As I mentioned in my previous post, I have re-started Gabrielle Bernstein’s 42-day course, May Cause Miracles. And I am, like, really trying to commit this time around! I even set aside a “meditation spot” (AKA a meditation pillow and candle in the corner of Steve’s office, wedged between his surfboard, 7,000 computer cables and an electric guitar I’ve never seen him touch), and have made a morning ritual of shutting my office door, reading my affirmation and sitting for a minute of silence.. I’m doing things.
I am currently midway through Week 3, which focuses on your relationship with your body, and all the ways the ego has convinced you that your body is “special” and “different.” Gabrielle teaches us that when we buy into this perspective, we are isolating ourselves within our human bodies, separating us from the oneness we innately share with other humans and energy on this planet and ultimately dulling our light and ability to affect the world.
So, wait.. how do body issues play into drinking or other addiction? It’s all about boiling over the confines of the human form, sick of being trapped by our own egos. I recently saw a video on Russell Brand’s instagram that I thought summed this up pretty perfectly: he explained how humans use self-harm (cutting, binging, drinking/substance use – guilty of all 3) as a form of expression of their frustration, their captivity in their bodies. He says that self-harm is actually a way to take ourselves out of our bodies, to extend beyond the human experience, “to be rid of the self” – which is, ironically, essential for peace and happiness. He goes on to say that reaching beyond the self just needs to be re-directed toward safer means of expression and communication – like (and I am ad libbing my own ideas here) meditation, acts of service, music, art, yoga, etc.
When I did this particular week the first time around, I focused alot on myself.. How my ego and my body fears affected ME and MY VERY IMPORTANT EXPERIENCE. I learned that my ego tells me I am (or will soon be) fat, and how this scared me into the dark recesses of my own mind, acting out only through binge/starve episodes. I also had major control issues, another frustration which often manifested as calorie restriction or over-exercising. But this time, something was different. I still found myself listing “being fat” as a fear in my daily journalling, but I felt like it just … wasn’t a thing anymore. I was writing it down out of habit thanks to 32 years of actually being afraid of this.. but now, I realize I haven’t counted a calorie in a year (in fact, I checked the calories on a box of cheesecake just last week, 440 per slice to be exact, shrugged and ate it anyway). Maybe the impossible has happened, maybe I have finally come to some sort of terms with my body?
This revelation and acceptance has freed up major brain space so that I can now focus on the second part of the exercise, which was the idea that we are merely “spirits having a human experience” and that the only true purpose of our human body is to provide a vessels through which we can cultivate love and serve others or, as Russell Brand put it, to find a safer way to reach beyond the confines of “self.” I read this the first time around, of course.. as in I saw letters on a page that then formed words and sentences and my neurons said “mmhm, yep, got it, we’re very enlightened now.” But I was still sooo hung up on my discomfort in my own body (“are my thighs touching? how about now? maybe I should measure them again?”) that I didn’t give it the attention or comprehension it warranted.
I have always understood that drinking was bad for my health and my weight, but I never considered the way it was affecting my ability to impact the world or create a difference. How it was stealing the light from everybody around me. How it was siphoning my energy and funneling it all into anger, frustration, body hatred, shame: all the time spent logging and calculating my macros, staring at the calorie counter on an elliptical, taking daily, obsessive before/after photos and zooming in and out, looking for any minute difference. I never realized how much this was taking away from me, and therefore away from the world around me: I am a psychiatric nurse, I volunteered for food drives and at the Humane Society, I adopted a dog or two in my day… what else do you people want from me? Sure, I spent 80% of my energy hating myself but can’t the world be happy with the 20% I was giving? I felt like I was doing “my part” as a human, and so I breezed over the ways in which I was hindering further growth, ignoring anything beyond the status-quo. As always, I was asking myself the wrong questions: instead of “am I doing enough good?”, I should have been asking “how can I do the most good?”
Here are a few ways in which cutting out alcohol has helped me to heal my body and allowed me to fully re-connect with the world:
- I can show up. And I don’t mean just showing up sober – the truth is, when you’re hungover, or even just sleep-deprived, you are not fully present. I also don’t mean just showing up for others, but for myself too: by clearing my life and mind of alcohol and the debris it left in its wake, I am finally able to appreciate my mind and my body as things to be respected and nurtured and so I take the time for self-care. I am more in tune with my own needs and genuine desires so that once I’m there in front of you, you and I can both rest assured it’s because I want to be there and that I am giving you my best self. And if I’m not, you can bet I will kindly excuse myself.
- I have soo many more hours in the day. Clear, focused, un-fuzzy hours. And I remember every. single. one. of. them. No more 3-6 hour window of re-acclimating to human life after a particularly rough night, only to fall back into unproductivity around 3pm when the promise of netflix, wine and couch come into focus. No more wasted evenings where a happy hour unexpectedly turned into closing time. I have more time for productivity, for work, for school, or sometimes just to relax and practice self-care. It’s a pleasure, not an obligation, to do the podcast, to write the article, to have the yard sale, to re-finish the table, to throw together the makeshift meditation space in my boyfriend’s man cave. I never have a running to-do list because I just get things done as they come up. I keep my plate clear for the important shit.
- I am physically up for the challenge. In the past, my health felt frail and some days, like it was hanging by a thread. My anxiety was through the roof, worsened by dehydration and all the caffeine I drank to counter my sleep-deprived nights. The mere thought of being vulnerable made me need a nap. My energy was non existent, and any time spent at the gym was wasted on negating alcohol calories and upping my endorphins just enough to overcome to depressant affects of alcohol (if at all). My writing took a several year hiatus during the time that I drank. I thought maybe I’d just “grown out of it,” but I see now that I simply did not have the energy to spare. I attack new projects and challenges with vigor.
So there it is. I am present, I am available, I am energized.
Do I still have times where I weigh myself, pinch an outer thigh, cringe at a photo of myself? Of course I do.. but my response to those instances is no longer to shame, starve or intoxicate myself. I respond with forgiveness, love and trust: I forgive myself for all the years of dumping poison into my body and dimming my potential, love for my body that is strong and healthy, and trust that I can eat the 440 calorie cheesecake today and it’ll alllll still somehow work out in the end. I trust the process.
Today, thanks to healing my body (and my body-centered mind), I do more than simply muster up the energy to do something: I go at it with everything or I accept that it is not for me. I do more and I give more, because I have more. More love, more energy, more lightness, more creativity and time. I am grateful for my ability to work a second job, which means more patients are reached and helped every week. I have a much ore consistent sleep pattern, meaning Steve and I go to bed and wake up at the same time (you don’t realize how important this is until your schedules are all off!). I drink enough water each day, which means I feel physically well and therefore treat those around me much more pleasantly. Most of all, I am so very grateful to myself for having healed my body and mind so that I can offer my words and experience to all of you!