Tag Archives: how-it-was

Day 16, cravings

Sorry, I got my daycount wrong in previous emails, it’s day 16 today. Thank goodness my abstinence doesn’t depend on my math skills – as long as I can figure out that 4.0 means 4.0, 8.0 means 8.0, etc. then I’m OK.

And I am abstinent today: I have weighed my 3 meals off the CGS, written them down, committed them to my sponsor, and I eat nothing uncommitted, no matter what. That’s the most important thing.

I have such a craving for cigarettes. That is so odd because I gave up smoking almost exactly 10 years ago! Why it now rears its head… I haven’t had a single cigarette in those 10 years, but in the past three or four weeks I have really, really wanted to smoke. Why?! I didn’t feel that way when I initially got abstinent, or any time during abstinence. It could be that things became so desperately bad in my addictions during the last year or so that giving up one addiction re-triggers another… who knows?

It’s difficult to look through the past months and admit what kind of insanity it was. It was nuts, but somehow I convinced myself I was learning and growing and going somewhere. I was only going up in weight, but certainly wasn’t getting better at managing my food.

Here are some things I have done after leaving Greysheet after 3 years of abstinence (one observes an increase in insanity on this list)…

  • low carb
  • zero carb
  • hypnosis
  • chewing and spitting food back out (ugh)
  • doctor-supervised liquid diet (450 cals a day) – that lasted about a week
  • food delivery diet (cost: £1,000 for 5 months – I didn’t even do it for one month before I saw reason and returned to GS, so now I sell off the foods on eBay)

In between those dieting attempts, binges of ever increasing frequency and size. Misery. Fat. Bigger clothes. Defeat.

With that kind of insanity, I’m not surprised any and all addictions I have ever had come back up. I want to smoke today, but I still have this healthy fear of it: quitting was the hardest thing I have ever done and I’m afraid if I pick up even one, I will have them all back and I probably won’t have the strength to quit. That’s the only thing keeping me from going out to buy a pack right now. It wouldn’t be only one pack – it would be back to a pack a day, and at the prices here that would be at least £5/day, that’s £35 a week, that’s £140 a month that I don’t have.

More importantly though, today I don’t eat, no matter what. I suspect that picking up cigarettes could seriously endanger my abstinence as well, because my default mentality is “oh well, blew that, might as well blow everything else”. Can’t go there today.

Day 6 – weekend and supermarket shopping

I’m checking in to say I am still abstinent today, the Greysheet magic is back. I am grateful beyond words… I had barely allowed myself to hope. The weekend’s as good as over and I haven’t eaten.

Over the past few months, most weekends were binge times. I could not escape the routine, however well I planned and kept busy. This weekend wasn’t even a struggle really – what a blessing.

I didn’t want to challenge myself with both major issues that had been tripping me up for months, again and again; I thought I’d face the weekend and pray for help, and if I got through that then I could tackle the other major problem: supermarket shopping.

In the past (non-abstinent) months, I would be on a well-planned diet and things were going great until I went shopping. Somehow I was unable to leave the supermarket without a “treat” – and once I had that “treat” in my shopping basket, it really didn’t matter any more and I bought all the binge foods I wanted. I’m not a one-bite, one-treat kind of person. If I’m going to have it, I’m going to have all of it and more.

Well, it didn’t work out that way this weekend, I hadn’t planned well enough. I have to relearn living abstinently, and so I ran out of raw vegetables. Meaning that I had to go shopping for veg. And I did… bought nothing but abstinent stuff… left the supermarket… and that was that. Thank you, God, for blessing me with the GS magic again. I won’t take it for granted.

Why I left (and am now back)

I’ve been giving the issue of why I left GS in November last year a lot of serious thought. Perhaps some of my thoughts can serve as a warning for anyone who’s in a similar situation.

As with everything, there’s not one single reason that made me leave. I certainly didn’t “make a mistake” – no food “accidentally” found its way into my mouth, and bang, my abstinence was gone. I made a decision after lots of thought and prayer, which I advised my sponsor of in advance, to leave Greysheet on 1st November 2009 and go my own way. I made that decision with a very heavy heart because I knew it meant severing relationships within the fellowship.

How did it come to this?

Not overnight, of course. I had just celebrated 3 years of abstinence (as a dear abstinent friend of mine would say, that’s about 20 minutes) but long before I hit that milestone I wasn’t in the best place any more. I had regained weight from my lowest in abstinence, about 10 lbs. up. In order to get rid of that, I began to diet on the Greysheet. Perhaps I should have seen it coming, because that was a major factor in me leaving Greysheet 3.5 years earlier… I cut out soy products. Then I cut out dairy. Then I made sure I chose the wateriest, lowest-calorie vegetables. I never touched the more sugary fruits. I cut out gum, then soda, then all artificial sweeteners. Rules drew in closer and closer around me, boundary lines kept getting tighter – as did my clothes, as I was still either maintaining or gaining!

This was a pattern that continued for over a year. In order to compensate for my lack of enjoying my food, I threw myself into Greysheet as the fellowship: I did lots of meetings (phone), sponsored people, faithfully communicated with my sponsor who shared much more than my food, did an AWOL, even wrote weekly essays on recovery topics. But my food just wasn’t good. I didn’t look forward to the next meal, and I thought that’s just for early abstinence… I should be beyond this, I should be over this need to LOVE my food, I want to be thin, I’m in recovery now and saner around food. I should be more spiritual than this.

I think this long period of sub-#10 meals was the main factor in my becoming willing, over time, to consider letting GS go. I became more and more resentful at the bountiful choices others had, not realising that I would have much wider choices if I only chose to. I felt I was fat and GS wasn’t delivering what I dieted for anyway. I’m amazed I did manage to hold on for as long as I did, with that kind of mindset.

So in the end, it all came down to vanity – I left because I wanted to get thinner. I gained 45 lbs. instead.

Topic: Getting out of isolation

Isolation. Am I an isolator? I think I didn’t have that tendency, growing up, but I became one. When I was a child, and in my teenage years, I thrived on being around people. I was open – I found it easy to speak to strangers and make friends. In fact, in my teens, as home life was going badly I relied on friends as something akin to family. They were who I wanted to be around, not my home family.

I think one part of the change that happened came when I lived at my aunt’s, whose psychological terrorising of us all was continually invading, violating any privacy we might have had. So I became more protective of it. But I didn’t overeat compulsively yet, at that time – that came later, once I had moved out and was living with my grandmother, who also (though in a different way) had a habit of attempting to violate my privacy. Her way was just more sneaky, spying and such. So again I became protective – and of course once my overeating really took off, the shame of that increased my isolationism exponentially!

The food has always been a source of shame to me, ever since I began to binge. Which wasn’t until very late in my teens, early 20’s. So because this is such an integral part of me, of my life, I isolated from people and from life. Because of the shame, mostly, but also because I genuinely did not want to be with others when the food became my best friend.

People began to look unpredictable, I became fearful (of being “found out”), I was guarding and protecting myself. So I looked at people with suspicion, and would not let anybody near. The food replaced them, my friends, my family – the food was where I found consolation, where I went when things went well and when they went wrong. It usurped more and more of what my world had been.

In Greysheet abstinence it still took me quite a while to come out of the shame and isolation. First, the shame went… slowly. For my first six months of abstinence, nobody I knew personally knew that I was doing anything different with my food. I had never eaten in front of people anyway, so what I did in private, nobody knew. But of course after six months, people began noticing that I was losing weight and as I gained confidence and read other GS’ers stories, I slowly began to “come out”. Today everybody I know knows what I do and I have no problem going anywhere with my scale and food backup, and eating out, eating with others, having others eat with me… no shame there.

But the other thing, of food being a better friend and viewing people with fear, that took much longer to go. And it’s probably still not fully gone, although I can see immense progress – especially recently, I have been connecting with people so well and I’m thriving on it. But even years into abstinence I would often feel safer around food than around people. My food was safe (abstinent) and people were not safe. They had their own minds, they were unpredictable, and I feared them. As I grow in abstinence and recovery, and maturity dare I say, I’m so encouraged by how easy it has been for me recently – I haven’t tried harder, it has simply happened. I’m so grateful for this programme and the chance it gives me at living a full life where food is in its place!

Hitting bottom

I thought about my experience of hitting bottom. There’s the old saying, “Your bottom is where you stop digging the hole” – different for everyone. For me personally, I remember very well how I used to wish and pray for the ability to make myself sick, to get rid of what I had just eaten, and no matter how I tried I never could.

Today – as I live abstinently, sanely – I can only humbly thank God that I never succeeded. I suspect it would have cost me more years in the disease as I might have been able to avoid some of the weight gain… it would certainly have ruined my teeth… my oesophagus… who knows what else. Looking back I can barely believe how desperately I wanted to be bulimic! So I stopped digging before I got to that point, but I’m quite sure that eventually I may well have succeeded. And dug deeper.

Also, I never broke the 200-lb mark, not even close. The misery I had was bad enough for me; perhaps my threshold for pain is lower than that of others. I hated, loathed myself, couldn’t look in the mirror. I got out of breath too quickly. I sweated too much.

I remember one particularly humiliating episode, while living in New York. Once again I was on a diet and exercise regime, and so I went to run in Central Park. Much, much further than my fitness level allowed, I pushed myself hard. It was summer, and I was wearing long, loose training pants and a T-Shirt. My thighs rubbed together, but with the pain I was feeling all over and ignoring, I ignored the pain of that until it became fiery and very acute. So then there I was, in the middle of central park, and I felt like my inner thighs were on fire and bleeding – and I could hardly stop, bend over and check! So I had to keep going, at that point I was walking. Somehow, walking like the Michelin man or a sumo ringer, I slowly staggered back to the subway, and back home. It was a long, slow, painful, humiliating journey.

Once I got home I saw that the chafing had actually destroyed the seam, which had disintegrated and the ragged edges of fabric and stitching had produced something of a burn on the insides of my thighs. That didn’t heal completely for weeks! I don’t remember if I ate that day, but I’m sure I did (or soon after): after all, now that I couldn’t exercise for a while, what was the use anyway?

That was one of my bottom experiences. I didn’t get abstinent then. A bottom experience was never enough for me to get abstinent… I think I needed all of them, together, added up to defeat any notion of willpower or self-sufficiency I had. I had to be beaten, and I guess it took me fewer beatings than it did others – I’m a wimp really – and more beatings than still others who had the sense to recognise their patterns earlier. I hate thinking of all these humiliating episodes I went through and yet they took me to where I am now: abstinent, healthy, sane. For that I am grateful.

Don’t quit before the miracle happens

Great topic, don’t quit before the miracle. My mind went not so much to the issue of quitting before it, but to the miracle itself – and the fact that I am abstinent today is indeed a miracle, and I’m not using that word lightly. By miracle I mean that something happened to me by a power greater than myself, that there is absolutely no way I could have ever achieved it by my own devices. No amount of willpower, discipline, wishing, hoping, chastising myself… would ever have relieved my obsession continuously.

I emphasise “continuously” because I’m like the alcoholic in the Big Book who quit for a few months – on self-knowledge, on motivation, whatever, and then gets caught out and without even thinking takes that first drink… and a few hours later hits himself over the head, baffled and defeated, not understanding what had happened. I had no continuous defense against the first bite. I would start to feel better, relax my iron grip on myself – because there is no way I can keep an iron grip on anything for the rest of my life – and there I went, baffled because the condition hadn’t gone away after all, and the phenomenon of craving hit again.

Two miracles happened to me, personally. I know it’s not the same for everyone. But for me, there were two distinct miracles once I completely and utterly admitted defeat and was ready to do anything whatsoever to be relieved of my condition:

  1. The craving was removed.
    At the end of my eating days, I was deadlocked in an absolutely rigid, inescapable pattern. I would be able to diet for two weeks, starting on a Monday. I would get through the first weekend. Sometime around the end of the second week, craving would develop. I would resist it, sometimes for days – and when I talk about craving here, I’m talking about an absolute obsession with one particular food (probably different each time) that would be on the forefront of my mind every waking minute, everywhere I went, in everything I did. I could not outrun it, and it would not go away. That particular food was there, and no matter how desperately I tried to make it go away or out-wait it… it never did go away, until I broke down. It literally wore me down.
    When I became Greysheet abstinent, I abandoned myself to the programme entirely but must admit that I didn’t hold much hope beyond two weeks. But the miracle was that this inescapable craving never happened again… there is absolutely nothing I did or could have done to make it go away, it was relieved by a power greater than myself.
  2. I was given a continuous defense.
    Before I entered the two-week wheel I was on for so long, there were sometimes periods of perceived sanity: not that I ever ate like a normal person, but that I didn’t binge, either because I was on a diet or was filling up my belly with “non-caloric” vegetables until I literally could stomach nothing more. There were long periods of low-carb dieting, which meant that I avoided the physical trigger; however, my mind is not normal and so I was overeating on allowed things. I am an overeater by nature, whether or not I have sugar. But what I’m saying is, whatever diet I was on or perceived sanity I achieved for a while, there came the inevitable downfall. Sometimes even unintentional, just a bite here or there because I could handle it. Like the man with whiskey in his milk. Then a second. And another. I was exactly the same! I may have had a defense within myself for periods of time (although the more my condition progressed the less I was able to hold on), but the defense always failed. Always. I’m only human, after all.
    But a power greater than myself has been keeping me safe for 2 years and and 3 months or so now, and I trust that this will continue. There is no way I could have accomplished this in my own power for this length of time.

Now, I believe that the first miracle was one that needed to happen to me because I was in this deadlock. But I have seen people recover who have had to white-knuckle their way through early abstinence, trusting that the craving would eventually go – and it always does. Sadly, I can’t give anybody what my higher power has given me. It’s just not up to me. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t pray for it, I just received it. I was desperate. So I have no insider tips, ways to “get it”… just pray and believe that there is indeed a power greater than ourselves who could relieve our insanity, and would, if he were sought. (that’s a Big Book quote).

But I do believe that the second miracle is the one available to every single recovering compulsive overeater. After all, that’s why we are told to throw outselves onto a higher power of our own understanding – the programme doesn’t work without that, because no power of my own could relieve my condition. I have no question about that in my mind.

So, for today, I don’t eat no matter what… may the miracle continue! – and I trust it will as long as I don’t take my own will, my own power, back.

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.