Monthly Archives: March 2009

Greysheet: recovery from binge eating

Just sharing a few thoughts if I may. I’ve been pondering my abstinence, Greysheet, and life (as you do) and what occurs to me is that Greysheet really and truly delivered what it said it would do: for the past 2 years and some months, I have been recovered from binge eating. I haven’t had an episode of overeating compulsively a single time during that time.

Sometimes it’s helpful to keep my expectations of Greysheet in check, though. A much loved friend once asked me why, if I was recovering, I wasn’t getting well – i.e. why did I continue to need the medicine of Greysheet? Well, I don’t believe Greysheet ever promised to heal me or fix me. It promised to relieve me from compulsive eating and binge eating and it has kept that promise.

Frankly, I don’t think there is such a thing as fixing me. I am an addict; whether that is through nature (I was born with it?) or nurture (up to a certain point, I did have choices?) is completely irrelevant to me today because the fact is that I am. I can’t turn back time so the only reasonable response to the situation is to deal with it, as it is now. I don’t need to psycho-analyse myself. I don’t even need to know why. What I need to know is, “so what?” – and Greysheet has answered that question.

Again, Greysheet gives me recovery from binge eating. It doesn’t give me recovery from other addictions, such as binge chewing gum abuse, binge sweetener abuse… if I were an alcoholic, the Greysheet would not help me. If I had drug issues, the Greysheet wouldn’t help me. Greysheet only helps me recover from binge eating. I look at the 12 Steps as a distinct thing, they are not the Greysheet and the Greysheet is not the 12 Steps. They go together, and if I want to work on my character defects and addict personality then I am well advised to practice the 12 Steps, but no amount of 12-Step practice alone will ever relieve my compulsive overeating. I can do Greysheet without the 12 Steps, but I can’t do the 12 Steps meaningfully without the Greysheet.

I can do the Greysheet perfectly from Day 1. My practice of the 12 Steps won’t be perfect until my dying day and that’s OK.

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Writing group topic: my addict brain

My brain is that of an alcoholic, of that I truly have no doubt. I could be addicted to alcohol or drugs just as easily as I am to food – the only reason I’m not an alcoholic is that my father was (he doesn’t drink any more, 14 years now) and I have always found him, and the smell of alcohol on him, so disgusting that there was no way I could ingest that stuff myself. Plus, I can’t stand not being in control. So even when I did try alcohol that didn’t taste like alcohol (such as those alcopops, vodka that tastes like soft drinks), once I felt not fully in control of everything any more, I was off it. Did not like the feeling one bit.

Pot also never agreed with me: I enjoyed getting high for about 20 minutes but then I would get so miserable, nauseous, that it really put me off that as well.

And as for other things, I’ve simply never been tempted.

So food it was, food it is. The addiction, the thinking, the mind is the same – and it’s still strong, even in abstinence. It’s different things now. Gum, for one (although I’m off it now, I have to guard on a daily basis!); sweeteners too. I can rationalise, I will negotiate back and forth, and when I have it I’ll not have just one but lots and lots. There’s no middle ground for me. The problem as I see it is that once I identify a substance, or even a behaviour, as an issue, it becomes that much more dysfunctional… for example, I used to use sweeteners with no problem at all, but once I began to think they might be a problem with my weight (which has been a continual frustration throughout my journey) and tried to cut them out, I began an unhealthy overdo / quit / overdo / quit cycle. Now I wish I could use them sanely like I used to. It’s a progressive disease.

Writing Group topic: the insanity / psychology of binge eating

This is the part of the book that I get. I’m totally there. These things are so obvious to me, and yet, I needed to be told – because I wasn’t smart enough to figure them out myself, but once I was told, everything clicked into place. I can’t think myself into right thinking because my thinking is screwed up. That makes total sense, doesn’t it? And I knew that my problem was a thinking one. I’d often get these particular binge foods into my head, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to get this out of my head again. They just lodged, driving me insane, making concentration impossible, no matter how long I held out – the obsession held out for longer. Then I’d eventually break down and since my defenses were broken down anyway, I’d go ahead and have absolutely everything in sight and then some. Make the binge worthwhile, so to speak.

As someone else mentioned, the AA idea of us being “insane” (restore us to sanity) – I never had a problem with that. I knew I wasn’t fat by accident. I knew my binges were to blame, and that eating like I was eating was not normal. It was insane and I hated it! It was controlling me and that knowledge alone got me ready to surrender to anything. I cannot stand feeling out of control: that’s why I’ve never been drunk.

I really have never argued about my sanity: when it comes to food, I know it’s not there. Nor will it ever be. That’s why I have an externally imposed structure – the Greysheet and accountability – that I stick to. I don’t make decisions, I don’t figure things out when it comes to food. I’m not to be trusted to do that.

But of course, the “-ism” is more than just food and as someone else said, it’s ME – my personality, the way I am, as well. Greed goes beyond the food: what we call the “disease of MORE”. I’m a MORE-person. I want everything, more of it, and right now too. However, any context outside the food that I act this “-ism” out is pretty harmless, won’t kill me or others, and is something I can work on gradually. Modifying my behaviour until the inside has changed. And yes, that works (pretend until it’s true).

Living calmly and efficiently

I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago, my boss asked me to come to a meeting with a VIP: a lunch meeting. This person is highly important to our entire organization, and the Directors are very, very careful in their relationship with him. So the fact that my boss wanted me to come was a huge show of trust. But of course, a lunch meeting! I asked my boss how he would like me to handle this – giving him the choice, i.e. I could eat before, or after, or bring my own, or try to order some items off the menu while bringing backup. We decided that I would bring my food, after I had checked with the place and found that the only abstinent part of the meal I could get there was protein, while no cooked or raw vegetables were available (this was the poshest place I have ever been to, and as is customary in those places, portion sizes are minimalist!). While there, I explained that I had allergies and this was safer, and that settled it. No VIP or good impression I think I should make could possibly justify eating off Greysheet.

It’s funny how the daily reading I do often coincides with what’s happening in my life. In fact, with how sparsely I’ve been posting in recent months because I’ve been so busy, it’s probably quite obvious that NOT a lot is happening in my life right now (seeing as this is my second post this week). Life flows. I have no major changes, dramas, or traumas to report – I just live. As Food for Thought says today, when we are abstinent, “we are able to function calmly and efficiently.”

  • I function: every day I’m growing in the relationships around me (having just moved here 6 months ago, that is still very fresh); I perform well at work and enjoy my job; I look after my body by walking 40 minutes on weekdays – to and from work.
  • I’m calm: somehow something has changed, as I have moved here and am establishing new relationships. I have grown in the 2.5 years that I lived in Winchester – when I arrived there I was very different to how I am today. So my new friends here only know me as I am now, without the context. And what’s happening is that I find a number of them actually looking to me as a confidante, someone to talk to, whose advice they seek and trust. I used to be the person seeking these things. Now, as my life both inside and outside has calmed so much, I am humbled and privileged to be on the giving side of the equation.
  • I’m efficient: I don’t have to obsess over things, or places, or people, any more than I do about food. That means that my mind is clearer, and my mental processes more efficient than if I was preoccupied with one thing all the time.

Sure, there are things on my mind – my job situation (right now I am powerless to do anything, all I need to do is wait for decisions to be made); my new circle of friends (who I’m growing to love more and more, which is great, except for one person who occupies my thoughts entirely too much; but even so, I do not obsess. I redirect my thoughts.)

Old habits die hard

I’ve been thinking about old habits, as well as new ones I’ve acquired. There’s this pseudo-scientific statement that everybody seems to have heard, that new habits are established in about 21 days. So if you do something consistently for 21 days, it becomes a habit. Well I have to say it takes me a LOT longer to develop any habit when I want to (although it seems quicker to develop habits I don’t want). Old habits or new habits, the difference seems to be this: if it’s a good habit, it’s hard to acquire and easy to lose; if it’s a bad one, it’s the other way round.

Why oh why?!

My old habit of looking to food to fix everything hasn’t died yet. I may not act on the impulse (unless it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner time) but there is an automated response in me. When I don’t feel well physically for whatever reason, be it the flu or a stomach pain, I automatically look to changing my food in order to fix it. What if there’s nothing wrong with my food? – that’s often an alien thought.

My new habit (in the process of acquiring!) of walking to work and back – about 20 minutes each way – is actually enjoyable but even so, I’m aware it will not become a habit for quite some time. I’ll do the lazy thing when I give myself the choice.

My old habit of always having to have something in my mouth – be it a cigarette (and I quit smoking over 9 years ago!), food, gum, drinks… – is still there and I find that I replace one thing with another, but never actually break the habit. Sometimes I can go without something in my mouth for a while, when I concentrate on doing that (and then I feel deprived), but most of the time there is something I’m sipping on. I drink a lot more water and approved liquids than most people. Not because I’m thirsty, or even hungry, but just because I want something in my mouth!

Then again, because I’m abstinent I get to work on these issues. If I wasn’t abstinent, the one and only habit I would be desperately trying to break would be the constant binge cycle. I’m not doing that to myself any more. So the other things, that would otherwise be buried amongst that despair because they’re really not that bad, come onto my radar and I become aware of them – working to eliminate them so that I continue to grow in contentment and serenity. Abstinence is only the beginning.

Writing Group topic: Why am I a compulsive overeater?

This first part of the book, as I said last week, is really not connecting with me. I’m not getting much out of it, in fact, I happen to disagree with some of it. He seems to say that it’s all physiological, a chemical reaction, but I don’t think that’s the whole truth for me. I am wrong in the head.

And to be honest, I’ve never questioned why. It simply never occurred to me! That has always been the case – I’ve never wondered “why me”, why did X or Y happen to me… it just did, it just is, and my mind goes to “so what” next (in other words, what do I do with this now?). So I found this section quite a tedious read.

As everyone else seems to be saying of this reading: I really don’t need to know why I ate. In my case, I’m actually not even interested. It is what it is, and the question – “so what?” – has been answered by the Greysheet. I am a compulsive overeater, reason totally irrelevant, SO I follow the Cambridge Greysheet. It solves my problem of compulsive overeating.

Letting go of sweeteners, coffee, and gum

In America, when I was on vacation there a couple of weeks ago, I drank more Starbucks coffee in two weeks than I had in the year before that… and, with a “vacation mindset”, I ended up using flavoured syrups, sweeteners, and chewing gum to excess. I mean, with abandon. I didn’t feel very good when I got home – I really felt I had overdosed a bit and wanted to get rid of all the toxic chemicals I’d been putting into my body.

So, “for lent” I gave up coffee and sweeteners. (how many times have I given up sweeteners, you ask? Many, many times.)

It’s now been about a week and a half without these things, and it is actually quite shocking just how much better I feel without them – and just how hard it has been giving them up!! Now I sip on tea while sitting at my desk, rather than coffee; I have a glass of water with a teabag in it (just can’t stand plain water) rather than a diet soda. And at work I’m really fine with these replacements. But yesterday, it was the weekend and I had time to unwind and relax – that’s when it hit, a real urge, hit me like a freight train. I was SO close to going to the shop and buying multipacks of gum to binge out on them… which is exactly the kind of behaviour I used to have with food, never just one, always the whole hog…

And I can’t claim victory over this. My experience has always been that when I surrender, even if things get tough, God always provides me a way out; and that’s what happened yesterday. I somehow managed to procrastinate just enough for the shops to close (even the 24-hour grocery stores close at 4pm on Sundays here). And I did have four cups of tea with sweetener in them… I thought it’s the lesser evil… but now I have packed away the sweetener again and that’s that.

It just hit me how compulsive I have been with these things, and I didn’t even realise it! Only when it escalated. I depended on sweetness, I looked to food for excitement again… and with the amount of sweeteners I was using I didn’t even like food very much when it came, it seemed tame and bland. Now I’m beginning to discover more and more tastes in my beautiful, natural food! And, miracle of miracles, I have the experience of getting hungry in between meals much more rarely than I did when using sodas etc. between meals.

So I just wanted to share this – I don’t know whether I’ll stay away from sweeteners after lent. I definitely will stay away from gum. I had put down gum for months but then I went “on vacation” to the US and picked it up there. Once I got back again I didn’t pick it up here. But the sweeteners… I don’t know if I’ll completely get rid of them forever. Right now I have my eyes on the next four weeks and I want to really experience them… it’s so strange. Physically I feel ever so much better like this, without them; yet I still miss them. As for coffee, I do miss it especially after meals but I am finding it much easier than I thought it would be.

But – just let me make this clear – whether I have diet soda, coffee, gum, sweetener, or any other GS-approved substance or not – I am absolutely abstinent and anyone using those things is just as abstinent. This isn’t about my abstinence as such, it is about my contentment in abstinence. IDENMW.