The Reveal: It’s Not Always as Sexy as It Sounds.
It’s time for me to be brutally honest, to say the things I’ve never wanted to say, and to take the steps I’m still not totally sure I want to take.
I’m an addict, and I have been so for 17 years.
I use food, alcohol and sex to bear the unbearable.
I noticed one day, years ago, that I felt tremendously alone most of the time, that feelings of stress and fear usually resulted from insecurity in relationships (which I had not yet connected to a brokenness in my relationship to Self) and that my default setting to cope with those feelings was isolating and eating, or clinging to the closest body and giving all of my attention (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) to that intense moment of sexual climax in which I felt free, loved and whole.
After years of therapy, twelve-step support, Yoga practice, inquiry, journaling, dieting, cleansing, study, training, teaching, catharsis, sharing, living, moving, fucking up, and still feeling broken at a foundational level, I extended a hand to an entirely new source of support: my addiction. I turned to myself and the compulsive desire I had decided (and been told) was the problem, and asked for help.
First, I actually turned to my trusted and deeply loving Ayurvedic guide, Sunita Tarkunde. Through our diligent work together, I am establishing a pattern of observing and being with the pain. I have allowed myself to articulate core beliefs about worth and wounds, and not automatically shut them away for fear of anyone else’s feelings about my (perceived) brokenness.
I am becoming the source of healing, rather than the victim, the problem, the source of chaos and inconsistency.
The body is ground zero when it comes to our human experience, but most of us stop our inquiry at that level. Our culture fills us with absurd notions that it’s our clothing, our diet, our exercise regimen and our brazenness in the bedroom that will curb — or even satisfy — our deeply rooted cravings.
On some level (the gross body level), that could be true. There’s no doubt food, exercise, physical and sexual confidence, and dressing in a way that feels authentic, can create a shift. But under that physical craving lies much, much more that cannot be dressed up or dieted away.
Learning this process is not without tremendous difficulty. I have relied on food, alcohol and sex as my most trusted allies in coping with the stress of life. While they have not made me happier, they have always been there when I need them, and in that consistency we have an incredibly strong alliance.
What I’m learning, however, is that running from my addiction never wore it out, it wore me out, and sent me back full force into its open arms.
“Trying to change ourselves doesn’t work in the long run because we’re resisting our own energy. Self-improvement can have temporary results, but lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion.” ~ Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
It’s traumatizing to be at war with our own impulses, because they are deep veins of desire, electrical wires illuminating our destiny, charging the dead or dying flesh of supposed to with the reminder of I want, I need, I have to have. The irrational nature of emotion/impulse is what sends most of us running from it, or to the nearest numbing substance.
However, without the will to live fully in the the present, which we get to through physical sensation and awareness, the mind will just be fried by the inner conflict, numb to the call of desire, homeless with nowhere to land. If we are unwilling to look at the feeling level of ourselves, we will never really evolve.
It’s not enough to change a habit, it might even be — as Ani Pema describes it– abusive, if the intention is to fix what’s wrong. We have to go deep into what’s driving the behavior: fear of loss and abandonment, feelings of inadequacy, shame. Next step: befriend these challenges and learn from their needs.
“We need self-compassion to stabilize our minds. We need it to work with our emotions. We need it in order to stay.” ~ Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
Stacey Ramsower is a teacher, writer and artist living in Houston, TX. She has studied and worked professionally in the fields of theater, film, dance, Yoga, education and writing, and is currently exploring the wisdom of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. The impetus behind her work is recovery — physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. You could contact her via her website.