How it was
I grew up eating too much as a child, and I was chubby, but I was never bothered enough about it to really cut down on the food. I only started dieting in my late teens and quickly got into veganism / entirely fat free eating (Dr McDougall). This helped me lose some weight, but I also worked out a lot, and over time the boundaries needed to be pushed further and further: I seem to have had incredible self-control at that time (mind you, I ate all the time, gigantic portions of rabbit food). I remained on that no-fat diet for over two years. At college, I was at a point of eating about 600 calories a day while exercising a minimum of 2 hours (high-intensity aerobics and spinning) every day – the photo on the right was taken then, in my dorm room. Ironically, I never got truly skinny – probably because all I was eating was carbohydrates!
My downfall came at my 22nd birthday, while I was still at college in Durham. Friends took me out for a celebratory dinner, and I figured I’d just eat whatever I wanted there and get back to my regular diet afterwards. I never did. The floodgates opened and they never closed again – I went on to gain over 50 lbs. in under 6 months.
After that, I remember binges in college – after that fateful birthday – when I went to the store, buying everything I wanted because it would of course be the last binge, the mother of all binges, the one that was finally so bad that it would make me stop. But today, I might as well eat all the best stuff I wanted, end it with a bang. Back in my dorm, I would start eating – keeping the best for last, which of course meant that I had to eat through everything else to get to the best stuff – and sometimes I was so full that I physically couldn’t take any more. Then, I would eat over a garbage bin, chewing and spitting, only because there was physically no way I could swallow to stuff more into my body. After binges, I remember hovering over toilet bowls and sinks for hours on end, wishing, praying, begging to be able to vomit. Pounding my belly, shoving fingers and toothbrushes down my throat. I could not. Today, I humbly thank God for that.
When the urge to eat hit, I was completely powerless. Sometimes, when dieting, I would delay the inevitable but that’s what it was in the end – inevitable. A thought would enter my mind, a certain food, maybe because I saw an advert or for no reason at all. It would consume my mind, my thoughts would circle around it for hours and days, drowning out everything else and making concentration impossible. Eventually I would break down and buy that certain food, along with a great many others, because this would now be the very last binge – but today, I would eat like there was no tomorrow. A few hours later, I would sit in my recliner or lay on my bed with a grossly bloated belly, breathing shallowly and sweating cold sweat, hating myself and hopelessly crying – quietly, only tears running down my face, because I didn’t have the energy to even sob.
What happened: how I found Greysheet
I was finally beaten, in the deepest part of my being understood that I was a slave to food. I had tried every diet out there, from fat-free veganism to fat-fasting on Atkins, and I eventually understood that my eating had nothing at all to do with my physical needs. I was not sane, and I knew it – all hope was finally gone. I was ready to fully surrender. One of the things I’m immensely grateful for is that I never had to experience the disheartening pain of multiple Day 1’s: whenever I have wanted to be abstinent, I was able to do it. I have had 4 Day 1’s in total, but going back out has been a conscious choice each time and never a “slip”.
I found Greysheet in 2004 while living in New York City. I was desperate, in a job I hated and was about to be fired from, living in terrible conditions, and eating like I wanted to die. I got abstinent and stayed abstinent for… 18 days, after which I decided that I really didn’t have that disease, that I really wasn’t as bad as all those weirdos I met at meetings. So I stuck the Greysheet in my diary as a kind of souvenir and moved on (to eating and dieting my way through the rest of the year).
Almost exactly a year later, in March 2005, I lived in MD and the food had finally beaten me. I was stuck in a 2-week cycle that seemed cast in concrete, without escape: for 2 weeks I would diet (various different diets, usually low carb) and on the 2nd weekend I would binge. There was no getting away from that binge. The mental obsession would start and it didn’t matter what I did or how I attempted to distract myself/ delay/ white-knuckle it, that second weekend was always a desperate binge fest that would leave me sitting on my armchair, stuffed to painful levels, unable to move, breathing shallowly and sweating cold sweat as I loathed myself for having done it again. One day in March I remembered the Greysheet. It was just a few days to the 2nd weekend and I knew the binge was coming, it was inescapable, so I searched for the Greysheet in my old diary, and found it. I had nobody’s phone numbers any more, but I did remember the Greynet and posted a message there that I needed a sponsor. I grabbed the first person to reply, who became my sponsor for over a year. I was abstinent from that day on and the binge that was inevitable never materialised…! The miracle happened.
In January 2006 I moved to England. By then I’d had quite a bit of weight loss and felt fairly stable in my recovery. I found a wonderfully warm, loving family in the church I became part of… but over time they became quite concerned about my weighing and measuring, which they perceived as me being dependent on a “man-made programme” rather than on God and taking a “lesser” version of freedom. I made the mistake of arguing with them (how can civilians understand? – I’ve given up such futile pursuits now). By May, it had come to the point that I decided to leave Greysheet, but thought I would continue to weigh and measure. I did not pick up sugars/ grains/ starches again, but gradually let go of weighing and measuring. Day by day, week by week, the insanity picked up momentum like a snowball going downhill. Within a short time, I was bingeing again (even without the sugars/ grains/ starches!), starving, dieting, obsessing, going crazy. I needed Greysheet back and I knew it. My chance came in October 2006 when I went to a conference in Germany for a week, which took me away from my friends in the UK. I made contact with a GS’er before I left to commit my food while away, and was abstinent from the first day at the conference. So by the time I got back to the UK, I already had a week’s abstinence back and did not discuss it any longer. One roommate observed me weighing again when I was back and said, “Are you doing this again?” – and I simply replied yes. Since then, I have not defended Greysheet to civilians again… I will happily tell people what I do and how it works, but I won’t discuss whether or not I need to do it.
I stayed abstinent from 15 October 2006 to 10 November 2009, just over 3 years. During that time I had to change sponsors (I’d lost my first sponsor after moving to the UK because our time differences made it impossible to call), and after trying to work with several people here in the UK I found a wonderful sponsor in the States, from the CT community, a no-nonsense, no-frills, down-to-Earth Greysheeter who guided me and who I valued hugely.
In the final 18 months of that abstinent time, I found myself steadily gaining weight. My response to that was to restrict – to limit my choices from the Greysheet. I restricted more and more, eventually getting to a point where only a fraction of the foods on the Greysheet were “OK” for me to eat… and I held on… but over time, I became more and more resentful at how limited my diet was (and I didn’t enjoy it) and how it failed to yield results. I decided to leave Greysheet in order to try and find my own way. It didn’t work.
Instead of the sanity I had on Greysheet (a limited sanity, to be fair, towards the end because I was dieting severely and unsuccessfully) I walked straight back into madness. If I was restricted on Greysheet, now things got even worse… I would fast completely twice a week, eat only meat for weeks (zero carb), did a liquid diet with doctor’s supervision, and bought a full-on diet system with food delivery to the tune of £1,000.
I’m so sorry I spent that money. There was nothing I could stick to. Weekends tripped me up, almost every time.
On 8 June 2010, I returned.
Today I no longer question my need to weigh and measure. I have made that decision and I won’t revisit it. I do the footwork – I pray, do service, stay close to the group – and as a result, my life doesn’t even resemble the one I had before. First and foremost, I now have a spiritual connection to my Higher Power, whom I call God. I believed in God before, but I couldn’t have a relationship, because food took up too much headspace. I have heard that you can tell what your priorities are by how much time you spend on them. Well, food was way beyond “a priority” for me; it was my 24/7 thought, my obsession, my god. No spiritual connection with a Higher Power other than food was possible. Only when I surrendered.
I have structure in my days now. At first, all I did was weigh and measure my food, and that was OK. I still have days today when I do little else, and it’s OK. In the beginning, I had to learn the routines, learn how to do things abstinently, go through every life routine abstinently for the first time a new experience. There was little time for other pursuits, and for the first few weeks I actually passed a lot of time between meals sleeping (as good a way as any to make sure I didn’t eat). Now, I have other interests, but I’m very careful to keep their importance below that of weighing my food. Why? Because I’m conscious of the fact that all of my other pursuits are possible only with abstinence, so if I lose my abstinence, I lose them as well. This way, by putting abstinence first, I can and do have a full life.
My food is sexy – I will no longer restrict my choices. My meals are generally repetitive because I like it that way. I try new things occasionally – I’ve set up a blog at myGSmeals.wordpress.com where I share pictures of my food. I will never again make a choice to consciously deprive myself of what I love most, and because of that when it does happen (in travel, for example) it’s no big deal. That said, my meals are very simple to begin with because I don’t want to spend lots of time in the kitchen. Simple, but gloriously GOOD.
- looking forward to my next awesome meal
- the thought of my sponsees, that I’d lose them
- the thought of losing my service opportunities
- the community: outreach calls, emails
- staying close to the community!! Especially as an outpost, which I was for the first 9 months of my abstinence.
The picture on the right is myself when abstinent, taken in November 2007.
I thank God every day that I have been given the Greysheet as well as the willingness to do it. I love the freedom I have, and how I get to build my life on a foundation called Greysheet. There is so much more to my life, so many pursuits and interests, than the programme; but the programme is the absolute, unshakeable foundation of it all. Because of Greysheet, I have a real relationship with God (rather than one that centred around food, like everything else). Everything is put into perspective: whatever happens in my life is really just a situation in between meals.
No matter what
Susanne in the UK