Monthly Archives: July 2008

What I do to stay abstinent

Not all of us have access to live meetings.  They are wonderful if you can get to them – I would go as far as to say they are essential if there is any way you can get to them – but some of us are outposts.  Live meetings support abstinence, no question, but they are not required to be, or become, abstinent.

When I first found Greysheet back in March 2004, I lived in New York City and had plenty of live meetings to go to.  And I did: for all of 18 days, after which I decided that Greysheet wasn’t for me because I wasn’t as bad as all these people.  A year later, I lived in MD without access to meetings, but I finally despaired of my own efforts and got abstinent, my only support being the Greynet and phone meetings.  I remained abstinent for about 15 months, through an intercontinental move and lots of other NMW’s, all without live meetings (except for Roundups when I could make it there).

I have now been abstinent since October 2006 and, again, haven’t had access to live meetings most of that time.

So, as an outpost, what do I do to stay abstinent?  I’ll try to come up with 10 things:

  1. I write down my food, commit it to my sponsor, weigh it, and eat nothing else, no matter what.  Duh.
  2. I read the Greynet daily and post when I can.
  3. I make it to phone meetings whenever I can (the time difference often being an issue).
  4. I participate in a weekly AWOL.
  5. I am completely honest about my food with my sponsor, and I share what is happening in my life with my sponsor as well, asking for her perspective on everything (not just food).  She knows what’s going on in my life and provides a helpful, abstinent point of view.
  6. I eat the best food I can afford.
  7. I mostly stick to foods I know and enjoy, but I do try different recipes occasionally to expand my choices.
  8. All my acquaintances and friends know about my food and respect it, because I make sure they respect it.  In other words, although there are no Greysheeters around, everyone knows about my food and would be very concerned if I changed what I do.  So I am accountable.
  9. If I get hungry or covet others’ food in social situations, I deliberately change my focus by either engaging in interesting conversation or leaving the situation.  I do not romance the food.
  10. I remember to thank God (my Higher Power) whenever people around me, work colleagues etc., discuss their latest dieting attempts… whenever I see an obese person… whenever I see others lose control (and I can tell from a mile away).  Because here, but for the grace of God, go I.
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Not magic, but miracle

I like the topic, “Not magic but miracle”.  The word miracle is sorely overused, as someone else observed – not just in the rooms of AA, but everywhere.  And yet… it’s more true to use in a 12-step context than in most other situations.  I would define miracle as something supernatural, that could not have happened in the normal realm, under natural laws.  So, if someone was blind and suddenly receives their eyesight back, then that’s a miracle.  If they are blind and a skilled surgeon gives them their eyesight back, then that’s not a miracle (surgeons work within natural law, after all).

Lots of people wrongly use the word miracle for things that are perfectly natural… whereas when AA uses it, I think they do capture its proper sense.  Under natural law, could I have got abstinent?  I realize that’s a debatable issue, but I know in my heart of hearts that the answer is no.  I have tried more diets than I care to remember; I have followed food plans and failed.  What the 12-Step programme adds is the supernatural dimension, the missing piece – going beyond natural law.  I didn’t take control of my natural addiction.  I surrendered control to a power greater than myself, greater than my nature, and the miracle happened.

Funny how that miracle is actually, in this definition, almost something predictable.  If I fully surrender to my higher power in Greysheet – which takes care of the natural (my particular food allergies/addictions being taken out of my menu) and adds the supernatural – then I can fully trust that the miracle will happen.  Maybe because it’s not my personal experience, I have trouble getting my mind around those who claim to have surrendered, yet are unable to get abstinent.  For me, surrender has always been the doorway and it’s not a trick door: it always opens when pushed. (I have had three Day 1’s, and every time I took back the food it was my free choice, not because the miracle stopped working).  The thing is, surrender itself is probably a gift from our higher power rather than something we can achieve on our own.

Therefore, as I see it, surrender is the key to the miracle – and without surrender, the miracle won’t happen.  I’ve been struggling so much with diet sodas and chewing gum (both of which are currently down, thank goodness).  The problem is surrender – and I know it!  I struggle because I am unwilling to acknowledge deep down that I cannot drink soda / eat gum like other people do.  I was able to do that that with food, but not with these substances.  That’s why, even if they have been down for weeks, I keep picking them up again… one or the other or both… because I believe I can have them like other people, only to be proved wrong again.  So I have to keep praying for surrender, because once that is there, I fully trust that the miracle will follow.

I’m not sure if this post is really entirely on topic, but I felt that was what I needed to write.

How I know I’m not cured

I’ve been thinking about going over the basics a little bit.  Having been abstinent a while (although of course that is very relative!) it seems that abstinence is often a given and I focus on the other issues in life, and share about them on here.  But the basis of it all, my entire recovery, is that I am a compulsive overeater and any recovery or sanity I attain in the various aspects of my life, I owe directly to being out of the food.  So, it’s a good reminder.

I’m not cured.  I am in recovery, living a sane life, but if I pick up the food again I’m going to be right back at square 1.  No recovery, no sane life.  Hell, pain, insanity, fear, bewilderment, f-o-o-d f-o-o-d f-o-o-d.  Nothing else matters.

But, I don’t test that, I don’t try it out every other week to see if the same thing will still happen… so how do I know?  How can I tell, without a doubt, that I am still a compulsive overeater?  A few things.

  • I personally have never suffered from the delusion that I want “only one bite”.  I don’t care about a bite, I want the whole thing and then the box and then the truckload.  A bite wouldn’t satisfy.  This is still true when I look at non-GS food: I want it all, not one.  That shows me I’m not cured.
  • I act the way I did with food with other substances now.  I have to tackle them one at a time and it’s a battle – chewing gum, diet sodas – so if I can go insane with things that don’t even set off my system physically, simply because I am mentally sick, then how much more crazy and miserable would I be with the real thing?  That shows me I’m not cured.
  • I look forward to my every meal way more than any civilian I have ever known, unless they are starving.
  • I love the act of eating (free from guilt, beautiful tasty food) way more than any civilian I’ve ever known.  I do eat in social situations and it’s OK, but my preference will always be to get alone with my food and enjoy every bite.
  • My portions are way larger than those of normal people and they still don’t look like enough to me.  Only the scale assures me that they will be enough.
  • I draw an inordinate amount of comfort from looking forward to my next meal, from my beautiful food itself, from knowing I have my prepared meal ready and waiting for me when I get home…
  • I could eat another dinner right after having finished.

There are many, many more daily instances that show me that I’m not cured today.  I may be cured tomorrow, who knows – I believe in a God who heals – but I know I’m not cured today.  The community of GS’ers certainly plays a huge part in that too, because I hear my own story when I hear other people’s stories and I relate to them on a level so deep that I have to believe their story is part of mine, too.

I’m incredibly grateful for this program.  It hasn’t cured me, but it is giving me a wonderful life beyond my wildest dreams and it has turned COE defects into guilt free comforts – it’s OK to love my food!  It’s OK to eat lots of food!  This is beyond awesome!!

I don’t eat anything EXCEPT weighed and measured, committed GS food, no matter what.

Listening and sharing

For me one thing about listening is that while I do listen, I am a “fixer” – I take on other people’s problems as my own, I carry them on my shoulders, they occupy me; and I will try to fix them, offer helpful suggestions and all that.  I had a sponsee for a while who was incredibly negative and I ended up carrying the weight of that, possibly more than she herself did.  Because I take people seriously, I take their concerns seriously, but I have somehow not learned how to draw the line of caring.  The result of that is that I avoid getting into people’s lives altogether, I avoid intimacy and true friendship – I am distant.  This way, people aren’t comfortable about sharing their problems and issues with me and I don’t have to take them on.  This is a big character defect I discovered through my 4th Step.

The community has started me on the road to change in that.  In a group setting, I can watch how others respond to someone’s share, how they deal with that person’s difficulties.  I don’t have to go up to the person and offer my help.  I can, but I don’t have to.  I get to see sane reactions by other people, who respond by sharing their own struggles as they relate to the issue at hand, which builds relationship, which is so much more nebulous than a simple “here’s how to fix that”.  Fixing someone doesn’t build relationship, I have learned; what it does is it makes someone dependent on me, and that is the *last* thing I want because I feel suffocated by needy people.

So, the GS community has taught me this in a group setting.  I have yet to learn it in a personal, one-to-one setting.  It’s not a problem I face on a daily basis because I have set my personal boundaries so far out that nobody approaches close enough.  So, this needs to be the first thing for me… how to become open, how to make others comfortable.  I have done the opposite for so long that I don’t even know how to achieve that.

All I’m saying is that it’s a growth process for me… I have never had a problem with sharing, I have always told my story openly and without shame.  And listening comes easily to me, too.  The issue is in how I process what I listen to, how I react to it, what it does to me.  The fear of that is what has kept me from being a true friend, from being open and loving as I would like to be.  It’s the fear.

One day at a time.

Planning my life

First of all I’m very grateful that I did indeed manage to exercise today.  I know how little that matters in the grand scheme of things but for me it’s a big breakthrough today.
 
Also, I’ve been spending some time thinking about the grand scheme of things.  That probably comes with the territory of facing big upheaval and change ahead, that re-assessment of what I’m actually after and what I’m trying to do.  Where I’m going.  When I was eating, I was going absolutely nowhere – oh I did have plans and hopes and dreams, but they changed all the time and even if I did achieve something I wanted, I could not enjoy the achievement because I was, in the very core of my being, defeated.  Abstinence is surrender to defeat – and suddenly I am no longer defeated!
 
Anyway, so I’ve been following this process which I found really helpful, to make me look at the big picture and what I want at the end of the day, not just what I want in the short term.  I’m very good at planning the next right thing, follow momentary interests, but I often fail to consider where the road I’m on is leading me.  So it helps to look at the destination I want to get to, and then figure out which road is best to get there.  What I found helpful for me was to list the five most important things in my life, my priorities – and they are in fact not *things* but *persons* (or groups of people, i.e. family, and I even included God) and how I want them to remember me when I die.  What do I want to put into their life while I still can?  What do I want them to take away?
 
I’m still in the process of doing this, and it feels like a mammoth task – much like my 4th Step did, though future-focused – but it already feels like my eyes have opened.  And let me just say, I fully – 100% – credit abstinence with the fact that I get to do this, that it is such a positive experience, and that I can look toward the future with lots of hope rather than defeatism.
 
I do this, no matter what!

Guidance, Honesty, Identification, Wisdom

I think this ties in with last week for me, in saying that I need to listen to different people (or groups) about different areas in my life.  Rather than saying “I want your life” and following *everything*, I look at certain areas in someone’s life or in a group, where I want change in MY life for the better, and I ask specifically for help in that area.  So my life, as it evolves, is a patchwork and kaleidoscope, unique, and made the way I want it – the way God made me, really.

This issue of individuality versus conformity is something I’m really facing head-on at the moment.  I have been having this tension in my life for over a year and a half now, of living in one place and working in another place, 50 miles away.  I’ve been commuting, my life being split between to places, and strong ties on each side.  I have sought input from many different sources, and from God.  For months I have felt very uncomfortable as I sat on that fence, unable to make a decision either way.

For me, the solution has been to dip my toe on both sides of the fence.  To get out of my head and really, truly face the possibilities.  I sent out my resume to potential employers closer to my home, went to interviews, and listened to guidance from my Higher Power.  I prayed every time I put myself out there, to be able to hear him, to be guided.

I say that the solution “has been”, because I have finally reached a decision and it has not come through other people.  I have sought guidance, desperately, but one thing I know is that I cannot rely on second-hand revelation.  I need to get the final word straight from my higher power.  I can ask for help and guidance, but I have got to ask for guidance from God, myself.  And I have finally worked it through – the peace has come – and the decision has been, and still is, heart-wrenching (as any decision would have been) yet totally right.  I am at peace, at long last.  While much is yet to be worked out, and lots of activity is coming my way – and lots of discussions to be had with spiritual guides and mentors in my life – I am at a kind of peace that it feels like whatever goes on around me, I will still have that peaceful center.  It took me months and that is why it’s such a profound, and solid, decision, not one made lightly.  Looking back, I have learned incredible amounts of things and I anticipate much is to be learned yet in the upcoming months as I pack up here and move to a whole new community.

Hell in the Hallway

Unbelievable how topics sometimes coincide with life… certainly this one is incredibly on target for me right now!  I am in the hallway, stuck.  Not knowing what to do. 

The situation is this: I work 50 miles from where I live.  I have made a choice to work in charity (non-profit) and accept the low wage that comes with it, because I love my job and I care for the cause.  However, with fuel and food prices as they are, I am no longer able to sustain this – a decision has to be made.  Either I move closer to work (lose my social network, and have to build new relationships) or I change jobs.  Both paths are painful to even consider.

My strategy – if it can be called that – right now is to push all possible doors, see which one opens, and NOT walk through immediately (that’s opportunism) but if/when one opens, to really pray it through and think before I step in.  I am going to look at an apartment nearby work today.

It’s the waiting that’s so hard.  The uncertainty.

But in the grand scheme, I do remember that this is a luxury problem that I wouldn’t have to face if I weren’t abstinent.  So I am grateful for the opportunity for growth, and for knowing one thing: like the next meal coming is an absolute reality I can trust, so is the fact that there will be an end to this limbo and a solution is coming.

In the meantime, I don’t eat, no matter what.