Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Feel It... I Taste It... This Longing to Be Free

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm grateful today for 80 days of abstinence from compulsive overeating. It's been amazing so far, and I know I'm just starting out on the journey.

This song came up in shuffle this morning, and I thought I'd share it. It's good traveling music... Andrew Osenga recorded it a couple of years ago and gave it away for free on his website. It's from the album Letters to the Editor.

Swing Wide the Glimmering Gates
Andrew Osenga

I caught myself looking in the mirror
Wishing I was someone else
I was born with a bleeding heart
And veins of loneliness

And I know it, I’ve seen it, I’ve held it in my arms
But love can’t seem to break me down
And I’ve pleaded, I’ve begged and I’ve bloodied my eyes
Just to feel it, to believe it will stick around

Swing wide the glimmering gates

I told myself the habits and secrets
Were just to get me through, to get me through the nights
But I got lost in a world of angles,
In a city of greys and lies

And I feel it, I taste it, this longing to be free
Oh, the joy of believing like a child
So you, you there listening, will you send up a prayer
For me, to help me find the light

Swing wide the glimmering gates
Leave your pride and pain
Swing wide the glimmering gates
And be innocent again

One day I believe I will open up my eyes
Just to see the good work that was begun
And I’ll be the only things I’ve ever wanted to be
And I’ll know that I belong

Swing wide the glimmering gates
Leave your pride and pain
Swing wide the glimmering gates
And be innocent again

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Late-Night Twitter Musings on the Love of God

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I posted this long, rambling reflection on God's love last night on Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

Feeling connected to God tonight. for a God who really truly loves us. I used to have a friend who doubted God's love for her.

She had come out of a life of real degradation, including drug addiction and prostitution.

But she had found a relationship with God through Jesus... and we served in ministry together.

She still struggled, though, with crippling self-hatred and self-sabotaging behaviors.

I would try to assure her that she was loved by God, & she would reply, in those times, w/ "So what's the big deal? If God loves everyone...

Then why is it special that God loves me?

I had a revelation one day that helped her - and ME - to understand a little better.

If God is a loving parent... then my love for my children is NOTHING compared to God's love for me.

And even though I love all of my kids the same AMOUNT...

I *don't* love them in the same way at all...

In fact, my love for my firstborn son is radically different from my love for my middle son. Which is different from my love for my daughter

and her twin brother. Equal love in many ways, but VERY different and unique love.

And... this was important to me anyway... the "kind" of love I have for my kids... it's based on who THEY are... as unique individuals.

I simply cannot love child 1 in the same "generic" way I love child 2... Impossible.

So each child get this radically unique love that is based in the relationship that he or she and I share...

NO ONE ELSE will ever share that love but that child and me. It's unique, special.

And I think that's how our God loves us.

With a radically unique love that only we as individuals can share with God...based on who we are and who God is.

It's truly a one-of-a-kind love in the history of the Universe because that's how unique we are.

The other piece of this lies in the unchanging nature of God... The love, although it is uniquely focused on each of us as individuals,

is not based on us... how "good" or "bad" we are...

Rather, it is based in who GOD is and the reality that God has chosen US and called us beloved... God's very own sons and daughters.

I try to communicate that love to my own children.

My love for my daughter, for instance, is not BECAUSE of her beauty...

Although she certainly is a little beauty...

No, I love her for one simple reason: She's MINE.

That will never change.

Appearance, talent, intellect, personality, circumstances of life...

Those are love-able things...

But they can change.

The reality that my children are MY CHILDREN. That doesn't change.

It lets my kids be secure in the fact that I will never, ever stop loving them.

(Wonder where all that came from tonight?)

Good night, Twitterverse. Rest in the arms of your Higher Power. U R loved with an everlasting love. Surrender to that loving Power tonight.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miracles: A Guest Post from G. Rabanon

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Today I have the great privilege of presenting a guest post by my friend G. Rabanon. You've heard me mention her name before. She was one of the people God used in a powerful way to bring me back into recovery and to begin this period of abstinence and growth in my life for which I am so, so grateful. Enjoy her writing, and please check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!

Hi, my name is G. and I am a recovering bulimic.



Hm. I guess that only works for Charlie.

::Hi Charlie!::


Um… okay.

Anyway, today, it turns out, I am 300 days abstinent from disordered eating. Charlie asked me a while ago if I'd like to write a guest post. And I was just thinking about him tonight and I figured, eh, no time like 11:22 at night. Sorry, 11:23.

Tonight I want to talk about miracles.

Bulimia is not the beginning of my story, as it is not the beginning of anyone's story. In fact, I came to bulimic behaviors relatively late in life, at least in comparison with a lot of the stories I've heard… though I know comparisons are irrelevant, and I know that in most respects 18 is really quite young… hell, almost 11 years younger than I am now…

I've been bulimic for almost 11 years. Huh.

Well, the other big elements of my story are depression and child abuse. Both go back as far as I can remember. I don't want to make it sound like there were never times when I experienced joy, because that would be a lie… but I have never in my life been happy. Never. Not until now. Not until the age of 28 did I learn what it could mean to be happy. And I could be extremely bitter about that.
Which brings me to the first miracle: I am not bitter.

I was. Oh, believe me, I was plenty plenty bitter for a long long time. I realized when I was 14 that the reason I always felt like there was something wrong with the way Dad hit us was because he wasn't supposed to be hitting us. I realized that probably a big part of why I was always so sad was because of the things that were said and done to me and my mother and my brother and sister in my home. When I left, when I got out and went to college, got a job, went abroad, went to graduate school, the pain followed. The pain never let go. And I was bitter. And I was angry. And I thought that it would never leave me and that I would never be able to have a life that was not torturous. Less than 6 months ago, I had given up. I didn't want to kill myself necessarily, but I said to myself, to my friends, to my teachers, to my therapist, to people in OA meetings, to God, ESPECIALLY to God, that if this was life, then I really really did not want to play anymore. I didn't want to die, to be dead, I just wanted it to stop hurting.

Miracle number two: I am alive.

Here's how it happened… God sent me an angel. I don't mean the cliche winged angel that you see in movies or illustrated Bibles and stained glass windows. I mean angel in the literal, original sense of the word. The word angel, and the Hebrew word מלאך mean "messenger." And that is what God sent me.

He was a teacher of mine. An alcoholic recovering in AA who will, God willing, have 18 years of sobriety this Christmas Eve. I had failed his Talmud class, largely because I had a great deal of difficulty getting out of bed in the morning to get to his class, let alone doing assignments. I spent a great deal of my time sitting or lying in my room with tears streaming down my face for no immediate reason other than the fact that I was in agonizing pain on the inside of my head and heart and nothing seemed to give any relief. I'd already started in OA by then, was abstinent almost 5 months, and so was no longer dulling the pain with food. I'd not intentionally injured myself in about a year and 6 months, had not purged in about 2 years and 2 months, had begun to cut down on my drinking (which had been getting heavier and heavier) and was left with very little in the way of coping mechanisms. I was therefore not coping. This was to be the point of reckoning. This was it. Either I would figure out how to live without hurting myself to get by, or I was going to die. Maybe now, maybe later, but it was going to happen. And I was not optimistic.

I came to speak to my teacher. He had an inkling of what was going on. So he proceeded to tell me a story. There was a time when he was suicidal, he told me. He'd been hospitalized for his alcoholism and suicidal depression. He wanted to speak to a chaplain, but didn't want a rabbi, fearing for his anonymity. All rabbis know each other, you see, one way or another. So he was seen by a priest. The priest listened to him, and then told him "You know, this is all going to make you a better rabbi."

This was the bell that began to wake me. You see, I've heard that line countless times in my life. And I hated… no, really… HATED hearing it. Hated it so so much. Maybe I don't WANT to be a better rabbi! Maybe I would rather be a mediocre rabbi, or even a TERRIBLE rabbi if it meant I could be happy and sane and not want to die!

But suddenly, the words were true. I knew they were. Because the better rabbi was sitting in front of me, looking into my eyes and telling me his story. Because of what he'd been through, he was a better rabbi… indeed, the ONLY rabbi for me in that moment. Because there he was, having been where I'd been, worse places even, and he was sitting exactly where I wanted to end up sitting. Doing just what I wanted to be doing. He'd come through the hell I was in and had not only survived, but had gone on to be what I want to be. He had what I wanted. He'd been able to get there.

Miracle: I was given hope.

No one had ever EVER been able to give me that before. People had always said encouraging things to me, hoping to snap me out of the pit of despair in which I was so accustomed to wallowing. People had said all sorts of things to me, but none had been able to speak to me from a place of understanding, of experience and recovery, who had gotten to where I wanted to be.

A month later, as I was pulling myself together, I had a realization one night. I was sitting alone at home. It was late, just about bedtime. I was online, trying desperately to soothe the gnawing ache of loneliness I was feeling. Nobody loves you, I kept hearing in my head. Nobody wants to hang out with you, no one wants to talk to you, you're alone and nobody loves you. Suddenly, God spoke to me/my rational brain kicked in. However you want to call it. "Ok G," it said. "What is this? Seriously? It's 11:30 at night. There's nowhere you want to go, no one you really want to talk to, and you know for a FACT that there are scores if not hundreds of people who like you, lots of whom really really like you, and a bunch of whom even adore you! So where is this coming from?"

I answered myself.

I hate myself. I'm sitting here and I feel lonely because I am sitting with someone who hates me. If you sit 24 hours every day 7 days every week with someone who hates you, of course you are going to feel lonely, of course you are going to feel like nobody loves you!

It occurred to me that night, for the first time, out of nowhere, that there was this person named G, this person who was well liked and well respected by many, who was someone of whom people said to each other "this is someone you really want to get to know," and here I was closer to her than anybody, and I had no idea who she was. I had the opportunity to be her friend, just like all the cool people, and I'd decided that I didn't like her without even getting to know her.

That was ridiculous.

Miracle: I decided to be friends with me.

I would never willfully treat another person the way I treated myself. And realizing suddenly that I was the only person who was ever going to have to be with me every moment of every day of my life, I HAD to be my own best friend… not because nobody else would, but because I was always going to be there if no one else was at the moment. It just suddenly made sense.

Life has been amazing ever since.
And those are the big miracles of the last six months of my life. I didn't talk very much about the food, but let's face it… it's never really about the food. The food is the door to everything else. The food is, in many ways, the simplest part of this.

I thank God for every moment of every day. The world is full of miracles and beauty. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When you do the work, miracles, REAL miracles, do actually happen.

Don't give up five minutes before the miracle happens. You miss out on the good stuff that way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Don't Water Down To Suit Your Fancy"

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I had a rough, long day. It was the big finale to a rough, long week. It started with a really sad funeral last week and went through a week of a lot of drama and discomfort. 

But I'm still here, and I'm still abstinent. This, my friends, is a miracle.

This was my reading and writing assignment for the day. I started reading and writing feeling stressed and irritated that I even had to do it, and I finished with joy and gratitude. I hope you are encouraged tonight, no matter where you are in recovery, no matter how you're feeling, no matter what your path or program of recovery, to stick with this. It's so worth it. It's always worth it.

10c) Don’t Water Down to Suit Your Fancy.
Read BB Preface page xi, paragraph 2; page 58, paragraph 1.
Read Bill W. page 229, paragraph 4 beginning with “If also some” and ending with “life.”
Read Doctor Bob and the Good Old Timers pages 261 top to 262 top ending with “program anymore.”

This reading assignment was very simple today, but so relevant. Today I’ve been frazzled. I’m tired. I really want to go to bed early, and I have a list a mile long of things I want to get done before I go to bed. I left the house at 6 this morning and didn’t get home until 5:30 due to all the commitments I had. I didn’t even begin to think of program commitments like the calls and reading/writing until was driving home, and then I felt overwhelmed by all I had to do. But when I finally sat down to read and write, I get to these very basic thoughts. This program works, if we follow it “as is.” It’s not about picking and choosing the parts that apply to me. Because when I do that, when I get in my head and start trying to “figure it out,” I get crazy. Or maybe I should say the craziness starts to come out to play. Cause I’m always crazy, it’s just that this program of recovery keeps the craziness at bay.

I’ve been telling people on my hook-up calls today that the program works. It has gotten me through a couple of busy, crazy days. Days I would have made exceptions for in the past. Days I would have broken abstinence because of “special circumstances.” I have done that countless times. This program works because I’m still abstinent, 76 days in. I’m still here. Through a weekend retreat with my son where I lost my cell phone along with all my phone numbers. Through a BBQ early on with my band and vocal team at church. Through dinners and lunches out with friends, colleagues and parishioners. Through an all-day retreat in Wichita where I packed my meals in individual sacks and went to the car at each meal to get my brown bag from the cooler to take in and eat with my friends in the cafeteria. Through a somewhat spontaneous lunch today with church friends. Through my wife’s and my anniversary, my birthday, the twins’ birthday. Through band gigs where there was all kinds of free food and beer. All situations where in the past, I would have just HAD to eat… Would have HAD to fudge it just a little. But no, I’m abstinent. Because of this program. Because of all the tools. Because of friends who are in this with me, guiding me and showing me how we work it.

And if it’s worked in these situations, it’ll work in all situations. Thanksgivings and missions trips and conferences. And even at my daughter’s wedding.** And I don’t feel like I’m future-tripping in saying that. I think it feels to me more like surrendering to the reality that this program can and does work in all the situations of life as long as I remain honest, open-minded and willing. And as long as I just keep on doing the next right thing.

**These are all future things my sponsor and I have talked about. In fact, I am always guaranteed a laugh in an OA meeting when I use the following line about my tendency to future-trip: 
"I get really panicky sometimes when I think about never having sugar again. How will I ever get through my daughter's wedding without having a piece of her wedding cake? 


My daughter is nine years old...."

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Watched Addiction Kill Last Week

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I watched addiction kill last week.
It left a young woman husbandless.
It left two middle-school boys fatherless.

He had a disease. He could have gotten treatment. He should have gotten treatment. Last week, in his final week in the hospital, he was willing. He was planning to go to rehab. Unfortunately it was too late. He never got better. His organs shut down, one by one. He went into a coma. And then he died.

Alcoholism turned a once-vibrant man, high school football star, life of the party, successful businessman into a yellow, empty shell.

And no, I don't expect a memorial service to be a 12-Step meeting. But that doesn't mean I have to enjoy the collective denial we labored through.

He was such a great guy.
He was such a good father.
He was such a loving husband.
He really embraced life.
He wouldn't want us to be sad.
Let's watch this slideshow of happy family memories...

Such bullshit.

How about...

He was so very sick.
Many of us helped him to stay sick.
We thought someone else would finally get through to him.
His sickness kept him from seeing reality, from understanding the real cost of his refusal to get help.
His children will suffer with this for decades. 

Addiction killed a 42-year-old man last week. God rest his soul. God heal his family and bring peace, light, hope and recovery.

And may I live in gratitude for the new life I'm finding and in service to those who still suffer. Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Medical Coding Certification Dot Com?

Hi, I'm Charlie, a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

Not sure what this site is all about, but I'm listed there, and it's bringing traffic to my blog, so I'm grateful! Check it out:

50 Best Blogs for Beating Food Addiction

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Living the Message = Carrying the Message

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Today I want to talk about what the 12th Step talks about: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [compulsive overeaters], and to practice these principles in all our affairs." I've been thinking about this a lot since Friday night. I was at a concert, and I saw a very obese woman. She was one of the largest people I've ever seen out in public, and it looked like everything she did was difficult. I felt just awful for her, and I wondered what my obligation was/is to help people who are still suffering from the ravages of this disease.

It was still on my mind the next day, so I talked to a friend in OA with 3+ years of abstinence and amazing physical recovery. She had some great things to say, and I started to feel some peace.
Then, amazingly, this was my reading and question on Sunday:

Read Chapter 11 (BB). Discuss and reflect upon the vision God has for you. Discuss at length what this concept means to you: "The answers will come if our own house is in order."

My writing:
I love this chapter, because so much of it is about carrying the message to other people. I have been thinking about the incredible epidemic of compulsive eating all around me. I know I can’t diagnose other people’s illness, but I also know that our disease is under-diagnosed. I have been a compulsive overeater for years and didn’t know it until 2006. I’ve been thinking about this since Friday night. I was at a concert, and I saw a very obese woman in the back row. My heart just broke for her, because I could tell how difficult it was for her to even be there. At least physically. I was happy that she could still get out and about, but I wondered how to carry the message of Overeaters Anonymous to her! In A Vision for You, we read about Bill W. and Doctor Bob and how they carried the message to other desperate alcoholics. There are, of course, corresponding principles. That’s why I’m reading the Big Book! But I don’t know how to reach out to that woman… You can’t just walk up to someone and say, “You look like you could use Overeaters Anonymous,” unless you want to hurt and embarrass someone!

I talked about this with a wise Program friend yesterday, and her thoughts made sense to me. We carry the message by living it. By working the best Program that we can. By surrendering to God, by growing in our conscious contact with God, by releasing excess weight to God (in God’s time), by making calls and going to meetings and doing service… And being ready to share the message when people are ready to hear it, and when we are asked. If we are living the Program, our lives will show it. We will have what people want and when they ask us how we got it, we’ll be ready to tell them.

When the book says, “the answers will come if our own house is in order,” it is in the context of asking God every day what we can do for the person who still suffers. And the answer is just what I’ve been writing about: living a good Program, surrendering to God on a daily basis, working the steps, staying abstinent. Living the message leads to carrying the message.

The amazing coincidence (although I don’t believe it’s coincidence) is that even as I type this, I am getting direct messages on Twitter from a person who discovered my anonymous OA blog…  pouring out her heart about... At this very moment… I am living out the message. And now I have this beautiful opportunity to carry the message, to point someone toward the solution. I am so grateful. Here I go!
I ended up talking with that person on the phone and carrying the message that afternoon. Then I was able to do an interview with Then I talked with an old program friend the next evening and hooked her up with a sponsor.

I'm so grateful for a weekend of encountering God, living the message and carrying the message.

Monday, October 11, 2010

AllTreatment Interview

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm grateful to be carrying the message of recovery over at AllTreatment today. Check it out!

Pray Where You Are

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I love music. Music speaks to my soul the way nothing else can. I can't tell you how many times God has broken through to my hard heart, softened up my soul through music. So from time to time I'll share a song that means a lot to me. Back in April, 2009, I shared a Sara Groves song that still moves me to the core. Today, I was reminded of another song while I was talking with my sponsor. I was talking about how I can see God everywhere, how I've experienced God in people and places where I never expected to find God. She said that, for her, that meant that no matter where we are, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can turn to God. We can pray.

Here's a favorite song of mine by The Lost Dogs called "Pray Where You Are."

Pray Where You Are
Terry Taylor and The Lost Dogs
from the album "Little Red Riding Hood"

In the submarines and tanks
In the S & Ls and banks
In the cancer wards, the prisons and the bars
On the earth and on the moon
In the closet, in your room
In the flop houses, the think tanks and the farms
To the salesman forever trying to sell
To the faithful daughter walking to the well

Oh, pray where you are
Pray where you are
In the fields and in the factories
There's no limits, rules or boundaries
At work or school or driving in your car
Pray where you are

In the strip joints, in the church
On a desperate lost child search
On the airplanes and the backroads and the rails
On the blacktops, on the beach
Down a sewer and up a creek
In the penthouses, the gulags and the jails
To the criminal with no one left to con
To the movie star whose day has come and gone

To the junkie with his back against the wall
To the lawman as he breaks another law...

In the desert, off the shore
In peacetime and in war
In the pentagon, the court rooms and the malls
In the tents and in the caves
At the truckstops, by the graves
In our hopes and fears and struggles great and small
To the corner bum that no one seems to hear
To the president who prays for four more years

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Using the Tools of Recovery

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the tools of recovery. I have been abstinent for two months now, and I don't think I could have done it without the clear structure provided by working the H.O.W. program. We have to use the tools... It's built into our abstinence. Anyway, ironically, my reading/writing assignment today was about the tools, so I thought I'd just post it here...

And I would love to hear from you.

What is your experience with using these tools? Are there things you find especially helpful? Any you find difficult to use? Anything you're confused about? Anything you can help me with?

Discuss and reflect upon the seven tools of your daily recovery.


To me, abstinence is the foundation for my recovery. “Our Invitation To You” puts it this way: “Once we become abstinent, the preoccupation with food diminishes and in many cases leaves us entirely. We then find that, to deal with our inner turmoil, we have to have a new way of thinking, of acting on life rather than reacting to it - in essence, a new way of living. OA defines abstinence as “the action of refraining from compulsive overeating.” Since I’m working the more structured H.O.W. program, my abstinence is even more clearly defined. For me, for today, there’s a lot of freedom in knowing exactly what my abstinence entails. 


As part of my program, I make every effort to talk live with at least three OA friends (in addition to my daily sponsor call). Sometimes this is a challenge, for sure. Sometimes it actually raises my anxiety, but honestly, that’s usually when I have not planned well and I save it for the last minute. At its best, and when I use it well, this tool connects me to people who are living this Program out one day at a time, people like me who truly understand this disease and are living in recovery. And it doesn’t really matter how well anyone is doing. If I speak to someone who has longer abstinence, more experience, strength and hope than I do, it’s awesome! There’s so much I can learn! I can ask questions and get advice, I can get feedback on how I’m feeling and what I’m doing to work my Program. If I’m stuck on something, I can hear about how someone else got through it. When I talk to H.O.W. members especially, I can get great advice on the particulars of the way we work the Program: questions about eating in restaurants, weighing and measuring, calling people, food plans and stepwork.

If, on the other hand, I find myself talking to someone who isn’t doing well, someone in relapse or someone who is struggling to hit their stride, I can be a light and a help. And it always helps me too. Sometimes I recognize the disease speaking and can help them see that, and I can always use that as a reminder to me to be vigilant in my Program.


I have never had the privilege of sponsoring anyone, but I am very grateful for my sponsor. I am grateful for the clarity I hear in her voice and the great experience, strength and hope she is able to share with me.


Meetings are the “front door” to Overeaters Anonymous in a lot of ways. (Well, for me the OA website was the front door.) Meetings are a great place to see recovery right in front of my eyes. Just like phone calls… I hear recovery and learn from others. I can also be of service. I think that full meetings are always really encouraging to everyone in the room, so just attending a meeting can be a great service to the people in the room. Sometimes – on a negative note – the meetings probably seem totally confusing and foreign to newcomers. We have a whole language of recovery, a “liturgy” of sorts. We recite things together. We stand up. We hold hands. We read stuff. We “testify.” So I think it’s important to explain things. To welcome people in and walk them through the experience of being new.


I am grateful for the ways that people in the Program have served me. By being at the meetings. By sponsoring me! By writing the literature, developing the website, publishing the materials. By taking my calls and calling me! By reading my blog and commenting and writing their own blogs! By connecting with me on Twitter. Service keeps me abstinent. No doubt in my mind. I want to stay abstinent. For me. For all who have served and loved me. It’s a wonderful cycle. You serve me. I serve you.

Literature (include writing and burning)

For the last 60 days or so I’ve been reading the AA Big Book and 12 & 12 and then answering questions. It’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. And then reading my writing to my sponsor and getting her feedback has been even more eye-opening. She helps me to see the places I’m just a little “crazy.” (She would say she can just hear the disease talking sometimes.) I actually had to look up the concept of “burning.” I guess some people are encouraged to burn their writing when they’re done writing it. I think that’s a little crazy! I really value being able to look back, see where I was and where I am. That may be one of the reasons I love blogging so much. I was a completely different person 2-3 years ago.

As far as OA literature goes, I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I have read through the “Brown Book” several times. When I was the secretary of a meeting in California, we used that every week for our readings. In my current meetings, the leader usually chooses a topic and we read related readings out of “For Today” or something similar. Honestly, though, I prefer some of the more basic material. I think it’s so good, just to go back to the basics again and again. “How It Works” in the AA Big Book. “Our Invitation To You” in the Brown Book. These are classic texts that always challenge and encourage me. The last few meetings I’ve led, I’ve had us reading pamphlets: “Tools of Recovery” and “A Plan of Eating.” I think sometimes we read a lot of touchy-feely stuff (which is good and important), but we ignore the basics and people do not get the chance to hear how the Program actually works.


Anonymity is a challenging tool. I don’t think I completely understand it, but I’m grateful for it. On one level, it’s about my safety to share without fear of being “outed” as a compulsive overeater. On another level, it’s about the fact that in the rooms, we’re all on equal footing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, trash collector, CEO, lunch lady, lawyer or gas station attendant, we all just compulsive overeaters. On yet another level, anonymity helps us place “principles before personalities.” Our experience, strength and hope speaks for itself. The principles, traditions and steps of this Program are what we follow, not people.

Friday, October 8, 2010

With Gratitude

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I have been reflecting on my two months of abstinence in the Overeaters Anonymous H.O.W. program. I have so much gratitude for where I am today. 

On August 2, I wrote this post. It was basically moaning and whining and complaining. I was so angry, so resentful. I was a victim. I was hopeless and helpless.

A couple of days later, my blogger friend G. Rabanon (@RecoveringinOA on Twitter) reached out to me via email. I've asked her if I can share her email, because it was a life-changer for me. God used it, along with a phone call from the woman who is now my sponsor, to get me back to an O.A. meeting where I found a sponsor - that very day - and surrendered to this structured plan of recovery.

Here's G.'s [slightly abridged] email:


Looks like you've got a serious case of the "fuck it"s. It's ok, it happens to all of us. I understand losing your willingness. It's a horrible feeling...

You made the distinction, Charlie, between a slip and a relapse. Well, let me tell you, there is no difference. Know why? Because all any of us has is Today, This Moment, Right Now. There's no such thing as relapse, there is just "Are you slipping now? How about now? What about now? Did you slip now? You gonna slip now?" Every moment that you don't slip, you are abstinent. When you slip, you lose that abstinence. You need to make a decision, Charlie. From this moment (if you are eating something not abstinent right now, stop. Just stop. Now. Just for this moment STOP!) you are abstinent. You are abstinent RIGHT NOW as you are reading this. The decision you have to make RIGHT NOW Charlie, is to NOT LOSE YOUR ABSTINENCE RIGHT NOW. Just for this moment. And now the moment has passed. And now in this moment, DO NOT LOSE YOUR ABSTINENCE! Just for this moment... and now the moment has passed. That is all you have to do Charlie. And it is so hard not to string the time together and lose track and lose sight of each individual minute, but that is what we have to do. We who suffer from the disease of addiction have to remember moments like other "normal" people can get away with ignoring. Sometimes it really really sucks. But you know... I think overall it's a blessing. How many Normals routinely make the effort to experience every minute of their lives and to be grateful for it? Our lives depend on it. In that sense, we are the lucky ones.

I'm with you Charlie, and so is God. God loves you even when you forget to take His hand. He's still reaching out to you. And when you have one hand in mine and one hand in God's, you have no free hands to pick up.

I wish you an abstinent weekend and look forward to hearing from you. :)


Today I celebrate the 12th Step - "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other compulsive overeaters, and to practice these principles in all our affairs" - with great gratitude to G. and to my sponsor. And to anyone else who carries the message by reading or commenting here on my blog, calling or emailing me, or sharing in O.A. meetings. You all are awesome, and I am so grateful for you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Freedom from the Insanity of the Scale

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

As I approach 60 days of H.O.W. abstinence, I have been reflecting a lot on where I'm at now, emotionally, spiritually and physically.Today I'm especially grateful that, as I surrender my life and my will to God's care, I am being freed from the insanity of compulsive weighing.

I have been using a website called Skinnyr for the past several years to track my weight. You can set it up to just click a button and record your weight for the day, and then it creates a graph for you. Now, believe me, I am well aware of the dangers of a site like this (especially a site with a name focusing on the word skinny), but I guess I'm looking at it as an instrument or a tool. In and of itself, it's a neutral thing that can be used in healthy or unhealthy ways, just like a scale.

As I look back on my graph over the past three years (I started keeping track on October 13, 2007), I am struck by how obvious the progression of my disease is! The ups and downs, the desperate attempts to control my food and my weight. I got on that crazy scale at least twice a day - morning and night. I let it control me. I would get on it sometimes 4-5 times in a single day, seeing how different things affected it. Was I lighter after I worked out? After I got out of the shower? After I went to the bathroom? After I fasted for half a day?

And no matter how I tried to control my eating, no matter how "successful" I was at losing weight for a period of time, I always found myself binging again. I always lost control. My addiction always kicked my ass. My "high" weights kept getting higher and higher. It's not hard to imagine where I might have ended up without intervention.

Yesterday I looked at the graph and realized that I'm not afraid. Today I'm not concerned about my weight or my body. I'm confident that my weight and the shape of my body will take care of itself as I surrender myself to God. A huge part of that is surrendering my compulsivity around weighing myself. I hide the scale so I'm not tempted. I weigh once a month, on the 19th. I like the graph for the last couple of months. Slow, steady, healthy weight loss. Not my frantic weighing, changing what I ate and how I lived from day to day in a ridiculous attempt to force the scale to reflect what my sick mind wanted so badly to see... No. Now it's a reflection of a transformation. A spiritual awakening. A surrendering to God's good plans for me.

I still feel anxious sometimes. I want to weigh myself. I want to see "how I'm doing," and then I remember that what I weigh is really none of my damn business. I give myself, body and soul, to my God today, to build with me and to do with me as God will. I surrender. And I'm finding peace and recovery, one day at a time.

One more thing: I don't want to come across like I'm all better. I'm still a sick man. I'm still a compulsive overeater, as I try to remind myself and all my readers with every introduction. I could slip this afternoon. I am always one choice away from relapse. But for today, I am so, so grateful for 59 days of abstinence and for peace, clarity and freedom.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Beautiful Freedom of Structure

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

 I'm coming up on 60 days of abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous following the H.O.W. structure, and I've been feeling a lot of gratitude. Today I feel real freedom: freedom from compulsive thinking and behavior related to food and eating; freedom from the insanity of weight gains and losses and gains and losses; freedom from compulsively weighing myself;  freedom from worrying about my body, my weight, my size, my appearance. Even freedom from fear about the future. For the first time I can remember, I know exactly what to do next in this program. I used to flounder around, wondering what that "next right step" was. I used to avoid calling people in the Program. I would read Program literature, but I was not willing to really do any stepwork. I had a couple of sponsors, but my relationships with them were halfhearted. I never had much direction, and I never asked for much.

Today I know what to do next. Have I done my reading/writing assignment today? Have I talked with three other OA members? Have I planned my food for tomorrow? Do I have the right food in the house? Have I packed my food for lunch tomorrow or made other arrangements? Have I talked to my sponsor? There's no guesswork.

I know to some this will sound crazy. I know this level of structure is not for everyone. But for me, for today, it's working. I'm so grateful.