Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Principles before Personalities 

“Principles before personalities” is a 12-step concept. The idea being that you don’t have to like everyone, but you have to support everyone on their journey to stay sober, even the people who have really irritating personalities.  I try to practice this in all areas of my life. For me, it’s not just about sobriety. It’s about humans getting through life surrounded by one another. We have to deal with each other every single day. My principles include being part of the solution, minding my own business, helping when I am asked and can provide help, and keeping my integrity in tact. I want to do this regardless of the person I am dealing with.

But now I am working in a grocery store, constantly surrounded by customers, and coworkers. And seriously, people make that shit hard! 

No, no. I am exaggerating. I find that most people rank on the scale somewhere between awesome and harmless. But then there are the ones who fall on the spectrum between manipulative (that pathetic manipulation in order to save their own asses) and down right malicious. And that is hard for me.

Perhaps the hardest part is that I was once that kind of person. When I was actively in my sugar/food addiction, I often tried to manipulate people and situations to save myself. And when I got angry, I became cruel. I didn’t have a means of expressing my feelings. I didn’t know I even had feelings. I was numbing them with cake. And being angry felt like enough justification to harm others. I was in pain, so you were going to be in pain too.

Now that I have my eating disorders under control, I can deal with people who are hurt or angry or feel treated unfairly. I can apologize for a bad experience, even if it’s not specifically my fault. And even when it is. I can empathize with people in pain, and I can make it better. 

But getting attacked is not easy for me. I am the same sensitive person I was at 5 years old, under the covers in the night, praying that life would get less painful, because I didn’t think I would be able to do it if it didn’t get easier. And people do attack. Sometimes with a smile, or a smirk, as if it were a joke. Sometimes with a snarl like a wild animal. 

I want to say, You’re at a high end grocery store in a first world country where you can afford to buy meat for $25/lb. Or, You have a union job in a nice suburb. Why do you need to be so malicious, obnoxious, or cruel? Why do you need to hurt someone else?

But, like I said. I was like that too. Until I learned another principle when I got sober from sugar. Gratitude. I didn’t know how lucky I was when I was eating compulsively. I only looked for the ways I was disappointed. I only saw what I thought was wrong.

So I have to go into work today. I’m grateful that it’s a good job. I’m grateful I’m good at it. I’m grateful I’m appreciated there by my coworkers and management. And I am especially grateful the most people fall somewhere between awesome and harmless. 

As for the rest, I am grateful that I practice the ideal of principles before personalities.


I prefer flow to puches, but I’ll go or roll, as the situation dictates.

There’s a saying among people who keep the same food boundaries I do. (If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of sayings among the people who keep the same food boundaries that I do.) A day when everything goes my way and I keep my food boundaries is a great day. A day when nothing goes my way and I keep my food boundaries is a miracle.

I have a lot of miracles. It’s a nice feeling. That is not to say that things aren’t going well for me. They are. But so few days are without some sort of hiccup.

One of the things I had to learn early when I stopped eating sugar and eating compulsively was to go with the flow. Or, on a particularly bad day, roll with the punches.

There were things that I didn’t understand before I got sober from sugar. I didn’t know that I was making life harder by fighting what was, instead of accepting it and adjusting myself. I refused to go with the flow, or roll with the punches. I spent almost all of my time either drowning, or getting the crap beaten out of me.

In self-help books and top-whatever-number-habits-of-whatever-kind-of-people essays, there is a lot of talk about planning. Have a goal. Have a plan. I wholeheartedly agree. Having a plan is great. But having a plan is the easy part. There is something else that is often talked about, but harder to do. Having the ability to be flexible when some part (or all) of your plan falls through.

When I was eating compulsively, I felt like “fairness” equaled Life going according to the plan I made. And when it didn’t go that way, I was angry at Life. Because I had zero skills for adapting and adjusting.

And I believed that people who were happy, well adjusted and peaceful were people whose plans always went smoothly. I was fighting the way things were because I thought the way things were “supposed to be” was the way I had planned them.

What I would eventually come to understand was that happy people were people who understood that the way things were was really the way they were “supposed to be.” Happy people didn’t fight what was, in order to get reality to coincide with their plan, but adjusted (or scrapped) their plan to coincide with the reality.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was going to start eating more raw vegetables because it helps me keep a tighter hold on my body-dysmorphia. And I did just that. It was great. I felt great. And then I started working, and the days that I have to eat a meal at work, I only have 15 minutes. I can’t eat a one-pound salad in fifteen minutes. It’s just not physically possible for me. So I have to make smaller, denser meals when I have to eat during a shift.

Now I could fight the reality if I wanted to. I could become resentful of my job because I only get a 15-minute break. I could get resentful of my food boundaries because they are inconvenient, and wonder why I can’t just skip it on the days I work.

Or I could choose the softer option. I can adjust to the situation as it is. I can be grateful that I have boundaries around my food, and that I have a job, and that I can take care of my meals in 15 minutes on workdays by making them smaller and denser. I can go with the flow. And I am grateful to have the clarity to see that eating smaller meals is definitely an example of “going with the flow.” I reserve rolling with the punches for the big life-and-death stuff.

A parachute for the free fall

Life is always full of changes. But I now have a job where my schedule changes weekly. That is a strange thing. I haven’t had that kind of life since I was in my early twenties as a waitress. Thankfully, my food boundaries don’t change. Nor does my commitment to writing my blog. These things ground me. They make my life simpler. Of course, it can be stressful trying to make it all work. After a week of shifts at my new job, today I am going to my cousin’s wedding. I have to plan and pack my dinner for tonight. I am supposed to meet my mom to get our nails done, and I need to plan lunch around that. And I still needed to get this blog posted since it’s already Sunday. (Okay, obviously I can check the blog post off the list.) 

I’m still getting used to the life that comes with my new job. That newness still has me anxious. But knowing that I won’t change my commitment to my food boundaries, or my blog writing makes me feel safe. 

It’s funny because it all comes down to my own choices. I am not relying on anyone else to make me safe. It is about what actions empower me, and knowingly taking those actions. It is about creating a safe place for myself. 

When I was eating compulsively, I repeatedly took actions and made decisions that created disorder, sabotaged my peace and my integrity, and generally made my life scary and unsettling.

By doing what it takes to keep boundaries around my eating, and make time to write about my eating disorders, I have a permanent parachute, for when everything else in my life is in free fall.

One of those times history did not repeat itself. Maybe because I didn’t backtrack.

I had my first day at my new job yesterday. It went really well. I think I will be just fine at it.
I only get a 15 minute break per shift, so that means packing the smallest possible meal when I have to work through a meal time. But it’s manageable. 

I had a handful of rough days worrying. First about meals. Now that I have the experience of having eaten one meal in my 15 minute break, it seems like a non-issue. But mostly I had been worried about scheduling. Or more specifically, asking for what I need in terms of my schedule, from someone I don’t know.

I have a history of working for power-crazy bosses. Not all of them. I have had plenty of kind, considerate, honorable employers. But I have also had a lot of bosses who liked to demonstrate their position as the person in charge of my money.

And I historically, I have let them.

I am the person in charge of my money. I always have been. But I lived for many years as if it were not the case. And I was easy to manipulate, because I was a people-pleaser who thought her job was to make the boss happy. I thought that I didn’t deserve money for less than that.

It turns out that all that time, my job was my job. And the boss being happy was not in my control. 

I do my best. I am committed to integrity. But my best isn’t going to make everyone happy. And I need to live with that.

So right, scheduling. I was hired with the understanding that I could not work after 4 pm on Thursdays. But I got my schedule and I was immediately scheduled for Thursday night. And I was so upset.

So the “Good Girl” in me wanted to just accept it and work Thursday night, so that she didn’t have to be humiliated by making requests on her first day. And that fear of humiliation made me angry. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was even more anxious than usual.

And there is another part of it. I spent most of my life alone. And that meant that my choices had limited reach. But now I’m in a relationship. So money is not mine anymore. It’s ours. In the past, if I felt uncomfortable with the way I was being treated in a job, it was my right to walk away. But now walking away from a job would at least require a conversation with my boyfriend. 

But Thankfully, I was at least present enough to know that I didn’t know what was going to happen. (Being sober helps in that way.) I knew enough to know that I needed to take care of this one step at a time and not get ahead of myself. 

So I walked in on my first day and I did my best. I also made my requests. And my boss was great. He told me he never got my availability schedule, so he didn’t know about my Thursday nights. He rescheduled me that day. He even accommodated another request, that I specifically told him was not a necessity, but would be nice since I had planned something before I got the job. In other words, he’s a good boss and also a nice guy.

I was worried and upset because of history. Because I didn’t know what to expect, and I was afraid of getting the worst of what I have gotten before. But it’s also about confronting the worst of myself. The doormat. The Good Girl. The martyr. It’s scary to go head to head with those aspects of my personality. I was that way because I got something out of it. And even though I get more out of being honest and straightforward and taking care of myself, the fear of losing something by not being obliging can still be intense.

But now I have another reference point for self-care, where it worked out perfectly in the end. So it turns out that history does not always repeat itself.

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