Monthly Archives: January 2008

Table manners

Having grown up in a home where nobody cared how I ate (I never knew how to properly hold cutlery until I moved in with my aunt at age 15, and was taught the most basic table manners), table manners are somewhat, er, flexible to me.  Because I eat my salad out of deep tupperwares, I know my tongue won’t reach so I don’t tend to lick… hehe… I do however use my fingers.

At work I have bought a spatula now to scoop out the very last bits.  It’s not about abstinence, I’m not afraid I won’t be abstinent if a drop of oil is left in the container, but it’s about the fact that I have weighed it and it tastes great and I WANT every LAST bit of it, and it is RIGHTFULLY MINE!

I actually had a funny situation the other week, at the homeless Shelter where I volunteer I was eating breakfast (yogurt & fruit) out of a tupperware, and as I was scooping out the last of it with my finger, one of the guys said to me, “I bet you can’t reach the bottom of this with your tongue!” – LOL – but I didn’t take the challenge.

One thing I don’t like about my own table manners is how fast I eat.  I can’t stop myself.  When I get to eat, I wolf it down!  It’s impossible to stop myself.  I wish I could slow down and chew slower, but it’s so frustrating – when it tastes good (and even if it doesn’t), it’s like an eating switch is switched on and I go for it.  This behaviour doesn’t threaten my abstinence, since I’ve always done it and have yet maintained my abstinence, it’s just something I wish I could control and at the same time a powerful reminder that I am totally a CO and have no control.


Finding peace

Peace.  Well… I suppose it’s one of these things I have been blessed with.  I’m generally a relatively level-headed, calm person so it’s rare for me to be really worked up.  I am glad to have a calm center that it just a given, not something I have achieved.

I think the one piece of wisdom I have found about peace is that I do lose it when I try to hold on to things I know are wrong.  In that case, like with food, surrender is the key to peace.  I’m not stronger than my addiction… I surrender to the fact that it exists and will never go away.  As a result, God comes in with his strength and through the program, which I surrender to, I get peace around food – an absolute miracle for this CO.

Honesty with food

Because I make being abstinent a priority, I get a number of direct blessings (what another GS’er recently called “Greysheet Magic”):

  • relief from the constant debate in my head – how much is enough?  Can I eat that?  Should I not?  What is OK to eat?  etc. etc.
  • hours at a time without a single food thought
  • peace about ENOUGH and an ability to bear the sensation of hunger, knowing the next meal will satisfy
  • relief from worry about my weight – it’s no longer my problem
  • two beautiful, yet very different, sponsees who both challenge and help me 
  • a wonderful sponsor whose input I have come to value greatly, and not just with regard to food
  • a community of people who really, truly know what it’s like and who don’t need endless explanation of why’s and how’s (not that civilians ever get it, anyway)
  • a chance to become a better person as I work the 12 Steps, going through life with eyes wide open

This, and much more, is what I get as a direct result of being GS abstinent.  And I have no illusions about the fact that I can only maintain this gift through rigorous honesty – if I made a decision on my own, then I would soon have to make another decision as to whether to make my own decision or rely on my sponsor / the program for the next one… and after that… and soon enough the food would occupy 100% of my mental space again.  Even if I wasn’t eating.  (but it wouldn’t be long until I eat)

At the end of the day, this to me is a spiritual program and I dare not disturb the spiritual peace it brings me.  Physically, an extra bite won’t hurt me.  What’s an extra leaf of something?  It wouldn’t do a thing physically, but spiritually it would wipe out my peace immediately.

Thank goodness for this program, thank goodness for the willingness I have been given to work it rigorously and honestly.  It gives me a life!

Finding Greysheet

Now, my story… I’ll make it short, it feels a little worn these days – like a familiar kind of garment that kind of survives in your wardrobe even though you don’t like it.  An heirloom I can’t throw out.  But that’s a good thing – it’s part of who I am – and I’m just finding other people’s stories that much more fascinating than I do my own.

I’ve always been an overeater, but there was never any guilt attached to that.  My parents didn’t care what I ate, and I ate incredible amounts and extremely one-sided (for years, there was one particular frozen dinner – only one kind – that I would eat.  Nothing else.)  After my mother’s death I went to live with my aunt and cousins and we all dieted together occasionally, but I was never very good at it or motivated enough to really try.  I didn’t like being fat (and I was moderately so), but I liked food too much to do anything about it.  All my pocket money went to food until I started smoking at 14, then I had a real money problem. 😉

It wasn’t until after high school that my eating began to really escalate.  It began with a real wish to finally lose weight.  I went online and learned a lot of things, somehow ending up in the vegan / fat free corner of things.  Contributing to this was the BSE crisis in the UK at the time, the pictures of mistreated animals and mountains of dead cows being burned, I decided to go vegan.  I also cut out all fats.  Over the following two years, I ate like that – it suited me because I could still eat huge amounts of food, I just had to know which kinds to eat.  I ate constantly, all the time.  One summer I remember my boss asking me if I was turning orange, and I was – all the carrots I was eating!!  Kilos and kilos.

Well, over those two years the diet became more and more restrictive as I was trying to lose weight and it kept getting harder.  I began to restrict my starches.  (on a diet with no protein or fat, that leaves you with rabbit food.)  Then my calories.  I exercised at least two hours each day, every day, high-energy aerobics classes.  At the end I was eating about 600 calories a day, working out 2-3 hours a day – and, the irony of it, I weighed as much as I do now, I never got skinny.

It all ended on my birthday in Durham, my 22nd. I decided to have whatever my friends were taking me out to have, just for that one day.  Well… imagine… floodgates opened!  Suddenly I found myself having to catch up on years of deprivation, and I began bingeing like there was no tomorrow.  I gained 30 lbs. in about 3 months and everybody saw it.  I remember going to an aerobics class and not being able to lift the dumbbells I usually used because I was so exhausted from having just finished off a pint of ice cream – my body couldn’t cope.  And I could not, absolutely COULD not get back to my vegan regime!

The next few years I tried every diet under the sun.  I hated myself and I kept gaining weight, bingeing and dieting, round and round.  I rarely binged on really tasty food, rather on whatever diet I was on – for example, those low carb bars which are terrible (and they would give me diarrhea, too) – I would eat loads of those.  It wouldn’t taste good, but I was still bingeing.

I found GS in New York, on the Internet at first but as I was living in NYC I was able to get to live meetings.  I had never heard of OA before and have never been to an OA meeting, I went straight to GS – after reading the stories on the website I knew it was where I belonged.  I went to meetings, got a sponsor, got abstinent for about 18 days and then decided I wasn’t really so bad as these people, and went out.  I kept the Greysheet itself, as a kind of souvenir, glued in my day planner.  The next year I continued to diet and binge, diet and binge.

Finally, at that time living in MD, I was just coming up on two weeks on the South Beach Diet and I knew that the next binge was absolutely inevitable.  There was nothing, NOTHING I could do about it – it was coming.  I knew I couldn’t do this, or any other diet – the binge was coming.  Then I remembered the GS – that was almost exactly a year after I first found it.  I dug out my old planner, took the GS, went out to get a scale and got abstinent.  I no longer had anybody’s phone number but I remembered the Greynet and the website, so I went there, asked for a sponsor, got one, and got abstinent.

That’s my story of finding GS – it’s been a long road since those first days, and I haven’t been abstinent ever since (summer 2006 wasn’t abstinent) but I am here to stay and to grow, abstinently.  Thank God.


What a relevant topic, isolation.  I’m good at isolating.

What I’m reminded of today is that my disease is one of isolation, of hiding, sneaking, and lying.  Of living two lives, a pretend one and a miserable one.  Abstinence and recovery is learning how to live just one life, to be the same person on my own as I am with others.  My food problem is out there: when I eat with others, they know.  Before abstinence, I would maintain with all my might that I didn’t *have* any problems (despite the fact that my extra weight would be clearly obvious to all).

I don’t get to isolate a certain part of me any more.  So I have to choose what I do with the whole of myself – do I isolate, or participate?

I’ve learned that I’m not going to be best friends with everyone in program.  People in Greysheet are as diverse as any group of random people – as the Big Book says, we’re like survivors of a boating accident, people as different as can be but united in our one problem and its solution.  This is the one and only thing I have in common with every one here.  With many people, that’s the only thing I have in common with them and that’s ok.  Then there are some who share more than that with me, who I connect with, who I make friends with.

But I’m not here to be in a social club.  I’m here to save my life.  If I get to make friends along the way, good!  But it’s not a requirement.

I thank God for this solution, and I am here because I need to be part of the group, be accountable and transparent, having people call on me and know that I’m here; people who would realize I was missing if I dropped away.  I am not strong enough to do this on my own – I get into my own head and there is no more dangerous place than that.  I can convince myself of anything, rationalize anything… but GS’ers will mercilessly (mercifully!) point out my defective reasoning and give me perspective again.  I need that.  Just God and I – I’ve tried and failed.  I need people.

Thank you all for being there.


I’m Susanne, a compulsive overeater enjoying an abstinent life today because I weigh my 3 meals off the CGS, write them down, commit them to my sponsor, and eat nothing else no matter what.  That’s my #1 priority today.

That’s the mantra I write out each time I email the Greynet.  The reason I do this is because it helps me to remember – like saying something out loud makes it more real, so does writing it out for me.  It reinforces something, takes it out of my head into black-and-white, staring me back in the face.  I am really and truly privileged to have found this solution, and by writing out my mantra I put down what exactly it is that gives me this freedom.  So simple.

The truth is, this is a staggeringly simple solution.  Not easy – but simple.  Three meals a day, nothing in between, a list to choose foods from; what could be simpler?  I don’t have to think about it… I don’t have to figure out amounts, figures, calories, fat grams, points, or anything else – I just pick from my list, anything I want in any combination I want.

Thank you God for giving me the willingness to embrace this program with everything I have – it gives me a life worth living!