And I call her Contessa…….

The Gift of my Compulsions I have been reading and reading books since I started my post substance abuse counseling to explore the next layer of onion wrapped around my person.  And this book is speaking to me, I am identifying with it and it may be helping.

This book is telling me to become friends with my compulsion.  They book is telling me to respond to my compulsion and not to react to it (what the hell?).  So I named her.  Her name is Contessa.  Contessa Compulsion.  I think it sounds like royality, though she really is just a royal pain in my ass!  Oh, yeah- she is going to be my friend, I should be nicer to her.

Contessa is actually quite pissed with me.  See I do not allow her to drown in luscious, chilled oaky/butter balanced chardonnay anymore. No more Sonoma Cutrer for her, and she is angry.  She is not coming around to the idea of being friendly with me.  Since she can’t drink alcohol anymore, she is moving on to the next best toxic compulsion for me…. food.  She has chosen to sabatoge all my weight loss efforts of the last 4 years.  That is how pissed she is.  And I have been allowing her to win.  AND now therapy is telling me to make her my friend.  How will I do it?  I am not sure, and it sounds a little crazy.  But hating my compulsions and fighting my compulsions has not worked yet, so why not try to build an alliance.

So how does one do this? I am suppose to talk to her.  Me and Contessa are supposed to chat now. When I first read about this in the book “the Gift of my Compulsion” I had a grand old chuckle.  And then I named her.  Why not- this could be entertaining.  So I named her but didn’t speak with her right away, we don’t have the greatest experience with trust, the two of us.  So she will have to wait.

And then it happened.  She whispered to me.  I heard her talk to me, coaching me, controlling me.  Usually I check my work at my office door when I head home.  As I drive away my thoughts about work roll back up Gillotti’s hill and away from me.  I separate work from home pretty well, most of the time.  Every once in a while I get a case that holds on tight to me and slips past the school’s lobby door behind me and slinks into the passenger’s seat of my car.  Contessa makes her follow.  SO this happened last Thursday.  I found myself outside of the Sherman IGA with a pint of chocolate chip Arethusa’s ice cream and a full size Heath Bar.  Now I have not purchased a full size candy bar in years and this has me thinking, I am perplexed as I sit in my car in a very familiar parking lot with very familiar sensations in my body.  So as I back up my car and pull out of the parking lot I start to ask Contessa questions.  “Contessa, what gives?  What is going on? What is going on with the ice cream and what about this Heath bar?”  You know what she said to me, she said “Shut up, the Heath bar is for now, you can’t eat a pint of ice cream and drive stupid.  Hence the candy bar.  Do I have to tell you twice.”   She is SO pushy, so pushy.  So I ate it, she was right, the candy bar was for right that instant.  Then as I am sitting in my living room in front of Judge Judy, eating my ice cream (I did purposefully scoop my three scoops into a coffee mug so I would not eat the whole pint. How is that for good decisions?!)  I asked Contessa what that feeling was about in the parking lot and what is this familiar feeling I am experiencing now?  She did enlighten me and said, “well you know how you usually check your work at the door so it doesn’t follow you home?  Well I allowed it to slip through the door and get into your car.  You drove to the liquor store but went into the grocery store nearby instead.   This could have been wine.  You made the right call, I helped you with that.”  I replied, “Oh my God, I was by the liquor store, a common stop for me over a year ago.  And this familiar feeling is the feeling I used to get when I craved my buzz because of a rough day.”   An ah-ha for me.

For the first time since I started gaining weight, again…  I forgave myself and I did not  beat myself up for giving into my binge.  While eating crap was a bad call, it is what I needed in lieu of a more toxic compulsion.  Contessa is going to be a rough bitch to deal with but at least she is talking to me now and I am hopeful that maybe my book is not nuts, and that there is something to making friends with your compulsions.

I am learning that I may have abandoned myself, 36 years ago.

I have two questions I have to address with my therapist on Tuesday.   “When was the first time I recall feeling connected and when was the last time I felt like my authentic self.”

How did I get this assigned to me?  As I work through trying to figure out why I developed my compulsions (drinking, eating, shopping…), I am learning that my compulsions helped me to deal with an emptiness.  I have always blamed my bouts of loneliness, these past 30 years, on Jim’s work schedule.  I married a man that works a lot, all the time and I do have resentment towards this.  When I first had Carly, my first baby, Jim and I decided that I would stay home.  This meant that Jim had to work two jobs.  He worked 6am-3:30pm and then 4:30pm-11pm Monday- Friday and then from 6am-Noon every Saturday (though most Saturdays he really didn’t come home until 1, 2 or 3pm).  Sunday was for yard work and home maintenance.  I was never so lonely in my life.   Every day dragged on and on for me.  And the guilt I felt for feeling this way as a new mom still haunts me at low times.  Even when I finally went back to work, Jim still worked crazy hours.  For about six years, I would take the kids everywhere by myself. I even took them to Rhode Island to visit Jim’s family every six weeks- WITHOUT JIM because he was working.  I used to “jokingly” tell people I was married, yet a single Mom.  I felt like a single parent for many years.  I cried a lot, A LOT.  I know during these years I did feel true loneliness.  So I just always thought that the nature of my marriage made me lonely.  I never felt unloved, but I did feel lonely.   I am learning while yes, those were very tough years for me, they were not the real reason’s for my need for compulsions.  Though the compulsions were helpful.

My first couple of “dating” experiences jet-setted me into protection mode.  I eventually landed myself in a serious relationship with a man 5 years older then me, when I was 14 going on 15.  This person was so insecure that he only felt confident when he was controlling me.  I lost many friends during this relationship and I lost myself during this relationship. Something that happened to me 36 years ago triggered my need for compulsions.  In learning to protect myself, I lost myself, I abandoned myself.  I was not allowed to be me, if a glimmer of me came out, I paid for it.  I didn’t show up much.  And this traumatic experience could very well be when my “craziness” started.  This relationship lasted 3 years.  And when I got to walk away from this relationship I  imploded, and created an unsafe world.  I went from protecting myself to putting myself in dangerous situations.   I was still  abandoning my true self, I am unsure if I knew where she was anymore.  Compulsions became my go to, feel good, friends, the compulsions were always there for me, they are so dependable.  While I may have had times when I felt lonely in my marriage, I was also feeling abandoned, from myself from many years prior.

As I explore events that happened to me at a younger age, I am learning this is when my compulsions began, so my compulsions have been good trusty friends for years.  I have needed them, they serve a purpose.  They are my sense of control, my meter stick.  Drinking and food are my compulsions.  As a newly sober person, I can only now count on binge eating or compulsive eating.

So my therapist wants me to look back to remember when I first felt connected and then the last time I felt like my true authentic self.   She thinks that I may be suffering from affects of me abandoning me.  It appears Jim is off the hook!  I probably could handle loneliness without compulsions if I wasn’t also feeling so abandoned (something I did to myself).

I had a great childhood and I had an honest to goodness real life best friend when I was little. I had the kind of best friend kids dream of.  Jennifer Martin was my best friend, we were inseparable.  We lived across the street from each other when I was 3, 4, and 5.  When I was turning 6, my family moved.  For years after, I still got together with my best friend Jennifer every summer- up until we were 13 or 14.  I was so connected to her!  We were silly, naughty, adventurous, and happy.  Of course, living far from each other, we did eventually grow apart but we did keep in touch on and off.  And at this point we are Christmas card friends.  My relationship with her was my first experience at being connected.  So I have one question answered!

The second question is much more difficult.  When was the last time I felt like my authentic self????  I feel like since I have been sober, and working at learning as to why I felt I needed alcohol to survive, and now working on my other compulsion, food, that I have been reuniting with my authentic self.  I am experiencing deep close relationships with my adult children- I used to have so much insecurity about my kids loving me or needing me but I do not have that anymore.  And Jim and I are working on rebuilding our relationship.  We have always been in love, and we respect each other and support each other.  Our marriage was never threatened, per se but with a spouse recovering from alcoholism the marriage was obviously stressed and our world needs some redefining.  We have been reconnecting recently and during this time I do feel like my authentic self.  I am happier, laughing, joking, silly, and rekindling the sparks of our 30 year friendship.  I am lucky, I can answer this question as I can.  This leaves me feeling hopeful.  I feel like maybe, just maybe I can find peace.  I may one day really love myself enough to just be, with no need for reacting to my compulsions.  I will always have compulsions but I am hopeful that I will be able to respond to them and not just react to them, in the times to come.

Homework done!

My two therapists had to play good cop, bad cop with me….

I thought it was just me                    Brain over Binge            The Gift of my Compulsions

This disordered eating therapy along with nutritional counseling (hell I know how to eat correctly, I just can ‘t seem to….) is a pain in the ass.   I do like both my therapists but having two working together and collaborating about my sessions is daunting.  After one of my sessions my disordered eating therapist guided me to the conclusion that I am trying to “fix” everything at once and that I shut down when I can not do what needs to be done perfectly.   I guess I’ve thrown an adult tantrum with my nutrition counselor the last time I met with her- as I can not seem to follow through successfully with any of my homework assignments.  I have a food plan I am suppose to follow- like I don’t know what to eat since my weight-loss surgery or my lifetime status as a member of Weight Watchers <sarcasm>…   I just CAN’T seem to do it at all.  I am also suppose to be using this app to track what I am eating and record my “feelings & thoughts” as I move along the day.  Ummm, this is all consuming, so much to do! So I went with what my disordered eating therapist said, “stop trying to do everything at once.”   I decided to drop my nutritional counselor for now.  I am having a very hard time with my talk therapy, saying many things out loud I have never ever said and wrapping my head around my thoughts, without having a vice.  Oh, how a nice chilled bottle of Sonoma Cutrer would help me muddle through all this “stuff” but alas I can not drown my sorrows anymore in booze, so I need the next best thing.  I can’t possibly expect myself to be able to follow a stinking food plan minus the wine.  I am very new at sobriety, how can I expect so much from myself (whimper, whimper). I need my deserts!

Not only did I “break up” with my nutrition counselor but I did it in an email.  There was no way she was going to have an opportunity to talk me out of it, no way.  I did copy in my other therapist so she could see I was really just listening to her advice- I can’t do it all now so don’t.  So I heard her say.

Going into my next session with my disordered eating counselor, I was not ready for the bad cop action from the therapist I pegged as the “good” one.  Man oh man, she laid into me with her questioning my thought process and challenging my fear of gaining more weight yet not paying any attention to it at all, and calling me out on emailing my nutrition counselor in lieu of calling and asking to talk it out.  Sigh…..   not what I was expecting. I have been Cop-out Blocked.

Dang it, these women are good.  I totally talked to my nutrition counselor, tail between my legs and asked if she’d have me back.  So back to facing what I am really struggling with even if I can’t do it by following the guidelines. I have to keep myself aware and hopefully at least maintain my weight and stop gaining.  I HATE IT!  I hate that I can’t do this, I can’t seem to listen to the rules of my nutrition counselor- I fail every week.  I go in and say that I made poor food choices.  I do my blind weigh in and I know it is a weight gain because my clothes are getting so tight.   I get to pay someone to gain weight, excellent.  Honestly I feel like focusing on this so much has made my relationship with food worse, I have become a master of sabotage.  So many triggers.

Why is this so difficult?  It is difficult because I am working on ridding myself of the dieter’s mentality.  And I can’t seem to do this because I need to lose about 45 pounds.  I need to lose weight so I can only think of dieting.  I am suppose to be focusing on nourishing my body and listening to it and  ignore the voices in my head telling me to eat the pudding with whipped cream, eat the dove chocolates, order the waffles butter and syrup, have the salted caramel ice cream in a chocolate covered waffle cone.  I am suppose to turn that off and focus on how my body feels during the day as it connects to hunger and food.   I am not sure I can do this without returning to 250 pounds.  I am driving this struggle bus right through the pastry counter.

I have read three self help books thus far.  All of them recommendations of my disordered eating therapist.  We have worked hard on my issues with guilt and shame.  I work from shame so often, it is kind of pathetic.  I know I should not own it all, all this shame is not for me to keep.  I have learned that the binge-like behavior comes from the part of my brain that shouldn’t be talking to me, but I allow it.  I have to train my brain to function differently (that sounds easy, NOT!) and I am now reading that my compulsions are a “gift.”   Really a gift?!?!?!!?  But I will read it, we will dissect it together.  I do believe that my eating is more of a compulsion and not so much a binge.  I don’t fit the profile of a binge eater per se, but I am completely compulsive. I think I function mainly on compulsion.  This is going to be fun to unravel and straighten out.  Sigh, I truly just want to turn back the hands of time and have a little do over but that is because doing all of this work is hard and wishing I could go back to make better decisions is an immature dream thought for me to have.  There is still a little girl in me that stomps her feet, and who wants to blame all of this on others or on incidents or on genes.  Being accountable all the time for some many things is exhausting.

Good cop, bad cop got me.  They are not taking my candy-assed bullshit, they are holding me to the fire.   I hate it, but I know it is the best for me.  I am done with fooling my therapists, faking them out and telling them stuff that is easy to hear as I have done with so many therapists throughout my years.  These women are not going to allow that.  They have totally called me out!

That fact that I have a relationship with food says it all……

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I do, I have a relationship with food.  Unfortunately it is toxic, much like my relationship with alcohol.  The difference is, for me is that quitting drinking seems to be the easier task, than changing my thoughts about food has been.  You see, you don’t need alcohol to survive, it provides nothing beneficial to you (if you tend to over drink anyway- one glass a day only counted for me, if you considered the bottle “a” glass), you can easily live with out it.  Food, not so much.  Food is our source for nourishment, it supports our heart, brain and bodily functions that we use daily.  Food is our fuel, stabilizer and  life provider.  You can not simply abstain, you can not “quit” food, you can not give it up.  You have to learn how to moderate it.  You need to see it as nourishment and not as a reward or comforter.  I need to see it as nourishment, I need to eat to live not live to eat.

My relationship with food is kind of effed up.  I believe it started back when I was a young gymnast, a 13 or 14 year old.  It was said to me that I was “heavy” for a gymnast. I already felt large for a gymnast, all on my own.  Yes large, when I was 4’11” tall.  Having an adult say this to me validated my own feelings.  I was 128 pounds, when I first joined Weight Watchers at about 15 years of age.  As a gymnast I was very muscular, I had Mary Lou Retton thighs (so I was told).  But I didn’t have an ounce of fat on me- accept my breasts.  My breasts made me feel very large.  But I was rock solid.  My legs were built for tumbling and vaulting. But I was large for a gymnast.  And, this is where I think it really began….

Soon after this is when I started restricting food, only to eventually have a full out binge. I started to deny myself things that were “bad” and again, after long periods of time of going with out, I would binge.   I tried purging but I couldn’t keep up with that, the broken blood vessels, swollen eyes and sheer grossness of it kept me from becoming a purger. So, instead I restricted to try and compensate for the binge episodes. This became my copying mechanism at many points in my life.  Through out my adult life I have weighed 105 pounds and 254 pounds.  Back and forth, back and forth- feed, starve, feed starve.  A toxic cycle that introduced self-loathing talk, feelings of guilt, and body distortion/body shaming to me.

I can’t say the media helped me, the Kate Moss years just about did me in because that was surely unattainable, though that would not stop me from trying to make it happen.  I am not sure I spent any time, ever loving my body.  How could I? I was considered “heavy” at 128 pounds, I had no chance for any body love.  I was crushed at such a young age.  I have been on a diet since I was about 15.  That is crushing.

Thirty-five years of a diet mentality is going to be very difficult to unravel, it is going to be very difficult to retrain my brain.  To move a way from using terms like “good” food and “bad” food.  I say I am “bad” all the time when I decide to have something sweet.  I have the worse food relationship vocabulary.  Food equals negativity in my world and that means I have spent a lot of my time feeling shameful and guilty.  Like a “bad” person, a weak person, a loser.

I thought weight loss surgery was going to be the best spring board for me to get to my ideal weight.  Lord knows I tried EVERY diet and NOTHING worked.  I did all the research and attended all the pre-surgery meetings and therapies.  To this day, I am happy I did have the surgery but I regret not really taking, the time to learn why for 35 years I yo yo’d with my weight.  Why did I feed and restrict?  Why did I use language like good and bad?  I never dealt with that, and after 4 years, half of my 90 pounds came back on.  When I put myself into intensive outpatient treatment for alcohol, I quickly went back to my old pre-surgery food habits, my need to fill a whole within me came back.  Food fills holes nicely.  And now as I go through disordered eating therapy and nutritional counseling to try and repair my toxic thoughts and actions- my weight is still increasing slowly.  It is very difficult to work on one’s self and not have a vice (wine, over eating…..).   As insane as it sounds I am using food as a crutch, while I try to dissect its hold on me.  Like I said, me and food, are effed up!

Today in therapy I decided that I am spending way too much time on all the things I am doing imperfectly.  I do dwell on those things.  I have been challenged to focus on the things I do that are helpful, that I am doing well and journal them.  Like I eat a healthy breakfast every day- I never skip it and I no longer eat crap in the morning.  I nourish myself.  Every day I pack a cooler with fresh nourishing snacks that fill me up.  I do not let myself go to work with out it because that is setting me up for disaster- I keep myself nourished.  Those are good things I am doing well, hopefully throughout this week I will discover other positive actions, if not I will be happy with my healthy breakfast, lunches and snacks.

I can’t leave without saying that I do feel silly blogging about my “issues” when there is so much awfulness going on in our world.  So much scary nonsense, so much terror and insanity- but I have to keep moving forward.  The kinder I am to myself, the kinder I can be to others in this world.  All I can control is myself and my behavior.  I am going to keep working on helping to raise conscientious kind, emotionally healthy, and resilient children and young adults- these are my contributions to this hysteria.