Overcoming Isolation


Some people criticize others out of loving concern. These are not the people who bother me. No, it is the people who are “professional critics” and thus seem almost incapable of saying anything nice or loving to others that really mess with my serenity. It this bunch that seem to enjoy nothing more than attacking and judging others.

Over the past 24 hours (from the time I’m writing this entry) I’ve dealt with one very critical person via e-mail. He asked for a business-related favor and I set a boundary: I said no. If that point forward he has threaten to harm the business I own and to damage my reputation. Yes, those kind of threats mess with my serenity!

When dealing with “professional critics” like the guy I just described, I remember a quote I heard for the first time many years ago. It was part of a 12 Step presentation on the problem of resentment. Resentment is an issue that I would like to deal with in detail in other entries. The bottom line about being resentful against hateful critical comments is I really don’t have to let the person or their comments threaten my recovery from addiction. I have a choice! Here’s a quote that strengthens my commitment to not allow myself to be shaken by critics: “Criticism is the unconscious tribute that mediocrity and stupidity pay to greatness. So when you get criticized don’t get mad, just take
a bow!” The source of this gem is the late Bishop Fulton Sheen.

Just for today I really CAN CHOOSE to “take a bow” when I’m criticized, instead of using food to stuff down the pain/anger/resentment caused by hate-filled words. I also recently realized that most “professional critics” are little more than bullies. They use words instead of fists to harm others. I have no respect for these or any kind of bully.

CHEW ON THIS…

Giving into our double-sided addiction of over-eating and under-exercising does NOT accomplish anything worthwhile. It certainly does NOT harm those who attempt to harm us. JUST FOR TODAY I wont allow others steal my serenity, threaten my recovery or cause me to want to harm myself.

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So far I’m pleased to report that I’m having a GREAT day today! Specifically…

  • I’m not obsessing about food to the point of overeating, which means that following the POINTS food plan has been fairly easy.
  • I’ve already exercised for over 25 minutes (between walking and doing upper-body exercises with one of the Sweatin’ To The Oldies videos).
  • I attended my regular weekly Weight Watchers meeting today, which provided me with good information.
  • I also faced my fear and weighed-in twice today!  After church I weighed in at a local health club and then later at my WW meeting. The results of my two weigh-ins are none of my business. What is my business is that I faced my fear and weighed in twice today.
  • I’ve felt a really connection to God today. Having fairly few distractions in my life today has likely helped me find the grace to eat sanely and exercise moderately.
  • Outside of Weight Watchers I’ve connected with another addict to share (and receive) experience, strength and hope.

I don’t want to make it sound like I haven’t had any negative emotions, stress or unpleasantness in my life today. But where I have encountered these things, I’ve found the grace to NOT overeat over them and to NOT use them as an excuse to avoid physical exercise.

I’m an addict — excess food intake and avoidance of physical exercise at all costs are my drugs of choice — and my problem is Dave!

I’ve released another 6.4 pounds within the past few weeks (YEAH!!!) and yet my commitment “to do the next right thing” to take care of myself is less than wholehearted.  “Why” is NOT important (REASON: We addicts must ACT our way into right thinking, rather than attempting to think our way into right acting = Action changes thinking long before screwed up addictive thinking will positively change actions).

I will acknowledge that I’m still (as I have the right to be) dealing with the death of my mother who passed away less than five months ago.  Some days my grief is not much of a burden to bear, while other days (like Easter was and I’m sure Mother’s Day will be) are too difficult for words.

No sooner than I felt like I was getting a reasonably decent handle on coping with my mom’s death, then my closest female friend passed away on April 16 — just four months and 16 days after my mom died!  My friend was only 54 years young.  I’m 51 years young.

All of this grief is HARD to deal with! And yet, all of my overeating and exercise avoiding wont bring my mother or Anna back from the dead. Duh! Acting out with my double-sided addiction might even hasten the day of my death. Duh!

When I say that my “commitment” to my recovery ain’t what it should be (yes, I typed the dreaded “should” word), this means that some days I follow my food plan MOST of the day (say up until 7:00pm), but then stop writing down my food intake and exercise effort for the rest of the day.  I wouldn’t be shocked that my food intake is greater than my food plan calls for on these “half-ass days” and my exercise effort isn’t what it could be. Ya’ think? 🙂 <blush>

So here’s what I’m doing today and for the next seven days (eight days total): I’m going to write on this journal EACH day for these eight consecutive days. My hope is that all this writing will help me renew my focus and my effort to eat sanely and exercise moderately, ODAAT. And yet, getting back on track is NOT all about what I’m doing for me. Ultimately I believe it is about seeking God’s help to do what I can not do for myself.

I believe that God does for us addicts what we can not do for ourselves.  Therefore it only makes sense for me to seek God more intensely to help me get my "recovery batteries charged up" and get me back on track.

I believe that God does for us addicts what we can not do for ourselves. Therefore it only makes sense for me to seek God more intensely to help me get my "recovery batteries charged up" and get me back on track.

Many church’s hold “revivals” to renew “the spiritual batteries” of their members. So as an addict I wouldn’t be surprised that (from time to time) I/we would benefit from a revival-of-sorts to re-charge my/our “recovery batteries”.

So I hereby declare that the revival is on!!! May we all get CHARGED UP, re-focused and re-committed to working our program of recovery each day, ODAAT!

I have a gratitude to share: Today I am especially grateful for a renewed awareness that it is NOT food that causes me to eat insanely.  After all, food is an INantimate object!  Instead the insanity of my addiction resides INside of me. This is where I need God’s help (inside). One of the best ways for me to experince His help in overcoming the insanity of my addiction is through working the 12 Steps that are at the core of my recovery program.  I work my Steps one Step and one day at a time. And writing is a terrific tool to help me work them.

I dedicate this journal entry to a bulimic friend I’ll refer to simply as “E.”. I haven’t seen or heard from her in many years. I met her through Overeaters Anonymous sometime in the mid-1990’s. She was a true inspiration to me with her determination, wit and zeal to carry the message of recovery to all who struggle with food addiction in all of it’s various flavors: overeating, bulimia and anorexia.

Your value as a precious child of God should be measured by something far more substantial than a measuring tape, scales or even your clothing sizes.

Your value as a precious child of God should be measured by something far more substantial than a measuring tape, scales or even your clothing sizes.

Because I found her recovery effort so uplifting, I was sure to encourage “E.” to write for our local O.A. newsletter during the time I served as it’s editor.  One of her missives that I published was a poem — I would love to find the text, but alas it has long since disappeared into the mess that it my cluttered apartment. So please forgive my forgetfulness as I don’t recall if the following phrase was the title or a particular line that I have managed to hang on to all of these years — and stick with me it has: I’m a perfect size me.

One thing that “E.” discovered through working the 12 Steps, was that her body image, indeed her very clothing sizes were NOT the sum total of her worth and value as a human being.  Indeed, regardless of her weight, waistline size and even the number of fat cells in her body, she worked hard to ACCEPT herself in all sorts of sizes, shapes and measures.

For us addicts to believe (really believe) that we are MORE than just the sum total of our “numbers” requires confronting our diminshed self-esteem and deep down feelings of toxic shame. I’ve found that the 12 Step recovery process offers me the tools to face, confront and transform my body shame.

Yes, what my weight does and what my body is doing IS one way to judge the progress (or lack thereof) of my recovery effort. But whatever my size or weight is NOT the sole measure of my worth as a person. Many of us have struggled with NEVER feeling “quite good enough” — and our weight, our waistline and our muscle mass were ways we found to prolong and intensify our lack of self-worth.

So why am I journaling about being “A Perfect Size Me”? Because not too many weeks ago my own struggle with body image reared it’s dysfunctional head in the process of responding to an online personal ad.

I find it aggravating that many gay men (or at least many of the ones who write personal ads) are terrible “body bigots”!  “No fats” and “height-weight proportionate” are phrases in gay men’s personal ads that I have come to despise!

So back in early September I had an incredible “e-mail conversation” going with a guy who’s personal ad I had responded to. Based on my description of myself (minus my weight) “Jonathan” wrote: “Alrighty Mr. Dave.  you’ve got me interested!”, along with the encouraging line, “You sound like someone I’d love to get to know.”

Later the same day, my potential future boyfriend wrote: “Oddly enough, I’m anxiously watching my emails today in hopes of finding another note from you.” And yes, the whole day I was “anxiously” awaiting his next missive in my inbox.

And then Jonathan made a request that struck terror in my body-shamed heart: “So, do we exchange pictures at this point?” 

Jonathan sent his picture.  His picture was impressive. Indeed, by my standards, he was georgeous!

For fear of immediate and instant rejection, I hesitated to send my picture.  But I sent it anyway, with the resolve that my current size (remember that I’m over 80 pounds below my top weight — though dozens of pounds from my goal weight) was (to paraphrase “E.”) “A perfect size me — just for today.”

I only receive a few more messages after I sent Jonathan my picture.  It hurt.  Then again, when doesn’t rejection hurt?  I wanted to overeat to “stuff the pain” of his rejection.  But I didn’t.  And I haven’t.  And I’m back to looking for love on the Internet.  And I’m committed to be totally up front about my weight — just for today.

Because of my experience with Jonathan, I no longer “wait” to OUT myself about my weight when I’m responding to other guy’s personal ads.  I mention my weight (without a silly humorous tone (which I have used to hide my fear of rejection) and with an explanation about my recovery process (e.g., “This weight loss of mine isn’t a diet. It is a way of life”).

Please excuse me while I bore you with a little personal recovery history (STOP YAWNING ALREADY!!!) 🙂

Connecting Male Food Addicts Via The Internet

One Byte At A Time & One Bite Fellowship: Connecting Male Food Addicts Worldwide Via The Internet

Because of my frustration (and maybe just a little bit of resentment?) that came from having survived a male-bashing, hospital-based eating disorder treatment program, back in the fall of 1996 I established what was probably the first e-mail-based community exclusively for MALE food addicts. Known as One BYte At A Time (a/k/a OBAAT) — yeah, “BYte” spelled with a “Y”. Within a few years OBAAT had nearly 50 members and in 1999 we “gave birth” (in a male-sort-of-way) to our first website for our Internet-based support network, known as One Bite Fellowship (a/k/a OBF) — this time “BIte” was spelled with an “I”.

OBAAT still exists with a Google Groups address, but has been largely inactive for the past few years. My understanding is that most e-mail groups don’t remain terribly active without newcomers joining on a fairly regular basis. This is because “oldtimers” (by the time they become “oldtimers”) are either burned out or have shared all they needed or wanted to share. So with not haven’t tried to spread the word about OBAAT for just over three years, it is more than understable why the group is no longer active (e.g., no newcomers + burned out oldtimers = inactive e-mail group).

Instead of promoting OBAAT, over the past three years I’ve been working at reinvigorating an inactive One Bite Fellowship. While the One Bite website has generated lots of e-mail messages from visitors over the years, the problem is that hardly any of the men who write want to help start a face-to-face One Bite Fellowship group in their corner of the world. I get lots of one word and one sentence messages from guys saying “Help!!!” or “I need help!!!”, yet they don’t usually want to do anything suggested by the OBF concept of recovery. So for the time being OBF exsits only as an online entity with few (maybe two of us?) actual members.

I recently decided to not renew the OBF domain name that we used for several years. As of Monday, August 18, 2008 our website address is www.malefoodaddicts.com. A totally new look and feel for our website will be coming soon.

In the meantime, I know that I *NEED* (and even *WANT*) the support of other MALE food addicts interested in pursuing recovery from their addiction. I’m glad some addicts can recover while playing the role of Lone Ranger, but that approach has never — and will never — work for me. Food addiction is far too cunning, baffling and powerful for me to fight it alone and expect to experience any significant success in overcoming it.

Of course I’ve TRIED MANY TIMES to “go it alone” over the years. Then again, throughout the history of my addiction I’ve PROVEN time and again the 12 Step definition of insanity: “Doing the SAME thing over and over while expecting DIFFERENT results.” This definition reminds me that THERE IS A SOLUTION, which I’ve seen paraphrased over the years by Portia Nelson’s brilliant piece, An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters that goes like this…

Chapter 1:
I walk down the street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…..I am helpless……it isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
   
Chapter 2:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place; but it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
   
Chapter 3:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in….it’s a habit.
My eyes are open…..I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
   
Chapter 4:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5:
I walk down a different street.

Amen! May all of us addicts take a journey down “Recovery Street”! It sures beats all of the other paths that I’ve tried to take over the years! Recovery Street is a journey that in many ways we must walk with others. Recovery Street doesn’t always look familiar. The pain of traveling down Recovery Street is never as bad as the agony experienced by taken the “Easier, Softer Way”!

For as long as I’ve been working on OveractiveFork, I’ve wanted to share about my spirituality. I’ve held back from doing so up until this entry out of fear that something I would share about my spirituality might offend you.

Talk about a goofy, senseless fear! I finally figured out that my fear is “goofy” and “senseless” because…

— I’m not responsible for your being offended. It is your choice and your right to be offended.

— I’m only responsible for sharing my story. I need make no apopolgy because my spirituality is somewhat (or a lot) different from yours.

— I’m sharing my story, not yours. My story doesn’t diminish yours. Your story doesn’t diminish mine.

— If you don’t find something “offensive” in at least some of my journal posts then I’m probably doing something wrong. 🙂  I’ve certainly not hesitated to post thoughts about carbohydrates that are no doubt greviously offensive to carb-phobic individuals! So why should I also of a sudden be afraid to offend my readers?

So here is my truth: I’m a Christian. Please note that this statement is not intended to imply that you should be a Christian. I wish you were a Christian, but that’s between you and the Lord. I’m not here to debate. After all, God does the real “converting”, I don’t! 🙂

I’m not even here to preach. Instead I would like to allow a man who taught me how to preach (among other things, I’m a “recovering seminarian”) do the preaching for me through one of his more popular sermons.

I wont be offended if you don’t want to read Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker’s sermon Befriending Your Weakness.

Embracing My Addiction

Embracing My Addiction

On the other hand, if you are looking for some wisdom and insight into how to connect the painful reality of your addiction with the power of a God who is greater than you and your addiction, then please DO read on!

The short version of Dr. Shoemaker’s sermon, in my words, goes like this: As an addict I had to REALLY get honest about the REALITY of the pain and outright INsanity of my addiction before I could experience God’s strength to overcome my addiction, one day at a time. Being in denial about my addiction prevented me from truly seeking a Power Greater than my own in order to overcome it. Why seek to “overcome” something that isn’t all that bad?

Getting REAL about my addiction got me to the point where I began to experience recovery. Embracing my REAL (and very broken) self (which in turn is helping me to LOVE myself “warts and all”) is what keeps me in reacovery.

Two suggestions: If you do indeed choose to read the following sermon, please consider printing it out and then take the time to read it with as few distractions as possible so that it really has a chance to “sink in”.

And now, true words of wisdom from my friend, Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker…

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Befriending Your Weakness
by H. Stephen Shoemaker

(© 1989, 1996, 2002 & 2007. H. Stephen Shoemaker.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.)

Can we talk? It seems to me that in church we work hard to hide our weakness and do most of our suffering in lonely solitude. We spend our days hiding from ourselves, from one another and from God. The gospel invites us to another way.

When you’re young you think God uses your strengths. That is true. God uses your talents, your excellences, your triumphs. The older you get the more you realize God also uses your weaknesses. This is the beginning of wisdom.

Picture Simon Peter. On the day of Pentecost — surely in his prime — he preached and 3,000 were converted. Some sermon, huh? And the church was jump-started by the Holy Spirit into its world encompassing mission. But was that sermon a greater witness than the day years later when Peter was crucified? Upside down, he requested, for he did not think himself worthy to be crucified as our Lord had been, right-side up. Remember Jesus’ words to Peter by the seashore the day He recommissioned him?

“When you were young you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.”

Indeed.

Jesus images aging: another girding you and carrying you where you do not wish to go. As someone quipped: Old age is not for the squeamish. But the image is a more encompassing one for all human weakness. In this discussion of weakness, let us examine a “spirituality of weakness,” a spirituality which makes it possible to Befriend Your Weakness.

I

Two texts point the way. The first is an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson entitled “Compensation.” If you want to watch a great mind thinking read an essay by Emerson.

Compensation is a truth of the physical world: an animal with poor sight has extraordinary hearing, a strong right eye compensates for a weak left eye, and so on. It is just as true in the realm of the human spirit. Emerson begins with an arresting sentence, at least from the point of view of a preacher:

“Ever since I was a boy, I have wished to write a discourse on Compensation; for it seemed to me when very young that on this subject life was ahead of theology, and the people knew more than the preachers taught.”

When I read those words they had the ring of truth for me. The lives of people have taught me more on compensation than books of theology, and you have known more than I have taught.

One of those compensations he said is this: “Strength grows out of weakness.” The good, he said, “are befriended by weakness and defect.” It sounds almost too pat, especially if you have suffered the torment weakness and defect bring, more especially if you are suffering terribly now. How could we ever be “befriended” by such? Then he offers a sentence that could have come out of the Book of Proverbs:

“As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man ever had a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him.”

That’s an interesting paradox of life: strengths that trip us up, weaknesses that become useful to us. He illustrates with a famous fable, perhaps you’ve heard it. It’s about a stag, a beautiful deer who admired his horns but disliked his feet. But when the hunter came his feet were what saved him, and afterward, caught in a thicket, his horns destroyed him. Therefore, Emerson concludes, every one “in his lifetime needs to thank his faults,” because as he confronts his weaknesses, “like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl.”

A person goes to sleep in good times — is this not true — but as Emerson adds:

“When he is punished, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts, learns his ignorance, is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill.”

This compensation is not as easy nor as automatic as Emerson in his brilliant prose makes it sound, but it gives us real hope nonetheless. A caution: rarely do we quickly see compensation at work. Emerson explains:

“…the compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding…after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts.”

At the time all we can cry is, “O the loss, the loss, O the cost, the cost!” But in the strength of faith and by the remedial power of God’s Spirit, we go on and over time are given the gift of compensation.

Is this true? It is our hope for wholeness and usefulness and our only escape from bitterness or destruction.

II

Emerson’s essay is the first text; the second is the “luminous dark” of II Corinthians 12. The Apostle Paul was suffering the humiliating weakness of his “thorn in the flesh.” The image Paul used is more terrible than its translation suggests. Not a small splinter, a giant stake. Not mildly irritated, Paul was impaled by an affliction at times too great to bear.

We do not know what this thorn was. The history of the exegesis of this verse reads like a medical dictionary: everything from foot disease to eye problems, from epilepsy to obsessions, to manic depressive illness.

Whatever it was, it was no mild private irritation. It was an agonizing, public, and humiliating affliction. It was, to use Paul Scherer’s phrase, a thorn “lodged in the sinews of his apostleship” because it hindered his plans and made him a laughing-stock to his adversaries, the super-apostles. If he is so afflicted, they scoffed, “How can he be an apostle?”

The next verse is one of the bravest in the Bible. “Three times I prayed for this thorn to be removed.” Three times, he prayed, but his prayers were not answered. He was not delivered of this thorn. The three times represent hours, maybe years, of agony. God, take this away! How can I be who you want me to be, do what you’ve called me to do, with this thorn?

Out of the silence of heaven finally came the answer, not the answer Paul wanted, but all the answer he needed. “My grace is sufficient for thee”, the Voice said. “My grace I give you. Myself I give you in your infirmity, and that will be enough.” The first hint of that answer must have been hard to hear. Lord, that is not what I asked for! But as the answer came and came again, Paul hit bottom with this thorn, with this thorn and all those unanswered prayers and he heard at the bottom of the darkness the rest of the answer:

“My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Strength made perfect in weakness. Such is the mystery of the gospel and the mystery of grace. God’s strength is poured into our weakness, His grace flows into the hollow places of our lives.

III

The first text, Emerson, the second text, II Corinthians, the third text is the lives we have observed which give witness to this truth. It has almost been without fail. A person has been a great help to us, ministering to us with wisdom and compassion. Only later we discover how much they have suffered in life. Where did they get their wisdom and compassion? Out of their suffering.

The young man suffered a business failure. Years later he tells of the good it has worked in his life, a good he could not have seen at the time.

With all of us, it is our strengths that bring us success, and those same strengths trip us up. It is from the failures of our strengths that we learn our weakness, and from our weakness learn a truer strength.

The 12-step movement has been witness to this truth of the gospel. Meeting in church basements across America, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have often been more “church” than what happens upstairs. They’ve discovered the door to healing in that moment when they say finally, “Over this I am powerless,” and they call upon a Higher Power.

What they teach us is that to this point, whatever our weakness, all our efforts to get strong enough, smart enough, disciplined enough have failed. Ironically the harder you have fought your difficulty, the fiercer its power has become. Finally you admit that over this you have no power and you call upon God.

This is befriending your weakness. When you befriend your weakness you admit it may be with you always, and you learn to live with it day by day as friend, not enemy.

When you befriend your weakness you join the human race. This weakness is your doorway into your true humanity. Before, you pretended to be somehow different, better than most. We have this ideal illusionary self, a pretend self, and its pressed-down twin, our disinherited self.

God wants to love your real self, with all its strengths and weaknesses. If God can befriend your weakness, why can’t you?

When you befriend your weakness you for the first time take responsibility for it. You may have denied your weakness; or you may have said: That which I have no control over, I have no responsibility for. These are dangerous, illusionary, self-destructive paths. To this point all our efforts to get strong enough, smart enough, powerful enough to get control of the problem has failed. Ironically, the harder you have fought it, the fiercer its power has become. Finally you admit you have no power and call on God’s power. This is befriending your weakness.

When you befriend your weakness you join the human race, a human broken race dearly loved by God, and admit your brokenness. When you face this truth you discover community, for we all are broken in some way. It is our strengths and pride which separate us; it is our common brokenness that unites us.

When you befriend your weakness you let God’s grace be your sufficiency, both for pardon and for power. You begin to let God’s strength work in your weakness. The following story is told of a certain Baptist pastor in Virginia:

“One day a badly intoxicated man staggered up to the pastor on the street and announced, “. . . I’m one of your converts.” The pastor replied, “Well I’m not surprised. You look about like one of my converts. Next time, let’s let the Lord do it.”

Befriending your weakness is calling on a Power beyond you.

When you befriend your weakness you, for the first time, become — responsible in your weakness. You’ve fought your weakness as an enemy. That has only made your enemy stronger. You may have given in to the weakness and said, “That which no control over I have no responsibility for.” Dangerous logic. We are a responsible self in our powerlessness as well as in out power.

To be responsible in your weakness is to accept your weakness as part of your humanity loved by God and learn to live happily and at peace and responsibly in your powerlessness.

I do not know where your broken places are, but everyone has those places. And these broken places would be our deepest community; and they would be our best opportunity to experience the grace of God. Is it possible, asks the poet David Bottoms, to fall “toward grace?” It is not only possible, it is the gospel story.

My grace is sufficient, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

IV

Famous lives have become testimony to this truth. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s mental breakdown, Helen Keller’s blindness and deafness, Flannery O’Connor whose illness with lupus forced her back home to Georgia to live with her mother, but whose best fiction was written in the country of her affliction.

How about Stephen Hawking, the world’s greatest theoretical physicist, who teaches in the chair of physics at Cambridge which Sir Isaac Newton once filled. He is widely known as the smartest man in physics since Einstein. His book, “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” is a phenomenon, a physics book that became a best seller. What’s more amazing is that he has Lou Gehrig’s disease and can now move only one thumb. He gets around in a motorized wheelchair and talks and writes through a portable computer he has designed.

Hawking can speak only through that computer and can write only 10 words a minute, but he has made some of the greatest contributions to science since Einstein and is on his way to making the next great contribution in our generation. It was the onset of the illness itself which pushed him from being a brilliant prodigy with great promise into being the leading scientist of his generation. He says of his life: “Science is a very good area for disabled people because it is mainly the mind.” Befriending your weakness.

Those are the famous examples, but I’m just as stunned by the witness of hundreds of people in every day life, out of the spotlight, who’ve befriended their illness and live with courage and skill and compassion in the face of a myriad of weaknesses: depression, handicap, physical suffering and loss.

The nurse who has suffered terrible mental pain who converts this suffering into compassionate service.

The teacher, herself abused as a child, went to seminary to become a missionary, but now follows God’s calling as an excellent elementary school teacher.

The recovering alcoholic, a physician who now lives as a wounded healer, helping others befriend their weakness and receive and receive the healing graces of God.

The single person devoting her life to hundreds of boys and girls.

The woman in the nursing home afflicted with time converting her long days to the love of those around her, to prayers and to great witness of faith to her family.

The man who has forged his loneliness into a life of service.

God can use your strength, but if that were all God had to work with He’d have precious little raw material. He also uses your weakness.

It is the broken earth that receives the seed, the broken seed that gives forth growth, the broken bread that gives life. And it is your own very weakness into which the grace of God is poured and from the broken vessel of your life poured forth into the world.

So, befriend your weakness, don’t fight it, or curse it, or ignore it, befriend it. That’s what Jesus has done as He came to this earth. He’s befriended our weakness, every weakness. He’s befriended the whole running, limping, laughing, weeping, broken and beautiful human race. And He invites you to join it today and discover as you do the mystery of the gospel — grace sufficient and strength made perfect in weakness. “For when I am weak,” Paul said, still stunned with the news, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who came in lowliness and befriended our weakness, was Himself broken on a cross, and was raised to life to live with God and in us. Come, O Friend, help us to befriend ourselves that we might wonderingly say with the apostle, when I am weak, then I am strong. Amen.

Many years ago I had a pastor who impressed me with both his great wisdom and delightful sense of humor. He would often quip that he had been known to “cry at supermarket grand openings”!

I can relate to his comment — at least at times. Sometimes I cry with little or no provocation. At other times I do a pretty good job at “stuffing down” my feelings — ALL feelings — including feelings that lead to tears.

\I’ve heard it said of food addicts that if we don’t “Face Our Stuff” we’ll (eventually) “Stuff Our Face”. I’ve found this is VERY true in the sense that some of my most painful feelings have surfaced during periods of sane eating.

How vividly the lyrics of Simon And Garfunkel’s song I Am A Rock captures the emotional pain that many of us addicts have tried to stuff down…

“I am a rock.
I am an island.
I’ve built walls —
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate…
I have no need of friendship;
friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain….
I touch no one and no one touches me…
And a rock feels no pain.
And an island never cries.”

As a recovering co-dependent, feeling MY feelings should NOT be too difficult a task to handle since (in active co-dependency) I had NO problem feeling EVERYone else’s feelings. But the reality has been that running from, denying and stuffing down (“stuffing” comes about with my ingesting EXCESS amounts of food) MY OWN feelings has been my pattern.

Many years ago I heard it explained that feelings, also referred to as “emotions” , are “energy-in-motion” (think “e-motions”). My understanding is that ingesting any any mood-or-mind-altering substance can (and does) “block” the processing of emotions. Hence the state of “emotional constipation” that many of us addicts experienced during out days of active addiction.

I don’t know why, but feeling MY feelings CAN seem overwhelming. At times I’ve found myself wondering if I was going to “e-mote to death” by allowing myself to feel my feelings!

The Overeaters Anonymous brochure entitled, A Plan Of Eating: A Tool for Living – One Day at a Time (Copyright 1988, 2001, 2005 Overeaters Anonymous, Incorporated. All rights reserved.), addresses the connection between food and emotions with these words:

“For a compulsive overeater, eating is attached to emotions. We are never fully satisfied, no matter how much we eat, because we are eating for emotional reasons rather than physical reasons. We eat for excitement, love celebration, loneliness, escape, pleasure and comfort. We devour food to anesthetize ourselves. We eat out of anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, fear, pride, guilt and grief.”

The good news is that, through working the 12 Steps, I’ve actually been able to discover/uncover whatever feelings I’ve been stuffing down with excess food. Through working the 12 Steps while working with other addicts I’ve found the strength to NOT act out with food in an addictve, compulsive or impulsive manner, despite feeling some intense and pretty crappy emotions!

Recovery doesn’t magically protect me from feeling painful feelings. Recovery gives me the strength and courage to discover, feel and then move beyond my feelings without the need to swallow excessive amounts of food or avoid physical exercise. How does all of this work? One Day, One Step and One Feeling at a time!

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