Thursday, September 30, 2010

Some More H.O.W. Information

Charlie here, a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I just got this information from my sponsor and thought I would pass it along. I plan to do one of these phone meetings, just to experience it, in the near future. I hope you'll join me.

OA-HOW Phone Meeting Information
Great OA-HOW Information Site

Monday, September 27, 2010

More About My H.O.W. Program

Good evening, friends! My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

Last week I posted general information about the H.O.W. program. Today I'll post some more specific information, including how *I* work the program on a day to day basis.

It's important to remember that this is just one man's program. I don't want to imply that this is the right way to do it or that I've got my act all together. I am grateful for the structured approach that H.O.W. gives me, because nothing else was working for me. Another point I want to make is that so much depends upon one's sponsor. As I described in this post, I really believe God brought me into this program at this time in my life and matched me with just the right sponsor. It was an amazing experience of "right time, right place," and everything sort of fell into place. My sponsor has stressed to me that one cannot give what one does not have, so she is big on giving me the program the way it was given to her. She's a follower of the H.O.W. structure, and so I am too.

The "guidelines" I agree to in order to work with my sponsor...
  1. See a nutritionist or medical professional to decide upon a food plan. I had a "temporary" food plan that everyone is given until we can see the nutritionist.
  2. Plan food in advance, commit that food to my sponsor every morning - on the phone - at a predetermined time.
  3. Do daily reading in the AA Big Book or 12 & 12. Write based on questions that are given to me. (These are the questions that guide me through the Steps.) Share my writing with my sponsor every morning when I call her to commit my food.
  4. Call in all food changes to a sponsor. For instance, if I need to change something... Maybe I realize I don't have what I thought I had or the salad has gone bad... I can't just switch. I have to get my sponsor or another H.O.W. sponsor on the phone and get that change approved. This keeps me from making decisions on a whim. There needs to be a good reason. I can't be making my own decisions about food.
  5. I agree to weigh and measure all my food. Even in restaurants.
  6. I had to agree not to eat in any restaurants for the first 30 days.
  7. I agree to talk live on the phone with at least three other OA members every day. We call these "hook up calls" or "outreach calls."
  8. I agree to only weigh myself once a month.
  9. I think many H.O.W. members attend more than one meeting per week. My sponsor is OK with my going to only one per week. I attend a Saturday morning face to face meeting. But she encourages me to try O.A.-H.O.W. phone meetings. One of these evenings I plan to.
I was overwhelmed at first. I thought there was no way to do this, but I have found, one day at a time, that it's possible. It's more than possible. It's a new way of life. And it's bringing me life.

I will not give anyone the food plan, because I don't want anyone to make the mistake of trying to use this structure like a diet. All the parts are important, and it's NOT just about weight loss, although that's a great piece of it. We are all about spiritual, emotional and physical recovery. Sponsors are happy to get you started with a food plan.

And now I have to go to sleep so I can be up to read and write at 5:30am! I hope this is helpful to someone. I am not ready to sponsor yet, but I might be able to hook you up with a sponsor... Let me know if I can help. You can call (see the link on the right), email or comment here on the blog.

Friday, September 24, 2010


My name is Charlie. I'm a compulsive overeater. 

::Hi, Charlie!::

God help us... (Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

H.O.W. F.A.Q.

Hi Friends... My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I've had a few people asking about about H.O.W. Here is a helpful F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions) from the HOW/OA Northern California Intergroup:

What is Overeaters Anonymous?

O.A. is a fellowship of men and women who meet to share their Experience, Strength and Hope.

What is its purpose?

To help ourselves, and others, who suffer from the self-destruction of compulsive eating.

What is HOW/OA?

Overeaters Anonymous H.O.W. meetings have been formed to offer the compulsive overeater who accepts the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as a Program of Recovery a disciplined and structured approach.  The HOW/OA program is formed in the belief that our disease is absolute, and therefore only absolute acceptance of the OA Program will offer any sustained abstinence to those of us whose compulsion has reached a critical level.

What does HOW stand for?

Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness

Is HOW/OA part of Overeaters Anonymous?

Yes.  HOW/OA is a subgroup of OA.  It is considered a special focus group that offers a structured approach at working the 12 Steps of OA.

How do I begin? 

We encourage newcomers to go to a meeting and get a sponsor.  A sponsor is the newcomer's guide during their first thirty days and a continuing helping hand in their recovery program.

How much is the cost for membership?

There are no dues or fees for membership. We are self-supporting through our own contributions, neither soliciting nor accepting outside donations. Contributions are optional.  Newcomers are encouraged not to contribute for their first three meetings.

Do you have to be overweight to be a member of OA?

No.  Obesity is just one of the many symptoms of the deadly disease of compulsive eating.  It is not how much we weigh or even how much we eat or don't eat that brings us to OA.  It is the ways in which we have desperately tried to control our food, eating and weight.

Do we have a diet?

No!  O.A. is not a diet club.  However, O.A. H.O.W. does have a food plan.

What is the differentce between OA and OA/HOW?

HOW members are rigorous in our adherence to the food plan as it is written.  It is what works for us.  However, we urge all newcomers to consult with their health care professional.  Any modifications of the plan by your doctor will certainly be acceptable.

How do I change myself?

Your recovery is targeted at three levels - Spiritual, Physical and Emotional.

Is OA a religious group?

No!  It aims at spiritual growth, but it is not limited to any sect or denomination.  It is open to all who want recovery.

What if I have only a little weight to lose?

The amount does not matter- what does matter is that you are eating compulsively and you need help!

What is compulsive eating?

A compulsion is an irresistible urge to do an irrational act.  If you over eat or under eat to try to satisfy an emotion such as loneliness or anger, and are overweight or underweight as a consequence, then you are a compulsive eater.

What happens at meetings?

You will hear positive shares from recovering food addicts about their successes in their every day living.  How they applied the “tools” to their lives and became able to cope with distressing events without eating  compulsively.  People will demonstrate that positive thinking and actions are statements of growth and recovery and are examples of living in the solution rather than in the problem.  Dwelling in the problem is a symptom of our disease.

What do I have to do to start?

Come to a meeting, relax and listen.  You will not be asked to talk.  You will merely introduce yourself.  The rest is up to you.  There will be many people able and willing to answer your questions.  Don’t forget-we all started exactly the same way.

Does the program really work?

You bet your life it works!  At a meeting you will hear many success stories.  Not only will you be recovered to a normal weight, but you will gain a great deal of serenity and clarity that will amaze you!  Many of us came to H.O.W. to get to a normal weight, that our first and primary goal.  In the beginning it was our focus, but we soon came to discover the Twelve Step Program offers so much more!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

It's my birthday today, September 22. I'm 39 now. I'm grateful to be alive, grateful to be abstinent. I'm grateful for my beautiful wife and kids. I'm grateful for my sponsor and the life-giving structure of the OA-HOW program. I'm grateful for my good friends, both inside and outside the world of 12-Step recovery.

I'm a very blessed man. Thank you, God.

Yesterday morning I had a really cool experience with trusting God and finding willingness... We had a staff meeting in the morning, and my administrative assistant made cinnamon rolls and banana bread to celebrate my birthday! I thanked her profusely and told her I wouldn't be eating any... She smiled and pulled out what she had prepared especially for me, since she had noticed I was being careful with my food... peeled hard-boiled eggs and fruit salad... kiwi, strawberries, grapes. It was a lovely, thoughtful gesture.

I ran back to my office and tweeted my concern to the world... just to get it out there... My good friend @RecoveringinOA provided some immediate feedback and support, so that was cool... And I survived. No hard feelings. My assistant understood and was really cool about it.

These are the little things that get me worked up sometimes... But I know I am in the hands of a loving God. I know that as I surrender to God, one day at a time... sometimes one moment at a time, God will take care of me and provide everything I need.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Quick Check-In

My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

Taking a cue from my friend G. Rabanon, I thought I'd drop by with a quick check-in, even though I'm hella busy. (Love that expression. It's so Oakland.) So, bullet points:
  • I'm on Day 37 of abstinence with the OA-HOW structure.
  • I'm busy with work, seminary, program work, bills/budget stuff, phone calls, meetings, and of course my beautiful wife and kiddos.
  • I started having some serious cravings yesterday... Mexican, Italian, cheese, chocolate. I wrote about it this morning... I'm OK. I'll get through.
  • I remembered a little bit ago that I had a dream last night where I lost my abstinence! I ate a handful of chocolate candies, not even thinking about it... and then I was like "Shit! I just ate chocolate!" I immediately felt (in my dream) such shame and guilt... This horrible feelingin the pit of my stomach. Relapse. That ugly word. I was thinking of how I would tell my sponsor, of the 35 days of abstinence that I had just flushed down the toilet. Very interesting.
And now I must go to choir practice! Adios!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Belief and Unbelief

Hi, I'm Charlie, a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

In my daily program work, I've been reading and answering questions about the first three steps. It's been bringing up some really interesting and, I think, important stuff for me. Here's a "balance sheet" I had to create, listing all the reasons I could think of for believing in God and all the reasons I could think of for not believing in God. I think it was a really good exercise, and I'm still thinking about these things a couple of weeks later...

I believe in God because of my own personal experiences with God. I have especially fond memories of 2002-2005, the early years of my coming into the light with my other addiction. I have never experienced so much light and hope. I experienced God in many profound, personal experiences… In prayer and meditation, in reading scripture, in listening to music and reading books. I also experienced God through God’s people… my sisters and brothers in Christ who loved me and listened to me and helped me. I experienced grace as I told my story and time after time found acceptance, forgiveness and affirmation. I was overwhelmed with God’s love. All of the fear of God was gone. Just the gratitude and acceptance remained.

ometimes I don’t believe in God because I don’t feel God’s presence in my life. I still am tempted by things that I wish would be long behind me. If I felt God’s presence in my home of California, surrounded by loving friends who really knew me and my family, it’s harder to feel God in “the wilderness,” wondering when I’ll really feel close to someone. I'm really missing my good friends from California. I thought God led us to move away from that community and church, but I have severe doubts about it sometimes now.

I believe in God because so many reasonable, faithful, intelligent, trustworthy women and men do. They convince me again and again with their words and, more importantly, with their lives.

Sometimes I doubt God because so many rational, kind, thoughtful, moral people are agnostics or atheists. Many have left the faith. I spent a season not too long ago journeying with three people who had left my evangelical or Christian faith for agnosticism or atheism: Julia Sweeney, in her one-woman show “Letting Go of God,” David Bazan’s album “Curse Your Branches” and Bart Ehrman’s “God’s Problem.” As I read, watched and listened to their words, I grew more and more convinced that they just might be right.

I believe in God for the “big reasons”: I believe there has to be some kind of “first cause.” I believe there has to be some kind of intelligent designer. I believe there is something greater than us out there. I believe there has to be some “true north,” some ultimate moral compass that all people acknowledge.

I see that every “big reason” I have for believing in God can be explained away philosophically. I think that’s why faith is so important. At some point I have to take a leap of faith. It’s not all going to make sense.

I believe in God because of what I see in God’s absence: hatred, fear, addiction, all our character defects and individuals and groups.

Sometimes I doubt God’s existence because I see the ugliness that religion and religious people have brought into this world. Religion is not exempt from evil. And I see good in people who have no belief in God. This doesn’t cause me to seriously doubt though. If God is real, then his goodness can come through anyone, whether they believe or not.

I believe in God because of the grandeur of nature on a large scale: oceans, mountains, plains, the Grand Canyon. I believe in God because of the intricacy of nature on a small scale: cells, atoms, insects and amoebas.

Sometimes I doubt the existence of God precisely because of nature. Evolution and billions of years of erosion, etc. really can account for just about everything I see.

I believe in God because I see God’s image in so many people – and because so many of those people look nothing like me. Every tribe, every tongue, every nation giving glory to God in their own beautifully diverse ways.

Sometimes I don’t believe in God because of the diversity of belief in God. Surely if God were real, he/she/it could be more clear in its revelation.

I believe in God because I’ve heard so many miracle stories. Hell, I've experienced and told those miracle stories!

Sometimes I don’t believe in God because those miracle stories turn out to be lies. And any supposed miracle can be a coincidence.

I believe in God because I’ve experienced God in a crazy collection of letters, prophetic writings, songs, histories, stories written by dozens of people over thousands of years and preserved for millennia.

Sometimes I doubt God’s existence because the Holy Scriptures are basically a jumbled mess. Are we Christians imposing a metanarrative on the text?

I believe in God because something deep inside me knows God is there.

I always thought I had been given the spiritual gift of faith: that no matter what, I would have a deep down, bedrock belief in God. Then I started to doubt. It was scary. I lost that assurance. Feelings aren’t fact.

I believe in God because I want God to be true so badly. It’s like God is too good NOT to be true. The bible teaches that each person has “eternity in our heart,” set there by God, to lead us to Him. I see that in my own life and countless others.

As I say to my sponsor every day after reading my writing to her: The End.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Doing Whatever It Takes - And Gratitude for a Great Weekend

My name is Charlie, and I'm a recovering compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I just wanted to take a moment and express my gratitude for another great week in recovery. I've continued to work my HOW program, committing my food every day, reading AA literature and writing answers to questions. I call three people every day. And I get to a meeting every week.

I had a really wonderful weekend with my oldest son. On Thursday night I had a gig with my band, and I talked him into coming with me. Of course, this was only a cover for my real plan... We left the gig, and instead of going home, I started driving in the other direction entirely! I had already packed the car with clothes and everything we would need for our time together.

Eventually he figured out that it was taking us a long, long time to get home. We ended up at a big beautiful lake house owned by some friends in my church. We stayed there two nights, rented a jet ski, jumped off a 40-foot cliff into the lake... and then ended our time with a ride in a friend's airplane! It was amazing. Such a wonderful time of bonding.

I'm amazed and grateful that I have friends with resources to allow me to give my son a great experience like this. And I'm so, so grateful that I had the willingness to go to any lengths to keep my abstinence.

I committed and packed all my food for the weekend in advance. When I got the the lake, there was no wi-fi anywhere... but cell reception was fine. Great. I could call my sponsor. I could make my program calls. I'd be OK.

And then my phone got wet on the jet ski... and died. Perfect.

You know what? I was able to pray (I actually said the serenity prayer on the spot) and then just turn it over. I began to think about how I was going to connect with my sponsor at our appointed time the next day. I didn't even have her phone number, because it's stored in my cell phone. But I DO have her email address in my computer, even though there was no wi-fi. So after driving through the neighborhood looking for wi-fi to "borrow" and finding none, I called my wife on the lake house's land line, gave her my sponsor's email and asked her to email on my behalf. I asked her to ask my sponsor to call me on the lake house's line in the morning. What a pain!

And then in the morning my phone was all dried out and worked fine. Thank God!

I'm just so glad that I didn't go to the food, and I didn't give up. I prayed, I surrendered, and I did my best... and God did God's part, and it all came together.

And it was an amazing weekend. I'm so grateful.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Revelation Song

My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

It's Sunday afternoon, and I had a really wonderful time in church this morning. I was especially moved leading and singing a song called "Revelation Song." Here's a Youtube clip of Kari Jobe singing it with Gateway Church in Austin. I'll post the lyrics too, because they are very moving to me... the majesty and power of God. So many contemporary worship songs treat God like a buddy. And there is some truth and comfort in the idea that God is right here with me, a friend who is closer than anyone else. I'm glad I can celebrate a God like that. But it is also important to remember that God is above us, all-powerful and, in many ways, unknowable. It is right for us to approach God with a sense of awe, wonder and reverence. I think this song gets that aspect of worship right.

For those unfamiliar with Christian worship, this may seem really weird, and rightly so. It's like a rock concert mixed with a church service mixed with a little tent-revival Pentacostalism. My church isn't nearly as over-the-top emotive, rock-show spectacular or... well, loud. But we do believe that when we gather together, something special happens. We really experience the presence and the power of the living God. And, although I often struggle with the balance between performance and worship, today was - for me - a great morning.

(And - just for the record - this is only one teeny-tiny little glimpse into what Christian worship is all about. One song in one church. For many Christians, this would be unrecognizable. In Protestant Evangelicalism, anyway, there are as many styles of worship as there are churches, for better or for worse.)

Kari Jobe is a really wonderful writer and singer. You may not worship and follow Jesus like I do, but I hope you can at least catch a glimpse of your Higher Power in this song.

Revelation Song
Written by Jennie Lee Riddle

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven's mercy seat

Holy, holy, holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing
Praise to the King of kings
You are my everything
And I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor, strength and glory and power be
To You, the only wise King

Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus, Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

(c) 2004 Gateway Create Publishing

::EDIT:: I'm frustrated that I can't get the video embedded correctly. If you watch it here, it cuts off on the side. Oh well, if you wanna see it, you can click through to Youtube. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Wordle

Hi, I'm Charlie, a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I thought this was pretty cool... creates a graphic representation of your blog or Twitter stream or whatever. Try it for yourself!