Friday, November 26, 2010


My name is Charlie. I'm a grateful, recovering compulsive overeater from Oklahoma and an OA-H.O.W. sponsor.

::Hi, Charlie!::

It's been a while since I posted, but I am still alive and well, working my program one day at a time. My back-to-back abstinence date is August 10, 2010, and - last I checked - I had lost 41.2 pounds from my most recent high of 232.2 pounds (June 5, 2010), 26.2 of that in the H.O.W. program.

I'm writing today from the Nashville area, where my family is staying with my wife's brother and his family. We drove here on Wednesday, and then yesterday, we drove up into western Kentucky for Thanksgiving dinner with my dad's extended family. Lots of cousins, aunts and uncles, and my parents. We drove back here to Nashville last night, and we'll head back to Oklahoma tomorrow or Sunday.

I want to write about Thanksgiving. Specifically, How I Survived Thanksgiving Dinner With The Family. I wrote this brief reflection in my journal this morning:

Grateful today for abstinence. Grateful for a clever and fun Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday. Grateful for a wife and kids who lovingly helped me “act as if” I were eating. Grateful no one noticed. Grateful for calls and for willingness to call. Grateful for a food plan that nourished me. Grateful for safety as I drove 6 hours in the pouring rain. Grateful to see family that I love and so grateful to leave them again.

It was a good day in so many way. Oh, there were triggers, let me tell you. There was my Aunt C.'s lemon meringue pie, for instance, a pie I have always binged on. I'm talking since childhood. To the point that she would bring it "just for me" because she knew how much I loved it. Oh how I love that pie.

And then there was the whole host of other Thanksgiving-type food... you know, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, turkey and ham, chicken and dumplings, etc. Nothing new here. But so tempting. And these are the types of foods and the kind of occasion that would have, in the past, caused me to decide to "just give myself a little treat" and "start over tomorrow." How many times did I do that?

Not this time. And I knew I wouldn't. As I told many of my program friends in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I wasn't worried about slipping, about losing my abstinence. I was worried about how to stay abstinent without drawing undue attention to it. I was worried about how to stay abstinent without hurting Aunt C.'s feelings when I refused her lemon meringue pie. I was worried about what to say when people asked why I wasn't eating.

Well, first of all, I was strategic. My wife and kids and I turned it into a game. First, location. We chose spots in the far corner, far away from the buffet tables. Next, "act as if." I grabbed a plate, got in line with my 9-year-old daughter, and filled a plate full of food for her, walking along as if it were mine. Then I started "taking orders" for my family... potatoes for J., ham for Z., macaroni and cheese for E.... and I walked through the line, amongst cousins, uncles and aunts, filling a plate with all these orders. I took it back to the table, offloaded a bunch of it onto their plates, and then sat with a very messy plate - remnants of the food I had brought back for them - in front of me. I got up many times, grabbing this and that for people, getting myself another cup of Diet Coke, grabbing napkins for people. 

And you know what? I won the game! Not one person noticed I wasn't eating. Not one.

As I drove away, I was talking with my wife about the day, and it occurred to me that not only did no one notice, no one cared. Not in a cruel or insensitive way, just as a matter of fact. There were nearly 40 people there, and everyone was into what they were into... No one was paying attention to the food I was or was not eating. In fact, only one person commented on the 40 pounds I've dropped since I was there last Thanksgiving. People were concerned with their own kids, their own situations, their own plates full (or not) of food.

I used to think I was the center of the universe. Yesterday was one of those ego reducing experiences this program talks about. I'm grateful today that I can humbly go about the business of remaining abstinent, I can do what's right for me and I can be of service to others.

God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always. Amen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Experience, Strength and Hope

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted here. I haven't gone anywhere. I'm still abstinent, by the grace of God. It's just been busy. So much happening all the time. With Christmas coming, this music minister's time is often spent prepping for cantatas and Christmas Eve services. And, of course, I'm always busy calling OA friends, planning meals, packing lunches, reading OA literature, writing (just started my actual 4th Step inventory this morning!), talking to my sponsor every day, Tweeting... Oh yeah, and trying to be a halfway decent dad and husband.

And you know what? I think I'm becoming a better dad and husband, a better pastor and friend. I think this program is working. I know my wife is happy with the changes in my life. She has commented that she likes this "new me" that is emerging. I have never felt so disciplined. I have never been able to stick with anything for any length of time before now. I am so grateful.

Last Saturday my sponsor and I met to do a "Step Up" ceremony. We spent two hours together, talking and reading and even lighting candles. I loved it. I formally became a sponsor in the OA-HOW program. It was powerful. Sometime I'd like to write about that experience. Did I mention there were candles?

And tonight I will "Step Up" on the phone meeting. I will be doing the ceremony and then sharing my experience, strength and hope. I'm a little nervous. But I think it's the right thing to do. I was startled when the meeting leader asked me to do it - only this morning - but after talking to my sponsor, praying about it, and asking friends on the phone and on Twitter, I've decided to go ahead and do it. God will guide me. I will say what I'm supposed to say.

So, my prayer tonight:

God, I offer myself to Thee
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness
To Thy power, Thy love and Thy way of life.
May I do Thy will always.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Reading Tonight

"Would someone please read an excerpt from Chapter Three of the book Alcoholics Anonymous? We have adapted this selection to deal with compulsive overeaters."

Yes, thank you. My name is Charlie, and I'm a compulsive overeater from Oklahoma.

::Hi, Charlie!::

Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real overeaters. No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows. Therefore, it is not surprising that our eating careers have been characterized by countless vain attempts to prove that we could eat like other people. The idea that somehow, someday he will control and enjoy his eating is the great obsession of every compulsive overeater.  The persistence of this illusion is astonishing.  Many pursue it into the gates of insanity or death.

We learned that we had to fully concede to our innermost selves that we were compulsive overeaters. It is the first step in recovery. The delusion that we are like other people, or presently may be, has to be smashed.

We compulsive overeaters are men and women who have lost the ability to control our eating. We know that no real compulsive overeater ever regains control. All of us felt at times that we were regaining control, but such intervals—usually brief—were inevitably followed by still less control, which led in time to pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. We are convinced that compulsive overeaters of our type are in the grip of a progressive illness. Over any considerable period we get worse, never better.

We are like people who have lost their legs; they never grow new ones. Neither does there appear to be any kind of treatment which will make compulsive overeaters of our kind like other people.  We have tried every imaginable remedy. In some instances there has been brief recovery, followed always by a still worse relapse. Physicians who are familiar with compulsive overeating agree there is no such thing as making a normal eater out of a compulsive overeater. Science may one day accomplish this, but it hasn't done so yet.

Despite all we can say, many who are real compulsive overeaters are not going to believe they are in that class. By every form of self-deception and experimentation, they will try to prove themselves exceptions to the rule; therefore non-compulsive eaters. If anyone who is showing inability to control his eating can do the right-about-face and eat like a normal person, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to eat like other people.

Here are some of the methods we have tried: Eating one meal only; limiting the amount of sweets or starches; never eating alone; never eating breakfast (or lunch or dinner); never having any snack foods in the house; never eating during working hours; switching from regular food to health foods; eating only certain foods; dieting as part of a bet or an agreement; swearing off a particular food forever; taking a trip: taking a solemn oath; going to health farms; going the shots and pills route; going to a sanitarium; reading inspirational books; going to gyms for exercise; purging—we could increase the list ad infinitum.

We do not like to pronounce any individual a compulsive overeater, but you can quickly diagnose yourself.  Step into the kitchen and try some controlled eating.  Try to eat and then stop abruptly.  Try it more than once, It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it.  It may be worth a stomachache if you get a full knowledge of your condition.

Still Here, Abstinent and Grateful

Hi, I'm Charlie, compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

Grateful this morning for 88 days of abstinence. Grateful for the willingness to work my program, one day at a time. Grateful for my many friends in recovery, in my face-to-face meetings, my phone meeting community and my Twitter/blog community. Grateful for my family; my strong, loving, faithful wife; my crazy herd of awesome kids; and my loving God. You all are my lifeline.

I've been awfully quiet here and on Twitter lately, but that's just because my "real life" is very, very full right now. I'm sure a huge post is just below the surface, waiting to be written when the time is right. Until then, I'm just going to keep putting one foot in front of the other. One day at a time, in the strength of my Higher Power, I can do this.

I'm excited to attend the Friday night phone meeting tonight. Hope some of you can join me! And then tomorrow afternoon I am meeting my sponsor to do the "stepping up" ceremony. It's essentially the end of Step 3, and there are candles and everything! I'll let you know how it goes. After I've "stepped up" privately, then I'll do it on a phone meeting at some point and then I'll be a Sponsor... Whether and when I sponsor anyone else will be something my sponsor and I decide together.

Remember today: You are loved. You are more precious than you can imagine. You are worth it.