Monthly Archives: December 2008

End of an abstinent year

Looking back, 2008 has really been a good year. Like many others, I have been abstinent throughout the year… through celebrations, through disappointments and pain, happiness and anger. I don’t feel that there was ever a moment of real danger in terms of losing my abstinence this year (which should give some newcomers hope: it does get easier). Because food isn’t where I run to any more, however, I have struggled with a variety of other Higher-Power-substitutes. Gum. Coffee. Computer games. And, God help me, soap operas on TV….

Mind you, it is because I am abstinent that I can recognise these things as the hiding places they are, and consciously work on crawling out of them – or not running in, to begin with. I finished an AWOL in the early part of this year, which has helped and in which I worked systematically through the steps for the first time ever. It was a very difficult thing to go through – the AWOL, that is – for me because it was at a rather inconvenient time in the middle of Saturdays and I was overcommitted to studies, work etc. at that time… and I don’t think I got as much out of the AWOL as I could have… but I finished it, and that felt good. The friendships forged during that time are a great gift now.

This year, I have finished a qualification, kept and developed the job I love, moved house and with that, moved communities. I have travelled by rail, air, and car, and stayed in various places other than my home. Been abstinent throughout. In fact, with all the lack of continuity in my life, my abstinence has been something of a bedrock, something solid to stand on when everything else was in limbo. This is surely one big reason why I continue to be abstinent despite my continuing frustration with my weight, which keeps going UP and I’m not even at goal – never have been. Because the promises come true. Yes, I want to lose the weight and I’m getting more and more frustrated, but at the end of the day, I’m not prepared to walk away from the fulfilment of the promises in my life just to lose a few lbs. (which, if I were to leave GS, I probably wouldn’t lose but gain – and not just a few!)

Looking forward into 2009… I have a vacation in Spain planned in January, all by myself; two weeks visiting friends in the USA and hopefully squeezing in a few meetings in NYC and CT… right after I come back there’s the London Greysheet Roundup which I very much look forward to… I’ll re-start the studies in May, to finish… and these are just the “outside” things that are happening. I’m making resolutions, too. Whether or not I’ll stay abstinent is not up for discussion. But, for 2009, I am resolved to:

  • cut down on coffee: only have it when going out with friends, not mindlessly at work
  • enjoy a wider variety of GS food
  • exercise regularly and frequently
  • give service in the GS and the local AA community where I can
  • post at least once a week on Greynet.

The gift that keeps on giving

My name is Susanne. I’m a compulsive overeater abstinent today as I weigh my 3 meals off the CGS, write them down, commit them to my sponsor, and eat nothing uncommitted no matter what. That is my #1 priority today, and that is the gift I am giving myself today – as I did yesterday, and the day before.

My special meal is abstinent, and it’s not that different from my usual meals. That’s because I get to eat wonderful food every day of the year, not just today! And when I’m done, I will feel satisfied and happy, but not sweaty and lethargic and overfull. I am so grateful for this gift and I look forward to spending the day today with friends and family, who know about catering for my needs – and even if they get it wrong, I have backup and there won’t be a problem.

Because I do this today, and I’ve been doing it throughout the year, people are used to it and it’s not a big deal.

I will give myself the same gift tomorrow, I think.

Christmas lunch

The holidays are a difficult time for many people. I thought I’d share my experience of a company Christmas lunch on Monday… not sure it’ll be helpful, but at least it’ll show that other people are going through this, too.

This Christmas lunch was held at a pub, was set to be a three-course meal where there were four or five choices for each course. The menu was given to us all beforehand, so as to make our choices. A simple protein with one of the side-dishes would work for me. I requested the protein to be kept plain, simply grilled, and the same for the side-dish (which would have to be prepared separately). Because I would eat only the main course, and only parts of that, my manager decided that I wouldn’t have to pay for the meal at all… a lovely side-effect of eating abstinently!

So, having ordered and made sure that my instructions were understood, I went to the lunch with full back-up, kept separately. In other words, if any of the components of my meal wasn’t OK, I could replace that, without having to forego something that was abstinent. (this may sound obvious, but I always used to combine backup so I’d only have one or two containers… not smart!)

As it was a set menu of three courses, I did struggle somewhat when people were served their starters and I was hungry. I drank quite a lot of water but more importantly, I concentrated very deliberately on conversation with the people around me. The more interested I am in the person next to me, the less interested I am in their food… but yes, it was a struggle, especially because my usual lunch time was now way past.

My protein arrived perfectly abstinent, but they had misunderstood my problem and delivered a choice of non-abstinent, starchy side dishes (they thought my problem was dairy intolerance). I requested a plate of one particular side dish, which arrived within minutes and was also abstinent. Most of my co-workers have seen me weigh my food at lunchtime in the office, but one of them hadn’t and we had a laugh about my “weirdness”. I had kept the clean under-plate from the starter of the person next to me, so I wouldn’t have to request an extra plate later, and this co-worker asked if there was something special about my food, why was I keeping it, wasn’t that strange (all in good humour, I don’t mind it at all), to which the lady sitting next to me just replied that she hadn’t seen anything yet… hehe! I have to say, this sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all; I can tell if someone is being derogatory or just making conversation / having a laugh.

So I weighed, which was a bit of a pain at the table because it was so loaded and the plates were large, but it worked well enough and I enjoyed a beautiful, abstinent lunch that I didn’t pay for. I only had to use the raws backup.

When dessert came around, I was full and satisfied and requested a coffee, which I enjoyed while they had their desserts. More concentration on conversations around me, of course… I just aimed not to “romance” the food but to really be present in my conversations, and to enjoy the coffee.

At the end of the day, this isn’t the sort of thing I would choose to do every day (or even every week!) but the point of it is that I was able to participate, that I enjoyed a social time out with my co-workers and enjoyed getting to know those I sat with a little better. I do prefer to eat alone but I don’t have to have every meal be perfect any more (although, in terms of food quality and taste, this was wonderful). There are many more social functions I have to go to before Christmas, and for most of them I’ll either bring my own food or eat beforehand if it’s not a sit-down meal.┬áIn any case, the reason I go is because I want to spend time with the people there, not because of the food there.

This sort of attitude hasn’t come to me within a month of abstinence, or even a year – it’s a new freedom I’m growing into. A new interest in other people. Before I got abstinent, everything was about the food – how much can I eat, how guilty I feel, what will others think of me – and when I first got abstinent, it still was, but in a different way – I can’t have this, can’t have that, how can I arrange that they can cater for me, etc. etc. Whereas now, I found I’m really quite relaxed. I try to make sure there’s food for me, but if there isn’t, there’s always backup and that’s no catastrophe. These events aren’t about food. My food is hugely important to me, but for one meal at a special event, I don’t need it to be absolutely perfect and I can put the purpose of the gathering, i.e. socialising, over the food.

Being ready

The challenge of readiness in four dimensions… physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. I’ve been thinking about each of them.

I think the first level, physical, is necessary for me to be ready on any other level. I like to be prepared, and when I am physically prepared for something, the rest follows – reminds me of the AA saying to “act as if” (i.e. act outside, in the physical, and the other levels will follow). Physical readiness means the availability of scales, and always having enough food in the house: I never run out of anything. I am always aware of exactly what I have in the house. It means knowing my schedule for the next day, and a rough knowledge of the week ahead, so as to plan and/or prepare food in advance. These things get me physically ready.

And then, when I am prepared like that, I tend to be ready mentally as well. I may not be 100% sure about something on an emotional level, but mentally, when I have my food and physically I know everything’s ready, I’m OK. I suppose emotionally I’m never ready until after the fact. For me, emotions follow events… in other words, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this particular meeting or event until I’m in it. I may have my emotions about it before, dread or joyfully looking forward to it… but there’s nothing I can do to get “ready” emotionally. I just have to go through the physical actions.

And as for spiritual readiness… I suppose it’s the same as with everything else, readiness comes from preparedness, and that comes from the daily practice of spirituality. Just as physical preparedness in abstinence comes from the daily practice of it, a routine grows, and because I generally have that routine I can manage the emergency when it appears. Because chaos isn’t the norm.

Writing Group topic: Communities & Story Telling

Communities & storytelling. I’m not sure how the two link together for me, perhaps something will come out over this writing… I thought a lot about the idea of a community based in the past versus one in the present / future. My family (i.e. my cousins) are to me one of those communities of the past, based in the past. We don’t really communicate now. If we exchange an email per year, that’s about our average. But then, when I come to visit once a year – spending perhaps a day with them – it seems as though I’d never left, we are caught up on each other’s lives within minutes, and “everything’s the same”.

Funny how I have much more to say to strangers in programme, not only sharing my story and hearing theirs but – more importantly – sharing the present, ESH, and hope for the future. On one hand it’s logical, because they are strangers when I meet them we must exchange our stories to get to know one another, and this isn’t necessary with my family: we do know each other (on a deeper, much more unarticulated level). But why it is that we don’t exchange our present, our future hope, and any ESH in my family… I don’t know, and I think we’re all the poorer for it.

When it comes to storytelling, I guess it’s making myself vulnerable. I don’t have my story thought out before I start telling it. Every time I tell it, something new comes out – I need to hear myself say it to know what I’m going to say. This kind of vulnerability is fine before strangers and those I know only in programme, because they have similar experiences and can relate, therefore I am safe. I’m no worse than they, or better. I wouldn’t share vulnerability with my family, because a) there is a history, and b) there is a future. Because it’s easy to sever relationships that are based only on shared experience… they are “head” relationships, not “heart” relationships. I’m not saying that some people in programme don’t become “heart” friends, they do and then the situation is so much deeper, but as a group of programme people it’s easy to get out of a situation my unguarded storytelling might have got me into. But I’m stuck with my family. If I disclose something, it will be remembered (if I share at a meeting, it might or might not be remembered because people aren’t listening to ME so much as they are listening for clues relating to THEMSELVES).

Well so I guess I have found the relation between communities and storytelling, for me. I tell my story in many ways, emphasising many different things, adapting it to the audience. Life experience is so rich that I find I can tell the same story to different people in such different ways that they bear little resemblance, yet I’m not lying. But, I can’t seem to tell a story about me and be completely guarded. Opening my mouth to talk about myself always means disclosing something unintentionally. Maybe that’s just me. The more I tell a story the more I learn about it, i.e. the way I felt about it, because until I say it I often don’t even know. In my head, I look back at my life and my stories in a very detached, unemotional way – they are in the past and I don’t live there. I don’t get sad when I think about bad things in the past, for example. They are just facts. To find out my emotions, even my emotions at the time (back then) I often need to hear the story, told by myself.

Sugar coma & weigh day

Interesting topic for the week, the sugar coma. It’s been years now since I have experienced it but I hardly want to try it again. I remember, shortly after my first “stint” at abstinence in New York – at that time I was desperately dieting and bingeing and trying to keep up appearances – a friend in a restaurant remarked about going out and eating too much and experiencing what he called a “food coma”. I said nothing, we were out in a group and this comment was in no way directed at me, but I felt such shame because not only did I know exactly what he meant (and now had acquired a word to describe it!) but I was experiencing on a regular basis. Sometimes daily, sometimes (by the grace of God) weekly… but regularly.

There seemed to be no getting out of it. I hated the sugar coma and yet some part of me wanted to get there. The numbness, perhaps? But in the end I think it wasn’t this final stage my addiction was after, it was the process of endlessly shoving more and more food into my mouth. The food, the food, the food: consequences later. Of course the consequences always came, but that knowledge could not deter me when I NEEDED a binge.

And that is what happened. I was absolutely powerless. I think looking back I actually hate the feeling of “need” and the absolute hopelessness combined with greed while I was buying food, before the binge had even started, even more than the sugar coma that followed. I was driven, and I hate being controlled. Yes, after the binge I would loathe myself, apart from feeling physically ill, but the days or weeks of holding on with white knuckles to some kind of diet I knew I would never stick to for the long term… then the one food that lodged into my mind and would not go away… the build-up of NEED… until I went and got it, along with lots of others because it didn’t matter anyway, and I somehow hoped (deep down, against hope) that this binge would now be so terrible that it would put me off forever. It always did, for the minutes right after the binge. But the next morning, the next craving, would always come.

Thank you for taking me back into remembering this hopelessness. I live with so much hope now, the food is in many ways routine (although I love it and look forward to every meal) and it has lost that terrible grip on me. I love my food but it no longer controls me. Only someone trapped hopelessly can understand the meaning of freedom after that.

And against that background, a weigh-in of 1 lb. up is but a small thing. I am grateful.