When I smoked cigarettes, I was so terrified of what life would be like without them. I saw them as a friend that was always there for me, no matter what I was feeling. They helped me take breaks at work, process anger when I got upset, and gave me a boost of energy when I needed it. My life really came to revolve around smoking. Did I have enough or did I need to buy more? When would I get my next one? Where could I smoke? Who else smoked?
I would often think about quitting, and I felt like a loser for being unable to quit. But I was so scared. I told myself story after story about how life would never be as good without them, and how I would have to endure a life of deprivation. I mean, life is short. Shouldn't I get to enjoy the simple pleasures? Coffee and a smoke. A beer and a smoke. A car ride and a smoke. Break at work and a smoke. I could not stand the story of them being taken from me. It felt empty and joyless and absolutely no fun.
When I was at my heaviest, I was using food for many things. Comfort, stress relief, loneliness, escape. Things were in turmoil at home, so I would often escape to Panera where I would get soup in a bread bowl, an extra baguette, and a chocolate chip cookie. And I would sit there alone and eat, trying to process why everything felt like such a mess.
I would diet on and off, but deep down I was so terrified of the story I told myself about what life would be like without my feel-better foods. Bread. Huge cookies. Whole pizzas. Giant bowls of pasta. How would I make it through the week? How would I unwind? How would I reward myself for doing things I didn't want to do, but felt I had to? I could not stand the story of them being taken from me. It felt not only empty and joyless, but like a deep, dark hole.
Well, turns out I had it all backwards. Those compulsions, smoking and comfort food, eventually led me to the deep, dark hole all by themselves. It wasn't the absence of them that I needed to fear, but my reliance on them for my joy, peace and love.
"A lot of people come to me and say they just want to lose the weight. And they want to get it over with, and they want the problem to go away, and they want to wake up thin tomorrow. But they don't really want to look at the beliefs that are fueling the whole obsession or, really, their relationships to themselves, to their families, to their lives. They don't really want to look.
What happens is that people end up losing weight 10, 20, 30, 50 times in their lives. They just endlessly do it, because they think endless dieting is a way to get a handle on their problem. But even if they get a handle on their dieting, just losing weight is not the point.
Unless you really see what your core beliefs are, what's making you overeat-beliefs like "I'm damaged; I don't deserve this; love is not for me; this will never work out; God is a ruse; goodness is not for me; I'll always be separated from what I love"-and until you name those beliefs, they will shape your life. You'll just keep on acting them out by punishing yourself with food. But if you can finally get to understanding the beliefs underneath, you can learn how to live." - Geneen Roth
It turns out I had to learn how to live. That was hard to admit at age 40. Very humbling. Good grief, what had I been doing all this time? I understand now, what I had been doing all that time was telling myself stories. And most of my stories were rooted in fear: My story of what would happen if I lived without cigarettes. My story of what would happen, and the devastating deprivation I would endure, if I healed my relationship with food.
Turns out life is meant to be a Love story. And part of the process is learning how to tell ourselves stories that are rooted in love and truth.
Truth: Life is so much better as a non-smoker. So indescribably better.
Truth: Authentic comfort is so much better than comfort food, a rather crappy substitute if you think about it.
Our miraculous lives are not meant to be a series of comforts and escapes, but rather a series of events that bring authentic connection, peace, joy, comfort and love. That is the story we need to learn to tell ourselves.
And once we do, we can become storytellers of truth and light and love to our sisters, mothers, aunts, daughters and friends. Our transformation lights their path and leads them to their own love stories. Together we heal the collective story that we've believed for far too long; the fear story full of false beliefs and never good enoughs and it's too late for me.
Let's change the world. One story at a time.