Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Pause: Where recovery happens!

We who are powerless over food behaviors have a special life. Whether it's nurture or nature that causes our behavior is really not important. What is important is that we have to eat to live. The Alcoholic does not physically need booze to survive, the smoker and drug addict also don't physically require their substance to survive. The compulsive food behaviorist does require nutrition. And many of us have trouble staying in a food rational state. Anything we eat can cause trouble. I have dubbed my disease the "Dragon" and I need to nourish myself from it a few times a day. If my dragon bites me, it has a poison that makes me want to eat more and more. Not because I need it, it was the only thing I could see to do. When I started my first attempt at abstinence I really felt like I was fighting a physical beast to stay food sober. I was, at 596 pounds I was the size of a small bear. I was truly fighting the beast I was powerless over… Me!
Medical professionals want to offer "medical" solutions to our overeating behaviors. If you are a restrictive eater they want a psychological solution, occasionally offering medication to help. The problem is that a real compulsive foodie, regardless if you are an overeater, restrictor or a binging bulimic, we have a problem that can't really be touched by science. There is an aspect in our brains that is not quantifiable. It is the "mental twist" the "Alcoholics Anonymous" talks about. In order to change Doctor Carl Jung said that a "Psychic change" was required to halt the alcoholic. Drug addicts and Alcoholics can just not participate in whatever their problem substance is. Though I don't mean to say it is easy, it is just much more defined. Don't drink, smoke, shoot, inhale or swallow whatever your addictive substance is. But people who have food issues can't just stop eating, yet we do need a "Psychic Change" in how and why we eat. Part of it is to understand it is not the food that is at issue. It ts the behavior of eating, purging or restricting that is the real problem. Blaming a specific food is like an Alcoholic blaming Gin, and drinking whiskey at length instead.
Many of us find that if we're binge eaters, if we give up our "Binge Food" we can control our eating. That usually works, until the next "abstinent" food becomes our new binge food. What science does not understand is that its not about the hunger or the food. When I was overeating I didn't need to be hungry or anything like that. I just needed to eat. The beast took over and I needed to eat to quell my anger, stop the emotional pain or feel better for a little while. Hunger and nutrition had no place in my internal conversation.
Now I've walked a path that has helped get a psychic change of sorts. I am aware of how and why I'm eating, I no longer just pick food up and eat it. I now eat with forethought and purpose. When I get angry, feel hurt or happy or whatever used to force me to the food, now I can pause, look at how I'm feeling and find another solution. The secret to stealing nectar from the Dragon is to do so with a purpose. I actually developed a tool to help me. The important thing in this tool is to:
  1. Be honest. Ask yourselves the relevant questions and answer them honestly. If you can't be honest here, you will not recover.
  2. Do it every time. It must as automatic as breathing. It can't be rationalized out of your life.
You have to be willing to pause and think. The word Pause is used twice in the first 164 pages of Alcoholics Anonymous. Once in "Into Action" (10th step) and once in "To Wives." Some people believe that pause is what makes the difference between the grudgingly abstinent and the recovered. One can be food sober and miserable. Constantly fighting off the urges to eat this, that or the other thing. As a "recovered" person we are "placed in a position of neutrality - safe and protected" (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 85) regarding not only food, but many other things if we let it. That is how you feed from the dragon, yet don't get bitten to go on to a binge. I had to make it a visual tool.

The idea is at the point of my first food thought, I insert the "Pause." The obsession starts when I think about the food I see or want. So instead of continuing to think about…. Alcohol, Drugs or Food I decide what my needs are:
  1. When was the Last time I ate?
  2. Was it long enough that I should need more nutrition?
  3. If not then I immediately look to the tools – There is no debate or rationalization.
    1. Why do I want to eat? Am I upset or is there something else going on?
    2. Read some inspirational material.
    3. Activate my plan of action – Exercise, Reading or Meditation
    4. Call my Sponsor
    5. Make a Service call – A Service call is not a way to commiserate, The idea is to be of service to the recipient. Pay attention to them.

What is the change that takes place? In Alcoholics Anonymous talks of selfishness. On page 62 of Alcoholics Anonymous it talks about the root of the Alcoholics issue:
"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must or it will kill us."
As a way to stop our mental twist, I need to look outside myself. A "Service Call" is not an opportunity to complain to another person about where I am at, or the fact that I am obsessing about cookies or some other food that I really don't have any control over. By making a call where I pay attention to the person I'm calling, and find out what they may need, I can break the obsession. That is what Bill W did in "A Vision For You" on page 154 he relates a story about a "business man" who battles his insanity, We later find out this is Bill's own story when he eventually meets Doctor Bob:
"One dismal afternoon he paced a hotel lobby wondering how his bill was to be paid. At one end of the room stood a glass covered directory of local churches. Down the lobby a door opened into an attractive bar. He could see the gay crowd inside. In there he would find companionship and release. Unless he took some drinks, he might not have the courage to scrape an acquaintance and would have a lonely week-end.
Of course he couldn't drink, but why not sit hopefully at a table, a bottle of ginger ale before him? After all, had he not been sober six months now? Perhaps he could handle, say, three drinks - no more! Fear gripped him. He was on thin ice. Again it was the old, insidious insanity - that first drink. With a shiver, he turned away and walked down the lobby to the church directory. Music and gay chatter still floated to him from the bar."
The secret to serenity, or being recovered is not about "taking care of myself" it is about being of service to others. Then we are doing what I Higher Power has put us here to do. Things become more clear. Decisions become easier and the obsession is removed. Not because of what we do for ourselves, but what we allow God to do through us for others. Then you are recovrered,


You can check out "The Pause on my You Tube channel. I have a PowerPoint presemtation/video that goes in to far more detail..


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What is Abstinence and why does yours matter to me?

In Overeaters Anonymous we make a huge deal about one little word. Abstinence! It is mentioned one time in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Doctor Silkworth mentions it in the "Doctors Opinion." It is hardly ever mentioned in an AA meeting. The concept of abstinence is simply the act of not drinking booze, simple but there is no "easy" for any addiction.  But with food we are required to nourish ourselves. I can't "not eat," I will die. In OA we are talking about abstaining from compulsive food behaviors. In my case overeating. But I must eat food. Some people deal with this by calling their "Abstinence" based on foods. "My abstinence is no sugar" is pretty popular. No flour, wheat, grease or any other particular food item is what many people in OA call being "Abstinent." But folks seem to struggle. Why is it so hard? I think it is because we focus on what we can't do instead of what we can. In reality we are striving to refrain from eating unnaturally by refraining from eating.

What does "unnaturally" mean? For the purpose of this blog it means without real cause. We should be eating because we need nutrition As a compulsive eater, I eat because it's there, or I'm upset or happy or… I could go on forever, any excuse is a good one. Other people with compulsive behaviors around food, bulimics, anorexia, exercise bulimia all do their behaviors for "unnatural" reasons as well. An anorexic will not eat because in their minds eye they are fat, they fight their natural tendency to eat to "look good" or some other physically morphism they perceive. Same with Bulimics, or Exercise Bulimics. They do the behaviors because in their mind, they have to. To "get skinny," "be healthy" or some other idea that consumes their lives. 

But we all still must eat.

Abstinence is avoiding food behaviors that are destructive. It is not about the last time you ate flour, wheat, sugar or pasta. It is about no longer acting on your food compulsion.

"Why does it matter if I consider my abstinence to be from sugar or from compulsive eating?" I'm glad you asked.

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous starting on page 101 paragraph 2:
"In our belief any scheme of combating alcoholism which proposes to shield the sick man from temptation is doomed to failure. If the alcoholic tries to shield himself he may succeed for a time, but he usually winds up with a bigger explosion than ever. We have tried these methods. These attempts to do the impossible have always failed."

This has been my experience with food.  I may have controlled my eating for a while.  In the end I ended up eating more and gaining weight and ended up worse than before. If I continued to consider what I could not do, I became obsessed by what I was denying myself.  By focusing on what I can eat, I no longer need to think about what I can't.  I've found my obsession over eating food I don't need is lifted.

And yet in "the Rooms" we preach avoiding our "binge foods" at all costs. I am not suggesting for an instant one should eat what they consider "binge foods." But simple self knowledge is handy, but not a cure.  The idea that avoiding them, not being in the same room or not going someplace that serves them is a prescription for relapse. We focus so much on "the food" we stop looking at the real problem – Our compulsive behavior. It's so much easier to complain that "sugar" is evil or flour is "addictive." I've got news for you, anything can be an addiction. Nicotine, sex, eating, washing hands, cleaning, doing laundry.. We could go on ad infinitum. The truth is the real problem lies in the fact as a compulsive we are not capable of stopping. If I could control my eating I would not have weighed well over 600 pounds at one time.

So what is the problem? Well there have been studies showing compulsive eaters have brains that react to food much like alcoholic's react to alcohol. It is not like a normal brain. Is it genetic or learned behavior? Why does that matter. At this point in my life, I am a compulsive eater. I will never get cured. But I can be "recovered" in the way a cancer patient is recovered from cancer. I use cancer because the metaphor fits. A cancer patient might recover from a tumor of some kind, they are considered "recovered" or in remission. But the fact of the matter is every time they get cancer, they are much more likely to get it again. They are never cured from cancer. They are recovered. So it is with compulsive food behaviors. Like cancer you are only more likely, not completely sure to get cancer, or relapse into the food behavior that got you here.

In order to change your behavior, regardless if it is programed by nurture or genetic code, something has to change. Doctor Silkworth called it a "psychic change" (BBoAA page xxvii paragraph 1) and some folks consider this the "Spiritual Experience" the Big Book talks about. This is where the rubber meets the road, the bullet hits the mark or the compulsive is set free. The Psychic change. If we focus on the physical only, what not to eat, we can never really learn how to eat. That is my problem as a compulsive eater. I don't know how to eat like a normal person. How to stop when I'm full, or to eat only when I need nutrition. I can convince myself that I am hungry 15 minutes after eating lunch, it is part of the insanity.

The only way a drunk stays sober, an addict stays clean or a food compulsive learns to eat like a real person is if this psychic change occurs. There are no substitutes or "kinder, gentler ways." Abstinence is an absolute, you are or you are not.  I will give you a hint, a food plan is what you do and abstinent is what you are. You either eat compulsively or you do not. It is like being pregnant. You either are or you aren't, and you didn't become abstinent alone.

So why is your real abstinence important to me? Because if you are abstinent, I can see the system really works, I can draw encouragement from your success. I can see it is really a program that works. It strengthens my belief in a resolution. A program where at some point I can be in a "position of neutrality - safe and protected" (BBoA Page 85, top of page) from any food. Whatever "it" is, it no longer has power over me, not because I don't eat it, but because I don't care. It has no effect at all. Your abstinence is part of the strength and hope a new comer, who is suffering pain you have known, can see and believe it works, with that belief they can develop the tools they need to be recovered as well.

This is where serenity can be found. In the ability not have to think about it. To be able to accept what I don't eat is not important, but how and why I do eat. Not just the "what" I eat but the very reason and attitude that governs my eating. That is where the success is found, in eating in a normal way for a normal purpose.

Gregor - Back from the brink! From there and back again. A spiritual Hobbits journey.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Decision: To turn our will and our lives over to God as we understand him.

The first three steps are very mental, internal.  There are indicators on the outside when we “get it.” But some people proceed without the full commitment each step requires to recover.  Admitting we are powerless over our particular addiction is not just something we say.  It is not just a matter of admitting it to another person.  To get value from it, to have a hope of eventually being “recovered” that acceptance of our condition under self-will must be complete.  We have to be sure to the very bottom of our hearts and brains that we truly our powerless over . We also “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could (and would) restore us to sanity.”  “Believe” is not just a decision, it is a active condition.  Without complete surrender on step one and complete conviction on step two, step three is of no use.

Most people I hear in the rooms of recovery talk about what happened when they fail and the Abstinence/Recovery is broken.  Common in all of these shares tends to be the words “I” or “me.” And that is the real issue isn’t it.  We fail when “I” try to do something.  I hear people share about being in the rooms for years before any type of real abstinence is obtained,. As a new comer myself (joined OA 6/17/2013 for the first time) I’ve been trying to understand why.   Here are some of my theories (Note the opinions expressed here are just mine not “OA” as a whole):

  1. The First step is never actually taken. 
    "But I know I’m powerless” some may say.  Then I could ask why do you think you could have prevented your failure?  There is no reliance on a Higher Power. I was stressed, I was this or that.  You ignore the insanity that you have. (Note I did not say “might have”) If you don’t know that you are insane around whatever your compulsion is, you are not done with step 1.

    In the Big Book Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Pages 150 to 158 (a Vision for you) Bill W describes a moment when he identified the insanity. Bill Wilson knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that going in to the bar was the worst possible option, and it was suggested by his insane brain and body.  Bill reasoned the only viable option was to reach out to another drunk, that turned out to be Doctor Bob.

    Do you ever look at the first compulsive bite, shot, drink or sex act and think, doing that will be insane and start me down a rabbit hole I may not escape? That is the conviction of your first step working.  That knowledge of insanity, the recognition of it and the acceptance that you will never change under your own power.  You can’t.  If you don’t see that behavior in yourself, then you never took the first step.
  2. The second step is not real.
    “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” How do you take this step in our enlightened world?  We “know” that we are the product of an accidental explosion that may, or may not have happened billions of times in order for the physics to be perfect that we ‘eventually” came into existence:  Right? --- or do we?  I’m not even talking about the origins of our universe now.  I’am talking metaphysical physics (yes I just made that up). Even physicists keep looking for that one particle that will explain it all.  They are looking for that “42” as Douglas Adams called it.  “The answer to life the universe and everything.” More important then the “God Particle” is the “right question.”

    In Step 2 we “Came to believe” but why didn’t we do that? Why can’t “I” believe there is some force that is influencing me? Because during our first step we never noticed the miracles in our lives.  It may be as simple as the time we called a friend we’d not spoken to in years, only to find our voice was the one they needed to hear at that moment. Why that binge that sent us to the hospital didn’t kill us to the dismay of the medical staff, the “bad stuff” we shot up didn’t destroy our brains, that last bender ended only in a ticket and not in a fiery crash that would have killed us, or worse somebody else.

    It is not relevant if there is a “Supreme Being” in charge of it all, but it is relevant that there is an unseen, misunderstood force that does influence our lives. If you can’t follow the second step because you didn’t “come to believe” than there is no reason to move forward.  Without that belief, knowledge or acceptance of a “Power greater then ourselves” we can not be “recovered!” It is simple physics, if you didn’t have the power to quit before, what makes you think there is any chance of doing it alone, without the help of a Higher Power?  There is no chance! 
So what to do? I might suggest you think if being “enlightened” has served you so well? We are beings of chemical reactions and electricity, but there also seems to be something more, can we all be connected in some undefined way? Can that super mind be what we are looking for? Finding a Higher Power, not reliant of fragile human individuals who WILL fail you at some point, is the key to Serenity. Without the conviction that something does influence “me” that “I” can’t totally understand is so vital that failure to come to that conclusion is a setup to fail. And Step 3 is too easy and pointless unless we know there is some form of Higher Power.

This decision “To turn our and our lives over to God as we understand him” ought not be an easy one. The harder it is to really make, the less likely we are to walk away. We are talking about doing things based on a Higher Power, something unseen, untouched or undisclosed. Something we know is there because we see the evidence that something is working in our lives, but we are not sure what. In some cases it may take a leap of blind faith. Some of us start this journey with the idea that they “believe as if” there is a Higher Power. The funny thing, these people do get results. The idea then is to have stronger faith based on your experience. Oddly, this “decision” is where the rubber meets the road.

The rest of the steps are based on the actions taken in these first three. Taking inventory can’t be done unless you can be completely honest, honesty under our self-will does not exist for most of us. Having the strength to admit our wrongs, something we’ve been hiding from all our lives, can only come if we can draw on the strength of our Higher Power. Even being willing to release those defects of character that we have grown accustomed to isn’t something that can be done with only our will alone. We’ve probably all tried that. And our compulsion was the outcome. The only way we can complete these other steps is with the help of our higher power. Even “a friend”, as the Big Book calls those who work with us, can only point us in the right direction. It is up to you AND your Higher Power to complete these tasks.

So what does it mean to make a decision? The Latin root word Latin dēcīsiōn-  (stem of dēcīsiō ) literally, a cutting off, equivalent to dēcīs.  To cut off.  To remove from.  So what we are asking ourselves to do is to cut ourselves off, and let our HP do with us as He/She wills.  Where our issue generally lies is with the whole removal of self.  Most relapse’s that I hear share, talk about having thought they “graduated” from the program. This decision we are making is not until we stop drinking (eating, snorting, shooting etc.)” it is for life, not only a time period for now but a method of continued existence. One we have never tried before. Our goal is to continually live seeking and doing the will of our Higher Power. This is how we come to receive the 10th step promises.  Those Promises is where Serenity lives: “And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone - even alcohol (food, drugs sex etc). For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor (ice cream, crack, gambling).  If tempted we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see our new attitude toward liquor (cookies, Meth, Nicotine or pornography) has been given us without thought or effort on our part.  It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we have been placed in a position of neutrality - safe and protected.” (BBoAA Pages 84-85)

As we know there are three sides to our existence as described by the original Circle and Triangle of Alcoholics Anonymous:
1.    Unity – Physical, Step 1, Step 4, Step 8 and Step 12
2.    Fellowship – Spiritual, Step 2, Step 5, Step 6, Step 9, Step 11
3.    Recovery (Shown by Abstinence from our compulsive behavior)- Step 3, Step 7 and Step 10

If we are casual or fail on any facet, we can’t maintain the proper balance.  In that balance of life is where serenity is found.   “Remember that we deal with is alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that one is God. May you find Him now.” (BBoAA pg 58 Paragraph 4)

A Worksheet for steps 1 and 2
In the new Window Click on the Print and it will generate a PDF for you to save.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Step 2: Am I worthy?

The Second step is part of that triad of decision steps.  Step one is all about coming to know deep in your heart that you can’t control this disease of compulsive behaviors. Step 2 is coming to trust a solution.  In it's self it is not the whole solution but one tiny but important part. Just like a cornerstone is the point from which the entire structure is measured and built, the 2nd step - “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity”- without a decision to include a Higher Power as at least possible, we are back to playing against ourselves. True belief is not even required for this to work, “Do I believe, or am I even willing to believe that there is a Power greater than myself?” (Pg 47 BBoAA) Even just being willing to believe it is possible was enough for many.  Why?
Because as we progress that faith is turned in to knowledge as we see our Higher Power working around us.  Even people unwilling to believe in a Higher Power get results if they "act as if" there is a Higher Power for them.

If I were to make Step two my very own, it would look more like “Came to believe a Power greater than I was WILLING to restore me to sanity.” Believing there is a Higher Power was never a real issue for me.  Nor was the Idea that God was some sort of punishing god, I didn’t grow up around that idea.  The God I know is benevolent. But was I worth being given His grace? Now there is a question!

It is sad that I think so little of myself that the question that caused me the most consternation was not if there was a HP But if I was worthy of His/Her attention.  Even though I had been a pretty good guy most of my life, I still felt like I don’t deserve some of the life I have.  It took me a couple of weeks to come to the idea that She/He was even willing to fix my broken down life. You see I have not managed my life well at all.  In my mind I’m not pleasing to God.
I still struggle with that after over a hundred days food sober. I don’t even have a little thought that I did this whole sobriety thing.  It is a gift from God.  Given not because I deserve it, I am not sober because of what I’ve done, I am sober because God wants me to sober or not, I ask my Higher power to guide me on what I am doing.   How to plan my meals to serve him, what direction to take driving my wife to work in tht may seem small stuff but I don’t know the whole game board, only God does.   
My HP has proven the ability to remove the mental obsession of food.  I am learning the more I rely on His/Her Power, I can live a recovered life. And one aspect of that “recovered” life means living in a healthy body He is giving me. I’ll be able to tell if I get self-reliant vs God reliant because if I am not on my way to or at a medically sound (Not a comfortable, or Okay) body weight, I am still eating compulsively. God gave me a perfect body for me. My Genetic eye disorder and all. But I put the weight on.  I actively got fat by choice, bad or good, I did it. Now I have a Higher Power to help me undo it.’s simple, I plan my daily food with the simple idea of “eating for the healthy purpose of nutrition” (my form of abstinence). Not to fill my stomach, or to satisfy myself, simply for nutrition.  If it is not nourishing, it’s not included. I follow my food plan that I have asked my Higher Power to guide me to.

It has been well over a hundred days now.  I am food sober for the longest time I have ever been in my life and I am starting to “comprehend the word serenity” (page 83-84 BBoAA) and I will know peace.  But not because I’m worthy.  It is only by His Grace I can walk in to a restaurant and order   I’ve not tried that yet.  Maybe someday.
nutritious food in healthy portions. Someday I’ll be at a buffet and only eat one healthy portion.

What is more important as I walk these twelve steps, I am starting to believe I may see a healthy weight. I am starting to think God may have a purpose for me, it’s going to take some time to decipher that purpose, but I’m sure it does not include all of my current weight
I needed to learn that my Higher Power valued me enough to help, even if I didn’t. The funny thing is our High Power has already proven how much He values us. We just are too dense to notice.  God is not physical, so why this world around us?  The only reason for the physical world is for us to live in it. He valued you enough to create everything around you.  Do you value Him/Her enough to live in it?

Purchase Your Personal Paleo Code

Gregor - Back from the brink! From there and back again. A spiritual Hobbits journey.