From Extremes to Contentment

When I was in the throes of addiction, everything in my life was “all or nothing.” I could only function in a realm of extremes. Either I smothered and tried to control you or I completely neglected you. I was a torrent of cleaning, organizing and rearranging furniture, or you could barely walk through the filth piled up in my home. Either I was the leader of an event or group, or I wouldn’t attend at all. Either I was in makeup, high heels and a dress I sewed myself or I wore sweats and avoided taking a shower. I either espoused austere living or I shopped way past my limits. I either ate everything in sight or I starved myself. Everything in my life seemed either wonderful or terrible.

As a result of these polar vacillations, I left a lot of heartache, confusion and destruction in my wake. I could write many involved blog posts about the wreckage I caused. I ruined things both big and small. I’m not going to get into specific “war stories” right now, though. I’m betting many of you can relate with me already, as you reflect on your own experiences with the obsession of romantic and sexual addiction/anorexia. Instead of recounting the details of the destruction in my life, I want to offer some very simple hope.

This afternoon, I went out to my back yard and lied down on a hammock under a tree. This is something in itself; in my obsession, I couldn’t bear to sit still and be left alone with the “rabid squirrels” racing around in my head. But today, I was able to spend some time being still. A very friendly neighborhood kitten joined me and stretched out on my belly, purring loudly. As I slowly stroked her soft fur and felt the vibration of her purring in my hands. I breathed deeply. I became conscious of the contrast between the warm sun on my cheeks and the cool breeze that sometimes passed over me.  I closed my eyes and was aware of the wildly changing degrees of light as the sun filtered through the rustling leaves of the tree overhead. I listened to the distinct sounds of chirping birds, chattering squirrels, the constant buzz of some kind of insect, the busy sounds of my surrounding neighbors’ homes and the cars on the nearby highway. I felt myself rock gently back and forth as I watched two butterflies loop around one another in the garden. I was also aware of some pain in my spine. And although I was fully immersed in the awareness of my natural surroundings, I remained calmly ready to be available to my children, who played nearby.

Suddenly, I became aware of a miracle: I was fully present in the moment. My mind was engaged in the “here and now.” I wasn’t scheming, obsessing, beating myself up, rehashing, or worrying. I had no major drives toward any extreme at all. I wasn’t fidgeting or fleeing the stillness. I was fully at ease, accepting the moment for what it was, good and bad, with no agenda but to engage fully in it.

In my addiction, that time would have been impossible. In fact, if you told me that someday it would be possible for me… that I could be completely still and accepting in my body, emotions, spirit and thoughts, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had spent too many years feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my own skin… out of my own life.

I have many amends still to make. I have so much more to learn and experience. But the gift of contentment, even as I am aware of the work still ahead of me, is irreplaceable. It may seem like a little thing, but to me, it’s very, very big. I don’t require extremes to feel alive anymore. I don’t feel like I need to have all of the answers, or that I must try to control everything around me. I don’t feel the pressure of assuming I’m the center of attention and must thereby be constantly trying to impress everyone around me. Today, I can just be. That alone is worth the hard work of living a life of recovery. I can even be grateful for the chaos of my past, as it serves as such a contrast to my experience today, helping me to truly appreciate the changes and gifts in my life. There is so much hopein that. So much.

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