing whatever I want to hear.  :)  The beauty of yoga.  She hasn’t said anything like that, anything so specific before that I have heard, and I think it was not a coincidence that she did last night.

With those words though, I finished drinking some water and laid back, oblivious to God’s hand in this.  Somehow, when my head hit my mat, of those words shot through me and hit me hard, right in the heart, and I felt everything all at once.  When I laid my head down, I immediately started to cry and smile and shake my head all at the same time.  (Thankfully the lights were out and the music was playing!)  I cried a lot.  Like, the ugly cry.  On my back, tears running down my already wet, sweaty face, pooling in my ears, snot draining the wrong way down my throat.  The teacher came by with a lavender towel and placed it on my forehead with a slow, deep breath, which felt so good.  I felt her good intentions come through to me.  God was working through her last night.  God is working through everyone, all the time, but this time *I* got to feel the effects of it right on me.  Magic.  His kind of magic.

I do. not. know. where it came from, but I swear, this crying, this sadness was not sad, it was letting GO of the sadness!  All I kept thinking was “She can’t hurt me any more” and “I don’t have to hurt myself” and “I don’t need to be scared of her.”  “I don’t need to be scared.”

Backstory: for the past … maybe, two weeks, I have been trying to “take away the power” of food/alcohol/self harming compulsions.  The compulsion to consume alcohol has been lifted from me for months, but food remains my control.  Ah, even just writing that sentence made my stomach jump up to my throat when I thought of food.  It is so horrible and mystifying to be controlled by something so otherwise harmless and present in everyday life.  It doesn’t make sense.  Like any addiction perhaps, it is cunning, baffling, powerful and tricks me all the time.  And makes me so sad and ashamed.

I told no one about this experiment because I haven’t been open to feedback or questions or criticism about it.  I just  needed to try it.  I didn’t tell H or my sponsor.  Another AA friend, L, had referenced doing this, but I was not open to it at all until a few weeks ago.  Maybe the *dozens* of Geneen Roth books I’ve read over the past 10 years just sunk in eventually.  I tried to do what she suggests, despite the insanity of it.  Insane only to a food addicted person, that is.

This insane experiment is to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Yes, that’s it.  To eat when you’re hungry, and eat whatever you want, with NO restrictions whatsoever, when your body wants to eat.  To eliminate your mindset of good foods and bad foods and horrible choices and healthy choices.  To just let go of all the rules and restrictions and control.  To let go of the shame and silliness and nonsense that goes with the control that we give to food.

To let go of trying to control that compulsion.

To realize that the compulsion has been created because something bigger was missing.  That the compulsion, probably like any- to eat– was a way to distract ourselves from the pain of something else in life.  A way to stuff it down and hurt yourself in a different, easier, more familiar way, than dealing with the actual things that are wrong in life.  Like alcohol.  Like sex addiction maybe, or gambling maybe, or whatever.

This is just FOOD we are talking about.  Not drugs, not alcohol, not even anorexia or bulimia but binge eating.  Eating food, in too high of quantities, in too poor of qualities for episodes of a weeks worth of intake all in one sitting.  For the past several years…. alcohol has been it’s own animal, and binge eating has been another.  I’d binge for days, and then fast and severely restrict intake for more days.  The days I’d binge I’d feel physically disgusted (ahhh, writing that made my gag reflex twitch a little…) eating well over 10k calories per day, usually for a few days in a row.  Then I’d feel so nasty, guilty, shameful, disgusting that I’d force myself to fast, tell myself I needed to, and eat very very little for several days.  Maybe an apple and a spoonful of peanut butter over the course of a day.  Of course, those days felt awful- I had no energy, felt like a total lazy slug, almost sick with lack of fuel.  And this was my cycle.  I remember trying to practice hot yoga some of those fasting days and talking to C in the parking lot after an hour long practice that consisted mostly of me doing childs pose because I had no energy to stand upright and lunge.  Telling her about it, her giving me more books, offering ideas.  And slowly, I guess, I was opening up to the possibility that all these people were right.  That continued restriction and control was leading to the problem itself.  I’d every single day, either feel disgusting for one reason or another, and then when not binging or fasting, I’d be wasted beyond intoxication, bringing a whole different kind of shame that went beyond how I felt about myself.

SO.  A few weeks of eating whatever I wanted.  Geneen Roth and recovered binge eaters say that this is how it works.  But it sounds so absurd.  If I want donuts, I’m supposed to let myself eat donuts??!  Ludicrous!  If I want a meal of ice cream after my meal of donuts (literally. And we’re not talking small servings.) I should do that????  Yes…. and doing exactly that, I have been.  She says, and others have told me, that no, I would not become obese, that it will level out sooner than I think.  And that oddly, one day, instead of having those hankerings for donuts or pizza or cheese its or ice cream or cereal, that I’d unbelievably desire chicken and green beans or a smoothie….

Over this 2 weeks, H has come home complaining of angst from eating too much pizza at a work lunch, or eating too much candy from the candy bowl at a conference.  I just frowned with empathy, silently knowing that my food that day consisted of all sugars, all carbs, literally zero of what I’d have called healthy foods.  And I had to be ok with it.  And I had to do it again!  BIZARRE.  Ice cream for breakfast.  Chocolate bar for lunch.  Two!  Ice cream for dinner.  Whole box of cheese its.  6 snack size bags of oreos.  Gardening and hot and hungry?  More ice cream!  Add chocolate syrup and whipped cream!  Why not!  Eating what I want!  Going to Meijers?  Get a donut.  Get three!  Let yourself!  As long as your body feels hunger, you are to feed it whatever you want.  Retrain your brain not to hate yourself for eating certain foods, to view food as food, and to not be scared of it.  To just let it.  I just gave myself wide eyes and shook my head at myself, all while insisting to my brain that this was okay.  What an odd struggle.  ODD.

Literally.  While H and the boys were at the movies on Saturday night, L and I went to Meijer and grabbed two donuts and a frosting filled cookie.  How many times have I gotten a box of oreos or 4 donuts and sat in the car and stuffed them in my mouth with fervor, all the while feeling nasty and shameful and disgusted??  Too many to count.  And now I was choosing these foods even outside of feeling the need to binge?  The most shocking part of all is that I ate two donuts and half of the frosting covered huge cookie- and then the weirdest thing happened that has never happened before.  I stopped eating.  Before the binge food was gone, I noticed (as crazy as it is) that I was full.  (?!!!!!) and I STOPPED EATING.  What?!!!!!!!!!  Unheard of.

It’s not easy to only eat when you’re hungry.  Suddenly it seems “hunger” comes often, but I know it doesn’t.  It is hard to feel the literal emptiness of my stomach.  I want to eat far more often than it requires.  And I have been, to some degree.  And I have been ok with it.  I need to be ok with it….. to let go of the shame of consuming food and having a flat stomach.  I need to let myself love myself even if my belly sticks out a little.  I need to really FEEL inside that the size of my stomach does not define me.  This is not easy.

Last night in that final resting pose for six minutes of my life, I cried.  Six minutes.  I hugged her when I left, thanking my favorite teacher; she had no idea how profound and impactful her perfectly timed, perfectly stated words were to me- that is only God.  I cried, knowing how cruel I’ve been to my body, the one and only body God has given me for this life- but crying that it was okay, that I would be okay, and oddly, that “she” can’t hurt me any more and I don’t need to hurt myself.  Crying that I don’t need to drink today, that I don’t need to stuff donuts into my face as fast as I can, crying that I was sorry to my self, that I don’t need to be afraid of her any more and that she can’t hurt me.  (?)

She, her, my mother??  Who else?  Had the long long ago hurtful things that ruminated in my head for a few days changed into a realization all at once on my yoga mat?

I can only assume that I have been suppressing this pain for decades, that it doesn’t “not matter” to me as much as I have claimed and forced myself to think.  Both outwardly and inwardly, have I been telling a lie?  To myself and everyone in my life?  Have I not “let it go” that she tore me up, shaped me in the most critical, unkind, unloving, mean, heartless way?  I could swear that I had, yet God gave me those thoughts- the thoughts with the “she” pronoun, the thoughts of not being good enough in “her” eyes, the thoughts that if she can’t hurt me, I need not hurt myself.

I smiled all the way home.  With gratitude for my Creator still loving me, faithfully carrying me through hard times not just once or one hundred times, but forever.  Nudging me to grow and evolve and understand, along the way, too.  I smiled with tears in my eyes at 9 pm as I unloaded groceries into the house, just remembering.  Thinking that maybe it was true: that I need not be afraid of her, and that I need not hurt myself any more since she can’t hurt me either.  Realizing.