Well, the Holidays have come and gone. It's a new year and a fresh beginning… Like many, I struggled with food during Christmas and New Year's. Once sugar entered the picture, it was really hard to stop. I could go into lots of detail about what I ate and my internal dialogue… My frustration and disappointment with myself. My feelings of shame and the impulse to hide from the people closest to me. My epiphanies about how I had set myself up to fail with not enough self-care and preparation ahead of the stressful holidays.
My constant mantra (and the only comfort I could muster while I was so out of control) was that on January 3rd I'd get completely back on Protocol and sail steadily to my goal once and for all…
However, as Leoben (one of the creepiest Cylons in Battlestar Galactica) observed, "All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again." I've circled the Sun enough times to recognize a pattern when I see one, and this behavior through the Holidays is a well-worn pattern for me. It begins with a wishful prayer that I'll manage to stay on track. Next, I fail to take good enough emotional care of myself to make that possible. I cope with the seasonal stress by using food as a drug, then beat the heck out of myself for having fallen into this old pattern (which is part of the pattern). As the fog clears, and the new year dawns, I claw my way back to low-carb food peace, then resolve to never let any of it happen again. Except I never decide exactly HOW I'll accomplish such a monumental shift in behavior. I just imagine I'll be stronger, more self-aware, more prepared -- next year. Sometimes, I even embark on a new self-help effort along with Phase 1 - intending to fortify myself. But life and time gradually dull my memory and by Thanksgiving, I will have forgotten my desperation from the year before. My self-care initiatives will have been long abandoned and the cycle will begin again.
My behavior with food in general is a well-worn pattern. Turning to it for comfort, pleasure, relief, fortification, numbing, and eventually, to bury my feelings of shame and disappointment for having turned to it again. These are deeply cut ravines in the grand canyon of food-related neural pathways in my brain. How do you escape something so staggeringly cut into your consciousness?
Blogging all of this has really helped me see a bigger picture emerging. If I ever expect this to be meaningfully different, something just as deep and extreme as this pattern has to take its place. I can see that that is the point of the 12-step programs' emphasis on spiritual experience. If a god-consciousness enters, everything else is eclipsed. It also makes sense out of a very simple book I picked up a couple of years ago. The book spoke to me deeply then, but I didn't quite know why. Now I think I do.
It was called, "Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It," by Kamal Ravikant. The book is maybe 1/4" thick and a very quick read. It's the account of a man who was in a desperately dark state of mind and his VOW to change his life by loving himself so fiercely that the love would drive out the darkness. His approach was wildly successful! And it was simple --deceptively so.
I was inspired the first time I read it and tried some of his techniques along with my 12-step work. Surprisingly, they worked within a very short time! But as with many techniques I've adopted before, I dropped them once I was feeling better and life got busy.
My epiphany this week has been this: Just like the grand-canyon of habits I now have, my NEW strategies must be just as deeply carved before I have a *chance* of them working when the going gets tough. If I want self-love to be the thing I turn to, I have to CARVE self-love into my deepest being or else it will be a mere scratch next the canyons of my old habits.
The only way I can see to do this is by making a fierce VOW - more than a commitment - to make self-love the center of my life. A daily practice. A constant habit. I need to give myself utterly to love. Constantly. Unrelentingly. Just like I've given myself to food for decades.
If I have any chance of escaping the chasm, Love has to become my soul's siren call. It has to permeate my being and saturate my consciousness. I have to condition myself like an athlete if I expect Love to support me on my climb. I need to hold onto it in good times and bad times - celebrate and relax with it, wake with it and sleep with it, not just use it to soothe myself when I hurt. Self-love has to become my new way of being. Or nothing will ever be different.
I'm on Phase 1 again, but more importantly, I'm on a pilgrimage toward Love. I'm on my hands and knees crawling up the vertical cliff-face of the canyon of habit - chanting, "I love myself, I love myself, I love myself." I'll let you know how it goes.