At a refuge recovery meeting in Chicago recently, I was inspired with the idea that I could use loving kindness to help with my addiction. As I reached for the usual late night salty snack, I paused.
“May I be happy May I be peaceful, May I be well. ” I repeated this mentally a few times.
Although I didn’t feel better right away, saying this reminded me that I was in a vulnerable state. (will power is non-existent when I am tired.)
As my own best friend, I paused, and asked myself: “Why do you want this?” I didn’t care. I just wanted to stuff my face. (That wasn’t a helpful question for me, but I am writing about it because it might be effective for you.)
The next question did help me; Who wants these chips?
For some reason, that was easy to see; the lonely, aging girl, who is single and afraid that she will be that way forever, who is terrified that she will end up homeless, and broke. ( I know this future is not realistic, but these thoughts and my feelings are real to me when I think them and feel them- the real reasons that I want to eat, spend or drink too much.)
I understood that I would rather feel bad about eating too much or staying up too late than about being lonely or broke in the future; I can engage in accountability or find a method that helps me to stop eating too much or staying up too late, but loneliness and fear are a big part of being human. All of us have lonely feelings from time to time-even my happily married friends confess this. Most of us experience the feeling of lack, no matter how much money or stuff we have. Some of us feel bad from time to time about the way we look, feel, or speak. Feeling these feelings is rough, but in my pause I felt it all, and it lessened just a tiny bit. (I forgot to take three deep breaths this all happened in at most a couple minutes, but I can see now that breathing consciously would have been helpful as well.)
Can I be kind to the part of myself that wants to stuff her face? Can I reassure the woman who wants withdraw her submissions to literary journals and stop writing her book because she is afraid of exposure? Can I love the me that is afraid to post this – that wants to take out the broke part and the lonely part and the real parts? That doesn’t want you to think that I am some analytical freak?
I was surprised that I could reassure myself – love was available when will power had dissolved and I think this is because I practice meditation frequently, and I have been graced with skilled, generous teachers and noble friends.
Loving-kindness and compassion are skills that improve with practice over time. Love is a powerful, effective force for positive change and internal happiness, but it requires steady practice to be accessible when we need it the most.
I still ate some salty snack, but not as much as I usually do in my compulsive way when I am tired. (I actually enjoyed the food, instead of using the food to numb me. For me, this was a big victory at the end of a long day.)
It was as if a dear friend had reached out and gently pushed my hand away , saying to me, “Are you sure this is what you need? Can I try telling you that all is well first, then see if you still want to engage in a habit that doesn’t feel good the next day?” I felt loved and understood by this friend in a way that is hard to describe.
That “dear friend” has a name. She’s called “practice.”
(There is the biological component to most addictions that must be addressed as well but I think it is essential to become more skilled at loving-kindness so that we can be our own best friend and reassure ourselves that we don’t have to keep eating, drinking, drugging or spending too much, and that we are worth the time and effort required for recovery.)
If we want the world to heal, it’s important to remember that we are models for our loved ones and each other. While I might encourage my closest friend or my child to let go and indulge in a treat or a luxury once in a while, I would never consciously encourage stress relief with addictive behavior – but if I am using harmful behavior to relieve my stress, I am unconsciously encouraging that in others.
I am committed to be the living proof that love is all we need, and that kindness is more powerful than even the biggest, meanest force in the universe.
May you be well, may you be happy, and may you be peaceful. Be kind to you, so you can keep being you.
Thank you for reading this rather long-winded post about a moment in time!