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  • Erica Sauer

Choked

Updated: Apr 7

So much of what we do is to fill some sort of hole. A hole we don't even know exists. We don't realize we are filling anything until we no longer feel the need to fill it anymore. What does that take people ask? How does one get to a point where they no longer "need" to fill the hole. The question answers itself. When there is no longer a "need" to. You get out of lack mode. When you shed the beliefs and patterns that make you think something is missing. When you get rid of the trauma so deeply rooted in your body that you no longer have the "need" to mask it with anything.


I have experienced and witnessed, that it takes a level of rock bottom in order to seek. It takes a level of misery to wake up to the truth of ourselves and to the truth of existence.


My rock bottoms came in multiple suits. The first of which being a DUI. The first DUI wasn't enough to wake me up. Neither was the second one. Nor the jail time, nor the blacking out and waking up in taxi cabs, nor nearly choking to death on my own throw up when I was making myself purge, nor the many abusive relationships, nor the divorce, nor the crippling debt. It was a stint with dizziness that finally did it. I literally couldn't see straight, couldn't walk, couldn't drive, couldn't leave the house. The whispers slowly turned into screams and I finally began to look up from my stooper.


It was in that moment I started to look for answers and seek for help. When the student is ready the teacher appears. Pema Chodran pocket books were the first literature introduced to me by a girlfriend named Milan. I would say Milan was the first teacher I was open to receive. There were most definitely teachers ready and willing before that, like my brother Mark and his friend Adam, Angela Davis, who would say all these profound things, and although I felt them in my heart, theywere blocked by my head, by the patterns, by the routines, by my search for something outside myself, by never actually being in reality but living somewhere in the past or in search for something "better" in the future.


My brother would try his best to explain we create our reality and I would fly into victim mode telling him how everything was happening to me, the dizziness was some malfunction of my body that had been imposed on me. In actuality, the dizziness was a manifestation of my belief systems and my traumas. The belief being that I no longer wanted to see what was going on in my life. I believed the world wasn't safe and I created a bubble, dream-like state to protect myself from being fully in reality.


Have I lost you? Stay with me. Everything we think and feel creates our reality.


In my perspective...


What did the DUI's mean? Slow down, stop drinking so much. What did the jail time mean? Slow down, sit still, listen. What did choking from my bulimia mean? If you don't wake up, this behavior is going to kill you. What did the abusive relationships mean? Find your worth in yourself, you have you. Same for the divorce, be okay with you, alone, no one else. The dizziness? Slow down, I can't see, enough is enough, I am sick, WAKE UP.


The universe will whisper and if you do not listen it will start to scream. My body whispered aches, pains and headaches and then started to scream dizziness. My world whispered slow down for a decade before I finally stopped, started meditating, started listening, started watching what was happening in my mind and body and I finally began to shed the limiting patterns.


This is the story of my journey to "one" of my many rock bottoms... not sure what yours looks like. Not sure if you have already had one or had several. Not sure if you have woken up yet. Not sure what the universe is whispering in your ear, but start to listen or you will be forced to hear it's screams.


Bulimia


My first void filling technique and addictive tendency was binging and purging, calorie counting, and starving myself until around the age of 28. For about 15 years, I used a recipe of the above to comfort and feel in control when I was clearly screaming that I felt entirely out of control. It was about finding some sort of certainty in the unknown. What I really desired was comfort, love, safety, connection, stability in something, anything and I found it through my attachment to food and body weight.


When kids do not feel safe and secure in their relationships to their caregivers growing up, they seek attachments to things outside themselves that feel comforting and they can control (aka things that can't hurt them, like family or loved ones could do). People will form attachments to food, clothes, body image, and then alcohol, drugs, sex, and so forth in their adult years. Things that make them "feel good".... until they don't.


I remember when I was young, around the age of 12, binging on whatever was in the fridge when my mom would go upstairs or leave the house. I would sneak it, as if scared to eat in front of anyone. I was ashamed, never realizing it. I had no idea why at the time, but it felt good, it felt comfortable, it felt safe. Until I would stuff myself so full of food, I'd feel sick. Looking back it's easy to see and recognize I felt empty inside and unsafe. I found comfort and control in the simple pleasure of food.


Why a 12 year old girl feels empty inside and unsafe?


We are taught to. We are taught by society and our environments to feel like we aren't enough. We can solve our problems with something outside of ourselves. We "should" look this way, and if we don't we "should" fix it. We "should" act this way and if we don't, we "should" hide it. We "should" be the best and if we are not, we will not get the love and validation of those who are the best. In western society it seems to be a systemic issue that we are accepted and praised for our accomplishments and what we have and not for who we genuinely are. And if we ourselves are not enough how could we ever feel full? We can not. We will feel empty.


Another reason and covered in previous posts, from my perception, I always felt like the rug was about to be pulled out from underneath me. Name calling and intense language were a norm in our house. There would be some sort of epic scream fest and then 20 minutes later it would be like nothing happened and we would all sit down for dinner. This set up a pattern of brushing things way under the rug. Pretending toxicity wasn't happening to keep the cohesiveness of the family. Taught to make exceptions for poor behavior. Call it abusive, call it some sort of mental illness, it doesn't really matter, but it set up a pattern of co-creating relationships with men and situations where I constantly felt like the rug was about to be pulled out from underneath me. That is to say I felt unsafe.


When children don't understand why a parent is upset with them and they just see anger and yelling, they assume something is wrong with them. Kids don't understand unless things are explained and broken down. As children, they have never seen things before, it isn't obvious to do or act a certain way, so if they get yelled at, called names or punished and do not know why, they come up with their own stories about what is wrong with them and the reason they are being punished. As a child I never really understood why I was in trouble. I always thought I was doing my best and when I would get yelled at, I made up the story that I was simply not good enough.


I later learned love came from being the best, from perfection. My mother's elatedness and joy when I would win a tennis match, my report card was full of A's, or I was popular in school. Boasting to other mother's at school about my acceptance to the national tennis team and training camps in Florida for only the best players.


I recall this one time coming out from school in 6th grade and my mom being there, waving around a letter from the United States Tennis Assciation (USTA) to the other mom's showing them I had been accepted to the National Team and was going to Florida. I recognize this isn't abnormal behavior for a parent to be excited about their child doing well but in that moment, I made up another story and that was, "love comes from being the best."


Combining the volatile home life with environmental conditioning and you will get a little girl susceptible to addictive tendencies.


Eating Disorders - Attainment of Beauty


One of the easiest ways to fill the void of emptiness is through attainment of beauty. The emptier you are the more physical shit you will need to feel whole. For myself, it started with body weight, then moved over to a number of things - nails, tans, hair color, clothes, boob job, botox, and so on and so forth. The attainment for perfection is endless because it doesn't exist. You will inevitably find something else to pick at. Eating disorders are one of the biggest and easiest ways, we as women especially, learn to be more desirable and gain love and affection. It's one of the easiest ways to feel in control of something.

Everything we do, we do to get our needs met. We learn somewhere along the way, we will become significant and more desirable, therefore more loved and accepted if we are prettier, skinnier or better in some way. We were not programmed by society and our families to feel like we are enough as is, and we try to fill the gap between our not enough-ness and the happiness we desire. Essentially we are looking for a desired outcome to change the way we feel. When we feel like shit, we learned that being skinnier might help fill that gap between our pain and our pleasure. We learned that we could get love and connection through being more desirable, better, perfect. Our lonliness, our emptiness could be filled by being more attractive. "If only I were prettier". "If only I were skinnier." "If only I had bigger boobs." "If only I had nicer clothes." If only, if only, if only.... Then I could connect with someone, then I will be accepted. A bottomless pit that can never be filled.


The media portrays unattainable levels of "beauty" and body types. That is what has become accepted as beautiful and these women are being idolized for this level of "perfection" that isn't even real. Airbrushed, tweaked, nipped, tucked, we think we need to be that too. Then our minds look for ways to fulfill these genuinely impossible perceptions of beauty. We learn what works through out the course of our childhood and adult years. Instead of being taught acceptance of self creates a light that shines from within and then someone else will accept us too. Happy girls are the prettiest girls. Loving girls are the prettiest girls. The majority of us were taught, on some level, that love comes from something outside of ourselves. If we are smarter we get it, if we are prettier we get it, if we are the best at our careers we get it, if we follow the herd we will get it, if we go to law school we will get it, if we do what is expected of us by our parents we will get it. Essentially, we are never enough. We are taught to self-abandon to belong and be loved. We abandon who we really are to attain some level of beauty that doesn't exist, to get love. We abandon what we really want to do and who we really are to be accepted by our parents and the tribe. Isolation is one of the most painful feelings for a human being, so it's an easy pattern to pick up. We become addicted to these behaviors that help us fill whatever level of perfection we have been taught will help us gain our need of love and affection, connection, and belonging.


Another point to highlight is if we don't know what real love is or healthy love, if we weren't accepted and loved for the real/ imperfect humans we were as children, we will settle for connection. Any connection. Your partners will reflect that belief, rarely a partner who believes they deserve real love as well. You will be mirrors of your limiting patterns. This not enough syndrome will show up throughout the course of the relationship. They won't accept themselves for who they are and in turn can not accept you for who you are. You will do the same to them, since you can't accept yourself, so it will be impossible to accept anyone else. It will be a cycle. Hence the fixing of yourself, changing of the partners, people, places and circumstances, because until we accept what is, we will consistently try and change these things to fill something that is missing within ourselves. In my case I was constantly trying to control and fix my body in my early to mid 20s (along with people, locations, clothes) in hopes of being more desirable and getting the validation I was enough to be loved.

So here it goes...

The first time I remember self-abandoning to belong was when I stuck my fingers down my throat for the first time when I was living at a tennis academy in Florida. I knew this wasn't me but hey if this is what the kids were doing, this is what I thought I was meant to be doing. Side note, we can not control what our children are exposed to, but we can make them feel so safe and so loved that they do not wish to fill the voids so deeply with these addictive behaviors. The bigger the hole, the less love for the self, the easier it is to pick up on these behaviors and get addicted to the way they make you feel. When you already feel good, you are not trying to close the gap between your pain and your happiness. When you feel loved, protected and safe you do not seek void filling devices outside of yourself. When you already feel like you belong, you do not take on the behavior of others in hopes of being accepted. You fall prey to these behaviors when you are in pain, and you are taught you will get something from it. You will get the love, the connection, the validation.


I was living in Florida at a tennis academy and one of the more popular girls there was bulimic. Naturally two addictive type individuals gravitated towards each other. At this time I didn't realize I had that tendency, I was only 15, but what I did know was it felt good to be accepted, it felt good to belong. It felt good to be in control. Looking back, it makes sense the groundwork was being laid to be addictive. When love is given for success and pain is inflicted for loss or lack of perfection, you crave the high of the win and therefore the high of the love. That is survival, you want the love so badly, your brain goes searching for ways to attain the perfection. Just as much as you crave the high, you crave the low, because without the low you can not get the high. So we create situations and circumstances that are reminiscent of the high to low pattern.


Looking at my life, everything was a reflection of that pattern. My romantic relationships, my career as a makeup artist in the entertainment industry- one day I would be working with Brad Pitt and flown around on jets and the next I'd be blow drying the armpit sweat out of someone's t-shirt. New York City, another high to low - brutal winters and unreal summers. Relationships of deep love and then deep pain.

Anyway, so this girl and I would go to dinner at night and then go behind the tennis courts and throw up. I remember her explaining which fingers to use, how it worked and literally doing it at the same time. I really had no idea (at the time) this was bizarre behavior but I definitely knew something was wrong when she would drop 15 lbs and I wouldn't see her for a while.


I was living nearly 3,000 miles from my family, and was trying to get the validation and the love from my friends. Because when you live that far away as a kid, at least in my experience, you make your friends your family. And when your friends have been programmed to think being thin would increase acceptance and approval and you are susceptible to it, your vibe attracts your tribe, we inevitably will learn it too. We as human beings learn habits to cope with our deepest needs, but we don't always learn them in the healthiest forms. The more we are craving a desired outcome, the bigger the hole. The more we will fill the void with whatever we think will get our deepest needs met.


While living in Florida, I was lonely at times. I missed my family and my little brother but as I gained acceptance and recognition from one particular friend, through bulimia, I could almost guarantee that although a quick fill and not really what I desired, I would get the quick fix of human connection that I so desperately missed and perhaps never really received growing up. I never felt like I really fit in, I never felt like I had genuine acceptance and love, so I settled for connection. I was accepted for being the best, so if I could be the prettiest, by being the skinniest, then that is how I would get love.


This particular friend and I were a bit of a trouble makers. Nothing crazy, I think I drank a handful of times in high school because my mom had drilled into me that drugs and alcohol would kill me, so that belief stuck (until college when I realized drugs and alcohol wouldn't actually kill me and they were great ways to numb all my pain, then the drinking career started) This girl taught me how to get the attention and connection I so deeply desired and that was through being pretty. I was still young at this point, so my happy self shown through and bulimia didn't really stick until later on in college when one of my other close friends told me my arms were fat. She explained that if I ate 600 calories a day, I'd be able to be thin and more desirable and so the eating disorder started to gear up in college. Especially when the tennis career ended with a torn elbow and my identity as I knew it was stripped away but that story is for the "Dark Ages" essay in a few weeks.


I continued to to throw up, take laxatives, and exercise with the intensity of a Trojan horse during college because I associated it to being more desirable, which meant human connection. The human brain is very simple. When we learn a cue will give us a reward, it releases a chemical reaction/ or emotion of dopamine. We start to feel excited and high whenever we hear the word skinny, think of the word, throwing up, see a skinny model. The cue creates the idea of a reward and then we take action. The action I learned very young was bulimia. It worked every time. I got to eat which was pleasurable and then throw up and be skinny. I feel a lot of compassion for that little girl because I was already so skinny. I had been naturally thin my entire life. I genuinely didn't realize this behavior was destructive. That is what is so bizarre. Just like my drinking and blacking out in college, where I just thought I was having fun. I genuinely believed this was just what girls did. Some of my friends did it, so it seemed on the scale of normal. That is human nature. We follow the pack, we follow the tribe.

We follow the tribe on a biological level. Historically, if we didn't follow the tribe we were cast out and left alone, and we could die. Our brains are wired to desire to belong, so that if we get sick, we seek help, so that if we belong we can survive as a human race. What would have happened if we all went our separate ways in our hunter gatherer days, we wouldn't have been able to procreate we would have been eaten alive. The pain of not belonging hits the same part of the brain as physical pain. We literally feel the same kind of pain, if we were to be physically injured. So by nature we want to belong. This is how I perceived I would belong, until the pain of belonging became so miserable, I was sick, exhausted, depressed and anxious. I said, "fuck this. I can't do this anymore." It was so toxic and genuinely life threatening that is started the process of shedding the layers of shit to find my authentic self.


Choked


That moment happened for me years later. I was living with my ex-husband, who was still my boyfriend at the time, and as his addiction to alcohol got worse, my bulimia mirrored his. He was away on a business trip and I was home alone in our house with our dog. I haven't told many people this story because I was so ashamed of myself for so long. Brace yourself. I was scarfing down chocolate covered almonds, binging, when I decided it was time to purge. I aspirated on my own throw up and almost chocked to death. It wasn't just a cough, choke, where you get something stuck, but a choke where there was legitimately no air, I was completely restricted. I remember thinking to myself, first that I hate my ex-husband for always traveling and being gone. So of course, my victim mentality even in the midst of death kicked in. It's his fault this is happening, if I weren't alone all the time, I wouldn't be doing this to myself. My second thought while looking at my golden doodle, Gus, was "holy fuck I am going to die like this" and then lastly, "should I run across the street and try and get the neighbors?" I looked out the window and realized no one was home and started to panic. When you lack oxygen for a few minutes, your mind gets very clear all of a sudden, and you start to look for survival mechanisms. I tried to make myself throw up again, thinking if I gagged I could get it out. That didn't work. I then hymlicked myself on the staircase banister and it worked. I could breathe. It clearly wasn't my time to die and although at the time, I had completely lost any connection to myself, the universe and God, I took that as a big wake up call. I took that as a massive sign from God to knock it the fuck off. And that is what I did. I never stuck my fingers down my throat again.


That is not to say I didn't struggle with food for a while after or with desire for the old behavior, but this was one of the multiple moments in my life that would lead to my awakening. And as I have healed, so has my relationship to food, alcohol, exercise, shopping, and so forth.


The Lesson


We learn behavior to fill a need. Whenever a behavior persists or negative way of being continues we are getting our needs mets. This is some Tony Robbins shit right here. Outside of our primal, survival needs, we have the needs of certainty, uncertainty, connection/love, significance and growth and contribution. We all value them in different ways. And when we get three of these needs met with one action and learn it creates more pleasure than pain, that behavior will become addictive even if it is horrible for us.


Smoking is a good example, people who smoke, get certainty that they will feel lighter, they get human connection usually, because its a social habit and they get uncertainty because you never know who you are going to meet when you go outside to smoke, you never know where your next pack is coming from, sometimes you even get significance because you get to talk about your problem all the time or you get to be the outsider who smokes or the cool kid who smokes.


Same with bulimia, you get certainty you will feel lighter, significance because you will either have a problem or be skinnier then others so people will look at you and connection because you believe you are more desirable therefore you are to "certain types of people".


Right there addicted. So until the pain of the behavior outweighs the pleasure, therefore hitting rock bottom, it's very hard to stop these habits, attachments, addictions. AKA, I had to choke and a lot of times, smokers need to get sick.


I want to highlight the words "certain types of people." People who are attracted to you when you are struggling with addiction of any sort, people who are attracted to you when you are sick, have the same belief systems as you. Their illnesses/addictions/sickness might not show up in the same suit, but believe me if you struggle with not enough, so do they. They will fill the void in other ways. This is why it is pivotal when you continue to attract toxic relationships and unhealthy partners, that you go inward. You can not be the "perfect" one while the other has the problem in the relationship. You can not be the "better" one. Your means for void filling may be less aggressive, less abusive, but there is a mental construct that isn't healthy. You must look at your belief systems, your ways of being and face yourself before you expect to go back into the world and attract someone healthier.


So start to notice your habits of behavior. These things don't need to be as intense as this particular example, but if an unhealthy pattern persists, ask yourself what needs are being met? Ask yourself what other ways you can meet those needs?


And those needs can always be met with yourself. You need to be seen, see yourself. You need love, love yourself. You need to be heard, hear yourself. You need connection, connect to yourself. We tend to deny our own feelings and when we do we seek through external sources. Emotions are energy in motion. Our feelings are just energy in motion, if we do not let them out, they get trapped inside of ourselves and make us sick.Stop denying yourself, stop denying your feelings, go inward and give yourself what you need.


Sending everyone so much light and love who struggles with addictions, addictive tendencies and needs a little extra tonight. I see you. I understand. We got this.










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