Hey there, it's Susan Peirce Thompson, and welcome to the Weekly Vlog.
So, I think, without a doubt the most important book that has ever been written on the subject of addiction is the book Alcoholics Anonymous, published in 1939 for the first time, this is the fourth edition of it. And I hear that a fifth edition is being prepared, which is kind of cool. A beloved book, millions of copies in print, countless languages in translation. And a lot of wisdom in there that is really important for someone who has a condition called addiction needs to understand, and things that no one had ever really noticed before or put to language before. Things like that the person with some sort of addiction, and they were writing about alcoholic addiction, and interestingly they actually call it that in the book, alcoholic addiction.
But the person with addiction has a condition where when they take a substance into their body, some sort of switch flips in their mind or their brain somehow, and a craving is kicked off. An obsession of the mind that is absolutely overpowering, and they lose all choice about whether they will continue to consume that substance.
And they point out that that would not be a problem if the person were rational and would just stop and stay stopped. But they said that the person also has a twist of the mind, a peculiar twist of the mind that they call the strange mental blank spot, such that when they abstain for any period of time, they lose the ability to remember why they need to abstain, and suddenly they find themselves using again for no good reason at all, perhaps even without any thought of the consequences of picking up again. Or if there is some thought, it's just thread bear and not at all sufficient to call to mind with good force the reasons why it would be devastating if they pick up again.
And so this combination of the overpowering obsession once you use and the inability to stay stopped once you've stopped it, is a death sentence. And basically what they argue is that therefore you're doomed and you need a higher power to save you. And in this book, they outline the 12 steps for the first time. This is the book that all the other 12-step programs spring from.
And there's a line at the beginning of chapter five in this book, the chapter called How It Works, that's perhaps one of the most famous lines in the Big Book. And it goes like this. It says, "Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program." Cannot or will not.
And that interesting language is what I want to zero in on today's vlog. They actually repeat that language throughout the Big Book. Early in the Big Book in Bill's story where he's describing his experience with alcoholism, toward the end of his story... At this point he's recovered from his alcoholism. It's all wonderful. Now he's describing his efforts to help other people recover. And he says basically it's been really, really rewarding. But then he says, "There have been some notable tragedies. One chap committed suicide in my home. He could not or would not see our way of life." Again, that could not or would not.
And then at the end of the book, really on the last page, he's finishing up describing the spread of AA and how someone else picked up AA. And at that point, AA was really in Akron and Cleveland, Ohio, and also in New York City, but very few other places. And he was talking about how it's about to spread around the world. And it was about to spread around the world. And he says, "This fellow has just picked it up and taken it to this place." And in not long, everyone in that town will have had his chance to recover if he can and will. If he can and will.
Now, taking aside the very gender-biased language, which is throughout the Big Book and very apropos of that time and place, that notion, can and will, or could not and would not, it's really interesting. They always use that turn of phrase, could not or would not, can and will. And they lump it together as if it's kind of hard to say which, is it a could not or a would not? Or maybe they're using both because it matters. That it really could be one or the other.
And so in this vlog, I just want to make a few points about that. I've been thinking about this deeply for years. I've been fascinated by that language for a lot of years. And I've been thinking about what it means to be able to do this program. The can. I can do it. Meaning I have the money to do it, I have the time to do it. I have the ability to get a digital food scale and they sell vegetables at my grocery store. I mean, not kidding. There are places where they don't sell vegetables at the local grocery store. And yet one could argue, but is that really a can? Couldn't you go to a different grocery store?
And then there's the will. Do you want to? I mean, I get asked on podcasts all the time, what about the motivation issue? Isn't this a lot for some people to do? What do you say to people who aren't motivated to do it? And I always say, "I don't say anything to them. I'm looking to help people who want this." I am not in the convincing business. If people don't want it, they can choose to sit on their couch and eat their sugar and flour foods till their legs get amputated from diabetes and/or they just enjoy those foods and die whenever it is that they die, maybe too young, maybe in pain. But they're making their choices, and if they don't want it, if they will not take this solution, if they will not follow this path, I'm not here to say that they should.
I think that what we do around here is, it's a lot what we do to maintain our Bright Lines. And I get that not everyone would want to do it. And I mean, I could make a fabulous case for it, like, "Hey, you'll be better off in so many ways. The cravings will go down. The hunger will go down. You'll be glad you did." But ultimately, if they choose to not do it, okay, so be it.
I mean, I have heard people in the will not category, people that I love, people that are close, people that are family, people that I adore, with 100 or 200 even pounds to lose, maybe not 200, but yeah, 100, 150, say, "Oh, I don't want to do what you do because I like eating soup." And I'm like, "Well, you could eat soup." "But I just like my soup in the winter. "I don't want to weigh and measure. I like my soup."
Gosh, I buried a family member last summer who had tried this on for a bit and her dementia had cleared up and she'd lost all this weight for a wedding that she was motivated to lose weight for. But then once the wedding was over, she went back to eating sugar and flour and suddenly her diabetes was raging out of control again and she deteriorated quite quickly and we buried her. And I was by her bedside as she died. And she didn't want this. She didn't want it. She would not accept the solution that was here for her.
And so here's what I'm noticing about the cannot or will not. You could say cannot. Well, it doesn't have the money, doesn't have the time. There are times when I think that's really real and true. I'm thinking if I hadn't already had this solution when my twins were born weighing one pound in the hospital, I could not have picked it up then, I don't think… I don't know, maybe I could have. Maybe I could have.
There was a woman once that I met in Bright Line Eating in Durango, Colorado, she was retired, she was on a very fixed income. And we all went around the room and told our stories of joining Bright Line Eating. I'll never forget this. And she said, "I didn't have the money to do the bootcamp." So emotional just remembering it, I was so moved. I was horrified actually. She said, "I sold my wedding ring. My husband has been dead for a long time. We were married for decades. I sold my wedding ring. And I sold this other ring that my mother-in-law had given me. And I got the money to do Bright Lifers and the bootcamp." And I was a little horrified. And I remember saying, "Wasn't that maybe too much of a sacrifice?" She was so certain. She said, "Oh, no. Best decision I ever made." She'd had her Bright Transformation. She was communing regularly with her husband. She was assured that he was so proud of her and happy for her at all the years of vitality she'd bought herself. And absolutely selling those wedding rings was the thing to do.
And so I think about cannot, like really don't have the money to do it. She found a way. She made a way. So that cannot melted underneath a strong enough will and must. I will do this and I must. So there is a way.
And I'm thinking about the time when I was in Sydney, Australia, and I could not put down the sugar and flour again. I'd had six months of beautiful, beautiful, no sugar, no flour, glorious days, losing all my excess weight. And then I picked up the food again, went into full-blown relapse, gained back all my excess weight and then some, and I could not stop eating.
And when I say could not, I mean I was using every tool. I was praying my little tushy off. I was as surrendered as I could imagine being. I was doing everything I could think to do. I was writing down my food the night before. I was committing it. I was doing my best to eat only and exactly that. And the cravings that would take me over, it felt like I could not stop eating. I could stop for a day or two or three or four, but usually not that many. And within about 36 hours or 48 hours, usually after the last bite of the last binge, I was back into binging. It was so excruciating. I could not stop. That is my truth, as honest as I can be with what was real for me, I could not stop.
And then after three months of that torture, the only thing that changed was I hired a life coach. And he gave me an assignment to work on that week and I said, "I'm not going to do it." And he said, "What do you mean?" I had seemed very reasonable and willing up until the end of our call when we were discussing this assignment, when I said I wouldn't do it. And he said, "Why not?" And I said, "Well, because all I'm doing is eating." And that blew his mind. So he said, "Tell me more."
And I explained my food addiction and this program I was in to try to address it, and he said, "Is this program really what you need?" And I said, "Oh, yes. Absolutely it's what I need." And he said, "Well, what does it involve?" And I said, "Well, I have to write down my food the night before, I have to commit it to a sponsor in the morning, and then I have to eat only and exactly that." And he said, "Well, then that's your assignment." If you can't do anything until you deal with this food thing, then that's your assignment and I'll talk to you next week.
And because I committed it to him somehow, this external force out there, somehow it stuck. Somehow it held. Suddenly the cannot turned into a can and will. And I might say, "Really? Didn't I have the can and will deep down inside me somewhere?" I mean, was it really just the presence of this life coach that I'd hired that turned a cannot into a can and will? How did that happen? I don't know. I can't explain it. And I wouldn't have even known that it was really happening except that the facts are that one day at a time I followed my food plan from then on, so it appears to have happened. But it was profoundly mysterious why that shift happened right then.
And I guess that is what I've come to understand. I look at my beloved in my life who won't do this program because she wants to eat soup, and I'm not so sure that her will not isn't actually a cannot somehow deep inside of her. That she just can't face herself at this stage of life. That she just can't look at her shortcomings, or her, that's a harsh word, at her emotions probably. At what would come up for her if she didn't have the food to cope and mask it. She's not young, and I imagine it might actually be too much for her at this stage of the game. It looks like a will not. I don't want that program. I won't do it. But I think maybe, in some sort of real psychological way, it's a cannot. She cannot do it at this stage of her life.
And I have another beloved in my life who's probably well over 300 pounds by now and with raging diabetes and heart disease in his family and almost surely is going to die 10, 20 years, maybe more, before he should. And we were talking at a holiday party, I think a year ago actually, about Bright Line Eating, and he was talking about how he wanted to do it. And I gave him resources and he took no action. Was that a will not? Or maybe he too psychologically is somehow a cannot, like cannot face this for some reason.
Parts are interesting in the role that they play. And I've come to believe that the mysterious forces that align for someone to go from a cannot and will not to a can and will, they're way beyond my pay grade. And as a spiritual woman, I believe that this is some of the crux of spirituality. Where people's volition combines with their knowledge and opportunity and circumstance to produce a can and will. It is profoundly, profoundly mysterious. And even more so perhaps with real addiction in the mix.
And in Bright Line Eating, unlike in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, in Bright Line Eating, we're dealing not just with real addiction often. Not always. We get people coming in who don't have raging addiction on board. They've got a weight problem, but not raging addiction. But most of our people around here have both.
And so unlike Alcoholics Anonymous where they're just dealing... Just, right? They're just dealing with addiction, which is a beast. We are also dealing with the problem of weight loss, which is a whole separate beast, that also, by the way, combines with addiction in the most nefarious way imaginable because it kicks up food addiction when you start trying to lose weight. And that feedback mechanism is unlike anything in any other addiction realm that anyone not dealing with food has to deal with. The alcoholic does not experience an increase in cravings by the healing of their liver. The former smoker does not experience increased cravings for nicotine because their lungs are healing. But we as our bodies heal, experience increased cravings for food, because our bodies are healing through the gentle release of weight on our journey in recovery from food addiction.
And the fact that weight loss kicks up food cravings and sometimes binges, one of the hallmarks of food addiction, this out of control eating, is one of the cruelest, cruelest aspects of the whole food weight juggernaut.
And so for people who do Bright Line Eating and who get on this path and who find it easy at first, because for many people, especially at the beginning, the plan works and automaticity starts to kick in and the cravings start to subside, the hunger starts to subside, the weight is being released, I just want to say, "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Have respect for the disease of addiction. And don't you dare assume, don't you dare assume, that your can and will can be taken for granted. And that the ease that you're feeling right now might mean that there's degrees of freedom to play here or there, or try an exception or a deviation. Because surely this feeling of security and ease and freedom that you feel now means that you're unsafe territory and you could probably fudge a little and it would be fine." Because the swiftness with which a can and will turns into a cannot or will not is horrifying.
So have respect for the Bright Line that signals the cliff. And just like you wouldn't if you were at the top of Half Dome, which I had the privilege of being once in my life. For my 40th birthday we climbed Half Dome, David and I, and my dear friend Kathy Cox, who you met recently in a vlog.
And we were at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, and there is a cliff that you can look over, but nobody ever just walks up to that cliff and looks over the edge. You're thousands of feet up. Even though, of course, all of us could walk up to a taped line on a carpeted floor with assurance. We know that our balance is good enough not to just fall for no reason. We would still never do that, ever, ever, ever. Even the most stupid, brave people like me. I did not do that. I did sit on my butt and inch carefully and dangle my legs and look over, which most people did not do, but I did do that. But I was sitting. You don't play carelessly at the edge of a cliff and do a jig and jump around as if you're safe. You might be safe, but the risk is not worth it.
And so that's my first takeaway here, is have respect for the disease of addiction, especially the disease of food addiction. It is the hardest.
My second takeaway here is, let's all have so much compassion for people who are in some mysterious state of cannot or will not. Who knows which it is. It looks like maybe they will not, but maybe it's they cannot. And if they used to be Bright and now they're struggling, oh my gosh, there but for the grace of God, go I.
And then my third takeaway is that in my experience as a chronic relapser with food who has not had any sugar and flour in more than four years, nor a bite of food outside of mealtime, but who has chronically relapsed over the 20 some odd years I've been doing this, on and off, with stretches of up to eight years of back-to-back Brightness, but lots of relapse in between, I just want to say from experience that if you want to be a can and will, unstoppability will get you there.
Just be unstoppable. Which means summoning all the forces. Try more research, try a different approach. Keep praying. Keep questioning, what have you not done? What stone has been left unturned? Try. Try again. Try again. Do a little jig and try again. Pray more. Look again. What have you not tried? Where have you been holding out? Come all the way in and sit all the way down. Come all the way in and sit all the way down again. Try Reboot Rezoom. Try the bootcamp again. Really look at your support structures. Double down. Triple down. Gideon Games. Mastermind group. Unstoppability will get you there.
And even if it seems like you've been trying for years, your cannot or will not might still turn into a can and will. As evidenced by me, who just about a year and a half ago broke an 18- or 19-year streak of futzing around with my quantities in restaurants, not being honest with them, not being able, not being able, a true cannot be honest consistently about my quantities in restaurants. And I surrendered at a deeper level and now I can and will. Meticulously, perfectly, faithfully, every single bite of food I have taken eating out since then has been completely Bright and within my quantities line. Sugar, flour, meals, and quantities, check, check, check, check, for roughly 18 months now. Something I could not or would not do before then. It manifested as a would not, but inside it felt like I could not. I wanted to and I could not.
The line between cannot and will not is so mysterious. I really do believe that right there. So much mystery about the way a human being, soul, psyche, interacts with strange divine forces and circumstance and coincidence and happenstance and will and volition and divine mojo. It's so mysterious.
The crack addict who knows that his wife will leave and he will never see his kids again potentially if he goes into that crack house, who cannot not go. Who knows that everything is on the line and he goes in again and loses his kids, loses his wife. The food addict who's already had one leg amputated due to type 2 diabetes, and cannot or will not stop eating. And a year and a half later, the second leg gets amputated due to type 2 diabetes. And they know it's coming. The smoker with lung cancer and emphysema already, who has seven grandkids that they want to watch grow up, but cannot or will not stop smoking cigarettes. Addiction is a beast.
And yet it is true. Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, asterisk, or decide to do a jig at the edge of the cliff once they're recovered.
And that's the Weekly Vlog. I'll see you next week.