I am not a waif.
That is an understatement, by the way. But some of the guys in my treatment center were waifs – bean poles, the knocked-over-by-a-strong-wind type of body type that was part and parcel of addiction. The drug addicts were the most malnourished. So mealtime at the treatment center was a study in carbs and fat. The cook’s mandate was to get meat on them rickety rack zombie bones clinking through the halls. Most men found themselves gaining weight. Good weight. Mine, on the other hand, was bad weight.
I was already a bit overweight when I stumbled into treatment. I used to be envious of the walking skeletons that I cohabitated with. I had heard of all these alcoholics who didn’t eat, whose only calories came from the bottle. I was not one of them. I was in the minority of drinkers who pounded back the burgers and fatty fat fat fats while pounding back the booze. They were inexorably linked. Alcohol gave me the munchies. Badly. So I can’t relate to those who drank all day and never put more than a saltine cracker or raspberry Skittle into their body just because.
I gained more weight when I left treatment – sugar being my new “go-to” thing, and realized a few months ago that sugar, too, needed to go. It wasn’t a bad breakup, but sugar still sends me love notes via the waft of cinnamon buns or freshly baked cookies when I walk past a certain bakery daily. If I could “unfriend” sugar, I would. Like in all breakups, I started to look good after I left that relationship. Take that, sugar. I lost nearly 20lbs in 6 weeks. My skinny jeans fit (yes, guys too have that pair of jeans we keep just in case we can fit into them one day). I started to lose the tiny jowl, I no longer had the ladies poke fun at my 6 months immaculate conception pregnancy, and I had more energy and stamina. I felt normal-ish.
But of course, it’s those last pesky pounds that haunt me – the last love handles, the wiggly bits around the waist, the slightly puffy cheeks, the general soft spots that refuse to melt away and firm up.
And so it is in my sobriety and recovery.
When I had the mental obsession leave me through working the steps of AA, I started to lose the heavy weight, the weight that burdened my spirit and soul throughout my entire life. Through making amends and living a life doing the Creator’s will and not mine, I felt the shame, guilt, and remorse shed right off me. Through working with other men, I could see the ego and pride melting away, the dishonesty and resentments burning off, the pain and hurt of my spirit coming off little by slowly. I was lighter, freer and wearing the world like a loose garment. I was dropping the rock, metaphorically, and dropping in stone, UK-wise.
But unlike that initial and dramatic weight loss, it’s those last ten pounds that are the toughest to lose. The niggling jiggling stuff. The stuff that peeks through shirts and belts. It’s in those last pesky pounds that need extra attention. Diets need firming up before quads and biceps do. Exercises need to be more focused. Daily attunement to our bodies is critical to our growth and development. And in the spiritual realm, it remains as such. So while I have done the initial heavy lifting (or losing), it’s the last ten spiritual pounds that are the real work now. It’s like a fine tuning of myself, with the occasional overhaul to make sure everything is still where it needs to be.
I focus my spiritual exercises where I need them the most – have I been dishonest lately? Do I need to do prayer blasts to tone up my sagging patience? Do I need to up my meditation to battle the bulge of bravado? Does my flabby faux pride need serenity squats? And as I do the things I need to do on a regular basis – meetings, working with others, service, prayer, meditation, reading, etc. not only am I losing resentment, fears, and old ways of thinking, I am starting to see definition and tone in my overall spiritual condition. As I stretch and grow and get outside of my comfort zone, as I tune more into my mind, body and spirit, as I gain access to emotions and states I never could while drinking, I find myself able to achieve more and gain inner strength.
Muscles grow in rest, not at the gym. They rest and repair themselves from the micro tears that they endure when we lift weights. And so it is in my spiritual evolvement that the real growth happens in the quiet times, in the moments of solitude and communion with the Creator. It’s in the gazing of the stars and breathing in the burning sage that I find the true clarity and unfolding that my spirit craves. It’s in sitting with myself even when I don’t want to that I find the thickening and cultivation of my soul’s root stock.
I sometimes sit back and think about how things used to be. I think back and reflect on the old me – the “before” picture, if you will. I sometimes remember how it was to see the world through those eyes, those moist and blood-shot eyes, those filters of pain and anger and it is a dark and frightening place. Malnourished – mentally, spiritually and emotionally. And to think I lived like that for my entire life. I can also sit and see where I am now. The “after” photo. Where I have come to now may not be the stuff of legends and Hollywood movie scripts, but it’s a big change for me. I am not going to win any body building competitions, nor will I be the healthiest specimen on the planet, but it’s a big change for me. But it’s never a complete story, is it? That “after” picture changes. Always changing. And that works for me. I am no longer weighed down with the heaviness of excess and anger. I am freer now. Lighter. Able to slip into my skin easier…just like those skinny jeans.