Monday, July 4, 2011

Hanging on to the baby as the bathwater drains out

This has been a lovely 4th of July so far - I went to my usual AA meeting this morning, which was great, and then walked the 5 mile Ridley Creek State Park loop with my dear friend and sponsor Lisa.  She's the friend about whom I've written several times - she is now (this month) 3 years out from a diagnosis of Stage 4 Lung cancer, and doing remarkably well.  (Hell, being able to walk 5 miles is sufficient evidence of that!)  She is at a point where she has what is know as "stable disease", meaning there is still cancer present in her body (specifically spine, hip and lung), but it is lying dormant and not active thanks to a designer chemotherapy drug called Tarceva.  She's been through an unbelievable amount of treatment and drama with this diagnosis and has faced it all will courage and dignity.  And OPTIMISM!  Quite amazing.  Being a witness to her journey with this affliction has been inspiring and instructive to me in a thousand ways.

Back many years ago before Lisa got sober, she had food issues as well and did OA for a period of time.  She still deals with occasional desires to use food as an emotional salve so she is a wonderful resource for me about my own food issues.  I was telling her about my most recent conversations with the woman from OA I talked about in my last post as well as my dialogue in the comments yesterday with Vickie from Baby Steps V, and Lisa reassured me by saying that the main requirement for me in finding peace with food and abstinence from bingeing and compulsive overeating is to get as honest as possible with myself about my trigger and binge foods and to avoid them entirely.  Of course, establishing a daily food plan is vital, and then sticking to it (as Vickie noted).  And she also reminded me that mindfulness is key - paying attention not only to my eating, but to my thinking as it relates to eating.  This is where I get the most bolluxed up. 

Once the thought of a non-planned food enters my consciousness, I just sort of accept that eventually in that day I'm going to eat it.  Rather than reminding myself that "that food isn't on the plan today, and remember you will have your dinner coming up in a few hours...", or distracting myself in some way. Whatever - putting off the inevitable shoving down of food in favor of waiting until the next designated and sanctioned eating time (like the next meal or planned snack) can help begin to interrupt the deep grooves in my brain that automatically respond to a food thought by eating.  And when my inner binge monster protests and kicks up the compulsion several notches because I'm not responding to the usual food cues, (which WILL happen) be curious about and attempt to investigate what is behind the "urge to gorge". 

I've noted before that as long as I give in and eat an unplanned food that sets off more eating, I'll never have access to the emotions and content behind the addictive urge to eat.  This is the place where there is a disconnect between my desire for wholeness, wellness and weight loss and my programmed behavior of reaching for food.  I have to put in a mindful pause, which I often don't.  And if it occurs to me to do that - I've been known to ignore that mindful higher self.

None of this is new material, but what is different is that I've committed to using Lisa as an OA sponsor/resource for awhile.  She gets my hesitance and knee jerk uh-uh reaction to the rigidity of certain aspects of OA and it's followers.  However, she also thinks I can should attend an OA meeting once a week for the support of folks with the food issue, and I agree.  I don't have to get a sponsor there - or a food plan, or a set of dos and don'ts about every aspect of my eating.  But I can get a lot from listening to others who share the same issue, so I've agreed to one meeting a week for now, as well as establishing a food plan that excludes my big trigger foods of sugar and white flour for now.  If other foods turn up to be problematic, I'll deal with it at the time.

I've had a good couple of days in this regard.  I greatly appreciate that support and bloggy love of you all that encourages me to keep on working at this.  I will succeed, and it'll be in part because of a little help from my friends.


  1. Anonymous04 July, 2011

    Oh! :o LOL!

    hahaha. And what, you may ask, is causing the hilarity? Well. I've just had a revelation that is so obvious, it is hysterical that I was o confounded for so long on this issue.

    The issue? Absitnence. Yep, I was absolutely confounded by the definiton and execution of tha in regard to food addiction. I understnad it r/t drugs and alcohol, but just could not get it regarding food.

    One of the blogs I follow has a tally on her sidebar that says something like "276 days abstinent". I just looked at it yesterday and thought, "How does that work?" Does that mean she's not had sugar for 276 days? (And itmay to her.) But being abstinent to a particular food or food group didn't make sense to me.

    And then I read this sentence that you wrote, "...abstinence from bingeing and compulsive overeating..." Ohhhhh! :0 LOL. Ohhhhhh. That, I get.

    Now, it may require cutting out a trigger food--I also get that, but for me, the light has just come on in my very dim closet. :D



  2. I suspect Deb is referring to Peacefulbird of Words Paint. She is indeed practicing OA and abstinence but I believe her count on the sidebar actually refers to days not eating certain key trigger foods, as opposed to binging and compulsive overeating. Anyhoo, just thought I'd mention that in case she comes back to read. Also, you might check out her blog since she is in that program. Also, Bar Mitzvahzilla, Linda, is another one and she has been abstinent for more than 10 years! I am glad you have someone IRL to help you through this.

  3. It sounds like you have made great strides in your recovery. You have also been blessed with a great sponsor. I love to read about what you have overcome. It makes me feel like I will also one day have control over this. This is a great post.

  4. Lisa sounds like a very wise woman and I'm so happy that you have her in your life. I think having someone why understands the AA/OA program will be very helpful for you to be accountable to, and I love that she sees why, while the main OA stuff probably isn't for you, the program in general can be of benefit - what is that saying, "take what you want and leave the rest"?

  5. It appears you have gotten yourself off the fence. You picked a path. congrats.

    look foward to hearing as you 'step' your way through your process/reactions/life.

    Remember, the feelings are going to come popping up now as they are not pushed down by food. I know you know this from AA, but it is one thing to know and another thing to deal. And also remember that it isn't all feeling/feelings, sometimes it is pure habit and boredom and the like. We label it as 'hunger' but it is really, rarely (in my opinion) hunger. Teaching ourselves to eat portions and balance and at meal time is a huge change for most of us.

  6. Great post, Leslie. I believe that you hit the nail on the head in terms of "abstinence" as an OA term. I have been told that it is to have "freedom from eating compulsively." Some of the more rigid offshoots of OA have devised a program that means not to eat even one bite of certain foods, such as sugar or drink alcohol. I think it's whatever works for the person. There can be significant consequences for the OA member in a strict program who eats something on the "no no" list, even if it is not a trigger. You may lose your sponsor, which has never made sense to me. But then we each must find our own path. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Lisa is a blessing in your life right now... to have a role model and sponsor in one person is rare... That she could remain optimistic after a cancer scare like that is amazing and to be treasured!

    There are OA meetings and OA meetings... but at every one of my regular meetings at least one person says something that helps me stay abstinent and in the program.

    Yes, Karen (Waisting Time)is right. My abstinence is about not eating (not even a taste, not one little crumb) chocolate, cookies, cake, pastries, pie, ice cream and candy - the things on which I frequently binged in the past. At first ice cream was not on my binge list. But then one day I recognized that I was binge eating it. It joined the others on the list and I re-started my abstinence count. I still eat a few things with sugar, like maybe I'd have a pancake or waffle with syrup at a restaurant once in a blue moon or something like an ambrosia fruit salad, as it's not really a restriction on sugar. My food plan is that I can eat anything I want (pizza, chips, whatever) three times a day, no seconds and nothing between meals. I don't beat myself up for failing some days to stick with the food plan. It's working for me... I've lost over 60 lbs and am wearing size 10 (my goal).

    Hope this information helps. Not that you would follow my plan, but maybe it will help you develop a plan of your own, one that will work for you.