Tag Archives: sponsorship

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: 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.

A new pair of glasses

As an aside, I was just saying to a sponsee this morning that my life these days is so far removed from the misery of the food, I live a life so free – mentally and physically – that staying close to the community and service are absolutely VITAL things for me to do because it would be easy to forget there I came from.  And I know I can have that misery back any day, if I want it.

And I don’t want it. 

As for the weekly topic:

> My Topic for this week has to do w/the changes that occur
> simply because we W&M our food w/o exception.

A new pair of glasses, I like that comparison.  When I had new glasses fitted, I experienced quite a bit of dizziness and headaches for the first couple of days.  Much like in the beginning of my Greysheet abstinence. 😉  But I need those glasses to see clearly so I needed to get through the adjustment period and now I have no more dizziness & headaches but I see clearly.

Lots of things have changed for me simply because I started w/m’ing.  My first sponsor, who sponsored me for over a year, used to promise me this.  She would tell me not to get too worked up about my character defects and/or problems just yet because I may find they work themselves out over the first year just because I’m abstinent.  And she was right!  So many things came into focus, became “clearer” for me.

Probably the biggest change in clearer vision was that I began to see the dysfunction in others (and then my sponsor would tell me to love them, not judge).  With my family I’ve always been *involved* in the dysfunction – hating it, staying on the sidelines, but nevertheless letting it get to me.  Mind you, I don’t see my family for more than once or twice a year and this is all I can take without being drawn in, but as it is now, at the times I do see them it’s different.  I observe lovingly.  It actually breaks my heart to see the misery some of them are in.  And without getting onto their case, every so often I find that one of them opens up to me in an amazing way, almost like they were sensing that I’m safe, someone to trust in.  That is a privilege I don’t take lightly.

I hope that I can serve my family and others – not just the GS community – whereas before, I was interested only (or at least primarily) in what I could GET from people.  Now, certainly with my family, when I go there I go with a view to what I can give to them. 

Only because of GS abstinence.

Sponsors and Cambridge GS

There’s something I want to address without cross-talking because I feel it is IMPORTANT (in capital letters!!) and I’m very concerned.  Greysheet abstinence is defined as 3 weighed and measured meals per day with nothing in between but black coffee, tea or diet soda – without exceptions – committed to a sponsor.  Anything else is not Cambridge Greysheet abstinence.

The way I understand sponsoring, a qualified Greysheet sponsor is someone who: 

  • has been abstinent on the Greysheet without exceptions for 90 days or more
  • has a sponsor who has been abstinent on the Greysheet without exceptions for 90 days or more (and that person has a sponsor again, and so on, and so on)

With 90 days or more of abstinence, a Greysheeter has learned enough and experienced enough to be able to guide a newcomer.  And if I don’t know what to say to my sponsee, I refer the question to my own sponsor, who refers it to her own sponsor if necessary – until the answer is found.

I would not entrust my recovery to someone who:

  1. is not accountable (i.e. not being sponsored)
  2. makes exceptions in the food plan
  3. is unclear about what abstinence means.

I feel very strongly about this, and sorry if I’ve stepped on any toes.

Sponsorship Lessons

One of my sponsees told me this morning she wanted to quit Greysheet. All the planning, the phone calling, the repetitive food (she ate the exact same thing every day), was too much for her and she felt able and ready to go it without Greysheet.  I wish her all the best and I very much respect that she told me this in person when she called, on time as always, rather than just “dropping off the face of the earth” and saying nothing.

The part of this journey I shared with this sponsee has taught me important lessons about how to sponsor.  I cannot make someone want to be abstinent.  I’m not a salesperson.  I have been given this gift and I will give it away freely, so I get to keep it, but I’m not supposed to throw it at people who don’t, or only almost, want it.  This program is for those who want it.

I’m very blessed with another sponsee who is grabbing on to this program with all she’s got, and shows me that there’s nothing wrong with *me*… I can only share my experience, strength and hope, but I am only human and I can’t carry another person’s load.  For the past few months I have had this very healthy sponsoring relationship along with a very dysfunctional one and it has been invaluable for myself, learning how to support someone who truly *wants* this program (even though, as I do and I know we all have, she has her battles) as opposed to dragging along someone who’s digging in her heels at every suggestion.

Sponsorship is an incredible gift.  To have someone to guide me who has been through the same experiences, whose wisdom and guidance I can trust, is not something most people are given.  I cherish and appreciate my sponsor, and my sponsee – these are incredible, deep relationships where both sides learn things.  I do what my sponsor does because I want what she has, she’s further down the road of contented recovery than I am.  But I’ve already come some way, too.

Because I am abstinent and I follow the program of recovery outlined by GSA, I:

  • know there’s always another meal coming;
  • get to LOVE my food without pain, fear or guilt;
  • get to live a life in between meals;
  • have to look at what the food had buried, all the things that make up who I am – beautiful things and ugly things;
  • am growing! – in all conceivable ways except physically;
  • get a chance to make my life something I want to show up for;
  • can plan financially as not all my money is wasted on food/ shopping/ impulses;
  • genuinely believe my life need be second to none.

Recognizing & Trusting help

This week’s reading… the line that stood out to me was about how we used to trust our substance.  Truly, that was the only thing that would remain constant for me – and not just because other people would let me down, but also, or more so, because I would let MYSELF down all the time.  I would change my mind and go back on my own promises to myself without a second thought.  I treated myself with much less integrity than I would ever, ever treat another person.  No wonder there was nothing to trust in… nobody outside of me, and not even myself.  Only the food.

I believe the reason I can trust in the process of Greysheet is two-fold: a) I can SEE the evidence of it working in people who have been abstinent longer than I; and b) every time I keep my promise to myself (and God, and my sponsor) to have a particular food for a meal, I build my own integrity.

So I trust this process… a day at a time… and because I have been given this gift, of understanding that this is what I need, that I can choose not to ponder other “possibilities” – I don’t even go there, mentally.  I have recognized my help, and I want to keep my eyes firmly on it because I have a clarity that I do not want to lose.

If this translates to the rest of life, what I learn from it is that any solutions, any help that is presented, can be recognized by two things:
a) I can see the fruit of it in others who live it
b) it is something I can do a day at a time, a little at a time.

Not sure if this is 100% clear, but I think that the key to recognizing help is not only to recognize and take it, but to KEEP it when I’ve found it.

Growth through pain

My last email to the group came from such a desperate heart. I just expressed the raw emotion that I hadn’t even processed yet… just the numbness. The act of writing it and reaching out, however, was in itself so healing already – this group is my lifeline in so many ways, calling for help on here was the most natural thing to do.

Since then, my sponsor has been guiding and gently prodding me, so I could learn from the experience and process it constructively. I have so much to think about, my patterns, my behaviours, ways of relating to people… and I am thinking about all those things and humbly asking God to work with me, one day at a time, to change me.

How is this psycho-babble relevant to Greysheet? Simply put: it is only because I am ABSTINENT no matter what that I can even become aware of my character, let alone work on it.

In the food, my character is perfect and life sucks and everyone else sucks and I’m a victim. (yeah.)

In abstinence, suddenly I’ve got resentments and fears and shortcomings… but one day at a time, I also get freedom and joy and even love. I’d say that’s worth it.