then what?

An update; it’s been a while since I’ve written here.  I’m sorry to have neglected this online community I found so helpful in the first year of my recovery–I hope it hasn’t come across that way.  There are helpful and probably unhelpful experiences in all the archives, and most of the time straight-up honesty, although I did find it hard to write on the despairing days, on the slipping days.  So please feel free to take a look; it’s certainly one window into my experience, strength and hope in OA.

I may write again here, but blog-keeping has taken a back seat to writing the 4th step and using the other tools: sponsorship (I have two sponsees now!), meetings (at least 2-3/week), the telephone (I have friends and a sponsor who I actually call, it’s magic), following my food plan (breakfast, lunch, dinner, 2 snacks, 1 dessert) and, you know, living my life, which is almost too full right now.

I still have hard, off, dark days where EVERYTHING SUCKS! and I want to eat a lot of food to make it feel better, now.  Or I start obsessing about the amount of food I am eating and I want it to be less and less and less.  So the compulsion hasn’t gone away.  But it has “lifted,” a term I’ve heard a lot in meetings and will reuse because I think it describes the experience pretty well; there is a lightness of spirit that surrounds me when I work my program and gives me that pause, that moment to confer with God and ask for the next right thought or action.  When I work my program: it works if you work it.

I’ll also put a plug in for taking what you like and leaving the rest.  There are aspects of program that don’t work for me today, so I let them work for other people and I let go of them.  Example: day counts!  I don’t count days anymore.  I find it unhelpful and slightly counterintuitive to the slogan “just for today.”  And in meetings I feel a franticness or competitiveness surrounding the day counts–although in some there is great humility which I envy.  I’ve had slips in my current abstinence, but I am on a forward-moving path that doesn’t get to start over and try to be perfect this time.  And since we decide if we are abstinent in program, I can say, “hey, progress not perfection, I’ve got some imperfect abstinence, let me do some service”–because for some meetings there are certain requirements of abstinence for service positions.

To the newcomer: go to a meeting!  Keep going back.  You will find a solution there–a clarity of existence you might not think possible quite yet–if you stick around and do your work.

the power of 20 minutes; more tools; mindfulness; Matilda

An amazing thing happened this morning.  I went to the grocery store.  A big grocery store, with lots of food.  It might actually be the biggest, most widely-stocked grocery store in Manhattan, not counting the Costco that recently opened in East Harlem.  Anyway, this particular store has been a fantasyland of mine since I first moved here five and a half years ago, so when I got there this morning, I called my sponsor.  I said, “I’m at F______.  I’m overwhelmed.”  She said, “Oh, yeah.  Okay.  What’s going on?”  (I’m paraphrasing–I don’t do her justice.)  I said, “Well, actually I feel pretty good!”  And I yammered on as is our custom, this time for 7 minutes and 48 seconds (usually we talk around 10 minutes a day), actually clearing up some buzzardlike thoughts that have been encircling my headspace recently.  But then I got off the phone and I was still at F______ and still overwhelmed.  So I texted her: Um, actually I skirted a main issue – I want to eat all the food here.  I want to spend a lot of money.  She responded: Pray to your HP and ask for guidance.  I: More specifically, I want to obtain and horde all this food.  Right.  HP.  Got it.  Thanks.  She: Why don’t you tell yourself you can horde the food later if you really want to?  I said, “that seems reasonable,” and then got a little glimmer of that excited feeling, that WOW, there are tools and they work! feeling.  As a matter of fact, I kind of feel like a small whining attention-grabbing kid when I start panicking to my sponsor (being “taken care of” by her comes with a certain kind of giddiness), but maybe that’s what we all need sometimes.  Or maybe sponsorship is a learning tool, in place so we can experience receiving care and advice which we might not have gotten in childhood.  I’m surprised because I have a sponsee, and I’m fairly certain I could have coached her through a similar situation just as well.  But for whatever reason, when I panic, I need someone to guide me.  Praying to HP didn’t even occur to me until my sponsor said it.  Mindboggling.  That’s my disease.  Listen, I don’t know why it works, I just know it does!

Another kick I am on is repeating my new mantra: Never Underestimate The Power Of Twenty Minutes.  In twenty minutes, I can get somewhere relatively far away if the trains cooperate, I can make dinner, I can take a halfway decent nap or run, I can call three fellows, I could receive life-altering news!  Twenty minutes is a powerful thing.  So when I feel like I don’t have enough time (an anxiety-producing feeling), I say, I’ve got twenty minutes, and that’s plenty of time.  It’s also, interestingly, sometimes enough time for a physical compulsion (food craving) to pass.

I had a snack just now.  It was a snack that required the utmost mindfulness, because it could easily have been binge food (I must admit that there were two “questionable” foods that HP allowed me to purchase today at the store; questionable only because they consist of more than one serving–I’m more or less okay with having one serving of anything now).  But I ate it without distraction: no TV, no computer.  No reading material.  And I prayed, as I ate, for the knowledge of when to finish.  In retrospect I might have measured out a certain, manageable amount.  Are you wondering if all that stuff is maybe more trouble than it’s worth?  Yeah, me too.  The food tasted less satisfying than it had in years past, when I’d used it for more than it was capable of providing: escape, comfort, company, et cetera.  No surprise there.  At least not anymore.  At first, yeah.  The curtain had been pulled back: the Wizard of Oz was just some guy.  Food is food.  Not an illusion.

One last thing I wanted to share today:

I think about this all the time when I want to restrict and can’t.  I think, I did all that bingeing for all those years; I made my bed, now I must lie in it.  I ate the cake, now I must eat the cake (not the whole cake anymore, but let’s say one serving a day).  I want to detox and juice-cleanse and stop eating sugar and I can’t–I’m not part of a diet club.  I am letting, letting go, letting God.  I am following my food plan even when it feels like WAY TOO MUCH food!  Because what happens, in my experience, is that when I cut things out I start thinking, ooh, I look good, and then it’s I look awful, and then it’s how can I look better, and then it’s I totally suck and then ready set binge.

On that note.  I have to go–it’s been way longer than twenty minutes since I sat down to write this.  It’s helped me: I hope it helps you, too.

ha!

So maybe my last post was a bit too excited.  I just really get into the extremes: Abstinence is about the food EXACTLY!  Abstinence is not about the food AT ALL!  Oh god.  Guess what.  It’s about relaxing and taking it easy.  It’s about praying.  It’s about reaching out to people (the fellowship, or friends, or strangers, or anyone) instead of hiding alone with the food.  Or reading a book or watching a movie–taking pleasure in the consumption of things made up of more than sugar, fat, and salt.  Made up of thoughts and inspired by that ever-turning hunger for LIFE that we compulsive overeaters repeatedly mistake for food.

Anyway, after writing that last one, I thought, great!  I can eat anything I want!  I just have to be honest! 1, 2, 3…SLIP.  BINGE: Because I’m Not Good Enough.  SLIP: Still Living In Program.  Both valid acronyms for what took place.  (Incidentally, how funny would it be if we described everything in acronyms??  Programspeak–it kills me!)

Which brings me to the title of this post.  Let’s laugh about it today.  It’s kinda funny if you think about it.

On the flip side, it’s kinda sad, too.  The way we (I) still beat myself up for things totally undeserving of punishment.  For things that ought to be met only with love.  And feeling real shame over silly things: over feeling a little too full, or eating in surplus of a certain number of calories or servings of dessert.  As if what I end up eating on a given day (I’m powerless!) is a reflection of my character or worth.  “As if”–why not act as if what I eat DOESN’T have any bearing on whether I am beautiful or real or powerful or smart or funny or loveable or spiritual?  I mean, just to try it.  For a day.  Not to negate that age-old mantra, “you are what you eat,” completely, but can we please agree that we are MORE than what/how much we eat?  That we have something intangible about us, something that encompasses Personality and Emotion and Love and Desire and Truth and Chaos and Curiosity?  Those things which can’t be reduced to crumb.

I have a sponsee.  It’s a girl!  Just kidding.  I mean, it is.  But it’s new.  It’s a budding, blossoming, new thing.  And I actually feel like I’m ready and that it may will inform my own recovery in ways I probably can’t imagine.  Of course, confidentiality will take precedence, but I’ll certainly post updates, especially with reference to the latter part of that last sentence.

Ta ta for now.

Yours discovering recovering,

L.

some free time

I heard something yesterday that helped, so I thought I’d post my understanding of it here.

On abstinence: It’s not about the food, it’s about honesty.

I can eat as I please, but then I turn it over to God and to my sponsor.  The thing, the amount, whatever it is.  And then, God and my sponsor keep loving me anyway.  NO MATTER WHAT: that’s in their job descriptions.  And that’s how it begins to work (maybe).  They keep loving me regardless of what or how much I eat, and I begin to love myself regardless of what I eat.  Allowing and denying really have nothing to do with it.  Finding self-love fuels and re-fuels my abstinence as it evolves, giving me a real reason to continue to give my body foods that are good for it in quantities that make sense to it.

Also, staying honest about my food breaks that mechanism that used to allow me to will myself into invisibility, the progression of which follows here: I ate something, I denied it.  I stole things, and I cheated on my boyfriend.  I denied it.  My actions didn’t exist, so I didn’t exist.  Truly, I didn’t believe I existed.

I’m actually serious.  For instance, I once walked into a subway station with a friend who needed to purchase fare.  I had a Metrocard, and I wanted to get home and eat, so I literally just ditched him–I remember feeling so furtive–and just sped through the turnstile and underground.  He caught up with me, I think, and I made some lame excuse–I don’t know what I said.  But I remember clearly a) wanting desperately to become invisible and  b) believing to some extent that people wouldn’t see or notice me if I refused to look at them.  I like that story now, because it gives an idea of the CRAZY thoughts that commandeered my thinking before program.

Writing this helps me because I tend to think of my abstinence as “not good enough,” but the truth is that I’m here, working a program, and my abstinence is evolving.  I am gentle with myself, I accept where I am at today.  My food is imperfect, I love myself more.  It’s not about the food, really, and I am learning how to be rigorously honest.

Amen.

a summary of the past few weeks:

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that I stopped posting here about halfway through my 30-in-30 or some-in-some or what-have-you?  I mean, when I was going to so many meetings and utilizing so many of the tools–when I was hearing the message and feeling pretty good?  I just–kinda–stopped?  It ended up being a 26-in-29, for those who are curious, which I was happy about mostly: I didn’t, however, benefit from the “light beams shooting out all over me” that one program friend (program friend!  I have those?!) thought I must be experiencing from so many meetings.  Heck, I would have thought something like that would happen, too–I probably went to more meetings last month than in my first year in the rooms.  In fact, though, on many days during that 26-in-29 I felt serenity only after attending a meeting, calling three fellows, writing [by hand, in a journal], praying, reading literature, calling my sponsor, and following my food plan; in other words, using all the tools Overeaters Anonymous recommends.  “It works if you work it”–I know, I know–and “One hour in a meeting gets you 23 hours back”–true, but what about three hours spent tooling and tooling away? Plus 7–okay, 6–hours sleeping, plus 8 hours working, let’s say, for the Average Joe, plus 2 hours commuting, plus 2.5 hours obtaining, preparing, and eating food: already I have only 2.5 hours left in my day, but…OHHHH…

…well.

Okay, I mean, I guess… if that’s time that can be spent being kind, compassionate, and loving, or pursuing my dreams fearlessly, or plain old NOT BINGEING, I guess I’m better off than I was before.  Not to mention that the quality of hours spent sleeping, working, and especially obtaining, preparing, and eating food will be much richer.  More free from obsession, at least.  Okay.  I’ll take it.

But what I found myself wondering after those fourish weeks of almost-one-a-day: it possible I overdid it?  I felt, after it was all over, an inexplicable, weary but driving urge to–guess! guess!–yep.  Eat.  Of course, that could, I guess, be attributed to starting a new birth control pill and embarking on a yoga-teacher-training program that is quite fatiguing and oh, moving!  By myself.  Into a sixth floor walk-up.  I don’t mean to be self-pitying here.  I am just saying that, if I am to be reasonable and self-caring and not beat myself up needlessly, I  should take these things into consideration.  My body needed extra fuel and a lot more rest, and there was no time for rest.  As a result, maybe, I did overeat compulsively.  Did I binge?  Not quite–for me.  Did I want to berate myself and start over at Day 1 and uphold myself to ever-higher standards of abstinence (standards that I see some of my program friends–there it is again–following and finding serenity with)?  Yes.  But it’s NO LONGER A MORAL ISSUE–to quote yet another program friend.  And my abstinence is more a state of mind than anything else, when we begin to contemplate the bottom line.  I am abstinent because I say I am: because I remain committed to my program of recovery.  Because when I wake up and the pants don’t fit, I love myself more. (Quoting again–I’m not making this stuff up, people).  Because I continue to use the tools and attend meetings and show up for my life.  Granted, not starting over makes me envious of others who have the humility to show up each day and say “Day 1.”  But maintaining abstinence, however imperfectly, keeps me out of perfectionism and out of relapse: the minute I say “Day 1,” I press a pause button:  I delay Day 1.  I drop into that cycle of self-sabotage, and I don’t get out (until I hit another bottom–until I stop digging).  The fact is, that has been my experience.  And my recovery is forward-moving.  When the food feels funky, it doesn’t mean start over (this is what I’m learning).  It means be honest and keep moving forward.

I think.

Anyway, I guess this means I am back to the blogosphere.  I apologize for my absence, but not writing probably did me worse a turn than anyone who might be reading it.  I think, perhaps, another reason I took a lil break was that I started to tell some real-live people about this thing, and knowing that they know it’s here and that I’m writing it may have produced in me a teeny tiny bit of fear.  Feel free to share your thoughts below…

x o x ohhhh

your Grateful Recovering Compulsive Overeater,

L.

puberty

Hi.  I’m here.  I haven’t been posting as much lately.  Or maybe it just feels that way, since I’ve been working my program in so many other ways lately.  For instance: 12 meetings in 12 days.

And I am exhausted.  And I have no idea what to write.  I guess I’ll write that I am starting to feel a bit of recovery, and I’m glad of it, but part of me doesn’t want to let go completely.  Doesn’t want to really, fully surrender to the process.  See, the thing is, I am remembering the perverse fascination I had with eating disorders before mine really ballooned into existence–remembering books I read about anorexia by flashlight in my sleeping bag at summer camp, thinking how exciting and strange it would be to just not eat, how weird to not be able to see what you looked like in the mirror, how wonderful and glamorous to be so skinny and depressed; I remember thinking I’d never have the willpower to pull that off, being such an awkward, frumpily-dressed kid, a so-often-unable-to-stop eater.  I remember being an adolescent who felt uncomfortably large and even womanly–matronly, almost–at the age of twelve when her period came, and compared to her best friend, a very small-boned best friend, who didn’t menstruate until she was past sixteen, I remember feeling old and big and sickened by myself.

Interestingly, I didn’t have these memories on hand until tonight–just now.  This evening, I went to a Body Image focus meeting where the qualifier recalled the moments in her childhood that cemented the self-loathing, the not-good-enough-ness.  Even during my own share, I didn’t have these memories unburied yet.  I said to the room that I didn’t recall hating my body until I started college.  Interesting how things then rise to the surface.

When I was in middle school we were taught how to have self-esteem.  We learned what body image was.  We were supposed to be confident, to be happy, healthy, and heterosexual.  Most people seemed not to take issue with this kind of training.  But for whatever reason, growing up, I felt a lot of shame.  Shame when I played football with my dad in a big t-shirt in the front yard and he said he could see my breasts.  Shame when I broached the topic of purchasing a B-R-A with my mother: yes, I had to spell it, not say it, lest one lose one’s dignity.  Shame when it was time to start shaving my legs (I did it secretly, so as not to lose the bet I had with my cousin that I’d hold out till I was 16).  When I needed sanitary napkins.  When a curious 7th grade boy tried to wrest such said napkin out of my locker, then out of my hand, then he begged to know what it was, and he finally opened it up and threw it on the ground for all the 7th grade world to see.   When afore-mentioned small-boned best friend wanted to know if I had started my you-know-what?  Forget it.  I wasn’t talking about it.

Talking about it wasn’t what anyone had done with me–my mom handed me a book to prepare me for the changes my body would undergo–so I didn’t see fit to do it with anyone else.  I talked, I lost something.  My dignity, for example, or the bet I had going with my cousin.  Not to mention my childhood: at all costs, I must not lose sight of my childhood.

So puberty was tough.  And high school?  I guess I still remember feeling big-ish, remember having bigger thighs than other girls at ballet camp did, remember what it felt like to have breasts that moved uncomfortably (and visibly) when we did bourées and sautés across the floor.  Remember eating a larger percentage of my lunch (um, 100) than many other girls there.  And once, at lunch, one girl mentioned something off-hand about bulimia; I remember laughing ; she shot me a vengeful look and said, “Actually, it’s a really serious problem and I had it for two years.  Don’t be so rude.  God.”  As she damn well should have said.  But at that time, at my tender, innocent, sheltered age–fifteen, but still hanging on to that childhood!–I still didn’t believe eating disorders were real.  They were fascinating, yes, attractive somehow, but forget about it.  Once I started eating, I could hardly stop, and my young digestive system never once told me to.  I had never met anyone who willingly restricted their eating, and vomiting to lose weight sounded impossibly silly to me at the time.

I remember avoiding too-tiny shorts and midriff-revealing tops–not necessarily because of my body, but because I knew I wasn’t allowed to be sexy (this was never articulated, necessarily, it just was).  I avoided sex, drugs, and alcohol at all costs: or else childhood would be lost, lost, lost.

Just some memories.  Paralyzed fish that have surfaced after long underwater years.  Skimming the surface.

Yours in recovery,

L.

some days of a some in some

Today marked day 8 of an 8 in 8 which may progress into a some more in some more, or maybe a 30 in 30.  My reluctance to say I’m doing a 30 in 30 (for the newcomer: 30 consecutive days of at least one OA meeting a day) is not reluctance, per se.  Rather, it is rooted in a spirit of taking it easy.  My favorite line in the Big Book: “Relax and take it easy” (from a segment which begins “Upon awakening…,” which starts on p. 86 of the Third Edition).  I mean, not to point out the obvious, but it actually took me over a year (well, until today) to figure out that 1) This is a dis-ease. And 2) Ease is the opposite of disease.  So, I want ease.  Not dis-ease.

Ease comes to mind when I remember that I am a recovering compulsive over- and under-eater and exerciser and body-hater and perfectionist and over-achiever.  I am recovering, and when anyone’s recovering from anything, be it a headcold or 12-step-worthy stuff, I say “take it easy.”  So these days I tell myself–and my fellows–to take it easy.

Taking it easy ain’t easy, though.  (Don’t care if it’s cheesy, so…oh, God.  She’s rhyming!  What’s happened to her?! It’s the some in some, people.  Makes a huge difference, I gotta say.)  Disregarding the rap-in-progress and getting back to that little slogan I started this paragraph with: the some in some takes work.  For me, this past week, it meant approximately 16 extra subway rides; some, like the commute from 50th St. and 8th Ave. in Manhattan to somewhere in the middle of Brooklyn, took longer than others and deposited me in a seat in a room in a meeting about 30 minutes after the thing had started.  I only heard the last three minutes of the speaker’s qualification, but they were an altogether relatable, recovery-filled, viscerally moving 3 minutes.  You know?  Coming in and hearing exactly what I needed to hear (Actually, I think this statement, which I’ve heard others make many times, is statistically unfair; after all, program is program, and I usually “need to hear” most of it, so…) Anyway.  For me, that night, spending twice as much time on the train than in the actual meeting was “going to any lengths” for my recovery.  Which beats 135 minutes–a rough estimate of total time spent–of bingeing on my couch.  Really.

Today in the meeting I attended I heard a lot about ease and about laughter and letting go.  For me, today, ease is having a sense of humor about all of this.  (Me? In a 12-step program?  Really, HP?  You’re serious?  You’re serious.)  It’s not about being perfect with my food.  It’s about forgiving myself accepting myself and moving on.  It’s about not apologizing or feeling guilty about an extra bite  or a “wrong” food choice here or there, and moving on.  It’s about not restricting when I slip, but rather incorporating more program, more experience, strength, and hope into my life–more meetings!  My some in some!  And the letting go part is huge: I’m assembling my thoughts, as I write, for a new post on the miracles of that topic.

Wow!  What a programmy post this has been!  Maybe I should make a glossary tab for all the lingo...

In love and faith,

L.