I Could Write about Anything / by Michelle Cowan

Recovery is NOW. Happiness is NOW. These are the words I’m thinking…now. I can choose to behave in a totally new way at any moment. Life is open and free. Why do I often deny it?

I feel called to live a non-traditional life. Frankly, a life that would be “traditional” in my eyes is too difficult—impossible really. Even though I do believe that anything is possible, I don’t particularly care if the traditional life is achievable. I don’t want it. In fact, it would do me good just to take the prospect off my plate.

Let’s face it, I like to stand out a bit. Why would I wear scarves of every color and necklaces bigger than my face if I didn’t want some recognition!? Something in me is screaming, “This is not how it has to be!” And it isn’t. Life can be whatever we make it.

Of course, the kind of options that reality implies are not so inviting to a decision-phobe. “You mean, I can do ANYTHING I want?” I question. “Really?”

Yes! Anything. I can believe anything I want, do anything I want, think anything I want. Sure, there may be financial or geographical limitations, but the insurmountable boundary is rare (if not nonexistent). With a little ingenuity and the universe on our side, all truly is possible.

This means that when I feel bored with my life (as I have felt lately), I can choose to do something new. I can get out of the rut. It is possible. Working so hard to maintain a “regular” job or an “acceptable” body or a “reasonable” schedule wears me out! I cannot bear the pressure of having to portray a “normal” sort of lifestyle, sexuality, spirituality, fashion sense, ethics, or ideology. Of course, the “normal” I strive after is simply a construction I’ve made to drive me and only me insane. I wouldn’t hold anyone else to these ideals, but somewhere along the way, they were planted in my psyche.

I feel comfortable that what I am doing now will result in the fulfillment of those ideals, but I don’t want those ideals anymore! However, at this point, I’ve grown so attached to my safe routines that I fear releasing them. Nonetheless, I know that getting out of these unfulfilling routines simply requires that I try a few new things and break those routines a little bit. Now, if my feelings about my boredom and the solution are so obvious, why don’t I get out of the rut?

Ah, the eternal conundrum. Even though I have a pretty fierce love/hate relationship with most of the biblical Paul's writings, he was just another human being (despite sainthood), and I completely commiserate with his line in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Can anyone else with various addictions relate? I think some of you might, and probably practically every “normal” person out there, too.

How many times have each of us participated in behaviors that we do not want? Through therapy (or plain common sense), most of us learn that we practice those behaviors because part of us DOES want to do them. I engage in self-destructive patterns because part of me believes that they are helping me, because they enable me to somewhat express something I do not know how to express another way.

What is the key to breaking the cycle? Saying, “I’ll stop doing that”? No. What DOES work is finding something that provides what we’re looking for with less effort or hurt. The effort is in the FINDING of the thing that can replace the unsatisfactory behavior. And how do we get to the point of actively looking for the replacement? Ha! Your guess is as good as mine.

My experience has been that in order to break patterns that aren’t working for me, I have to develop new patterns that I love more than the old. In order to stop bingeing, I have to want something else far more than that immense amount of food. (It ultimately comes down to love, for love is really the greatest desire any of us can have.)

At first, there seems to be nothing I want more than that binge. What could possibly fulfill me more? Therefore, in the beginning, I have to do a little forcing of myself into new areas. I have to try different things, even if I don’t want to. I can come home and binge later, but I need to try something new first. Eventually, I might find something I truly enjoy. Then, I have to do the new thing more often and make it a pattern. The more I do the things that I love, the easier it is for my mind and body to remember how preferable those behaviors are to the binge.

It takes time and some effort. It isn’t always easy. But the solution is pretty simple, almost like a math equation. If I have more positive memories of one behavior, I’m more likely to do that than something else. I can change my “muscle memory,” in a way. Unfortunately, I repeat, it takes time and some effort.

Sometimes, I find it valuable to look into the “negative” behavior and honestly see what it is doing for me. I want to understand why I like it so much, why I am afraid to change it. I ultimately want to see what good lies within it, because nothing is all bad. (Once again, I dislike the words good and bad, but I’m using them. Damn the English language and linear thought! – although both are valuable ;) ) Sometimes, I can actually embrace a behavior I want to get rid of and see that it can work for me if taken down to its core.

Perhaps the desire to binge is really a desire for a healthy amount of food or simply a desire to feel full and taken care of. These desires can be acted on in other ways. And it’s always possible for me to eat a large meal or snack rather than zone out and enter into binge mode. I believe that it’s completely okay to indulge myself regularly. If I am truly listening to my emotional, spiritual, and physical needs, things balance out.

I am constantly seeking balance. I crave it. I need it. That’s why I often swing from one extreme to the other—not because I am averse to balance, but because I am trying to find it. If I restrict in one area of my life, I will do something else in excess. It’s hard to see that these extremes are really ways in which I balance myself.

I can trust myself to find the balance. When I trust myself to know what’s right, I’m more likely to sit down and listen intently to my real needs and desires. I absolutely CAN trust the light within. I do want the best for myself, and with a little creativity, I can get it in ways that lead to a life greater than I could ever imagine!

I hope that you all learn to trust yourselves and will take a little time (even ten minutes) this week to sit with yourself quietly and see what comes up. Be kind enough to ask yourself what you are feeling and what is going on.

Much love ~~

P.S. For the sake of being “real,” I must confess that I am currently struggling to show my imperfections to ANYONE, even my most trusted advisors and friends. Sure, I know all of this great, affirmative stuff, but am I applying it? Not so much these days. There are many things I am scared as all-fire to let go of. However, tonight I know recovery is NOW. Happiness is NOW. I am making different choices this evening, even if only a couple. And it will lead to success. The only way to break the fear of change is to change something and see what happens… Running the gauntlet, y’all.