Monthly Archives: July 2009

Writing Group Topic: 12-Step Communications

I’m going to use one of the questions listed in the reading. Most of them don’t apply to me – seriously – because I have no “home life” as such. In my friendships I do practice being loving, but that’s easy I suppose if you know you can go home or leave anytime.

So I’ll talk about question 12: do I have a sponsor, and do I have a working relationship with my sponsor? I’m very fortunate to be able to say yes to both. That hasn’t always been the case – I have had a number of sponsors. Each one has left a mark in my life, has contributed to my abstinence, and passed on the miracle in some way…

  1. My first ever sponsor, back when I was in New York getting abstinent the very first time, marked up my Greysheet and explained in person exactly how things worked. She relapsed after I was abstinent for about 2 weeks, and shortly after that, I went out too.
  2. My second sponsor, a year later, responded to me because I posted on Greynet. She was the first person to respond, and I just grabbed on to the lifeline she offered. At that time, I was absolutely desperate and would have done anything… and as a sponsor, this woman was fantabulous. She structured our phone calls to be 10 minutes long, I would read something from the Little Black Book and comment on it, she was available to answer her phone almost every single day. She had an enthusiasm for abstinence, told me to eat the foods I loved, and just exuded gratefulness. She had what I wanted: JOY. I worked with her for over a year, until I moved to England. I did not want to let this relationship go, but it became clear soon that there was no way our schedules could be worked out together (8 hours’ time difference!). So I looked for, and found, a sponsor in the UK.
  3. My first sponsor when I lived in the UK was herself a UK’er, and also gave me a set amount of time each day as I called, to talk about things. She structured our phone calls, too, and gave me much insight into her own recovery. Our personalities, however, just didn’t work for either of us (plus, after my previous sponsor, it would have been very hard for anyone to fill those shoes), so after a few weeks I decided to find another sponsor.
  4. Having met several UK GS’ers at the Roundup, along with some Americans who visited, I met my next sponsor there and she was American. I called her mid-day every day, having to sneak away from work, because that was the only time that worked for her. She was usually babysitting her grandchildren during my call and I didn’t feel much of a connection happening. At that time, I was being pulled away from Greysheet by well-meaning friends, I discussed my need for it, and eventually it wore me down enough to let go of Greysheet. Worst decision ever.
  5. Three months later or so I was desperate, and decided to go back onto Greysheet no matter what. This time, I called Sponsor 2, and asked if there was anyone she sponsored that would be able to sponsor me – reasoning that her style would trickle down. She matched me with one of her sponsees and I worked with her for several months… but again, connection just didn’t happen, apart from the fact that I had to call at the same time every evening (and evenings are usually social times, it’s hard to take that time out). After some months, I was looking again.
  6. I contacted a Greysheeter I had met at the Chicago Roundup several years before and had chatted with there briefly. She was on the phone list, but her sponsorship status was listed as “please inquire”. So I did, and she had an opening. She remembered meeting me, which I found really surprising! I’ve been working with her now for, hm, I think almost two years and I could not ask for more. The one thing I could never share with Sponsor 2 was how the programme works through, and in, my Christian faith (she wasn’t a Christian). With this sponsor now, I can commit by email – and I type very quickly, expressing myself this way is almost easier than verbally! – and we share both abstinence and faith. This relationship is going to a depth that no other sponsor has ever come near, and I think at this point my sponsor is the person who knows me the best in the world. She knows who I am, how I am, and never fails to challenge me when she feels I’m veering off programme (NOT abstinence, I’m talking about living in the solution). I don’t always follow or agree with her suggestions, and she doesn’t get offended by that, just lets me live my life as I see fit but without her input I would have done many things differently, and for the worse. I have come to value her insights immensely, and she is always available. Not everyone would sit down and type out page-long emails in response to my questions, or even to explore with me some life issues or decisions… whatever it is, she gives of herself and of her time so freely it humbles me. I can only hope to be a sponsor like that!

So… I am grateful beyond words for everyone who is willing to sponsor others, as I have been blessed by six people, but the best thing is that I have someone now who’s just a gem – I suppose it’s a personality thing to some degree, and we have had to work out some differences and ways of communicating without taking or giving offense, but I genuinely share so much with my sponsor that this relationship is just incredibly precious to me.

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Adult Child of an Alcoholic

I suspect I could be an “Adult Child of an Alcoholic”… this is a new concept to me that I had never thought applied to me, before. I mean, obviously I am the daughter of an alcoholic, but the term “Adult Child” implies something about stunted growth, a child that hasn’t grown up except physically, and I never thought of myself that way. While in the food, eating was the problem that eclipsed everything else, and once I got abstinent the freedom from that was so much more than I could ever imagine, so I thought this was the solution to everything.

And it is, really – because if I wasn’t abstinent, I would never have realised this ACA thing. I would have blamed the things I identify with on lots of other things, all to do with the food. Now the food isn’t there, isn’t the issue.

What happened: I simply picked up a book at the church library, something about healing for adult children of alcoholics. Just curious. Then I read the back, and it hit me like a hammer: could this be me? Not everything, but there were some very uncomfortable statements that resonate with me:

  • “I usually don’t feel happy OR sad.”
  • “I want to be close to people, but I just never make it.”

–> these two are complaints I have often made, often wondered about, but never knew that these were symptoms of being an ACA without recovery… I knew all along that most of the time I have no idea how I’m feeling, if anything; and of course I know that while I do have friendships, I have never been in an intimate relationship of any kind, I have not loved anyone since my mother’s death when I was 15. Most of the time I’m content. I perform well, I get along, I have a good life that I enjoy and friends I care about. But the above two issues remain…

Writing Group Topic: Live and Let Live

Live and let live, right. I’m good with that, because as someone who isn’t in a close relationship I have a lot more freedom to let people just live their life: if I don’t like it I can get out of the situation. Now that I have a housemate I’m very conscious that I’m not used to close relationships and every interaction I have with her is a conscious one. She is lovely – absolutely nothing wrong – but I need to remain conscious and intentional in the way I build relationship with her, be friendly (believe it or not, I do have to remind myself of that with every interaction with every person, every day).

She also has food issues, including a severe allergy to eggs. The last episode she had, she told me, was when she spotted an eggshell on her sandwich and removed it with her fingers. She was getting up to wash her hands, and fainted right then. That’s one severe allergy. I think I’ll stay clear of eggs for the time being, certainly in our kitchen!!

Also I’m quite sure that she is one of us. She’s severely overweight. Of course she’s noticed my laminated Greysheet that’s stuck to the fridge, and my scale on the kitchen counter, so we have already had a chat. She says she knows quite well why she is this way – she had a stillborn son perhaps three years ago, and thinks that subconsciously she hasn’t wanted to let go of the “bump”. She still keeps her maternity clothes and the baby things she got for her son. I had no idea how to respond – there’s no way I can emphasise with something like this, that’s a kind of pain I can’t even imagine – so I just kept quiet and let her talk.

She doesn’t have any friends in this area yet as she has just taken on a new job here, moving here from London. So, because I really like her and she is so friendly and open, it’s been easy for me to introduce her to my friends and I really hope this becomes a friendship, not just a parallel living situation. So – I’m very aware of my interactions with her, which is very much recovery work, isn’t it? All the ways I have learned as to how to relate to people abstinently. Though I’ve never been to AlAnon.

I think she will be the closest relationship I have for the time being – unless we find later on that we’re really not compatible in friendship, which can of course still happen as I know very little about her interests. Although I have found that since moving here to Reading a year ago, relationships with certain few people have really blossomed into deeper friendships. That’s a huge joy to me.

Writing Group Topic: Taking Action

I’m feeling a little unsettled (literally) as I’ve been moving around while waiting for my new place to be finished. My new landlord assures me that the weekend of 11th July is when I can move in. Until then, I’m house- and cat sitting for this week, then going to a small apartment my charity owns that has a basic kitchen and bed (but no laundry). Logistics are interesting as most of my belongings are boxed in my new house already, while I’m living out of a suitcase and discovering daily what else I should have packed.

I liked this week’s reading a lot. I love the AA idea that you change the way you feel by changing the way you act (not the other way round). Every self-help book I have ever read – and I have read many – will attempt to make you change the way you feel so as to prompt you to act differently. I have been to an OA meeting once and they had the same approach: “if only we work the Steps well enough, our desire to eat will go away”. I saw a lot of fat people there and one of the thinner ones was a practising bulimic, but abstinent. (?)

Yesterday I watched a programme on TV about a young mother who was concerned about her health, and doctors trying to help her live more healthily. She was a smoker, and had not eaten a single vegetable or fruit since early childhood. Not one. She subsisted on meat – mainly processed – frozen meals, anything processed. “Beige” foods, as they are coming to be called… and I think they are on to something: just don’t eat anything beige, that’s good advice for anybody. They did a bone density test and various other tests on her, and it revealed she had the bone density of a 71-year-old; she was vitamin and mineral deficient in virtually every vitamin and mineral there is; she was moody, tired all the time, feeling awful. So she did want to change. However, she seemed to have a real phobia about vegetables and fruits – they were unfamiliar to her tastebuds and with the doctors’ supervision she would manage to nibble a tiny bit of various samples, only to retch and spit it out again. In one interview she said that if someone were to say that you must eat dog turds to be healthy, would you do it? – and that’s how she felt about vegetables.

What I’m getting at is how the doctors approached the problem, versus what her expectations were. She expected (hoped) that they would make her like healthy food. That she would be eating it willingly. They, on the other hand, insisted that she force it down and try new varieties every day – against any feelings of disgust she may have. They advocated action first; she wanted feelings to change first. She was disappointed when their approach lacked “magic”… she did not come to like vegetables (in the short term that they filmed this), she still had to force them down. On the other hand: now she did force them down, so the net result was positive – action is what counts, isn’t it?

That got me thinking. It really doesn’t matter what I feel about things (AA saying: “feelings are not facts”). I don’t have to be a slave to my feelings. If I rationally, wilfully decide to do something – exercise regularly, for example – I may be in for a very long stretch of feelings not following action. I doubt that I will ever enjoy exercise; I’ve tried, and I just don’t. Perhaps I need to give up my expectation of the feelings and simply surrender this, because what counts is the outcome, the action. Whether I liked it or not, if I have exercised then I have done what I set out to do. If I try to psyche myself up until I want to exercise, a lot of time is going to pass in which there is no action – and no guarantee that it will ever happen.

It’s actually a very liberating thought. I can do whatever I wish – feelings notwithstanding. They may follow (which is great) or they may not, in which case I can still make my rational choice. Self-discipline: this is it, isn’t it?

There’s nothing I want more than abstinence

I’ve been thinking lately, about abstinence. My memory of active eating is fading into the distance… the pain of it has left, abstinence has given me a life and a body I can live with. I have problems, though:

  • my weight has gone up yet again. I am now almost 15 lbs. from goal.
  • after almost 60 days off sweeteners, late last month I picked them up again with a vengeance. A few days of chewing gum binges and misery followed. The gum is now down again (Day 5).
  • after a really busy period of sponsoring three people, I now have no sponsees – and it helps my abstinence to sponsor others.
  • last month I had to take the Pill back (because without it I have no cycles and that gets dangerous i.e. cancer). The result is both weight gain *and* hormonal moodiness *and* strong food cravings.
  • I can’t seem to get started on a project for my studies, time is passing, and the deadline is looming which is stressing me out.

All of these things are bothering me. They really are – no whitewashing the issue, they are bothering me.

Part of me has forgotten the pain of eating, the acute loss of control. That part wants to eat to make myself feel better when hormones make me miserable; that part wants to go on a diet and lose the last 15 lbs. whatever it takes. I can diet severely (of course, only to eventually binge severely; the net result is always GAIN). That part of me has forgotten the fact that I am abstinent by a miracle only; that I have been given a gift of an unrelenting, rigid plan that cannot be tweaked, cannot be reduced or augmented. The Greysheet is what it is, and because it has rigid boundaries I have freedom to play within them. Without abstinence, everything becomes mushy, nebulous. No right and wrong means everything is a varying degree of wrong. Grey, no black and whites. Funny that the Greysheet is not at all grey – it is black and white.

Today I need to affirm that I want abstinence more than anything. More than being 15 lbs. less. More than quick fixes. That’s because I now have the perspective to see down the roads I could take.

Q: Where does dieting the last 15 lbs. off actually lead?
A: Away from Greysheet I will never lose it, though I may well gain it (several times over).

Q: Where does “comfort” eating lead?
A: Dis-comfort – worse, misery, pain, self-hatred.

I want to be abstinent. Lately, being abstinent had become something of a “default” mode – it’s just me, that’s just how I eat – and I’m missing the initial relief, the wide-eyed excitement of discovering that there is life outside the food. I need to be reminded. Thank you for being there and helping me remember… because if I can’t remember, going off Greysheet will remind me really quickly. Jog my memory, so to speak. But I don’t want to go there; I don’t need to go there. I want abstinence more than anything.