This blog could fit in the category of co-addiction or food addiction. More importantly, it is about recovery from whatever imbalance comes your way. While New Year's Resolutions attempt to bring balance to a life yet often fail to do so, recovery offers a tried and true way to observe ourselves when we are out of balance and to choose the tools that will help us regain balance as we face whatever life offers.
One of the great things about the New Year is the opportunity it gives us to begin again. No matter how many times we have tried and failed, the New Year invites us to pick ourselves back up and do it again. Recovery goes so well with this concept, as for many of us, including and especially family members, starting over is pretty much what we do.
We communicate effectively with our loved one and then suddenly, something happens and we lose it again. We detach for moments, hours or days at a time, and then find ourselves upset again by the actions of those we love.
This process, one that one of my recovery teachers referred to as “Practice, Practice. Fall, Fall. Practice, Practice. Fall, Fall” can happen at any time of the day or year. But the New Year offers a reminder of how important it is to make a new beginning. Turning the page on the past seems easier on January 1st. Somehow, it’s expected. It’s time for new resolutions. AS the old saying says, “Out with the old and in with the new!”
For me, the year that I’m facing follows a year of family illness, change and challenge. My dad nearly died and was restored several times in the emergency room in November and is now in a rehab working to regain his strength, my daughter moved home after three years away, my mom spent the past week in the hospital (her third visit this past year).
My own recovery ebbed and flowed as I faced the ups and downs of my family’s challenges. There were times when my patience and wisdom reflected the 28 years I’ve now worked on my own co-addiction recovery. There were times when things hit me so hard that I felt like I had lost every bit of recovery that I’d worked to achieve over the years.
I visited my daughter in October in Louisiana for a one week visit that extended to a month. After a three year stint there, my daughter had decided to come home and we rented a truck and trailer to bring back her car, furniture and belongings. During that trip, the truck and trailer broke down four times in as many days, turning a 16 hour road trip into a four day battle of nerves…There were times during that trip that I was able to maintain my sanity and enjoy the view and my daughter’s company. But, there were other times when I just wanted to get home, as did she, and it felt like we never would.
My food recovery faltered during those four days, though it had stayed strong throughout the visit to Louisiana. I still steered clear of sugar and flour, but added foods I didn’t need and found myself just eating whatever was at whatever restaurant or truck stop we encountered.
Upon our return home, my dad had a series of heart attacks over the course of a two week period. Life in hospitals can be nerve-wracking. Watching him lie on a bed in the ICU intubated for a week was not easy. Being there night and day took a tremendous amount of energy. I am clear of how fortunate we are to still have him around today and for however long we will, yet it took me weeks to regain my balance and come back to work and my life. Some of the energy was just dealing with the possibility of impending loss and again coming to grips with my dad’s mortality and my own…
When he finally started getting somewhat better in the rehab a month later, my sister and her daughter came to visit. Usually, when they visit, we do stuff together and have a pretty good time. This time was different, tensions were high, and in the middle of the visit, my mom was admitted to the hospital for several days.
Their visit turned out to be unpleasant and difficult for them and for us, but they were tremendously helpful in taking care of my parents during that very difficult time.
The day after my mom was admitted to the hospital, I woke up realizing that if I continued to eat haphazardly I would be of no use to anyone, not my parents, not myself. So I surrendered this difficulty to my Higher Power and got back on the path of sane eating.
Ironically, my ups and downs over the past few months (a mere skeleton of which are presented above), gave me greater insight into the recovery process and into myself.
I found out where my strengths were, where I was vulnerable and what I needed to do to step back from a near encounter with the abyss.
I also found out something I think I had known for a long time, that when things go completely haywire in our lives, sometimes we lose it and there is really no room for self-judgment in the situation. This has been very helpful to me as a coach. Everyday I work with people who are struggling with difficult family situations – those of us affected by addiction in the family have all of the regular challenges the rest of the world has, plus the sometimes daunting situations that our loved ones struggling with addiction present to us.
These are THEIR problems, but as their loved ones, we ARE affected. Recovery is a process of building a cache of tools to use when things fall apart around and within us. Sometimes, the tools work, other times they don’t. Sometimes they fail because we fail to work them. Sometimes we fail to work them because we don’t even remember we have them.
But the longer we practice recovery principles, the sooner we CAN and do bounce back. This time, when my food faltered, I watched myself eat the wrong things with curiousity rather than with judgment. I saw myself wanting to make pledges to get back on the proverbial wagon, and refrained from doing so. I saw myself reduce harm by staying away from sugar and flour. I attended to the responsibilities facing me, doing the best I could to build up my tools so that I could refill the reservoir of energy and strength I would need to have in place in order to bring my food back in line with my recovery principles of moderation and sanity.
I have learned over the years that sometimes, when something in my life appears to be crumbling (in this case my food), the best approach for me is to work on those tools that help me bring myself back on track holistically. With all of the calamity happening around me this fall, I had somehow lost track of my meditation life. So, the tools I chose to work on were daily sitting meditation and breathing through each moment. I’ve written a lot about these on my regular blog at www.12stepfamily.com if you’d like to read more about how I approach them. There are some links on that blog to some free teleseminars and materials you can access on these topics as well.
When I work with clients, we often look at successes rather than at that which isn’t working and my clients find it easier to move into success in all areas through this approach. While my food wasn’t working over the past few months, my writing all but stopped, and my patience faltered from time to time, particularly during the journey home and my sister’s visit, I also noticed that I was handling challenges on a number of fronts, mainly my parents’ illnesses and working with clients, with strength and effectiveness.
I invite you to see yourself in terms of your strengths. When life hands you lemons, look for the ways in which you turn certain aspects to lemonade and build from there. Look for ways to return to your strong inner core for greater strength and wisdom and grow from there. You have everything within you to make the changes you want to make in your life. Go forward into this New Year with the knowledge of your inner power, and should you fall along the way, do so with curiosity rather than judgment. Be an observer in your own life, a loving mirror™ so to speak, and watch how you are able to come back to where you want to be and how you want to live.
Recovery makes every day a New Year in which to begin again!
Go for it!
All the best,
Beverly Buncher, MA, PCC, CTPC
Family Recovery Coach