My name is Linda and I am a real compulsive overeater/food addict, pg 21 AA BB, which means for me, I eat for a hit not because I just enjoy eating for the sake of eating! What a profound privilege it is to be given the opportunity to share with so many of you what I was like, what happened, and what I am like now.
If for any reason you missed the first two postings, it is important to have them so click on this link to view them http://www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2009/2009-01q3.html. They were entitled “A Vision for You” and “The Importance of Telling Our stories.”
I “hang my hat” on the promise given to us on page 89 of The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from compulsive eating/food addiction as intensive work with other compulsive overeaters/food addicts. I pray that our work together is intensive so that we will be immune to that first compulsive bite.
My plan is to always do a brief intro just to chat a minute—like I would in a face to face meeting. I try to be a least 10 minutes early to meetings to connect with others and then stay after the meeting to connect some more. This way I get 3 meetings out of just one meeting. I always did like bargains!
Then I will give the reading assignment because for me personally, the literature is my anchor but more on this later.
STEP ONE READING ASSIGNMENT
AA Big Book from the beginning Forwards through pg 43 (55 pgs)
****special attention to pages 34-43 and the 3 stories! This section is also part of step two but we will review it then in relation to that step.
AA 12x12 Read the step one summary of “issues” in the Contents on page 5 as well as all of Step One. (4 pages)
OA 12x12 intro plus step one (8 pages)
That is a total of 67 pages. I suggest using highlighters, colored pens, dates in the margins, happy faces, sad faces, question marks, etc., and make your recovery literature look like a rainbow. I also use sticky notes and stick little pieces of info on certain pages for future reference and make permanent book marks of reading I need to refer to again and again. For your own personal information I suggest you record exactly how long it takes to read through this information. We will use this information later. This is fun but it also serves a profound purpose.
The longest distance is the 12 inches between our head and our heart. Self knowledge avails us nothing. Unless I find a way to take this program into my mind AND my heart, it is my belief I will not fully recover.
MY STEP ONE STORY
Facing what has never worked for me!
Here is my list of what never worked for me:
This is the short list. From this list, I think you get the idea of what I was like! One other thing I want to add is that for me food has always been love. Love and nurture. As an Infant, my mom put Karo corn syrup in my baby bottle and I am sure it went straight to my brain!
- Dieting, restricting, controlling food
- Joining gyms/exercising
- Self awareness through psychology/psychiatry
- Medication, either herbal or prescription
- Positive thinking, with or without affirmations
- Changing jobs or careers
- Moving from the country to the city
- Moving from the city to the country
- Getting a divorce, getting married, having an affair
- Developing self esteem, with or without a personal coach
- Prayers in miraculous healing services
- Using other 12 step groups to recover from food addiction
- Reading self help books, with or without practicing what they suggested
- Going to workshops, retreats, eating disorder support groups
- Trying to “care about myself” enough to stay abstinent
- Journaling, prayers, religious activities
- Aversion therapy, self induced
- Shaming myself by posting fat pictures of myself on the frig.
- Encouraging myself by posting “somewhat thinner” pictures on the frig.
- Buying smaller clothes as enticement
- Rewarding myself for weight loss or healthy eating
This failure list above is one reason I am not afraid to ask you to read 67 pages of literature this week. When I think of all the time I have spent learning what didn’t work for me, I realize what small price I pay for my freedom. I pray you will make the time to do the reading even if you have to skim through parts of it and return later to finish. Carry your books with you and read in those small moments on breaks, while waiting, etc. It is so good to keep our minds focused on truth.
So what happened?
Well, basically, I had the experience of my personal health failing (remember the liver transplant?), needed to do something drastic, tried on my own to work this program since it was the only thing that ever worked in the first place, and utterly failed. Again.
So I accepted my addiction at a rock bottom level. I became absolutely desperate. Alone, I could not stop destroying myself with food. After a 20 year leave of absence, I returned to the only sane community I had ever known! Overeaters Anonymous! At the very same time, being a newly enlightened web surfer, I also found The Recovery Group! I was no longer alone. 24/7 I had my program.
I wish I could say I was granted the gift of abstinence from the first meeting I attended. No, I had to enter boot camp. It was one day at a time.
I love the word pictures in the literature. Have you ever noticed them? Hanging on to these phrases in our literature, along with lots of prayer, journaling, a sponsor, other OA friends, enabled me to get through 21 days of sugar detox that I hope I never have to go through again. That was almost 4 years ago. During that 21 days, I shook, I wanted to vomit, I had headaches, I could not work, I hurt all over, and all I wanted to do was eat to get some relief. I KNEW that even just a very small amount of something high carb would ease my symptoms. I also was trying to hang on to the thought that I would never be satisfied with a small amount. The 21 days of detox were like the worst case of flu imagineable. I knew it wouldn't kill me but I am glad I knew there would be an ending because if I had to live that way on an ongoing basis, I just wouldn't. I would choose to say in the disease and die an early death. On day 22 the shaking ended and I slowly began to be more stable. After 30 days, I was able to trust that I might be OK. In 60 days I started to think maybe I could stay abstinent, and at 90 days, I “wanted to be abstinent” more than I wanted to eat for the most part. The only reason I knew I would have to get through this is because that is exactly what I went through my first time in OA in the early 80s and one of the biggest reasons it took me 20 years to come back. I knew what it was going to take. Having worked in a detox center for drug addicts before, I was well aware of my symptoms and why I was having them and my only hope was to make it through. So today, my abstinence from binge foods has to be as clean as I can possibly keep it. This does not take care of my other food and eating issues or my living issues, but without giving up my binge foods, my drug of choice, I can’t even get to any of the other issues. It is what it is. For me.
These are just a few of the word pictures I held on to in the literature in my early abstinence.
xxi join us on the high road to a new freedom
xxiv Modem-to-modem or face-to-face, OA’s speak the language of the heart in all its power and simplicity.
xxvii They believe in themselves, and still more in the Power which pulls chronic compulsive overeaters back from the gates of death.
xxviii Frothy, emotional appeal seldom suffices . . . must have depth and weight.
How dark it is before the dawn.
I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension . . .
Fresh skinned and glowing.. There was something about his eyes.
He had that starry eyed look.
THERE IS A SOLUTION
. . . the feeling of having shared in a common peril is one element in the powerful cement which binds us. (others were going through this as well!)
. . . we become as open-minded to conviction and as willing to listen as the dying can be. (Reminds me of the treatment plan set up for cancer. Can’t imagine saying, well, I am willing to do the surgery and radiation but I think I will pass on the chemo for now.)
. . . we can’t handle life through self will alone. First we grasp this knowledge intellectually, and then finally we come to believe it in our hearts.
The remainder of what happened after detox and early abstinence, revolves around the rest of the twelve steps.
I would like to complete my Step One story today with some reflection on pages 34-43 in the AA Big Book.
At this stage of my recovery I am still looking for ways I may have hidden “pockets” of denial on all three levels—physical, emotional, or spiritual. There are so many good studies available. I highly recommend studying with those who have a lot more years of ESH (Experience, Strength and Hope) than I do. This has helped me uncover more binge foods, more resentments, and also more healthy spiritual options for living. You can review the studies in the archives by clicking this link http://www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/index.html
My take on discovering what my binge foods or addictive behaviors are is to draw three concentric circles. The small one in the middle is the bulls eye of a target. In that circle, I put foods I can eat under all circumstances when I am working my program a day at a time and reasonably fit spiritually. In the next middle circle I put healthy abstinent foods that I am tempted as to portion size. (I will leave that to your imagination!) The Outer Circle are highly suspicious foods. (I will leave that to your imagination!) And outside that circle is no man’s land! That is where my binge foods go.
In reading page 34 of the AA BB it says we can determine if something is “dangerous” to us by abstaining for a year from that substance. (Of course this refers to abstaining from alcohol on a non-spiritual basis but the principle seems to work well for me on the food as well) It says some will be drunk the next day! Most within a few weeks. This has been my experience with foods that are dangerous for me. I will usually not want to give them up for any period of time. Let alone a year. I did this with a food that I didn’t want to do it with and found that I had a bit of emotional dependence on it and after abstaining for a long time from it and working on that issue I am now able to eat it in moderation. I do however, hold myself ready to “do the year experiment again!” Our illness is progressive even when abstaining and our sensitivity can change to certain substances. Especially if we overuse them. Hint, hint! :)
The other part of this section (p 34- 43) has 3 stories: Jim, Jay-Walker, and Fred. I am fascinated with this section.
*With Jim, look for attitudes prior to his whiskey and milk experiment. Look at how he started his day. Look at how he minimized his emotional state as well as why he was irritated. No EGO or denial there, right?
* Think of how much “fun” alkies and druggies have on their many escapades and in their drunkalogs in recovery when you read about Jaywalker. Compare that to the money spent, the conversations held, and the crazy dieting again and again as we have tried to control the food. We have been strangely insane, true?
* And poor Fred. On the outside he was soooo functional. (sound familiar?) And yet, he would have these strange mental blank spots kind of like we have in the middle of the afternoon when we had a good healthy lunch and think we need something from the vending machine. Or at night after a nice dinner at home and we need just a little more to “take the edge off”! Or we need a little help getting to sleep.. Of course a little more tends to be a lot more in the end.
The thing I have in common with these three men is that at certain times, I just blank out and I have no defense against the very substances that can kill me. Usually it is under times of stress for me, but that is another step!
So we sit here together on our front porch step--step one. Shall we just go down with the sinking ship liner? Keep eating to the bitter end? Or, together shall we all grab the spiritual life preserver, and begin dog-paddling to shore? What’s our answer to be?
AA BIG BOOK
1. What are the indications you have placed yourself beyond human aid? (p. 24-25) (This is your list of what has not worked for you! Remember normal people keep their weight down with exercise and diet!)
2. Of the three alternatives on page 25, which have you chosen in the past? What are you now choosing and why? (middle of the road approach, going on to the bitter end, or accept spiritual help.)
3. If you are planning to stop eating compulsively, what kinds of reservations do you need to be aware of so that you can surrender them? Will you ask for help with this?
4. How will you know that you have fully conceded to your innermost self that you are different from normal eaters?
From the summary page 5:
1. What is the relation of humility to sobriety/abstinence?
2. Describe your mental obsession.
3. Why must you hit bottom—or at least be able to “see” where the bottom of this disease will eventually take you?
1. What does the program offer us instead of diets, exercise, scales and magic pills? (ix)
2. How do you feel about the statement “we hid from our pain by eating, so we didn’t learn from our mistakes; we never grew up?” (p 5)
3. How will we know that we have taken step one? (p. 6-7)
VISUAL JOURNALING EXERCISE (Optional)
Draw a picture of hitting bottom in your illness – or cut pictures from magazines, use clip art, use the paint program on your computer, whatever fires your imagination.
Example: I have drawn this many, many times and one of my favorites is to draw a deep V shaped pit. I put me as the little stick figure at the bottom. With no way out by myself. This is one way to get this information from your head to your heart. Throughout the literature it talks about a vision, envisioning, etc. Share this picture with your sponsor. Use a lot of color to really bring out the emotional acceptance of this debilitating and deadly illness. In the steps ahead I will offer exercises on both the serious nature of the illness but also of the spiritual and uplifting solution! Those drawings are lots more fun!
A picture is worth a thousand words they say. I need to "feel my powerlessness" over this illness and I need to feel the aloneness of it.
When it is all said and done, my bottom is just that – ME and the disease.
There will be nothing left.
May God help us. He/She, HP is our only hope.
With surrender and love,