What’s Different This Time?
Lately I’ve been talking with people about their primary addiction – the one that precedes alcohol or drugs. Of course, in my work with helping people overcome sugar and food addiction, I have heard many say food is primary.
But it wasn’t food for me. It was boys.
At five years old, I was called “Kissy-Girl” at school because I chased the boys on the playground during recess and would catch and kiss them. I’d create monster fantasy crushes in my mind with boys I had sometimes never even spoken to, and the obsession would consume me. Sometimes I’d go an entire school year with the same crush and never even tell my best friend.
I would live in fantasy worlds where my crush was my boyfriend and we were in love. I imagined us going to the mall together and holding hands. Or I’d picture him waiting for me at my locker after class.
I can still list out the first and last names of most of these boys from my school years.
One of the most memorable examples is of a boy named Jeff I had a crush on for most of my sophomore year in high school. I saw him around school and thought he was cute, and then got obsessed with him. We had no classes together or friends in common and he never even noticed my existence.
Months went by. My obsession only grew. Until towards the end of the school year, I overheard him talking to his friend in the lunchroom. I was shocked to hear him speaking with the unmistakable cadence of a deaf person.
My image of this person was shattered. The fantasy of this boy crumbled. It wasn’t even about Jeff being deaf, it was more about the fact I had fallen for a projection of a person in my mind that was totally not in reality. I had had a relationship with a fantasy for almost a year that was broken upon hearing Jeff speak for the first time.
The example of deaf Jeff is quite stark, but some form of this same dynamic is common when jumping too fast into relationships. I fall for my projection, and then when the illusion is shattered by their humanness, they fall off their pedestal and I see all of their faults… or red flags.
Similar dynamics play out on both the adult playground and my old childhood one. When I idealize and obsess about someone, when I chase after them, it’s always a game with a flawed ending.
Just like when I was five. When I actually caught the boys on the playground and kissed them, then I got shy and didn’t know what else to do. Or I would suddenly think they were gross, and run away from them.
Just like my childhood playground, in my adult life, sometimes I don’t know what to do when I get the person I had pursued. I question if it is what I really want. I pull away, they cling. Then I convince myself I really do want the connection, and then they lose interest.
Regardless, the dance of the distancer and the pursuer is painful and exhausting. And addicting.
Fast forward to earlier this year. Maybe you have seen my posts about the younger guy I met from Tinder, the dating app – the guy who “complimented” me by saying I look good for my age, among other things. Or maybe you saw my follow up post where I outed myself because I omitted the detail that I’d slept with the Tinder guy in my original post.
In these posts, I made some declarations.I owned my age; I declared to be honest; to honor my internal Yes and No; I vowed to treat myself with love, and work towards not caring so much what people think of me.
And yet, here I am again. Falling short of my intentions. Being a messy human. Playing in old sandboxes I thought I’d outgrown. Reminded of the pain of ADDICTION: wanting to stop but can’t. Feeling a mess of yes and no with someone new, dancing between distancer and pursuer.
Where these same age-old dynamics must still have lessons to teach me as they are still here…Along with searing self-judgment that flows in the Underneath, roiling and boiling, while my conscious mind is doing its best to just go with the flow and practice compassion.
It’s not easy. In AA, we call it having a ‘head full of AA and a belly full of booze.’ But until it’s over and done, I’m doing my level best to accept where I am. And even more important, claiming the victories- however small my mind wants to make them- because they are there.
THERE IS GROWTH.
If I’m doing the thing anyway, at least I can choose to see the gold sparkling somewhere in the shit. It’s a coaching practice I utilize often with my clients: we acknowledge and do not overstep the seemingly small victories.
So for me, the biggest victory is that for the first time, I know how to not abandon myself in the moment even if I feel abandoned by the other person. When I feel the shame spiral, the emptiness, the fear, I come home to myself. And I don’t escape later in food or sugar, or any substances. WINNING!
I also have an important new awareness as a result of practicing The Work of Byron Katie along with my last 4th step resentment inventory. Every time I want to pass judgment externally, my next thought is to always bring the focus back to me.I ask myself if I have ever done the thing I am judging for. Most always, the answer is yes. This is done as a gentle reminder – not as an act of shame or beating myself up.
Another new thing I am doing is giving myself Reiki when my heart feels shattered, tired, or anxious. And it works! (Shameless plug: I do distance Reiki sessions – always an illuminating and powerful experience.)
Also top of mind is a concept from The Presence Process: that everyone is a messenger carrying a message. The practice is to take the focus off the messenger and focus on the message.The message is the wound the messenger activates within us – which is coming up for healing.And wow, I still have so much to heal.. just like everyone else
I am also continuing to use the ancient Hawaiian healing technique Ho’oponopono when I go off the beam, which brings me back to healing and forgiveness. It’s a deep yet simple process – I repeat: Thank you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, I love you – as a prayer and mantra. There is so much information about myself and how I relate that I have gathered throughout the course of this new relationship that would have laid dormant.
Woohoo! Now I really get to work on myself
The thing is that the work will never stop. There will just be continual levels of growth and awareness. The task is how to enjoy the unfolding, embracing myself as I am today and letting myself off the hook as best I can when I am not living up to my expectations.
So… what about you? I’m curious what you can relate to – where in your life do you judge yourself as not changing, or being stuck, or going backwards, when in actuality if you look, you can find a bit of gold in the gains. What are you doing differently this time even if you are swimming in the same old seas? Or at the very least, what are you noticing that you didn’t before? The mind will want to minimize or justify, shame or judge, so don’t fall for that trick.
Take your gain. Declare your growth. All growth starts here. I love you.
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