Hi, everyone, and welcome to WTS [Working The Steps]. I'm Susan, a compulsive overeater (COE) and sugar addict. I'm thrilled to be here, leading you on this awesome journey. Thank you for allowing me to give Service in this way; and thank you, TRG, for making this platform available for all of us!
Some of you are compulsive overeaters like me, some are under-eaters or anorexics, some are bulimics, some are over-exercisers, -- and some do some combination of all of the above. We all do some sort of "compulsive behavior" with or around food. And we all want to do something about it or we wouldn't be here, right? :-)
Some of you are brand new to TRG and the 12 Steps, some of you are "old-timers," and some are in relapse. All are welcome here. The only requirement to be here is to have a desire to stop compulsive eating and/or compulsive food behaviors. Welcome, all!
Allow me to introduce myself before we begin our Step journey together.
My childhood was a pretty normal one. I grew up in the standard 50's home. We learned all the good stuff you needed back then to be a good, healthy citizen. Then came puberty.......
Apparently, my dad thought I was "too provocative". He criticized my clothes and how "inappropriate" they were, and even though my sister had many of the same outfits that I did, he never criticized her clothes as "inappropriate". Naturally, I interpreted this as "Susan is inappropriate." That started me down a steady slope of poor body image. In addition to my "inappropriate" clothes, my father began to pick on everything I did so that I usually felt as if I could never do anything right. So, along with poor body image, I now had low self-esteem and a tendency toward perfectionism and blaming others. But the "food issues" didn't really begin until my first marriage, but see note.
[NOTE: Looking back at my childhood now, I see that I actually had COE tendencies as a child. There were times when I would sneak food. There were times when I would take "just one bite" of something over and over again until it was all gone. There were times when I would eat so much that my stomach hurt. There weren't many of these events, but they were there. My weight was "average," so no one -- including myself -- thought there was a problem. But I now believe they were the "seedlings" of what was to become my COE life.]
Back to my first marriage: Because my first husband was an athlete, he announced about a month after we were married that there would be no more desserts at home. This was something new to me -- to eliminate a whole "food group" -- but it never occurred to me to object to this proclamation. So we eliminated desserts. I thought it was no big deal. And then...
...I discovered that I was buying all sorts of sweets whenever I was out of the house. If I stopped for gasoline, I popped into the Quik-Mart for something sweet. If I was grocery shopping, I bought a sweet at the check-out register. If I was shopping at a mall, I bought whatever sweets were being sold at the kiosks. And the weight began to creep up... And I began to have "reasons" to eat (though NOT because I was hungry!). And even though I told myself I was just "treating" myself, there was an overall sense of "sneaking" and "getting away with something." I was lying to myself even then, but was truly unaware of it.
As my weight went up, my self-esteem went down. If my husband accidentally touched my tummy, I flinched. He flinched. My weight became "an issue." Things became awkward. My weight yo-yo'd. [I was a great dieter! And also a great fall-off-of-diet-er.] And I continued this yo-yo roller-coaster ride right through that first marriage (and right into obesity and some obesity-related health issues).
Looking back, I now know that somewhere in my first marriage, I slipped into the very definition of a compulsive overeater (COE), and I had become an addict. Food was no longer fuel for my body, it had become my comfort, my "fix.' I *needed* it - and I *needed* to overeat. And I certainly abused food to deal with my feelings. Resentment, fear, anger -- they could all be (temporarily) masked by stuffing food. I used food to "punish" my husband for whatever infraction I perceived. ["There! That'll show him!!!"] Or I told myself, "Well, at least food brings me joy." [Really...?] Or -- my personal favorite -- "Food is the only thing I can control!" [Sound familiar...?]
I first looked for a 12-Step program in the mid-1980's. I went to only 4 or 5 face-to-face meetings, but I quit because I just didn't "get it." No one would talk about how not to eat like an idiot!!! [See, I thought it was about the food. I thought I just needed a really good diet!] I didn't return to the 12 Steps for another 20 years. So that was another 20 years of yo-yo dieting, always gaining more, becoming more and more obese.
In July or August of 2007, I had reached my rock bottom. All I had done since my first marriage (and by then I was married for the second time) was to yo-yo diet (for over 40 years) until I was obese and even more miserable. I just couldn't stand going on one more diet only to fall off it one more time. I was done with diets. I was going to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Sure, I might die early, but I didn't care anymore. I was going to stop "fighting" food. I thought that would make me deliriously happy, but it only made me more miserable. This was my rock bottom. But something nudged me to look online, and...I found TRG! [Thank you, "nudge"! Thank you, Internet! Thank you, TRG!] :-)
I started going to online meetings -- sometimes several a day! I joined TRG's Newcomers loop, I found an online sponsor thru TRG and worked the Steps with her, I worked a WTS session, and I was on my way. I've been in Recovery ever since, and although I've had a few slips along the way, I've had no relapse with sugar (my main "drug of choice"). I've lost one-third of what I weighed, I've gone down 7 dress sizes, I've gone off my cholesterol medicine, and I've never been more happy/joyous/free. TRG and the 12-Step program saved my life.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous, as presented in the AABB ("Alcoholics Anonymous," aka: The Big Book), provided "The Solution" to my compulsive overeating, and anyone who works the 12 Steps can find that solution, too. And just look at one of the "promises" found in the AABB:
"We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame." [AABB p. 84]
I'm here to tell you that this has come true for me and my "liquor" which was sugar (and white flour products). I would never have believed that it could happen for me if it hadn't actually *happened* for me -- thru these 12 Steps. Yay! :-)
I welcome you on this journey with me. It gives me another chance to "work the Steps" and to do Service (Step 12).
Now a little "housekeeping" before I close and give you your first assignment. :-) [The "housekeeping" info is important information you'll need in this Step study, so hold onto it!]
1.) ABSTINENCE: [Food "sobriety" is called "abstinence" in this 12-Step program for compulsive eaters.] It is said that the first 100 members of AA were sober before they ever worked the Steps. They had to "put the bottle down," in order to have a clear enough mind to do the work involved. My sponsor called this "Step Zero." ["Cessation of drinking is but the first step..." AABB pg. 122] I had to put down thxe food so I could have a sober mind for my Step work. [For under-eaters, they would have to cease the under-eating behavior in order for them to have clear heads.] Look at what it says in the AABB, 4th Edition, page xxx (here you'll need to substitute "food" or "compulsive eating" for "alcohol"):
"Then there are types entirely normal in every respect except in the effect alcohol has upon them. They are often able, intelligent, friendly people. All these, and many others, have one symptom in common: they cannot start drinking without developing the phenomenon of craving. This phenomenon, as we have suggested, may be the manifestation of an allergy which differentiates these people, and sets them apart as a distinct entity. It has never been, by any treatment with which we are familiar, permanently eradicated. The only relief we have to suggest is entire abstinence."
That's what I'm asking of you -- to commit to "entire abstinence" for our 12-week study of WTS. Do you think you can do that? That will be my commitment to you! When I did it for my sponsor, I have to tell you that it felt just like a diet when I started (complete with "white-knuckling"), but within a week, I no longer wanted my "alcoholic foods" (sugar and white-flour products -- yours may be different). Be prepared to write down those foods (or behaviors) you suspect are your "alcoholic foods" (sometimes called "trigger foods" or "triggers"), and then eliminate them for this WTS study. [Think: Instead of your "comfort food" or "comfort behaviors," you'll have the Step work to "comfort" you.] That will be your "Step Zero." [Slogan: "If you want to stop eating compulsively, you'll have to stop eating compulsively."]
Now, I do know there's a theory out there that says it's "easier" for alcoholics to stop drinking because they can just stay out of bars and liquor stores -- but we compulsive eaters have to eat at least 3 times a day, so it's harder for us! NONSENSE! We're throwing THAT theory out the window right now! :-) Alcoholics *must* drink every day or they'll die! They just don't drink any form of alcohol. Same for us: Compulsive eaters *must* eat every day or we'll die! We just don't eat our trigger foods. If alcoholics can put down the "troublesome liquid", we can put down the "troublesome food" or "troublesome behavior". [They don't put down *all* liquids, just the troublesome ones. We don't put down *all* foods, just the troublesome ones. We don't stop *all* behaviors, just the troublesome ones.]
And finally, you only have to be abstinent ONE DAY AT A TIME (ODAT). That's right. You only have to be abstinent for one 24-hour period at a time. Don't think about "tomorrow," don't think about "next week," don't think about "forever." You don't even have to think about "all 12 weeks of WTS"! No, you only have to think about ONE day at a time. There's a great slogan about this: "We can do something for 24-hours that would appall us if we had to do it for a lifetime." So when you commit your abstinence for this study, you only have to do it ODAT!
2.) BOOK / WORKBOOK / JOURNAL: You're going to need an AABB. If you don't have one or don't want to buy one, you can read it online for free. [http://www.aa.org/bigbookonline/ That's the 4th Edition, the one I'll be using.] I'm happier having my own copy where I can make notes and highlight certain phrases. You might be happier having your own copy, too.
Since I'll also be giving you some assignments, I suggest a workbook or journal. In it, as we work the Steps, you can also write down things like how it feels to be starting off with abstinence. Take notes on my shares, your reading, your Q&A, etc. Journal about your progress, your feelings, the changes you'll discover (oh, you will discover many!). Take notes when someone in the loop shares something that resonates with you. This is *your* journey! Take lots of notes as you discover what all those alcoholics discovered: There Is A Solution.
3.) GET A SPONSOR: As the WTS Coordinator will be telling you, you really need a sponsor for this Step study. This can be your regular sponsor or a sponsor you use only online for this session. I urge you to get one. You can send your WTS assignments to that sponsor, and the two of you can work on whatever pops up. The WTS Coordinator will tell you how to find a sponsor.
4.) COMMITMENT: Make a commitment to work this study -- and all the Steps -- all the way thru. As another leader once said, "If you think you can get by with working *some* of the Steps, guess what: You don't get *some* recovery, you get *NO* recovery. You have to work *all* the Steps to find 'the solution'." Wise words, indeed, and I believe them. I've made the commitment, so maybe you can make that commitment too -- to the loop, to your sponsor, and to yourself.
5.) QUESTIONS/FEEDBACK: Feel free to ask me questions. I'll be writing about each Step, sharing my personal experience, and then I'll be giving you readings and asking you some questions (these will be your assignments). But if something is not clear, please feel free to write to me (off-list, to me only, if you prefer; or to the whole loop), and I'll answer to the best of my ability. [Put "Question for Leader" in the subject line.] If you've written me privately, and I think it's a question that the whole group would benefit from, I'll share the question and my answer with the loop, but I'll keep your privacy and anonymity.
6.) ASSIGNMENTS: In each of my weekly shares, I'll be talking about each Step, and then I'll give you readings and questions for you to share with your sponsor and the loop. Some people always share with the loop, some never share with the loop. But you should do the assignments to get the most out of this study, and sharing them with your sponsor, at a minimum, will help you dig deeper into your journey to get you out of the "food fog."
NOTE: I'll send out each lead share on Mondays, and then re-post the same thing on Thursdays.
ACRONYMS: AABB (Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book / or BB = Big Book), COE (Compulsive Overeater), CE (Compulsive Eater), ODAT (One Day At a Time), TRG (The Recovery Group / www.therecoverygroup.org), WTS (Working The Steps)
For WTS Help or Technical Questions, email: WTSAdm@lists.therecoverygroup.org
And now, here I am, honored to be asked to lead the WTS 3rd Quarter 2015 Session for TRG. I look forward to sharing my journey with you, thru the Steps, and I look forward to reading your shares. You will actually be "working the Steps," so you have every possibility of finding THE SOLUTION for your compulsive eating. How great is that!? :-)
Yours in Recovery, Susan [COE / Sugar Addict]
1.) Please share your own introduction with the loop. Tell us a bit about yourself and your "food issues." [Just a paragraph or two...or whatever you need to share.]
2.) Please read, in the AABB starting on page xxv, "The Doctor's Opinion," and read Chapter 1, "Bill's Story," starting on page 1.
I'll be sending out the Step One lead share on Monday (7/6)!
[Don't forget to get an AABB, a Sponsor, and a notebook!!!] :-)
The Twelve Steps