Let me paint you a picture of what it looks like to be actively fighting to grow out of an addiction.
No day is boring or simple. Every day is both a joy and a battle. Most days have wins. Most have losses. Sometimes I write them down! Sometimes I pay attention enough to really have appreciation for just how deep this process is. Today was a day like that, so I want to share some pieces of it.
Earlier today I was really struggling with food urges, and just with life in general. My internal state was more chaos than not. I couldn’t focus on my work. I was acting impulsively. And I was afraid.
And then… I had an unexpected success.
In the middle of it all, in the middle of my own chaos, when I was on the precipice of succumbing to my food urges yet again, I had a moment of awareness. I saw the thought storm I was in for what it was… (a passing storm) … and I remembered my intention to breathe… and I took some slow breaths.
And a transformation just happened. It just happened. It was the same feeling I’ve been trapped in a million times before, where I’ve done the same thing over and over again… but this time I did something different, and it worked.
This is what I wrote on my notepad in the moment:
It felt/feels (when it comes) like the most anxious, trapped place. Alone. Dark. Disconnected. Scared. Not really here. Trying to be here by pretending to be here, but slowly being dragged away. And then you’re at the back of your awareness instead of the front, at the back of your mind, just watching yourself play out the same old sad habit. It is torture.
When it finally passed it wasn’t because I forced it or tried. It happened by itself, because I was willing to try simply breathing deeper.
“Just take 3 breaths”…
and honestly at this point the pain was just anxiety. Breathing deeply is a reliever of anxiety. Breathing deeply brings you into your body.
It just happened.
Focus on breathing, not on the urge.
Focus on breathing, not on the fear.
Focus on breathing, not on your thoughts.
Focus gently, with a soft willingness.
This means so much. For a small moment…. it means so fucking much. Lots of emotion. I’m here, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. Now.
I really just had that experience, of breathing and being present with myself… and all the urgency of my food urge completely dissipating.
HUGE WIN. HUGE.
Like, I was crying when I wrote that note to myself. This is a moment I’ve been working towards. All the meditation and rehearsing, all the trying hard… and the actual answer in these moments is surprisingly free of effort. It’s a simple redirection of attention. It’s taking care of myself in the moment. Taking care of the anxiety, not the food urge. Bringing my attention into my body instead of receding back into my mind.
It feels like confetti and fireworks should be going off in moments like these, like the battle should be over.
But it was less than a couple hours later that more food urges showed up, in a different way, and caught me unaware. I followed those urges, and found myself in front of the fridge snacking on things when I wasn’t even really hungry. Snacking on things I told myself I wouldn’t eat. Falling out of integrity.
A loss. In the same day. Did I really have a win today? Does it even matter if I did, if it doesn’t last more than a couple hours??
After that, food anxiety stayed with me most of the day. Until after dinner, when I could really see it. I could really see myself wanting to eat and eat, that insatiable urge, and I knew that no matter how much I wanted to act on the urge, it wouldn’t solve anything. What do I really need right now, I asked myself? I sat down to write in my journal. And then I went outside for a walk. The idea to do that felt like an act of salvation, some inspiration sent as a blessing from a true angel (I don’t know where else it would have come from – it felt so new, or like a part of me I haven’t felt in a while) and I remembered as soon as I was outside – walking at night is something I really like to do! How long has it been since I’ve done this? And it felt good. And then I didn’t want to eat ice cream anymore because I was just happy feeling my body move.
Some of the best moments are rediscovering things I love about life and myself. Little things like walking outside at night, being by myself on the street and listening to the sounds of the bugs. Being there to feel the first real hint of coolness in the air, as the last few days of summer come to a close.
It’s hard to sit with all the feelings that come up, feelings I’m used to stuffing down with food. I felt all kinds of things, all day today! I didn’t get a break!
Food was never an appropriate way to ‘take a break’ from life. It was never the real way to sort through my feelings and figure out my needs. I didn’t know any better before. But now it’s time to learn, and it’s painstaking, because there is so much to this being human… we aren’t simple machines. We don’t only need food and water and sleep. We have complex emotional needs, and the deeper needs of our souls, to attend to. How do we figure out what path to walk, what is really true to who we are? We have to learn to listen. I have to learn to listen, even when things are uncomfortable inside of me. No one else will take care of my needs; that’s my job.
So at the end of today I feel very satisfied. I wasn’t perfect today but I showed up, and I’m learning, and I am so so grateful for my wins, even when they feel like tiny islands in a sea of chaos.