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Posts Tagged ‘12 Steps’

I woke up today ruminating right out of the chute.  Even before I was out of bed, I was criticizing myself for sleeping in too late.  In one objective term, I had not slept in too late – I had slept in to my usual rising time, but I had been awake two hours earlier and now I was telling myself that I should have gotten up then, that I have so much writing to accomplish that I would have been way ahead of the game.  There was a good objective reason for not getting up then: I have had stomach cramps for four days and had gotten to bed kind of late – the rest would do me good.  

For my first few minutes after rising, I was immersed in an argument between these two voices.  And I caught myself – I realized how completely fruitless this argument is, and how similar it is to how I spend so much of my time.  And I decided to turn it over.  The third step of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous (OA) is “Made a decision to turn over my life and my will to God’s care, as I understand God.”  I don’t understand God – don’t understand Higher Power.  I’m wrestling with the whole notion.  I’m sure there’s something there – something that does, in some mysterious way, care for me.  I don’t know what it is – and I want more conscious contact with it. I don’t know if it’s out there somewhere – I’m more inclined to think that it’s in me.  

I don't know what I'm turning it over to, but I know that I am powerless over my emotions - that I can't do this myself.

I don’t know what I’m turning it over to, but I know that I am powerless over my emotions – that I can’t do this myself.

But I made a decision to turn all this ruminating, all this internal argument over to that Higher Power.  And when I turned it over, what was left was the here and now.  If I’m not ruminating about what time I got up – if I’m not ruminating about anything – it leaves me free to be in the here and now.  Free to focus on making my bed, focus on the sensations of the pillows in my hand, focus on walking down the stairs, focus on the blender in my hands.  Then another rumination pops up: should I be having a protein shake for breakfast?  What a useless conversation.  It helps me realize that this is, as Lorrie my Buddhist counselor says, practice – it just takes lots of practice.  

Lorrie encourages me to surrender to life – to focus my attention elsewhere.  The 12 Steps encourage me to turn it over to Higher Power.  My buddy Monty encourages me to pull it out of my head and take it into my body.  Alayah, the extremely wise woman with whom I have been sitting in satsang (spiritual dialogue), encourages me to trust my deeper self – to take it there.  It could be seen as me having too many outside influences coaching me, but for me there is a wonderful synergy in where they are all going.  They each fill in different pieces of the puzzle.  

So here I am, walking the dog in the woods, taping about all of this.  I’ve not shaken the rumination.  It’s going to be a process for a while yet, maybe all day and maybe on and off in many of my future days.  But in the here and now, I’m inhabiting a wonderful complex healing state – where rumination is attempting to run me, but I’ve got some leverage.  I’m practicing turning it over – imperfectly and only somewhat successfully, but I’m on the road. I’ve got a new practice.  And I’m writing – I’m sharing it with people.  It’s too early in the day to make outreach calls to my OA friends about this, which I will definitely do later on.  But I’m making an outreach call to you, my readers, and that helps.  

 

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Today Is my birthday.  I have been spending some significant time elaborating a vision for myself for the next year – itself a very positive act on a day on which, in spite of it being my birthday, I am relatively depressed.  I actually started out today more like a manic depression 9 (very contracted), but this visioning activity – and going to a very good Overeaters Anonymous meeting – have moved me to my current 8 rating (definite physical contraction).  And I again today sit in a complex healing state – with that definite physical contraction cohabiting with some positive internal elements. Very significant parts of that vision for my next year have to do with my recovery from bipolar disorder and my vision for this blog.  I’ll write about my personal healing today and about my vision for the blog in a later post.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday - and I know it will be scrumptious.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday – and I know it will be scrumptious.

First, my recovery.  My vision includes:

  • I don’t have a vision of complete recovery from bipolar disorder.  This could disappoint or upset some of my colleagues who write and teach about bipolar disorder.  Unless some new medication comes down the pike that controls the oscillation of my states from manic to depressed, my vision of healing includes that i heal through bipolar disorder rather than from it – that it is the walk I need to walk, a disease I need to manage, even if I some day get off of all meds.
  • I spend more time in what I’m calling complex healing states – states where elements of up and down coexist together, where the polarization of my manic and depressed states gets a chance to heal because the two parts of myself get a chance to know and influence each other.
  • My prevailing state shifts gradually more towards the peaceful state (md 6) on my manic depression scale.  I spend less time on the more extreme levels – further from the balanced 6 – and more time right on it.  This is supported and facilitated by all the elements that support my healing – from psychotherapy to Overeaters Anonymous, the 12 Steps and wrestling with the concept of a higher power to ecstatic dancing and all kinds of other relationships and resources that are detailed elsewhere in this blog.
Balance - the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

Balance – the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

  • Because of this healing, I am able to negotiate with my psychiatrist and to manage successfully a gradual decrease in my psychotropic meds.  I hold out the possibility that eventually I will be off them altogether, but I don’t see anything like that happening in the next year.  I don’t think it’s in the cards for everybody with bipolar disorder to get off of or even reduce their meds, but it is part of my personal vision.
  • Last night I attended my first meeting of Magnetic Minds (http://magneticminds.weebly.com/), the Asheville chapter of the national group Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (http://www.dbsalliance.org).  I liked it and intend to go back.  I visualize that this group will support my own healing, that I will be able to offer helpful support, inspiration and information to other members (partly by offering them this blog), and that the group will deepen my understanding of bipolar disorder and the impact it has on those who deal with it.
  • Writing (this blog and my memoir) supports my in my own healing through bipolar disorder.
  • This year – partly based on this blog and my memoir – I begin to do some public speaking and teaching on the topic -some volunteer through NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and progressively more for pay.  This supports me in my own healing.
  • I will continue my own reading on bipolar disorder, especially books and blogs by others with the disease, but also including scholarly and professional writing.  This will both give me more to share on the blog and support my own healing.

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On two Wednesday evenings a month, I sit in satsang (spiritual dialogue) with a very wise and loving woman named Alayah.  I always receive some comfort or inspiration or both – and last night was no exception.

The primary activity of these satsangs is “inquiry”: people will present some issue or problem they are having in their lives and Alayah will help them to inquire, to look at it more deeply.  A central subtext is always “Who are you?” – to help people probe beneath the surface appearance of the separate self to a deeper layer of oneness with all life.

Alayah is a householder - a wife and mother - who also happens to be fully awake.

Alayah is a householder – a wife and mother – who also happens to be fully awake.

A woman had just been exploring some emotional pain she had been experiencing and Alayah was encouraging her to follow the pain deeply within.  “Where is it in your body?”  Alayah was telling her that if she followed it deeply enough within, it would all dissolve into Spirit.  “When you go into your deepest self, that is where you will find God – God is nothing but who you really are.”

The woman asked Alayah, ” But what about giving my pain over to Spirit or Life?”  Alayah said, “There is a place for that, but we’re going directly to the source – the straightest path to real truth.  When you go deeply enough within, you realize that there is nothing out there that is separate from you.”

This woman had reached a point of peace with her work and Alayah surveyed the room.  “Anybody else have questions or issues?”  I was sitting right next to this woman and caught Alayah’s eye.  “I have a confusion.”  “OK, bring it on.”  “I have been involved in a 12 Step program and have been wrestling with the idea of Higher Power.  Specifically, I have been trying to practice the 3rd Step – turning over my life and my will to God’s care as I understand God.  That’s all new to me, but it feels like I have been having some success with it.”  (see yesterday’s post)

Alayah said, “That’s a totally valid way to go, but if you keep coming back to these meetings, the concept of turning things over to something or somebody outside of you will fall away.  The surest path to God is to go deep into the heart of who you really are.”  This spoke deeply to me and to the real sticking point for me with the Higher Power concept in Overeaters Anonymous (my 12 Step program).  I deeply believe that I am not in any way separate from God or Life (my preferred term).  I want to experience more sense of connection with this mysterious force that I call Life – but not as something different from me.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn't sit right with me, but I didn't know why.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t know why.

I said to Alayah, “My best buddy Monty and I have had numerous conversations over the years about the depressive emotional pain I experience.  His wish for me is to drop beneath my mind, my thinking about the pain and to go into my body.  Where do I feel the pain in my body?  And to ‘be with’ that.” Alayah smiled broadly and said, “I like the way Monty thinks.”

And at this point things really came together for me.  I sat there beaming at Alayah, drinking deeply from the pool of love in her eyes.  After some deliciously long moments, Alayah asked, “We’re sitting here looking at each other – what’s going on for you?”  I said, “I’ve gotten exactly what I needed.  I’m just sitting here with it – I don’t need any more words.”

And I had gotten exactly what I needed.  Afterwards, as I was sitting in the car waiting for my friend Lisa, who had stopped to chat with someone else, I wrote down my new current revision of the 2nd Step, changing the words “power higher than my own”: “Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego….”  With this revision – and putting my own spin on “God” in the 3rd Step the first three Steps now fully work for me.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over food (or my emotions), that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego could restore my life to sanity.
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

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In my four weeks of involvement with Overeaters Anonymous, I have struggled with the whole concept of Higher Power.  My friend Cynthia, who recruited me (or more accurately, I was knocked out by what a great place she was in and wanted what she had) had told me her accommodation to this concept: “All I’m asking of myself is that I be wrestling with the idea of a Higher Power.”  I have for a long time now said that I am non-theistic – that the concept of a God outside of me seemed to blow apart the notion of life all being one.  Whatever God might be, I had to be totally one with it.

But I have really wanted this whole 12 Step thing to work for me, and Higher Power is central to it.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over food, that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power higher than my own could restore my life to sanity.
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

So I, like Cynthia, have been wrestling with it.  I mostly substituted Life for God and this has pretty much worked for me.  I have talked about this a lot, recruiting from others (especially those whom I suspect are kind of like-minded) what their concept of God is.  What I have been saying for me is “I don’t have a concept of a personal God – some being outside of me that takes care of me.  I believe that Life is in some way intelligent – I think there are all sorts of evidence of this.  And, in some even more mysterious way, I believe that Life is benevolent – has our own best interests at heart, keeps sending us exactly the experiences we most need for our own development.  Like I say, I believe this.  Sometimes I even, in my guts, experience it to be true.  But mostly, day-to-day, it stays a concept for me.  I tend more to live from a place of isolation – me against the world.”

I don't know what this Higher Power is, but I want to wrestle with it.

I don’t know what this Higher Power is, but I want to wrestle with it.

So, with the encouragement of the 3rd Step – “God as I understand God” – I have embraced wrestling with the concept of this God or Higher Power.  Whatever this mysterious force I call Life is, I want more felt sense of connection with it.  I want, day-to-day, to feel more fully connected to Life, more cared about, more loved – even if it is loved by some mysterious force that unites all of creation.

Sunday morning, as I was preparing to do my piece of stand-up comedy at church (see “A piece of manic comedy”, September 15 post) – and was depressed and angry – I finally, out of desperation, attempted to “turn it over”.  “Life, I don’t seem able to do anything about all this anger and depression I am feeling.  Nothing I do gets rid of it or even reduces it.  I’m turning it over to you – you take it from me.”  This is all very new stuff for me – I’m used to struggling through stuff all by myself.  But the concept of surrender to Spirit is very attractive to me and I have been looking for chances to practice.  This seemed like a great opportunity – and, like I said, I was desperate.

I'm even getting less tense around the God word.

I’m even getting less tense around the God word.

And it worked!  During my short drive to church, I kept running my mantra: “Life, please take this depression and anger from me – or at least take over this performance, so it can go OK even with me depressed and angry.” As I was walking up to church, I saw a friend of mine up ahead of me.  And something clicked: “There are so many people here that I love and that love me.  I want to give them a gift here, something that will make their day, or maybe even their week, go better.”  And that turned the tide.  I started to relax, to actually “turn it over”.  And I surrendered to my two performances, had a great time, and was totally fed by the extraordinarily positive response.  It was clear that people had, actually, gotten what they needed – that all the laughter had lightened their load.

And that something even a little deeper had gone on.  The theme for the day’s service was “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  My manic piece of comedy was called, “It’s never too late to have a screwed-up childhood.” (see post by this name, September 15).  And somehow getting people laughing about the idea of having a screwed-up childhood had helped some people relax around the screwed-upness of their own childhood – had in some way been genuinely healing for them.  It was all tremendously satisfying.

Based on this, later in the day I rewrote the first three Steps for myself, changing only one word: I substituted the word emotions for alcohol or food.  This revision has really worked for me and has stayed very much with me over the last couple of days.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over my emotions, that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power higher than my own could restore my life to sanity
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

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A little over two months ago, I sat down with my friend Lisa for our occasional two-person writer’s group.  I had a clear mission.  Once a quarter I perform poetry (almost always poetry) at Jubilee, this non-denominational church I attend.  I had looked at the themes for the next quarter and saw that on September 15 (today) the theme for the service would be “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”.  I thought, “I have a new grandbaby – I’ll write some sweet poem about the innocence of childhood or something like that.”

The Jubilee Celebration Room

The Jubilee Celebration Room

When I sat down with my writer friend, however, I was manic – and what poured out over the next 55 minutes was a wild piece of comedy titled, “It’s never too late to have a screwed-up childhood.”  In it, I teased Jubilee, Howard the minister, Don his brother-in-law and church administrator, Don’s wife Genevieve – and skewered our eccentric town of Asheville, Catholics, Baptists, Mormons and especially the Tea Party.

Howard our minister

Howard our minister

I loved it.  I laughed out loud as I was writing it.  My friend Lisa did not respond as enthusiastically, but then she hadn’t been feeling well, so I (in that moment) made nothing of it.  I was in a pretty unstoppable mode.   I put a post on Facebook, telling people the date and saying how much fun it was going to be.  As I rehearsed it over the next few days, my enthusiasm over the piece only grew.  They love my stuff at Jubilee – they love the serious stuff, but they especially love my funny stuff.  They consistently find it funnier than I do, rehearsing it out loud while walking my dog in the woods.  And this piece I myself thought was hysterical.

When I was high.  Then, after a few days, I crashed.  And suddenly this piece of comedy didn’t seem so funny.  I remembered Lisa’s muted response and thought, “She’s right – it sucks.”  And it was too long.  The window for pieces at Jubilee is five minutes, and this one was clocking in at eight.  When I was still high, that didn’t seem like a problem: “They love me at Jubilee – nobody is going to be watching the clock.  This is great stuff, it’s worth a couple extra minutes.”  Back down on the ground, eight minutes looked egregious (and really is way too long).  And some of the humor was a little mean-spirited – actually a lot of it seemed that way.  So it’s not funny, it’s mean-spirited,  it’s way too long, but if I take out all the inappropriate stuff there will not be much left.

I tried to pull the plug on it.  I wrote Howard that there were a whole lot of problems with the piece and I wanted to pull it.  “Fortunately you still have a lot of time to find a replacement.”  Howard is one of my very biggest fans – and loves what my poetry and comedy does for the Jubilee community.  He didn’t want to hear it.  “Can’t you edit it? Or is there some other piece of yours that you can pull out?”

Well, apparently I wanted my arm twisted.  I told him I would try.  A couple of days later, my mood had lifted (too much, actually) and I found that when I edited out the edgier humor, leaving only the affectionate teasing, there was still a lot of funny stuff left – and it now clocked in just a little bit less than five minutes.  So I was back to enjoying it – got freshly enthused about it during my dog walks in the woods.

Then nine days ago I crashed again.  Now there were two problems with the piece.  I again became sure that it was poorly written and not funny – and I was equally sure that I would not be able to perform it effectively.  “Comedy is all about timing – and when I’m this down my timing is all off.  I have no flow, everything I do falls flat.”  This assessment is probably overly self-critical, but actually has some truth to it.

“So the writing sucks and my performance is going to be pitiful.  This is going to be an embarrassment,  In nine years of performing at Jubilee once a quarter, I’ve never bombed, but this is probably going to be it.”  All along I had intended to put a reminder up on Facebook a few days before the performance, but I did not.  I wished there were some way that I could get out of it altogether.

This morning, I was not only depressed, I was angry.  I didn’t know where the anger had come from or what it was about.  In addition to my frequent nihilistic mantra “This is bullshit” (muttered under my breath), this morning I added “Fuck you”.  This was not an auspicious mode for delivering comedy – it actually scared the shit out of me, but I couldn’t shake it.

Finally, as I was getting ready to leave – kind of out of desperation – I tried to use the 3rd Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (and Overeaters Anonymous, my addiction).  It’s a new behavior for me to “turn it over” to my Higher Power.  New because I usually try to muscle through things on my own – and because I basically have no idea what my Higher Power is.  I do believe that Life is intelligent and in some very mysterious way benevolent, has our best interests at heart – somehow loves us.  I believe it, and sometimes (especially when I’m up) genuinely, in my guts, experience it as true.  But mostly (especially when I’m down) I live from a place of isolation – it’s tiny little me against an overwhelming, uncaring universe.

But, neophyte that I am at this turning it over business, I tried.  “Life, I can’t handle this by myself.  I don’t know how to shake this anger.  I can’t seem to get out from under this depression.  I don’t know how to find the kind of rhythm I’ll need to deliver comedy.  It’s up to you – I’m turning it over to you.”

And it worked!  As I was walking up towards Jubilee, I saw one of my friends going in ahead of me and thought, “There are so many people in this community whom I love – and who genuinely love me.  I have the chance to give them something today.  I want to give them a gift, a gift of laughter.”  My mood started to lighten.

As i walked into the celebration room, a friend said,

“I see you in the program today – I’m looking forward to what you have to say about childhood.”

“Don’t expect anything today except hopefully a bunch of laughs.”

“Ah, but I know that with your humor there is always some deeper meaning underneath.”

“You’re going to have to really dig to find any deeper meaning here.”

“Well my childhood had nothing funny about it – if you can make me laugh about childhood, that will be worth it to me.”

This post is pretty long already.  Let me just say that I hit my stride, had a great time at both services, the people of Jubilee adored the piece – found it even funnier than I had ever (even when I was up) expected.  I came away with my writer’s voice feeling very affirmed, at a time when I have been discouraged about writing anything of any use to anybody.  I realized that this piece was not only funny – but that getting people to laugh about the whole happy childood/screwed-up childhood dichotomy actually did have deeper significance, was in a way genuinely healing.  The piece was actually wiser than I realized.  And the process of co-creating a few minutes of magic – me and the audience, creating it together – really punched a hole in my isolation.  It all was healing for me, too.

An earlier funny piece at Jubilee

An earlier funny piece at Jubilee

Sometimes I sink into the truth that I'm loved at Jubilee, but it's so easy to forget.  Step 3 - "Made a decision to turn over my life and my will to God's care, as I understand God." Life loves me.

Sometimes I sink into the truth that I’m loved at Jubilee, but it’s so easy to forget. Step 3 – “Made a decision to turn over my life and my will to God’s care, as I understand God.” Life loves me.

I’m posting the piece, also.  Some of the Jubilee humor may be lost on you, and most of my stuff (maybe especially comedy) has less impact on the page than performed, but you’ll get a sense of it.  My friend with the not-funny childhood said afterwards that he smiled non-stop through the whole thing.  i hope you get a couple of smiles out of it.

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I’ve been depressed for the last six days – and again not writing.  Around 6 p.m. this evening, I was staring at a threateningly empty evening.  I asked myself what I could do this evening that would be most encouraging on this very discouraged day.  My roommate Will is a sculptor and painter.  He’s anxious about a relationship – and this afternoon and evening is channeling that anxiety into painting.  “Why not me?” I thought.  “I’ll create – I’ll write.  I’ll write a blog post.  I don’t know what it’s going to be. i don’t want it to be discouraging. I’ll find something.”

So the fact that I’m writing is encouraging.  And there’s more.  I have for the last few weeks been involved in Overeaters Anonymous for my sugar addiction and compulsive eating.  Shortly after making my resolution to write, I got a call from one of my OA friends. She and I have been trying to connect by phone, so I was glad to interrupt my momentum towards the computer with this call from her.  And that call gave me the material to write about.

When I was high a week ago, I was enthused about lots of things – including  my progress around my food.  In the last few days, my eating has fallen apart – and has reinforced my nihilistic mantra of “Nothing helps and nothing matters”.  But my friend helped me name several things I’m doing right, several areas of progress, and I’m going to name them here.

  1. The first one starts with a setback, but also has a positive dimension. I had, almost as soon as starting OA, named peanut butter as a problem food.  It’s a food that I am most likely to eat compulsively, most likely to overeat – a food that I genuinely binge on.  So I just completely cut it out – huge progress.  But I left two jars in the cupboard.  This morning, in my “Nothing matters” mode, I pulled out one of those jars of peanut butter and – having already eaten a little breakfast – ate four spoonfuls – and then a couple more.
    I get it - I really get it.  Peanut butter is not an innocent food for me - it's a problem.

    I get it – I really get it. Peanut butter is not an innocent food for me – it’s a problem.

    Then, a couple hours later, I went back for more.  But here’s a sign of progress: I struggled with it.  The 12 Steps encourages you not to trust your willpower, but rather to turn it over to a Higher Power.  I tried to figure out how to do this, but couldn’t get there.  I considered making an outreach call to an OA friend, but didn’t manage to do it.  But, as someone said later, “If you can insert a pause, you can insert a call.  You’re this much closer to making the call next time.”  I’m picturing doing that – and knowing that it will feel enormously gratifying when I do it.

    After giving in and eating more peanut butter, I poured some hot sauce in the rest and threw it out.  I’ve learned the hard way that just throwing it out won’t necessarily prevent me from fishing it out of the garbage.  Later on, I dropped the other jar – and a jar of almond butter – off at the food pantry.  It was out of my way, but felt like a big symbolic step.

    So where do I focus my attention? I can focus on the slip, focus on the regression to an old behavior.  I choose to focus on the new behaviors – the struggle where in the past there was only abject surrender, the taking of the food to the food pantry.  And the fact that this offending food, which up until just a few weeks ago was a staple part of my diet, now is an intruding stranger.  What a huge change that is!

  2. I went to an OA meeting.  I judged myself harshly for “going to meetings instead of eating right”, but the meeting was actually encouraging and good connection.  And what a totally new behavior for me!  These meetings are a completely new presence in my life.  And I told people there how much I am needing to make calls, to break up my isolation.  And made a specific plan to call one woman, whom I like very much, tonight.  I’m going to do that when I’m walking the dog, right after finishing this post.
  3. This wasn’t from today, but yesterday and tomorrow.  After many months (a couple of years, actually) of trying to find the right focus of attention while I’m swimming laps, I’ve got one that’s really working: creating and repeating mantras from the first three of the Twelve Steps.  I described this at length on August 30 and 31, but three of my favorites are “Came to believe” (that a Power higher than my own could restore me to sanity) and “turn over my life and my will” “to God’s care, as I understand God.”
    "Whatever this Higher Power is, in some mysterious way it cares about me" shortens down to "Life cares about me."

    “Whatever this Higher Power is, in some mysterious way it cares about me” shortens down to “Life cares about me.”


     I don’t understand God or Higher Power, but I think there is some kind of power or energy that underlies the separation of the material world – and it feels like a very positive step that I am spending all this time opening myself up to it.  In fact, this is huge.  This could actually turn out to be the biggest development of this phase of my life.

So who says I’m stuck?

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I talked yesterday about how while swimming laps on two recent days I used as mantras phrases from the first two steps of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous – and Overeaters Anonymous, with which i have recently gotten involved.  Here I’ll write about how on both of these swimming outings I’ve used the third step (as far as I’ve gotten, and I’ve just barely dipped into these three).

3) “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

I’ve described earlier that for me God is not a person, much less a guy.  I mostly avoid the God word, though I’m working at being less allergic to it.  I’ve actually been positively impressed with how allowing these particular (Asheville-type?) OA folks are of all the variation in how people understand their Higher Power, but there still is a fair bit of God talk in these meetings.  When I use the word Life to describe my Higher Power, I imagine some of these folks internally translate that to God – and I some of the time am doing the flip of that.  But notwithstanding the God word, this step is working some real juju on me – including while swimming laps on Wednesday and again yesterday.

Made a decision“. Am I making a decision?  A decision to be more open to spirituality – to make it more a part of how I really experience the world, not just how I think about it?  I used this phrase as a mantra for a lap or two and it felt good to me.

Turn our lives and our will over“.  This one is huge for me.  I’m usually trying to run the show.  I feel alone in the universe – who else is going to make the decisions, run the show?  The OA person I connected with on the phone when I was in such a difficult place on Wednesday morning suggested that before I go into the meeting I was feeling anxious about I practice thinking “Thy will be done”.  But who is this “thy”?  The great mystery.  And it worked!  I had a great, actually enchanted, visit with my friend.

This morning, when I was struggling with whether to have another little bit of a food that I had already overeaten, I interrupted the struggle by thinking, “Maybe I don’t have to fight the fight – I’ll just turn it over to my Higher Power.”  My first reaction to hearing myself think this was, “Where did that come from?  That’s not how I operate!”  But it felt kind of soothing – and it amazingly got easy to let go of having the food.  So this phrase, which for part of the time I shortened to just “Turn it over” (one of the most popular 12 Step phrases), really had a lot of power for me.

To the care of God, as we understand him”.  This is the one that most took me places Wednesday and especially today.  What if, when I turn my will and my life over to this Higher Power/Life/Spirit/Great Mystery, it genuinely has my best interests in mind?  No, more than that, cares for me.  What if, when I let go of trying to have it my way, i drop into being cared for, cared about?  After a couple of laps thinking the phrase “the care of God”, I really went for it: “Life loves me” (two laps), “I am loved” (another two laps).

Then I spent a couple of laps thinking about people in my life who I really do believe genuinely love me.  Two days ago, as I was sitting on this very same front porch writing, my 37-year-old roommate Will – who is a wonderful artist – brought out a beautiful drawing of the Buddha, which he had shown me on day 3 of him working on it and which I had enthusiastically loved.  He said, “This represents what it’s like for a bipolar person to be in balance – I want you to have it.”  That completely blew me away.  I spent about a lap today thinking about this gift – then going on to ways that other people (including Tom, my other roommate) have recently expressed care for me.

I probably don’t need to belabor the connection of all this with depression.   I more and more getting it that being out of control of my food is discouraging and depressing.  One of my core depressive mantras is “Nothing works”.  Opening up the possibility that OA might actually work for me – might lead to some real, concrete, positive change in my life – is really torqueing my stuff around.  Yesterday morning I was kind of jumping out of my skin with the internal battle between the forces of hope and despair.

But, as much as thinking that i might make significant change in how I eat is kind of blowing my mind, the 12 Steps are messing with me on a deeper level.  What if this program were to significantly change my relationship with Life as I understand it?  What if this network were to – as it promises – provide me with relationships that offer real support, real intimacy? (I’m already getting glimmers of this being true.)  What if working this program were to help me shift my life (not just my eating) in some healthy, life-affirming ways?  People talk about the 12 Steps changing the whole way they approach their lives.  I’ve been in the periphery of various 12 Step programs and people in recovery for much of my life, but I have never really thought about it as a system that could have a big impact on my life.

But who knows?

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