MOTHS-R-US: Addiction as Initiation
I love this one-liner from Pema Chodron, about how we’re insanely, wildly, immaturely, naively, passionately drawn to things that harm us just as a moth is to flame.
All of us are addicts in one way or another, whether the object is sugar, our favorite TV show, struggle, excess carbon footprint, negative thinking, anger, violence, cabernet savignon, fashionable clothing, fantastically taut skin, scones, or any escape of your choice.
Here’s a common scene in my life 5-10 years ago:
It’s Friday night. I’m hungry. I get home from a hard day of work. Kids screaming, irritable from a long week at school. Husband not home yet. I deserve a glass of wine. “I’ll stop at one glass,” I tell myself. I pour a glass while I made dinner and cajole kids into setting the table. I munch on the food I’m making while I cook dinner. I drown the glass of wine. I pour another. I eat an entire meal “tasting” the food I’m cooking. Husband comes home. He’s stressed out and wants to transition. Glass of wine for him. We sit down to eat. I eat my second dinner with my husband and kids. I finish my second glass of wine. The bottle is nearly empty. I stop there. I eat dessert instead, perhaps two servings. “I’ll diet tomorrow!” I tell myself cheerfully!
I wake up the next morning: hung over from the alcohol and the excess food and the dessert. I’m cranky, but worse than that, I’m full of remorse, frustration, even despair.
Ultimately, we want peace, happiness and joy, right? Yet our goal and methods often don’t jive. We often find ourselves, very humanly, unable to say “no” to something harmful. We figure out with time that willpower, fear and the forced march of the latest diet fail us.
How do we get our goal for peace and method to align better? How do we transmute our addictions into initiation?
Why bother with cultivating “Divine Mind?”
Because it is energizing. Inauthenticity and addiction are draining. Triage your energy elsewhere, toward the things that are enlivening for you.
Marianne would say that “unless your subconscious mind is involved in your weight loss efforts, it will find a way to reconstitute the excess weight, regardless of what you do. Excess weight is not caused by your lousy diet or lack of exercise – “mind is cause, body is effect.”
I didn’t learn much about addictive eating while in medical school. Sure, I learned how to screen for advertizing, and how to talk about drugs so I didn’t sound like a total square (but really, I am a square, so why pretend otherwise? There’s a whole lot of training in pretending in medical school!). I learned a bit about anorexia and bulimia but the more common affliction of compulsive overeating? No way.
It took me until age 40 to figure out that I was a compulsive overeater. While it’s true that I’m rather highly compensated and don’t vere too far off from my goal weight, I have the common Western-woman disease of obsessing over weight, checking out my visage in photos compulsively, thinking way too much about my butt and mid-section. I use up too much precious brain power on this. I want peace. I want a raincheck on the whole dreadful business of weight management.
Fortunately, and with a ton of therapy, self-experimenting, calibrating and compulsive nutritional and psychological study, I’ve found my happy place with food. I’m no longer a slave to sugar and flour. I’ve healed my gut and gotten rid of yeast and parasites that drove cravings and a tendency toward overweight. How about you?
And that feels delicious. As Geneen Roth says, “We don’t want to eat an ice cream sundae, we want our lives to be an ice cream sundae.” My life is an ice cream sundae, now, in this moment. Maybe not in two hours when my daughter wants to back some muffins, but for now, all is well. In this moment, I have the opportunity to re-connect to the inner bliss that’s always there, just buried.
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