Monthly Archives: October 2008

Writing Group Topic: Tolerance based in humility

While I was reading, I was making up my mind how I would feel about it, whether I would beat myself up about my inadequacy or whether I would look at it from a positive angle. So much of what I take in, I default to a reaction, and it’s encouraging when I find myself choosing my response and attitude actively.

So, tolerance. I come from a background of opposites: my father and especially his mother, my grandmother, are extremely intolerant of anyone that isn’t like themselves. My mother was the opposite – nothing phased her, she was never bothered with anything or anyone, a lethargic personality. Since I aligned myself with her much more than the others, I think I took on a certain kind of unquestioning acceptance of others. People just are what they are, who they are, and I normally just accept them as such (and some I want to be around, others not). At age 15, when I moved in with my cousins, my youngest cousin (3 years younger than I) made me her “best friend” and opened my eyes in a way I hadn’t known. She judged everyone from the first look. She would whisper her judgement to me when we met new people, pointing out things I had simply not noticed. I wish that hadn’t happened, because that way of looking at people did to some degree absorb into me – not as extreme as with her, but I wish I could get the obliviousness back that I used to have. Because tolerance then never really seemed to be an issue, there was just acceptance.

Perhaps it’s just part of growing up, and my cousin isn’t to blame. Who knows. I am where I am: there are some people – or rather behaviours – that I am intolerant of, that I do not “lovingly accept”… and to some degree that does have to do with my pride, or lack of humility, because it’s exactly those things I’m strong in (and proud of) where I despise others who aren’t strong in these things. For example, taking action. I am an action person: there’s a problem, let’s find the solution and then use it. Others aren’t like that. I must admit that people with my mother’s personality (lethargic, letting-things-happen-to-them, victims) are really difficult for me to “lovingly accept” – I may grudgingly put up with them for a while, but generally I’ll try to avoid them. Or those who like to wallow in their misery when there is a solution. But then again, if I were to “lovingly accept” them, would I be enabling the behaviour? Or is it prideful again to think that any reaction of mine would influence them at all?

Ah, but I’m well into pop-psychology talk here and I don’t care for that. I recognise my need for humility, and reading through my share I even see where some of it comes from a place of pride. How do I get this tolerant humility without kissing my brains goodbye? I do struggle with pop-psychology definitions of humility (“lovingly accept”) – at church I have been taught that humility is to be realistic about oneself: not undervaluing, and not overvaluing oneself. It’s pride to think “I am a nothing” as much as it is “I am awesome”. I like that definition, so I pray for the gift of perspective and a sober judgement of myself – a realistic view.

Topic: Attitude of Gratitude

Love these little nudges to think through specific aspects of my life and abstinence, and to reflect & share on them. So I’ve been thinking about gratitude this week.

I think I have been blessed with a positive outlook – whether that is just given, or it has come with my upbringing, I don’t know. Growing up, as children do I tended to take whatever came my way just the way it was, and didn’t feel either grateful or ungrateful for it. It just was. When my mother got sick and then died, I never asked why and I never hated my “lot in life”… it just was, I was sad and depressed and I wanted to die, but there was never that thing of examining my circumstances and comparing them to those of others. I think it requires taking a step back and actually looking at my life from almost an outside point of view, to do that. I never had the tendency to do this, I just got caught up in life as it was.

The same thing goes for my eating disorder. Of course I hated it… I was trapped, I wanted to die, I was miserable and fat and lonely… but I never asked why. I wasn’t ungrateful for my “lot in life” either, because my life on the outside was actually going pretty well and I saw the food problem as the one thing, the one problem, and if I solved it then I would have the most awesome and fabulous life. (and that’s exactly what happened – the promises are true!)

Perhaps this has to do with an attitude of action. I never saw myself as a victim who things just “happened to”. I was just trapped with no way out – and then I found Greysheet, was given the tools, and took hold of it all with complete desperation and abandon: and here I am, abstinent today. I’m not sorry I have an eating disorder. When I pray, I don’t ask “Why have you done this to me?”… I’m glad, for crying out loud, because the way I see it everyone has some kind of an issue and I’d rather have this one (which is solvable and I am able to have a full, awesome life) than, say, alcoholism, drug addiction, porn/sex/lust addiction… or a boring life. I realise not everyone’s an addict, but I look at the ladies at my work and how they go from diet to diet as their weight yo-yos and it’s because they have no hardcore addiction. They’re part-time overeaters, living lives of low-level, quiet despair – not enough to be able to take hold of a true solution, and unable to live free either. I get to live free! How could I not be grateful?

What are no.10 meals?

I was asked this question recently, about #10 meals. What are they? Obviously everybody has their own standby recipes they use over and over again, some people like to eat heavy and others eat light – I’m definitely a heavy eater – and I’m not about to get into food talk here (although I’d love to get recipes of your favourites, because I’m hopelessly un-creative!) but I wanted to explore the idea of #10 a little.

Quite simply, it means on a scale of 1-10, this meal is a 10. In other words, as good as it gets!

Not all my meals in GS are #10s. Sometimes it’s travel, other times it’s convenience or lack of time; I don’t always eat awesome meals. Not all, but many of them are awesome! My first sponsor encouraged me to go for the best food, the ones I liked best from the Greysheet, and this kept me abstinent for a long time. Looking forward to the next meal. I used to have this awesome breakfast that I wanted so much that it kept me abstinent in these first evenings/nights – my reward.

These days, I still choose the best I can, and looking forward to meals is certainly part of what keeps me abstinent! But, not every meal has to be awesome. I think that’s because I generally have the best – that’s why I can let go of it sometimes, if need be. I know that if the next meal isn’t so good, the one after that will be great. I know that if I’m travelling for the week, I can let go of awesome food (and subsist on backup if I have to) because I know that’s not always what it’s like. My gut is finally learning that awesome food is the default and that’s why I don’t have to hang on to every meal.

Before abstinence, every meal was either a first one or a last one. The last meal (before the diet) was huge, awesome, tasty – and left me feeling worthless, bloated, and hating myself. The first meal (of the diet) was small, sensible, pedestrian. Nothing to get excited about. Looking into the future of having only such meals was a bleak prospect, indeed. So I would hang on to the diet for as long as I could hang on, but it was a bleak, sad existence: until the craving got back to me and it was back to the awesome food! (in uncontrollable masses).

That is one reason why I believe the Greysheet works for me. It’s anything but bleak! I have the most awesome foods – I still choose what my first sponsor used to call “the golden food” (as in, best of the best – not silver, not bronze). I don’t need to look beyond my own plate because my plate is plentiful and tasty (I no longer have to choose either-or)!

I love my food. I don’t do fancy things to it. I eat so simply, but oh my, it’s my reward and what I look forward to and what keeps me abstinent a day at a time… life is good!

All-or-nothing thinking

I definitely have all-or-nothing thinking, and I love the paradox of Greysheet. How can I ever explain this to a civilian if I don’t even understand, myself, why the all-or-nothing-ness of Greysheet works when in absolutely every other context this kind of thinking is unhelpful? Why does it work with Greysheet?

I think that it’s because Greysheet works with my character defect (of all-or-nothing thinking) rather than against it. Before I got abstinent, how could I have worked on my character defects while still in the food? How could I ever have got rid of my character defect while caught in the insanity of compulsive overeating?

And now, my most basic character flaw is my greatest strength. I can channel all my all-or-nothing thinking into Greysheet abstinence, where I can be as all-or-nothing as I want (as it’s my default to be), and that gives me the freedom to work on my other stuff… to let go of some control needs and perfectionism and all-or-nothing-ness. I’ll still be able to indulge that particular character defect and so I may not ever be completely perfect – I don’t consider Greysheet the perfect solution because the reality is, it is a restriction and not complete freedom – but I will not be perfect until after I’ve died, so that’s OK. I can be at peace and I can do as well as it is in my potential to do, but perfection? Never.

I suppose it’s grandiose to think I’ll ever get rid of all my character defects. I actually don’t believe it’s possible, or perhaps even desirable: Greysheet utilizing my character defect of all-or-nothing thinking is teaching me that I can make (some of) my character defects work to the good, in a positive way.

But generally, as I said, it is a negative thing. I’m struggling with exercising: either I do it, totally, or I don’t, at all. Not helpful! But even with this I’m making progress, I’ve been walking to work most days but not all days. Walking is good, and every time I do it I do something positive for myself – even if I do drive the next day. And then I walk again the day after.

Two years back-to-back

I’ve been thinking, how do I express my feelings about this? There’s mixed feelings, you see. On one hand, I am incredibly grateful for the way my relationship with food now works… I am incredibly grateful for the beautiful, tasty, abundant food I get to have on a daily basis… I am incredibly grateful for the mental freedom I have in between meals. It really feels like much more than 2 years, it seems so normal. This is my life, this is what I do with my food, it’s matter-of-fact and routine.

I’m just a little sad that it’s not longer. Had I not thrown away the gift in summer of 2006 after over a year’s abstinence… and that’s what I did, nobody forced food into my mouth and there was no craving… I’m sorry that I did that. I really am. However, I would be the poorer if it weren’t for that experience – I learned so much from it. I learned that my illness is truly a mental one, not just physical (because I never took back the sugars/grains/starches and yet went absolutely mental in dieting, bingeing, starving and all the rest). I learned that there is no way civilians will ever truly understand, and I learned that I don’t need to try to make them understand. Now I just tell them what I do, and how; but I won’t discuss whether or not I should. Only I can tell whether I ought to do Greysheet or not, nobody else.

Well. Today is all I have. I am grateful for how easy this programme comes to me, if I only choose to follow it. I know some people struggle so much more than I do. I choose to be abstinent, and I choose to do what it takes to stay abstinent, because I have an absolutely fabulous live (or at least I think so!) – whatever my circumstances outside.

And can I just say: I do have my struggles. I am still not at goal weight, as my body continues to defy me… I have struggled so much with gum… I have had to let go of various foods on the Greysheet (and STILL my body won’t lose the weight!)… I’m not always blissfully happy. I’m abstinent because there’s simply no other way for me. I won’t lose the weight if I go off Greysheet. If I stay on Greysheet, I just might. Or might not. The chances are better, anyway, and besides, I have no life when I’m not abstinent – I have proved that to myself when I went off Greysheet in 2006 and never took back the substances… even so… my life evaporated. Food was IT. I don’t want that, today.

So I’m as abstinent today as I was yesterday – no matter what!

GreyNet in my recovery

As several people have shared about their gratitude to Greynet, it got me thinking. Looking back through my recovery the Greynet has been absolutely, totally central to it.

When I first found Greysheet, in 2004 while living in NYC, I went to live meetings with live Greysheeters, and signed up to Greynet for the first time. Sadly, after 18 days of abstinence I concluded I wasn’t as bad as these people and that was that. I went back into the food and lived through another year of hell.

By the time I was ready to truly surrender, I lived in Maryland and there were no other Greysheeters around. All I had was the Greysheet itself (which I’d stuck into my diary the year before as a kind of “souvenir”) and a memory of the Greynet. I signed back up, asked for a sponsor, and grabbed the first person who replied. This sponsor asked me to write to Greynet every single day for the first 90 days, given that I had no Greysheet meetings in my area. I followed her instructions. Because I wrote to Greynet every day, people got to know me and what was happening in my life, and I became part of the community. Without the Greynet, I would have had no contact with other Greysheeters except for my sponsor on the phone! But Greynet became my meeting. I replied to people individually… I posted… I picked up the computer before I picked up the food, so to speak.

Then I moved to the UK, again to an area with no Greysheeters around. By that time I had over a year’s back-to-back abstinence, but over a few months there, my commitment to Greysheet began to be chipped away. I had lost my sponsor when we couldn’t make our schedules match because of the time difference… I went through different sponsors in the UK and for various reasons it just didn’t work out… and eventually I found a sponsor in the US. I kept on reading the Greynet but didn’t participate like I used to. I no longer replied to many people individually. My loved ones put massive pressure on me to let go of abstinence. Eventually I did – and I don’t blame them. I descended into a summer of eating hell.

Finally, on 15 October 2006, I was on week’s trip in Germany and this was my opportunity: away from my loved ones, I got abstinent again, having signed up to Greynet right before I left and gotten a temporary sponsor. With a week’s abstinence under my belt I returned to the UK, to my loved ones, and simply put the facts before them. Today, I am still happy to discuss abstinence and what it is and all that, but I do not discuss whether or not I should do it. That’s just not open for negotiation. I made that very clear then and it has been respected ever since (although I let them keep their hopes up because that makes life easier/discussion free: I say I’m abstinent only for today and that’s not open for discussion. Maybe I’ll not need to be abstinent at some later date – only today. Who can argue with that?)

I have essentially been an outpost for pretty much all of my abstinence, except for the first 18 days. I haven’t had a Greysheet community around me. I have of course met other Greysheeters, at retreats and various meetings when I was in towns where there are meetings, but in general I have been on my own. On my own? No! Greynet has been my meeting place, my daily dose of Greysheet connection, along with my sponsor. I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t be abstinent without Greynet, but I strongly suspect I wouldn’t have been able to be. This is a vital lifeline for me, as it is for many others. I can’t even begin to thank Grainne for starting it, and every moderator who ever served for maintaining it as a safe and helpful place focused on Greysheet abstinence.

I’ve been on moderation many times, by the way. I’m on moderation right now. All I have to say about that is that while there are many things I worry about, this isn’t one of them. I’m sorry I broke the rules, unintentionally of course, and I’ll try not to do it again but moderation as such I couldn’t care less about. Whatever…

I’m grateful that there are so many people on this Greynet who have been supporting my abstinence by just being there, and some of them have become friends. Greynet is a wonderful place. I don’t eat, NMW!

Through the lens of gratitude

I suppose the topic of gratitude and viewing things through it is one I don’t tend to struggle with much – I am keenly aware of how awesome my life is and that it couldn’t be any better. I absolutely know how blessed I am in what I have, where I live, the people around me, my relationships and my situation as a whole…

Sure there is another perspective – I own nothing, I have hardly any money, I’m unmarried, I can’t eat like other people – but to be honest I see all these things as great things too, I love that I’m not tied down anywhere (through property), that I have enough money to sustain myself, that I have the freedom only singleness can give, that I know what I’m eating and I’m not obsessing about it or dieting etc. etc.

The first perspective is one I have to make myself think about, i.e. what would an outsider think of my life. The second perspective is the way I see my life. I’m grateful because I really and truly believe that my life is awesome.