Monthly Archives: October 2009

Response to a seeker

I was contacted by a newcomer who heard about the Greysheet and wants to do it, but doesn’t feel able to get started – so she asked if any of us could “chaperone” her for a month: “I would like to find a food chaperone/monitor to work with, i.e. someone to essentially come everywhere with me for the next month or so to help me stay on track.”

Here is my response…

I’ve given your idea some thought and, if I may, can I just share some of those thoughts…

  • the early AA group did take in alcoholics, Bill W. shares about that – one chap even committed suicide while staying at his house. So there is a place for that.
  • however, I and pretty much all Greysheeters I know of have our own lives and can’t just hire ourselves out. What we have to give is free, we received it for free, and we’re giving it away for free. But the way we give it away is not by chaperoning others.
  • If you are planning to live in the real world, a temporary chaperone may keep you on track but can you afford to have one for the rest of your life? Because if that’s the crutch you use, when it goes away nothing will have changed. The rest of your live begins when you get Greysheet abstinent (which could be RIGHT NOW if you want!), not after a month with a consultant.
  • I don’t know your story, but I doubt that yours is fundamentally different and worse to that of others. Read some of the stories on www.greysheet.org and see if some of them sound familiar. People have been in desperate places when they came to Greysheet, and they managed through the support of the community and their Higher Power, without being inpatients or hiring someone.
  • The Greysheet isn’t about “staying on track”. It’s not willpower that keeps us abstinent. It’s an admission that we cannot live and eat like normal people – a surrender and acknowledgement of the fact that we are not normal and can never be – so if I want to live I need to be abstinent. I can’t kid myself into thinking I can do this. I can’t. I don’t have willpower, all I have is a sober acknowledgement of the fact that I am a compulsive overeater and that I have no life to speak of when in the food. I have acknowledged that I cannot make food decisions on my own. I cannot trust my own thoughts. I can, however, trust a programme that has kept other people like me sane and healthy for 30+ years – I’m not asking questions about the programme (i.e. why can I have apples but not pears?) but I’m taking it as it is and do as it says. If my sponsor says jump, I jump and then I’ll ask how high. If my sponsor says don’t eat XYZ, then I don’t eat XYZ. I just don’t make choices any more.
  • In conclusion, this is very much a “we” programme and I understand you won’t succeed on your own. I agree with that. I could never do this without the community, without the help of other Greysheeters! It’s just that the way we can help you probably isn’t the way you imagined. There are certain steps nobody can take for you. The first one is surrender.

Have you been to the Saturday morning meeting in London?  I believe it would help you to see others who have overcome the first few days and weeks, who have come out of a place just as desperate as yours, and are now radiant and serene. They will be able to tell you how they did it. Just seeing them is an inspiration! And while there, you can make those personal connections without which none of us could be abstinent for long…

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Writing Group Topic: Asking Questions

Thanks so much for the lovely birthday wishes last week. I had the greatest time, in Denmark, where people kept surprising me throughout the day – I never even suspected some of the things they did, and got surprised every time! It was such fun.

Today I’m not feeling so good… there’s definitely a cold coming on and I feel short of breath and generally unwell. Finding it hard to concentrate, too.

Well on to the reading – asking questions? Goodness, that is a tough thing. I very much relate to another person’s share, I used to always feel like I had to pretend I knew what was expected and try to fumble through, fearing to be “found out” as a fake any second. I have to admit I still do that when I’m insecure. When I feel affirmed and safe, I have no problem asking questions… it’s when I feel like I have something to lose.

I really like the question of “How can I be most useful to you right now?” I’ve been asking how I can help before, but this way of phrasing it is really helpful because it implies usefulness, not that I think the other person needs help (which can be received in the wrong way).

I had a good conversation with David, my boss, yesterday when we did the yearly appraisal (an exercise you have to go through for HR). To put it in context, David and I get along very well because we’re very similar. He told me again yesterday, as he has many times before, that I’m a lot like himself when he was my age. He never really told me why, so yesterday I asked, and he explained what he saw in me: a quick-thinking, practical, capable and intelligent person (thanks!) but he said that he’d had some lessons to learn that I could also profit from. Particularly in listening. And he is so right – not saying I don’t listen, but he explained I need to learn how to assess what’s behind the words someone is saying. This is in a business context, of course, but definitely it’s the same on a personal level. David said I shouldn’t just respond to what the other person is saying; I should try to see the bigger picture and the agenda behind it: there is always a reason for why someone says what they say. So rather than respond to the actual spoken words, try to look behind them and respond to the underlying issues.

David’s very good at that, I’ve often noticed that. He responds thoughtfully and addresses underlying things that the other person hadn’t even mentioned, but that he sees from the context or bigger picture. Me, on the other hand, I tend to take what people say and respond to that. It’s a skill to learn. Asking questions is definitely the way to go there, too…

3 Years – anniversary thoughts

I’m Susanne, a compulsive overeater. I’m abstinent today as I weigh my meals off the CGS after I have written them down and committed them to my sponsor, and then I eat those meals and nothing else – no matter what. I make that my #1 priority today.

I celebrated 3 years’ abstinence on Thursday. Thank God… I am living in the solution and I have a life.

Today is Saturday and I haven’t eaten compulsively – so I’m officially into year 4 of abstinence. Right now I’m sitting in my living room, watching Star Trek: Voyager (yeah, I love it) and sipping a hot abstinent beverage. Life is good.

Abstinent life over the past year has been challenging in some ways. In general, having been “in programme” since March 2005, I’m fairly comfortable with the logistics of staying abstinent; I’ve never had an “accidental slip” or anything like that. Whenever I have wanted to be abstinent, I have been. There was a summer in 2006 when I allowed others to talk me out of abstinence and I suffered the result – the insanity of starving and bingeing, even though I never touched the sugars/grains/starches – over the course of about three months before I gathered the courage to stand up for my needs and get abstinent again. Or perhaps better words: I was finally desperate enough again. On 15 October 2006 I got abstinent again and have remained abstinent since then.

But the challenges have been more insidious. Due to a hormonal condition, I have been gaining weight – ironically, ever since I began working with my current sponsor (which is now probably about 2 years), I have been gaining almost every month. My sponsor is wonderful and I hate that this is happening because I feel like a burden to her. For a while I was put on the pill, which was an additional cause of weight gain, but last month I was finally put on other medication and now I’m finally hopeful for loss again. It’s terrible to keep gaining and gaining, but while I’m abstinent I can be confident I will never be *obese*. Even so: I want to look good.

So over the past few months, with my clothes getting tighter and having to move up a dress size, I have had to fight off the urge to starve or diet. To cut out just a little bit from the Greysheet allowance. It would be so easy…. and of course, the next bite would then be even easier. I cannot give the disease a foothold.

At 3 years’ abstinence, I’m not cured. I still have compulsive thoughts. I’ve struggled hugely with gum (currently I’m OK, no gum). I could pick up the food any second, I just choose not to right now. The big difference these 3 years make is that I have a life now that I don’t want to lose by picking up… I got busy! I have a job I love; a place I’m calling home; I have a wonderful group of friends around me; I’m able to help my family; and I’m doing a Master’s degree. Life is full, but I know I could unravel it all if I picked up. That’s why, even though in terms of my weight abstinence is not giving me what I want, I would be mad to exchange what I have for a life filled with food (or just food thoughts) and nothing else: because that’s how it could be.

So I don’t eat today, NMW.

Writing Group Topic: Reframing

I like the idea of reframing my thoughts. As one person mentioned, Paul’s suggestions are simply a redirection of thinking optimistically vs. pessimistically. I have a coworker who struggles with clinical depression and her pessimistic thinking is incredibly obvious – but there are many other people, less extreme, whose negativity I notice and I have always used this technique without even knowing. My housemate Helen for example is a lovely, warm-hearted person but my goodness she is very negative. I very often reframe what she says, just to get the conversation off a particular track, towards something more positive.

Helen is moving out, by the way. She has lost her job, for which she moved here, and is now looking to move back to her parents. I have all sorts of fears to deal with about this. We’ve just started to get along really well and become friends; I’m not clinging on to her but I worry about who may replace her. Previously, my landlord Duncan let me choose who moved in; this time, he told Helen that he would place an ad for the room and I would only get to meet & approve people. Duncan also emailed me to say that gas & electricity bills are such that he will have to make changes to the contract when it ends in February. I’m already very stretched for this place, so I’m concerned: not yet worried, but concerned. Moving again wouldn’t be a big deal but it’s a hassle I don’t want to undergo yet again if I can help it!

So how do I reframe this situation? Not sure – this place is wonderful, great landlord, large and spacious house. I could move to the smaller room that Helen is vacating, if I have to, but I don’t want to so I’m not suggesting that to Duncan… only if worst comes to worst.

I think the bigger picture of reframing is simply the idea that I get to choose my own attitudes and thoughts, which determine my emotions. The way I think about something – and I can consciously choose that – determines how I feel about it. I’m quite good at choosing my thoughts in many ways, like redirecting my thoughts away from food when struggling… but often there are conditioned, instinctive thoughts where it doesn’t even occur to me that I could think about something differently. Guess it’s all a matter of growing!

Thank you for being with me on this journey.

Writing Group Topic: Communication Formulas

I think it’s been taught pretty much everywhere that communication is addressed that you should always use “Me” messages – making communication about the way *I* feel about something, rather than becoming accusatory or generalising. That one I can definitely agree with!!

Not everyone will respond in kind, though. I guess this isn’t entirely on topic for this issue, but one thing I’ve found is that while I use “I” messages and try to talk about my side of the street, lots of people then concentrate and respond to MY feelings – when the intent was to get them to open up about theirs. For example, at meetings we’re told to talk about our own ESH and people respond with their own; outside programme, though, people will listen to what I share and not reciprocate. I find that difficult…

The statement that I am obliged to communicate my feelings to the person struck me. I don’t do that. In fact, the more important someone is to me the less I tend to communicate my feelings (because I think they’re not valid, because I’m afraid of disappointing or hurting them, because I’m afraid of showing my true colours because I think they’re awful…). If I don’t care about someone, I’ll give them my feelings – no problem – and yes, I can do that concisely and professionally without personal offense. But with the people that matter to me, the more they matter, the less I’m willing to show myself. I hate it when others do it to me, but I do have a tendency to try and be whatever the other person wants me to be.

Probably – no, definitely – it has to do with self-value and a subconscious conviction that what is inside me would repel people.

Grace

I didn’t write yesterday. I had committed to, but I didn’t. But I’m still abstinent.

There’s something about abstinence that is different. I commit to other things on a no-matter-what basis (like writing to Greynet daily in October, or exercising daily) and I fail miserably – yet somehow with the food I don’t. I can only accept this as a gift from God because it’s definitely not something I accomplish.

I wish I had a no-matter-what switch and could just do what I really wanted to do on a consistent basis. Perhaps I should learn that through abstinence, learn the ability to commit no matter what and stick to it. But I haven’t learned it yet… I don’t know if I ever will, because it’s not a switch or trick or skill… just a gift.

Or perhaps I should give myself some grace to be non-rigid about various things in my life that aren’t life-threatening. The food is… everything else isn’t. Yes, that’s a new thought, I think I’ll ponder it for a while.

I’m F-I-N-E

A “red flag” happened yesterday with my sponsor.  She pointed it out, and I’m now thinking about it: I’ve had a stern warning about the stability of my abstinence.  Of course there’s a danger I’m aware of, in that I’ve had all this frustration with weight gain (although I have much more hope this month as my medication was changed), but I felt I needed to think about it more deeply and see if there’s anything below that.  I would have thought that apart from the weight gain I’m fine, but AA has a handy acronym for that word… fearful, insecure, neurotic, emotional.  Am I any of these?  All of these?

F – Fearful.  I’m fearful of… growing out of my clothes.  But what’s behind that, underneath?  I’m fearful of not looking good, of being the fat one in a crowd.  I’m fearful of my greed, to be honest: despite having been abstinent for a while (or, as another GS’er I know who has over 30 years would say, “for about 20 minutes”) I’m so aware that I want more than I get.  I want more food, always.  And I know that if I start, I don’t stop because I want more and more… the whole bag, the whole crate, the truckload.

I – Insecure.  Oh yes I’m insecure… with my weight gain, and parallel to that my coworker who I really don’t get along with has been on this crazy liquid diet and has lost so much she’s now thinner than I.  Never mind that she has stomach problems and is losing hair so much it’s become visible, I am insecure and feel threatened.  And envious!!!  There is no rationality about that.

N – Neurotic.  Am I?  I don’t know… I don’t even really know what the word means.

E – Emotional.  There’s been lots of emotion lately, with all that’s going on in my family; they are in a different country but I still care, and of course I visited only a couple of weeks ago.  I can’t expect that not to affect me.  Although I’m now much more hopeful about the situation as such, I know I’m involved and I’m emotional about it.

Here it is… there’s always more.  I work this programme to the best of my ability.