Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Handling my feelings

One Day at a Time
April 9, 2008


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Few are those who see with their own
eyes and feel with their own hearts.

Albert Einstein

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Before working the Twelve Step program,
one reason I used to overeat was that I
couldn't manage my feelings. My feelings
were overwhelming and incapacitating to
me. I would also overreact to feelings
and this would make them truly more than
I could handle. So I would then overeat
to make the feelings stop. I would stuff
myself, to stuff them down!

In working the Twelve Step program, I
got a chance to work through past hurts
and resentments that intensified my
feelings. I learned to feel my feelings,
just as they are, and how to stop
overreacting to them. I learned to sort
through messages my family gave me about
feelings, that it's not okay to have or
feel or express them. I learned to
decide what is true for me, today, about
feelings. I also worked through my
codependency issues and learned how to
communicate feelings in an appropriate,
effective and loving way.

Now feelings are a part of my life and
not something overwhelming and
incapacitating. In fact, they have
become something beautiful that enrich
my life and give it color and texture
and even pleasure.


I honor the blessing of having my
feelings returned to me. I enjoy them,
and I respect my feelings and those of
others. I thank my Higher Power for this
wonderful gift.

This daily meditation from an online recovery group spoke to me. The AA Big Book says "Alcohol was but a symptom." Whether it's food or sex and love, the truths of my addiction are parallel. And if I replace "eat" with "intrigue" in this meditation ... the same sentiments still apply. The most prevalent thought here to me is I don't know how to manage my feelings. They baffle me and confuse me.

I used to think it was ridiculous when people said this -- What do you mean you don't know how to manage your feelings ... just deal with it! But the longer I live, the more I realize how little I understand and know.

I've had so many feelings and emotions come up in my latest round of therapy and I have no idea what to do with them. It's not like they are things I can just sit on a shelf and look at and decorate with. They are things that feel foreign and all I can think to do is run away from them. Whether it is by eating or intriguing or simply letting them overwhelm me to the point that I feel completely isolated and beaten -- I am not handling them, not really even accepting them as part of me. All of this IS an overreaction. I don't need to have sex with some stranger or eat three candy bars in order to deal with the emotions that come up. What good would that do, for goodness sake!?! I have felt myself numb out this week, using peripheral acting out behaviors to fill the void where feelings would usually reside.

The 12 Steps are a simple program for complex people ... people like me who can overreact and exaggerate and act out over the smallest of things -- but can't see the simple truth that feelings cannot kill me, they are not the big bad wolf, they are just a part of the human experience. It is my actions and inaction that can get me.

As an aside, my sister called over the weekend to tell me that the doctors had found a spot on my stepdad's lung that could possibly be cancer. As usual, she gave the most dramatic version of the story, which had him likely living on a respirator for whatever life he has left. I chose not to engage and wait to respond until the doctors have made the follow up review of the spot some time next week. I am thankful that I have learned a few things along the way. I acknowledged my sister's anxiety and worry and told her I was sorry she was hurting. And I let it go at that. A short time ago in my recovery, I would have started to have panic attacks about needing to resolve the issues of my abuse before my stepfather kicks the bucket. Today -- I know that either dead or alive, his demons are his and mine are mine. Neither of us can take on the other's stuff.

I'm grateful to be alive today.

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