Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Three days till Christmas, and I'm caught up in the annual chaos. But I'm alive and I'm abstinent. This has been a rough patch, but I'm alive and I'm abstinent. Christ has come. Emmanuel means "God with us." I'm so grateful for the incarnation. God enfleshed. Miracle and mystery. Salvation.

I'm alive and I'm abstinent. Someday - after all the Christmas services I have to plan and lead, after my trip to visit family in Indiana - I'll post again.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coming Home

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I surrender. Again. I give up. I have to admit that I can't do this on my own. I am whipped. I am beat. I am hopeless and helpless without my Higher Power.

Since leaving HOW, I've had to experience again the insanity of my disease. I've had to go back to the sneaking food and the crazy thinking and the denials and the daily weigh-ins. I've obsessed over food and said I'd "start again tomorrow." I've gained at least 10 pounds. I've hated myself. I've given up the tools of the program, saying I really didn't need them, that I could just try a little harder, have a little more self-control.

The problem is, I don't have any self-control. I just don't. I have to surrender to the control of God. I have to give my life and my will to God's care. I'm so grateful I didn't have to gain 80 pounds back before I came home. I'm so glad I didn't have to eat myself to death. Because I could.

Thanks to all of you who have commented here and even emailed me. I'll get around to responding. I promise.

I'm back. Thanks for your love and support. I know you welcome me back with open arms. Because OA is home for me. It's home.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


My name is Charlie, and I guess I really *am* a compulsive overeater.

::Hi, Charlie!::

I don't want to be a compulsive overeater. I want to be done with this. I want to be normal. I want to be fixed. I want to be healed. I don't want to use the damn tools.

I don't want to gain weight. I don't want to eat compulsively. I don't want to relapse. I don't want to fail.

I want to be free. I don't want to weigh and measure and call and write and read.

I want to be thin. I want to be healthy. I want to eat anything I want to eat anytime I want to eat it... without gaining weight. Without getting compulsive again.

I. I. I. I.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"What you deserve is to not feel shitty."

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Where to begin?

Look to your right. See the little abstinence counter? That's right. I'm starting over. Again. Since choosing to re-define my abstinence a few months ago, I've been really struggling. Just like they said I would. I hate proving them right. I hate it. I've heard so many horror stories about people who leave OA-HOW and get right back into the insanity of compusive overeating. They gain tons of weight, often more than they lost in the first place. And they either get sicker and sicker until they finally die, or they come crawling back to OA-HOW, miserable, and climb back on the willingness wagon.

I swore I would not be one of those people. And I'm not. Not yet. But I did slip. I did relapse. Damn it.

I found a sponsor in "regular" OA, and I began to work a much less structured program. This opened the door for me to eat "moderately." I eventually had an ice cream cone. Then a breakfast sandwich from McDonald's. I had pizza and dessert at a men's event at church. I stopped weighing and measuring. I started eating compulsively sometimes... quietly, secretly.

I was still running a lot. I was healthy. I was skinny. I was fine.


I got real a couple weeks ago. I saw the handwriting on the wall, thank God, and I began to pray for help. I got in touch with a program friend who has what I want, and he agreed to be my sponsor. But even then, I was not very willing... Halloween came a few days ago, and I told myself I'd have "just one" Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. One turned into ten, then twenty, just like that. Damn. I felt crappy. I "washed it down" with two hunks of bread. At 10:00pm.

Even after talking to my sponsor about it and re-setting my abstinence, I overate at lunch the next day... compulsively tearing though two big plates of food at an Indian buffet. I got scared. Abstinence reset again. That night I was online and I ended up chatting with my good friend G. Rabanon. She helped me remember some really important things... I'm just gonna copy some of the conversation verbatim, because it was so good...

Me: That's what started it last night. a frickin' peanut butter cup

G.: Understood. Those things are deadly.

Me: 20 little candy bars later, i feel pretty shitty

G.: *nod*

Me: i'm still pretty skinny! that's the thing my addict points to to justify my compulsivity

G.: Oh Charlie, you know it's not about how skinny you are. and yeah, that's what it tells us. Always, it tells us that we've been so good, or we're skinny enough, or that we deserve it... What you deserve is to not feel shitty.

Me: oh g. that is fucking true. thank you. god DAMN it.

That sentence killed me. It's exactly what I needed to hear. What I deserve, what we all deserve... is to not feel shitty. And that is what God offers us, every one of us... freedom from that awful feeling - which I can have whether I'm running 9 miles or sitting on my ass, whether I'm skinny or fat.

And so here I am again. I'm abstinent. I'm so grateful. And I'm still very cautious. I'm still very aware that I'm one bite away from a slip, from relapse. I am so compulsive, so sick. Even after all this recovery, I can so easily spiral into pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.

Thank you, God. Thank you, G. Here we go. I'll go to bed abstinent tonight. How 'bout you?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Like the Wind

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I felt so much yesterday.

I stopped at a Ticketmaster outlet on my way in to work. I was (finally) going to buy tickets to a concert I've been excited about for months. I had saved my pennies, and I was going to take Mrs. Charlie and our two teenaged sons. AND they were sold out.

I checked my email at work, and there was a sweet, concerned email from my mom. Complete with photos. She was worried about me. I'm "too thin" and I "look sick." Now she had thought this before, but this particular email was prompted by "so many people" who were talking to her about me, expressing their concern. I hate that.

My pastor called me in to his office a little later. We are going through a massive change in the way we worship on Sunday mornings. It's been in the works for a long, long time, but we just announced it on Sunday. Now we're dealing with the reactions of those who are happy, mad and every emotion in between. And I think my pastor is finally realizing that there's a lot of actual work to be done! He wants plans, he wants timelines, he wants assurances. He wants it on his desk Tuesday. And I'm overwhelmed.

I had a headache and felt a little barfy all morning.

I got a call from an OA-HOW friend that I used to talk to quite a bit. She was checking in, because she knew I had been considering leaving the structured way we work the program in HOW. So I told her how I was and how it was going, and she was friendly and supportive, but it was obvious to me that she disapproves. I honestly appreciate HOW people (I was one for a year!), and I want to stay in touch with them. I admire their recovery in so many ways, and I am committed to using the tools... of which one is the telephone! But sometimes I sense an unspoken accusation that I am somehow willfully taking an "easier, softer way," and that I'll be back in HOW eventually or else I'll descend into "pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization."  That may be true. I'm a compulsive overeater, and I always will be. And I know that what people think (or what I think they think) is none of my business. So, yeah...

When I talked to my temporary sponsor later in the afternoon, I realized that all of these experiences and feelings are a lot for one day. It's OK for me to feel overwhelmed. And then I was reminded that all of this was happening on the first day without my sponsor. Wow. No wonder I was feeling especially vulnerable. In addition to all the things I was dealing with, I was grieving too. I was feeling, at least on a subconscious level, the loss of my daily check-in with my sponsor. That structure, that order and that accountability is no longer a regular part of my life, and it's a big change. For nearly 14 months, I have talked with her almost every day for 10-15 minutes. That's approximately 4,200 minutes. That's 70 solid hours on the phone with this woman. That's a significant relationship, and I'll miss it in many ways.

And then there are the good feelings I experienced. I got through my first day without my sponsor... I lived through the feelings, and I didn't overeat. I didn't binge. I didn't stray from my food plan, not even a bit. I found that I didn't have to commit each individual piece of my meals. I chose what to eat from meal to meal, and I chose wisely. God gave me the strength and the willingness to stay abstinent for one more day.

I called my parents and had a good discussion with them, encouraging them and assuring them of my health and wellness - while at the same time expressing my feelings about their inappropriate talking behind my back and lack of trust in me... and setting some boundaries for the future. I think we left it in a good place. They're going to let go of their fears and trust that I am being careful, deliberate, medically supervised and healthy. And when people ask them about me and express concern, they are going to defend me instead of getting all worked up and fretting about it.

And last night as I set out on my latest 5-mile run, I felt so strong and confident. I ran faster than I should at first, just because I could. I had this big stupid smile on my face, and I thanked God for my body, my new life, the amazing music playing on my iPod, the community of friends I've found in OA, the amazing cool weather, my beautiful wife and kids, my temporary sponsor, a program that is bigger than any one person or sponsor...

And the ability to run like the wind.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Still A Compulsive Overeater

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I can run 6.3 miles.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I'm maintaining a 75-80 pound weight loss.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I haven't had sugar or refined white flour in 423 days.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though everybody things I'm skinny.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I don't weigh and measure in restaurants anymore.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I do step work every day and use the tools of recovery.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though my sponsor and I - as of this morning - are no longer working together.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I have taken my recovery into my own hands, trusting God to guide me rather than surrendering to a particular method of working the program.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Even though I am going to bed tonight without planning specific food to eat tomorrow. For the first time since August 10, 2010.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I am not "all better." I can't just "eat normally."

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I need recovery today more than I ever have needed it. Just like every new day.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I need you more than I have ever needed you.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I'm grateful I don't have to face it alone.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. And I'm so grateful for Overeaters Anonymous.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. So for today I'll stay abstinent. Today is all I have.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. I can't forget that.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. Don't let me forget that.

I'm still a compulsive overeater. And I always will be.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Sponsor Is NOT My Higher Power (Neither Are Kanye or Jay-Z)

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Question: Has anyone ever put his or her sponsor on a pedestal and, in effect, turned him or her into a Higher Power? I was talking with my sponsor a few mornings ago and realized that is exactly what I've been doing. I am a huge people pleaser, and I have to face the reality that one of the people I want most to please is my sponsor. Like, in a kind of unhealthy way.

Now that I've started working on the 11th Step, I do a daily 10th Step and read it to my sponsor. On the first day I did that, I had to answer the following question: Have I kept something to myself that should be discussed with another person at once? Well, I immediately knew the answer to that question. I had not yet talked with my sponsor about Mrs. Charlie's and my upcoming trip to Cancun. Early on, when I first mentioned it to her, she had kind of a negative reaction to it, and I remember being defensive and angry about that. Since then, I have totally decided to go and made plans to go. We're leaving in about 5 weeks! And I kept meaning to tell her, but the closer it got, the more foolish I felt, and so I put it off until I read that question.

So on Friday, I took a deep breath and told her. And you know what? It's not really a bit deal. What is a big deal is the way I've been treating her. And it's not just regarding this trip. It's really about my whole program. Even though she's been so clear with me, I have continued to make this abstinence about pleasing her on some level. And that's a problem. She is not my Higher Power. She shouldn't even be one of my Higher Powers!

And she suggested I talk about it with people and decided whether I'd be able to continue to work with her or whether this might be a good time to find someone else.

So. Anyone ever have anything similar happen? How do you deal with people pleasing? And how do you deal with it when it's directly related to your sponsor?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lordy, Lordy, Charlie's Forty

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

And today I'm 40 years old. I'm grateful for many things... my (healthy) wife, my kids, my home and my job. I'm grateful for a God who loves me and who wants to be in relationship with me. I'm grateful that I have found a real relationship with that God through Jesus.

And I'm profoundly grateful that I can honestly say I'm happier and healthier at 40 than I was at 30. Recovery rocks.

Peace and blessings to all of you, my friends in OA and any other 12-Step fellowship. Thanks for your encouragement and support over the years.

Happy, happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sadness and Joy

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Strange mixture of sadness and joy tonight. I'm sad and discouraged because Georgia put Troy Davis to death. And I'm powerless to do anything about it. But I will continue to speak out against what I consider to be an unjust, inhumane, barbaric practice in this nation.

And I'm grateful and full of joy. My wife is just fine. And I was so fearful. We went in today, braced for bad news. Her doctor came in and told us that her CA-125 numbers were very low. He sent us for another ultrasound, which showed that her previously 6 cm cyst had shrunk to 1.5 cm. He said she absolutely does NOT have cancer and he cancelled her surgery.

Thank you, God.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do Not Worry?

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I don't have much time to write tonight. I'm so tired, and I have to be up early for church tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is my twins' birthday, and we went to an amusement park all day today. I'm exhausted.

But I just want to say that I'm frightened. Mrs. Charlie has been experiencing a lot of pain, and she has been to several doctors and had several tests. Finally an ultrasound showed a very large ovarian cyst. Her doctor used the term "worrisome" several times and talked about the likelihood of having to remove her entire ovary. He "penciled in" a date for surgery... in less than two weeks. He took a vial of blood and is running the CA-125 cancer screening test.

I know the screening is standard. I know. but he also was pretty clear that he was concerned and that he wanted to act quickly. And I'm scared. And so is she. And we won't know anything until Wednesday. And that's a long time.

Funny. The text for tomorrow's sermon is Matthew 6:25-34. Do not worry. Oh God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...

If you're a praying person, would you please pray for her tonight? Thanks. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What Does Abstinence Mean To You?

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I am in the fascinating and challenging process of re-defining my abstinence.

For the past year, my abstinence has been very clearly defined for me by the group with which I've been working the program, OA-HOW. I've written about that abstinence many times here on the blog, so I won't spell it out again tonight.

Before I found OA-HOW, my abstinence definition was unbelievably wishy-washy. It changed from day to day. I changed it without telling anyone. There was never anything... solid about it, so I never knew if I was abstinent or not. It was all about doing well or not doing so well.

I remember deciding that my abstinence would be simply this: Three meals a day with nothing in between. Even three huge binges would be fine. Believe it or not, I couldn't do it. That was my bottom. So far.

I think that's why I was so grateful to finally let go and let someone else tell me what I needed to do to stay abstinent. And I did it. For over a year. And my life changed dramatically for the better.

But now it's time to change again. I'm taking control back... or rather, giving control to God in a different way. I'm trusting God to help me define my own abstinence rather than simply submitting to someone else's definition.

I know it's time to do this, but I can't deny that it's a little scary for me. My addict mind is already plotting and planning... How could I eat some cake? What about McDonald's? Oh, how I would love a big Mexican dinner with chips and salsa. I can't go back there. I just can't.

What is your experience with/understanding of abstinence? OA's definition simply states: "Abstinence in Overeaters Anonymous is the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight." What's that mean for you? How's that working for you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Without My Training Wheels

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I feel a lot like that boy today. Thrilled and terrified all at the same time.

But like that little boy, I have a loving Father too... Check out what I read in "For Today" this morning:

Today, I open my mind to everything that could be - possibilities that are far from the idle wishing of the old days, but rather a loosening of restrictions, a broadening of the imagination. I leave my life up to my Higher Power, remove my hindering ways and let my spirit soar. I seek to be more honest, more aware, to have closer relationships, a better ability to carry the message, more time to serve. I have received, and now pass on to others, what was once impossible: the hope of spiritual awakening, of recovery from compulsive overeating. For today: I keep an open mind to having an open mind; the possibilities are endless.

So. I talked with my sponsor this morning about my plans to leave OA-HOW. I have to confess that I was terrified. I couldn't sleep last night. I got out of bed several times. I read and wrote in my journal. I prayed. I chatted online for a minute with my rabbi,  G. Rabanon. (It's not every Evangelical pastor who has a rabbi friend on Facebook!)

Here's some of what I wrote in my journal late last night:

"I'm ready to be done with HOW, but I have no idea how to quit. I'm afraid to bring it up with [my sponsor], but I will have to in the morning. I can't keep these feelings and thoughts bottled up anymore. So why do I want to stop? Why now?

"I know I am a compulsive overeater. I want to continue working the steps I want to stay abstinent and use the tools of recovery. I am convinced that I do not have these things mandated to me by my program. WIrh every passing day I am less willing to abide by the requirements of the HOW format. I want to work with [my sponsor] on the steps, but I'm pretty sure she will no longer sponsor me at all. I am very concerned that she know how grateful I am...

"I want to see if I can do this. OA-HOW says I can't, but I don't believe it. Deep down, that's the bottom line, the problem I cannot seem to get around. I simply do not believe that this method of working OA is my only hope.

"I want to transition well. I want to remain abstinent. I do not want to binge; not even once."

I finally fell asleep around 12:30, and then this morning at 6:00 I talked with my sponsor. We did the normal routine... my food plan for the day and my writing assignment. Then we talked about the possibility of changing my call time for the semester. So that brought up the perfect opportunity to talk about this.

I was afraid. I was afraid that she would be hurt. I was afraid that she would be angry or worried or disappointed in me. That she might lecture or scold me. That she would somehow reject me and dump me on the spot. In reality, I had nothing to fear... and I think I knew that deep down all along. She was remarkably gracious. Cautious, yes, but gracious. Always. And she said that even if we don't work together as sponsor and sponsee, she and I could still be friends and walk in recovery together. I was really touched by that. We spoke words of encouragement and affirmation, and we left it open.

For now, she's sponsoring me (as long as I continue to work OA-HOW day-to-day) until I come up with some sort of transition plan. I'll need to find another sponsor and clearly define my new abstinence.

So for today, I'm OA-HOW abstinent. I have talked with four program friends today. I have followed my plan. I have used the tools. God, give me what I need today to be abstinent and to move forward... without my training wheels.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Body Image Redux: Fantasy vs. Reality

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm also at my "maintenance weight." But guess what? I don't look like Brad Pitt.


I've been pondering that this morning. I think somewhere in my subconscious mind, I was living with the fantasy that once I hit my "magic number," I would somehow look like a sex symbol. As if somehow shedding the excess weight would change the basic shape of my bones, the structure of my chest or the size of my muscles... or, for that matter, the amount of money I have in the bank, the amount of debt I carry, the amount of "success" I have in writing and performing music, or the happiness of my marriage and family.

I've lost 80 pounds in the last 18 months or so, and I have some excess jiggly flesh around my belly. It's very, very slowly going away, but I don't know if it ever will completely. Am I OK with that? I don't know. I guess for today I have to be.

"And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation -- some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.

Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes." - AA Big Book, p. 417

Thursday, August 18, 2011


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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Now what?

I mean, seriously? Do I do this the rest of my life? I've been thinking and praying and talking and writing about this for a few months now.

For Today, I'm committed to abstinence according to the OA-HOW concept. This means that today, as I have every day since August 10, 2010, I do the following things:

  1. Do my step work, my reading/writing assignment.
  2. Plan my three meals and one snack, following my food plan. Literally plan it out, down to the serving size and what kinds of protein, vegetables, etc. I will eat.
  3. Call my sponsor at the pre-arranged time, read my writing to her and commit my food for the day.
  4. Receive my sponsee's phone call, his food and his writing.
  5. Talk to at least three other OAs on the phone. About recovery.
  6. Eat my food according to plan and schedule. Weigh and measure my food. All of it. No exceptions. Even in restaurants. Even if I have to pack a cooler and take it with me.
  7. If I have to make a food change for some reason... spoiled food, my kids eat something I had planned to eat... I have to get a sponsor on the phone and commit the change before I eat it.
This is all very involved, but it's been do-able. I'd even say it's been life-changing. I've worked hard on the steps, I've learned how to live in a structured and disciplined way, I've lost 77 pounds and kept it off for a few months now. And I've been so, so grateful.

Until recently.

In the last few months, things have been "percolating" for me. Some questions and thoughts:

I wonder sometimes if OA-HOW can be compared to training wheels. It was right for a time in my life. I could not gotten abstinent without it. But now, I'm starting to think I can ride this bike without the training wheels.

If I decide to leave the HOW concept, I will not simply relapse. I will remain abstinent, one day at a time. I will get a sponsor, follow a food plan, use the tools, go to meetings, give service. I cannot do this alone.

I've met members who were HOW abstinent and then quit abruptly. It's not pretty. Most of them put most if not all of their weight back on, wallow in shame and avoid program. I don't want that for anyone, and I certainly don't want it for myself.

How much of this is my disease, and how much is God? How much is me?

Where are the OA-HOWers who have stayed abstinent after leaving HOW? Why can't I find any online?

These feelings and thoughts have been building up, and I have been doing my very best to surrender and simply make it each day, one day at a time. That doesn't seem to be working for me. I'm not getting over the hump. I'm believing more and more that I'm supposed to make this change.

I am miserable thinking about bringing this up with my sponsor. I appreciate and respect her so much, and I'm so grateful for all she's done for me. I wish I could keep doing step work with her, but I know her and her program well enough to believe that she will not work with me unless I'm doing the plan as she herself worked it.

I would make this change tomorrow if I weren't so afraid of people. My sponsor's reaction. My OA-HOW friends' reactions. My sponsee's reaction. I don't want to hurt or disappoint anyone. Funny, one of my biggest character defects is people-pleasing. Huh.

Here are some of the things I want:
  1. The freedom to drink alcohol within my food plan. I've never had a problem with alcohol, and I enjoy it sometimes.
  2. The freedom to eat abstinent food in restaurants without weighing and measuring.
  3. The freedom to go to bed without having to make three OA outreach calls every day. This has become a real struggle for me. I love talking to people. I need and want the support. I love to be of service and encourage and support others! But I don't want it to be mandated to me anymore. I don't want my abstinence riding on it. Honestly, there are days when I feel frenzied and hassled trying to "get in my calls." It is quickly becoming crazy-making rather than serenity-building.
  4. The freedom to eat on-plan without having to commit each individual food item before I eat it.
As I read this, it sure sounds like my mind is made up. What are your thoughts? Help me distinguish between my addict and my true self working in conscious contact with God.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Today's my OA birthday. I've been abstinent for a year. I'm grateful. So, for today anyway, I'll keep this up.

Thanks to all of you who have encouraged me and helped me along the way.

To life and recovery!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coffee With An Old Friend

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I used to be a fairly regular blogger, too. I used to be on Twitter all the time. And I loved it, I really did. And now I just can't seem to summon the will to write anything. I think, sometimes, that it comes down to perfectionism. I want my words to be so perfect... And I want this blog to be a perfect, detailed record of my life in recovery. And the more time that goes by, the more I feel completely unable to write about all that's happened since the last time I blogged.

So. I'm releasing myself from that unrealistic expectation. I won't be writing about the last several months. I guess it's enough to say that a lot's happened. Some great stuff and some not-so-great stuff. And I reacted to all of it in various ways, good and bad. And here I am.

I'm sitting in a Starbucks store in Tulsa. My kids are at the movies, and Mrs. Charlie is at work. It's been over 100 degrees every day this week. Damn it's hot. I had an iced venti decaf sugar-free vanilla Americano. And here we are, you and me. My laptop is here in my lap as I relax on a big, comfy chair... How nice. It's like coffee with an old friend.

The good news is that I'm abstinent. I'm still OA-HOW abstinent, after all these months! One day at a time, I've made my calls, done my assignments, weighed and measured my food, abstained from sugar, guided my sponsee, worked with my sponsor... I'm grateful.

333 days today. Wow. Sunday will be - if I stay abstinent between now and then - eleven months.

I hit my "maintenance weight" this last month. 163 pounds. It's a miracle.

And sometimes - more often these days that I want to admit - I think I'm cured. I forget how miserable I was, how hopelessly out of control. I want to eat more "normally" again. I want to have a beer, dammit! I want to have a milkshake or a bowl of spaghetti! Enough of the cottage cheese and pineapple, right?

But for today, I'm doing this. I'm doing this with all of you, and I'm grateful for the recovery I've found. The recovery I'm finding. Because it's not just about the weight. It's about the peace of mind. I'm not on the scale every five minutes anymore. I'm not diving into sugary cereals at midnight. I'm not fasting one day and binging the next. And more importantly, I'm able to see myself so much more clearly these days... I'm exposing my character defects to the light and surrendering them to God, who is removing them! Another miracle. I'm making amends for the ways in which I have harmed others. My family is becoming more important to me, and I'm learning to value them with my actions and not just my emotions and words.

So gosh! I've been talking so much about myself... How have *you* been?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Needs vs. Wants, Sleep vs. Food

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

What I need is sleep. What I want is food. I think this photo sums it up:

The good news is that I'm still abstinent. Tomorrow will be ten months of freedom from compulsive overeating. Thank You, God.

Now, good night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


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

::Hi, Charlie!::

When I last posted here, I was looking for answers. I wanted to know "Why?" Why the hell I had to keep living in the straightjacket of OA-HOW. Why I had to keep calling in my food. Why I had to make three phone calls every single day. Why I had to call a sponsor just to make a simple food change.

I got some great responses here on the blog. (Thank you!) I talked about it on my hook-up calls. I talked to my sponsor about it. I talked to Mrs. Charlie about it. I talked to God about it. And I have come to some realizations.

First of all, I don't have to do this. I choose to do it. For today. This is like Basic Recovery 101. No one is making me do this.

Second, I may not do this the rest of my life. Some members end up leaving OA-HOW. They move into a less structured version or OA and do just fine. There is a woman in my local OA group who did just that, and she's been abstinent for 30 years. Of course, some people "leave OA-HOW" (read: relapse) and their lives dissolve once again into misery. As the AA Big Book says on p. 30, "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." So if I ever do choose to make that change to my program, it will not be without much thought and prayer, and much input from my sponsor and my fellows in the program.

Third, God has answered my "Why?" question in many ways lately:

  • A member called me out of the blue last week, needing a lot of support and encouragement after he relapsed - big time - and was out of the program for months. I don't ever want to go through what he's been going through.
  • My sponsee "stepped up" and became a sponsor himself about a week ago! We did the ceremony over the phone, and it was really cool. (Remember my "Step Up"?)  And on Monday he let me know that he's lost 34 pounds so far since working this program with me. I'm so grateful I can be of service to him.
  • Last Saturday's accomplishment... I completed a 5K race! In under 30 minutes! My friends, this is a miracle of recovery. This idea never even entered my head until recovery. I am so grateful.
And to go along with that last bullet point, the FIRST EVER PHOTOGRAPH of Charlie O. Edinburgh to appear on this blog, safely "anonymized" for our 11th Tradition protection.

And check this out...

I actually went running again on Monday! It wasn't just a "I'm going to do this one thing and be done with it" kind of thing like I used to do all the time. No, I'm excited about running as a lifestyle, as a fitness program. I'm already planning to start training for a 10K next week! A miracle.

Thank you, my friends, for reading... Thank you for your encouragement and support over the years. And thanks be to God, who has brought me from death to life in so many ways. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome, wrote: "Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to God as an instrument of righteousness." I'll close with the 3rd Step Prayer:

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.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Remind Me Again Why I Do This

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I am so sick of this! Normally I am relentlessly upbeat: This is the *best* program! I feel *so* great! Everything is *wonderful*! So allow me a little wallowing.

I'm not sick of abstinence. I am forever grateful for abstinence. This OA-HOW program has brought me hope and healing. It's brought me relief from years of compulsive overeating. As I have followed this program, I have released nearly 75 pounds from my top weight. My life has become more free and more disciplined at the same time. I just officially entered a 5K for the first time in my life. These are miracles, my friends.

My question is this: Can I recover... Can I continue to recover without the rigidity and structure of OA-HOW? Do I need to keep weighing and measuring - even in restaurants? Do I need to avoid alcohol? Do I need to call 3 people every day?

It's getting old. And I'm starting to feel like I'm in a cult or something.

I think I need to talk to my sponsor about these feelings. Tomorrow will be nine months abstinence in OA-HOW. But today I'm not sure I'll get there.

OK, that was not true. I will be abstinent today. Tomorrow too. I guess I'm just future-tripping. I don't want to do this the rest of my life. I don't want to have to call in my food to a sponsor when I'm 45 years old and 55 years old. I don't want to have to interrupt dinner with friends to rush into a bathroom, frantically calling OA-HOW sponsors to try to make a food change. I don't want to keep inconveniencing others with my strange behavior around food.

I know this is supposed to free us from food obsession. Why, then, do I feel MORE obsessed with food? I think it all got stirred up this last weekend in California. The planning, the phone calls, the packing, the conversations with my friends and hosts about what I needed - a specific restaurant, a trip to the grocery store, reading the labels on the cottage, borrowing a little cooler and icepack.

I know some who learned a lot in OA-HOW, and now they are in OA, still abstinent, eating three moderate meals a day. Did I mention still abstinent?

Another thing that stirred it up further... Friends have invited my wife and me to vacation with them in Cancun. I don't know if it will work out, but I am so excited about the possibility. Mrs. C. and I have never been out of the country together... not vacationing like that. It would be at a resort, with a swim-up bar, all the luxuries associated with a vacation like that. Dragging my scale around, trying to figure out how to make hook-up calls, reading and writing assignments, planning my food in advance... It just freaks me out.

So I know what the program says to do: Talk about it on my hook-up calls, talk to my sponsor about it, pray about it, surrender it to God. And keep using the tools. Every day, all the tools.

OK, I surrender. Feedback?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blessed and Happy

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I've written recently about some of the big blessings in my life... Financial blessings and physical blessings... Today I want to write about relational blessings.

First of all, I want to express my gratitude to God for my wife. I wish you could know her. She's hilarious. And fiercely loyal and protective of those she loves. She is smart and committed and creative and innovative. She's a tireless worker. She's honestly the force behind all of "my" good ideas. I keep telling people that all my best ideas are really hers. And everyone laughs and thinks I'm just being kind or something. But no, I actually mean it. She should be the worship pastor here, not me. Oh, and she's an amazing mom... We have three boys, and she's the best "boy mom" I know... out there kicking the soccer ball around, laughing and messing around with our teenage boys, getting into the same "extreme sports" stuff they are into... And then with our daughter, she's a great "girl mom" too... She can relate to our little E. with such sweetness, cuz she's been there! I love seeing the two of them together, off on their "girly nights," or working on gymnastics, both of them so graceful...

Here on the blog, I've referred to my wife as "Mrs. Charlie" - intending it to come across as affectionate... but I realize it could come off as dismissive or maybe even as sexist! The reality is, she doesn't derive her identity from me. She's not just "Mrs. Charlie." No, she's herself, through and through. I am the lucky beneficiary of her love and commitment. For nearly twenty years, I've had the privilege of knowing and loving this woman, and I look forward to the next twenty, and the twenty after that.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Mrs. Charlie today! I'm so glad God made you, and I'm so profoundly grateful that somehow God put the two of us together.

I want to celebrate another relationship today. In the spring of 2000 I met the man who has become, over the years, my very best friend. T. has walked with me through the greatest joys and challenges of my life. He knows me through and through, the good and the really ugly. We worked together at the same church in California for many years; I had the privilege of standing up for him in his wedding; we have spent hours and hours laughing, watching movies, talking, praying and dreaming together. He truly is a kindred spirit, and he's taught me so much about what it means to be a true friend.

And tomorrow morning I'm flying to California to spend about 36 hours with him! Crazy, I know... It kind of fell into place at the last minute. He's organizing an art/film show tomorrow night, and I'm going to perform some music with some members of my old band... It's crazy. I'll be back here in Tulsa on Saturday night! But it is all worth it to hang out with T. I haven't seen him for probably 18 months now... I'm really excited.

And yes, there will be some program challenges. Getting in my calls, planning my food, etc. But I know I'll be fine. God's in this, through and through.

I'm a blessed and happy man.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm celebrating this week. On Sunday, I mapped out a 5K run in my neighborhood and then I ran it! Without stopping! And I had a great time... 27:42. That's like a 9-minute mile!

Now I should say that I thought I would die there at the end. I was way too confident, and I started out running way too quickly. But I finished.

But tonight I deliberately paced myself a little slower at the beginning, and then I had so much energy at the end I was practically sprinting toward home! It was an amazing feeling.

This, my friends, is another miracle of recovery. I'm so, so grateful.

God Provides, Part 2

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

If you haven't read the first part of this story, please do that first. Now here's part two...

I need to rewind a little bit here and mention one other part of my week. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I had been involved in caring for a family in our church. The wife's brother had died from cancer. He was young, only in his 40s, and it was tragic. But I was able to serve and love them, even though my Wednesday in particular got really, really crazy as a result. So that's another piece of my crazy, exhausting week... and it was that night that our van died and I posted (then deleted) my little "cry for help" on Facebook.

A little later that same evening, I got this message in my Facebook inbox:

"Charlie: I read a post from you that you need an honest, fair car mechanic, but now I can't find your post! If you still need a mechanic, I'm recommending... Although I've never had the need to use him as a mechanic, he led a class that my husband and I attended at... and he struck me as a very trustworthy, good Christian guy and from what I understand, runs a successful business. The link is to an article on his business. I hope this helps."

The message was from the woman whose brother had died. Crazy. So I thanked her and proceeded to have the van towed to that garage in the morning.

Nice story, right? God provides a great, fair mechanic through this woman reading a post that I only left up for a few minutes. Well that's not the half of it.

Around noon I got a call from the mechanic telling me that the fuel pump needed to be replaced, along with some other things, and that the bill had already been taken care of.

Did you catch that? The wonderful people who recommended the mechanic PAID THE BILL. When we picked the van up later that evening, the mechanic gave us the receipt for... $567.00.

I honestly don't know how we could have paid for that right now. No way. What an amazing gift.

And the story doesn't even end there!

On Sunday I talked to the woman again, expressing my gratitude at their amazing generosity, and she told me a little bit more. Apparently the night she saw my FB post, she felt like God was leading her to help out in some way. She prayed for guidance, opened her bible and came to this verse in the gospel of Luke. Jesus is speaking: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38). She talked to her husband, and they agreed that they should do this for us. It was practical, and it was a way they could give back a little bit to our family...

Great story, right? One more little thing to share:

The very next day, their family got a check in the mail from the IRS. Completely unexpected. They had overpaid their taxes. 

I'm just blown away by the generosity of our God and God's people. I am so grateful. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

God Provides, Part 1

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I've been meaning to write for a long time, but I have just been stuck. Not stuck in my program, thank God. I am doing well, still maintaining my abstinence by the grace of God, one day at a time. But with work and seminary and home/family stuff and training for the 5K and all that, these days it seems like the only thing I can do is sit here and stare. The idea of being productive and creative... Writing a song or even blogging... Kind of unthinkable. It's funny, even AT THIS MOMENT, I am so tempted to just stop writing and "come back to it later." But I think I want to keep going. I have (what I hope will be) an encouraging story to tell.

So I've been swamped. And discouraged. Work has been tough the last few weeks. Easter was wonderful in a lot of ways - Holy Week, really; it's Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday (along with rehearsals on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday) - but along with the high of a great week comes the inevitable let-down of The Monday After. And then, on Tuesday, a one-two punch of criticism in the form of a very ugly email and then an ambush in a church board meeting. I'm fine if people disagree with me about the direction of the church and the worship music in particular. Of course we're going to disagree, but it hurts a lot when my character and motives are maligned. When a great prelude with guitar, sax, trumpet, trombone, drum, piano and bass solos somehow turns me into a Vegas showman "tossing my hotel room key to the girls in the front row." (I'm not making this stuff up.)

I should also say that I got tons of positive affirmation. Emails and cards even. From young people and older people. Easter was a successful day. 1500+ people in attendance, great vibe, great music and sermon... My sponsor was even there! (What a gift!) So I had lots of reasons to be grateful. And I was. But still, those negative things really wiped me out.

Wednesday rolled around, as it always does. And it's always a very long day. So by the time 8:30pm rolled around, I was ready to grab the kids and head home from church. As I backed out of my parking spot, the engine died. And it wouldn't start up again. I was just *done.* I had all four of my kids plus one of their friends in the back of the van, my wife was in a staff meeting for her new (second) job, and I was feeling pretty hopeless. I slammed my hands on the steering wheel and yelled out, "No! God, you can't let this happen right now! Please! Let this van start!" Alas, it was not to be. I soon realized that there was something seriously wrong, and I would not be driving the van home that night. I texted my good friend and fellow blogger, G. Rabanon (@RecoveringinOA), asking for prayers and support, then I looked under the hood to see what I could do. I began to realize how perfect it was that I was at church. Fellow staff members were coming out to their cars. One took my kids home, one went to get some oil. Eventually we gave up and Mrs. Charlie came and took me home.

That night I got home and posted to Facebook (because I am a hopelessly extroverted person and I *always* post things to Facebook), "Tulsa friends: Any recommendations for a good, affordable mechanic would be greatly appreciated. Our van died tonight, and I will need to get it towed tomorrow. Can't believe this! Only ONE MORE car payment left and it dies."

My wife came in the kitchen a little while later and said, "Charlie, please don't go making a big deal about the last car payment thing. We'll deal with this. I know it sucks, but we don't wanna be acting like victims here." So funny. She is such a private person, and I am so OUT THERE all the time. We're good for each other in that way. Needless to say I didn't tell her what I had posted to Facebook; I just quietly deleted it.

(To be continued...)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Whining My Way to Gratitude

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I have had a very, very, very, very long day. All Wednesdays are like this for me, but today seemed especially busy. I got up at 5:45 this morning, and I'm still up, typing this at 11:26pm. I'm so tired, but I couldn't go to sleep right now if I tried.

At the risk of sounding like a terribly whiner, I'm going to tell you what I did today.

Talked to sponsee at 6, realized I was out of eggs, drove to grocery store while talking to sponsee (wearing pajamas and slippers and a sweatshirt), bought eggs, drove home, made and ate breakfast, showered and got ready for work, stood out with twins at bus stop, worked on Eighth Step, called my sponsor, drove to work, worked from 9-3:30 (incredibly productive work, I might add - I am not often that productive), began my "afternoon taxi service": Picked up middle son at home, drove to school to pick up twins, drove girl twin to gymnastics, drove boys home to get boy twin's soccer stuff, made and ate snack, drove boy twin to soccer with older brother in tow, took older brother to church, ran to my office to get sheet music and check email, rehearsed with men's ensemble in choir room, rehearsed adult and children's choirs, rehearsed with singing group for Sunday, turned off lights throughout church, got stuff from my office, retrieved two patiently-waiting older sons and oldest son's friend, drove friend home, drove boys home, arrived at 9:40pm...

Aside, or "Mrs. Charlie: An Appreciation."

Discovered my sweet wife crashed in bed, miserable with headache. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Mrs. Charlie is an incredibly hard worker and all-around wonderful person. SHE also had a busy day, at her 8-5 full-time job. She left work, drove to gymnastics to pick up our girl twin, drove to the soccer field to pick up boy twin, then drove to church where she volunteers as a middle school small group leader in our confirmation program. Then she took the twins home, got them into bed and went to bed herself.

Sometimes I miss my wife... Especially on Wednesdays. You know, the whole "two ships passing in the night" thing...

Anyway, got home at 9:40 to find my wife in bed, the girl twin still awake, tossing and turning up in her bedroom. Sang James Taylor to her while scratching her back. "You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am I'll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall... All you have to do is call and I'll be there. You've got a friend." Got the two big boys in bed, put the trash out for the garbage truck, emptied and re-loaded the dishwasher, put the rabbit in his cage for the night, made a delicious dinner (eggs, cheese and salsa in a brown rice tortilla with V8 to drink), ate it while reading some more of Jonathan Franzen's great novel "Freedom."

Fired up the Mac. Put iTunes on shuffle. Listened to Adele, Erin McKeown, Josh Woodward (Thanks, G.), Joan As Police Woman, The Choir, Sean Kingston, Sleeping At Last, Chris Tomlin. Blogged about my day.

Felt exhausted but happy. Grateful. Realized that God was with me all day, walking with me, holding me up, providing me with three OA friends who called ME, four healthy and satisfying meals, fulfilling work that pays me well enough, a house to come home to, reliable transportation, a lot of quality time with my kids in the minivan and great music.

The words to the song I'm listening to right now (Chris Tomlin's "Lovely") seem appropriate to close tonight:

As long as I live, I'll praise you, Lord.
Name above all, be lifted high
For all of my days, I worship you
I worship you

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dinner Anxiety

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Tonight Mrs. Charlie and I are going out to dinner with a couple from our church. I should clarify. We are being taken out to dinner by a couple from our church. This couple is wealthy. They are in their 70s. He was a doctor. They are wonderful, bright, successful, generous people. He was instrumental in getting me my job here at the church. He currently sits on a board of laypeople who help to oversee my ministry at our church. They both sing in my choir at church.

So I feel a little insecure. I have no reason to be insecure. They like me a lot. They have told me so. They think I'm doing a good job. I believe them.

They called a few weeks back and invited us to dinner and a theater production (The Aluminum Show), and it's a lovely, generous gesture. I am grateful for their kindness and the opportunity to get out of the house!

And I'm totally tripping over dinner. Remember, I weigh and measure my food, even in restaurants. It's one of the parts of my program that I'm not too fond of, but I cannot deny its power in my life. As I surrender to the program, even this part of the program, I find freedom. But c'mon already! I do not want to weigh and measure my food tonight. I don't want to have to talk about it. I don't want to look like a freak. I don't want to stand out. I could eat moderately in this restaurant, I know I could! I don't want to have to explain myself or defend myself. I don't want to have to talk about addiction or recovery, especially with a doctor.

See? This is future tripping, plain and simple. I am anticipating what they will say, planning complete conversations that simply don't exist. It's fantasy.

By the way, I know I don't owe anyone an explanation. I know I don't have to talk about anything I don't choose to talk about. I also know that these are wonderful people who I do not want to be rude to.

I drove up to the restaurant yesterday and talked to one of the managers. I investigated the menu. I'm having 3 oz. chicken, 2 cups veggies and 4 oz. of plain baked potato with 2 tbsp sour cream and 1 tsp butter. I'm drinking water. I'm going to be grateful for the willingness to go to any lengths necessary to maintain my abstinence.

I guess I just needed to get that out today. I'll be fine. I always am. I turn my life and will over to the care of my Higher Power today, as I try to every day. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Timely Reminder

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Welcome to D.M., a new reader who's been catching up on my posts and reading some of the old ones. She commented on some, which drew my attention to them. Look at this one, from March 10, 2008:

"Feeling fat again. Ate off plan all week in Boston. Stress and anxiety are really giving me grief. Isolation and fear are cutting me off from reality and good choices for my body.

God, help me!"

And this one, from eight days later:

"Wow. I've completely fucking let myself go. I am so tired of this.

Last night I thought to myself, 'I am NOT hungry. Nothing sounds good. I don't WANT to eat!'

And then I continued to put food in my mouth. Four cookies. Milk. A cheeseburger. Diet Coke.

God help me. Compulsivity consumes me."

I had forgotten that Charlie, the one who was so afraid and isolated, so hopeless and helpless. I'm grateful to be reminded of what it really was like. Sometimes I forget.

Now that I'm nearly eight months into my OA-HOW abstinence, now that I look and feel "normal" as far as my weight goes, now that I'm doing (for me) amazing things like training for a 5K, sometimes I wonder if I'm "all better," if I could do it on my own.

These messages remind me that I can't. I need you, my recovery friends. I need the 12 Steps. I need OA-HOW. I need God. I've been out there, and it's ugly. If I don't work this program, I'll be right back where I was three years ago.

I have a life-threatening disease. Thank you, D.M., for the reminder. Thank you, God, for the solution.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

5Ks, Body Image Issues, and Lots of Gratitude

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm also, apparently, to my great delight and surprise, a runner.

Crazy, I know. My friends, believe me when I say to you that I am one of the world's great couch potatoes. But I just ran twenty minutes without stopping. Twenty minutes!

I'm planning to run the Full Moon 5K in Tulsa on May 14. My wife and son will probably join me, and I'm training now, using the Couch-to-5K program. Every time I bump up to the next level, it's tough... but not impossible. And each time I get stronger. It gets easier. I love it.

I've been thinking about body image lately. I always saw myself as a "big" guy. I told myself that even if I lost all the weight I needed to lose, I would still be a big, barrel-chested guy. I saw myself as a big, lumbering guy. And I hated it. I know it's unusual for a man to talk about body image issues, but we experience this stuff too. I see the men on TV and in magazines, and I want to look like that. I sing in a cover band... I want to look like a rock star... skinny jeans and tight t-shirt and all.

But you know what? I've been lying to myself. I'm actually, really, honestly a lot smaller than I ever could see before. I was at my chiropractor's last month. He and I were talking about running, and he was working on my back... He said - I kid you not - "You'll be a great runner... You have such a nice, light frame." I actually asked him to repeat and clarify what he had said. Yup, I had heard correctly. I have a light frame. A small frame. Me.

Why have I never been able to see it? It's amazing the lies that we tell ourselves, that our disease whispers in our ears. I look in the mirror now, and I think I'm starting to see what I really look like.

Thanks be to God. I could never have imagined these gifts eight months ago. I was an absolute mess, and today I'm training for a 5K. I'm feeling more peace and joy than I have in years. I'm experiencing the 9th Step promises. I feel purposeful. I'm working on my 8th Step, and I'm not living in fear of the amends I have to make. I feel more connected to God, more in tune with my wife and kids, more accepting of myself and my character defects, more willing to turn my life and my will over to God's care, more able to accept life on life's terms...

I'm recovering, one day at a time. And I'm grateful.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Praise the Lard?

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Really interesting article on MSNBC's "Diet & Nutrition" website today.

I was on an OA retreat this past weekend. It was a wonderful time, and I hope to write about it later this week. Anyway, one of the new women who showed up is a very devout Southern Baptist lady, and I was struck by one of her statements. She talked about how the church is full of nice, fat church ladies... and no one ever addresses it. It's certainly been my experience in church. We make our little jokes about how "these cookies don't have calories" (ha ha) or say, "Oh, I really shouldn't," while we take one (or two), and everyone just pretends we're not slowly killing ourselves.

Maybe it's like this everywhere. Maybe it's just human nature, especially in the 21st century in America, but I do notice it everywhere I look in the church.

I had a cool experience this morning. As I was greeting people after the service, I was approached by a young woman who exclaimed, "You're so skinny!" I am used to hearing that these days, and I just smile and say, "Well, thanks..." But she was different. I could see pain in her eyes as she asked me how I had done it. She was really hungry for answers. I could tell she could handle the truth, and I let her know I'm working a 12 Step program for food addiction and compulsive overeating. I told her that I'm insane when it comes to food, and I desperately need a program to relieve me of this disease. She was instantly interested and told me she knows this is true about her too. She wants to talk to me later this week, and I'm certainly willing to share my experience, strength and hope with her. I pray that - if she truly is a compulsive overeater - she will have the willingness to seek me out (or find any other way!) to explore Overeaters Anonymous.

What do you think? Are religion and obesity linked? Why or why not?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Very Demotivational

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I am having a really hard time finding any desire to blog at all. Honestly, I can't remember a time when I've been so unmotivated to write.

I think I'm simply overwhelmed by all I want to say. Sometimes I think blogging feeds two of my most glaring character defects: perfectionism and people pleasing. I want you all to like me. I want to come across as funny and cool and insightful and authentic... and sometimes that desire guides my posts.

And perfectionism. Well gosh. Sometimes I agonize over every word, every punctuation mark. Should I use a semicolon here? An ellipse...?

Sometimes it's easier just to stay away.

And then there's the time factor. A good, well-written blog post is not something that i can just toss off! I get sucked in. I'm here for a long time.

So here it is, Sunday night at 8:42. I have a little time, but I don't think I want to spend it at my laptop. I have so much to write about... Should I write about the 5K I'm running in May? What my 5th Step experience was like? I could write about the OA retreat coming up this weeked and how behind I feel in preparing for that? I'd love to write about body image issues and the astonishing thing my chiropractor said a while back. ("You have such a light frame... You'll make an excellent runner." What!? Who are you talking to!?)

But I think I'm going to read instead. I've been reading a lot of fiction lately. I'm so grateful for the gift of literature. Books are a great joy for me.

I'll tell you this as I sign off: I'm abstinent today, as I have been for 223 days now. I'm lighter than I have ever been in my adult life, emotionally, spiritually AND physically. And I'm really happy. God continues to do for me what I could never do for myself.

I'm grateful to you for your love and support.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The 5th Step

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

I'm meeting my sponsor in about 90 minutes to "admit to God, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs." Yes, friends, Charlie is taking the fifth step.

Say a prayer for me! I'm excited, but I'm a little nervous at the same time. There are no big skeletons in my closet to reveal (she already knows about all those), but I have a little bit of fear nonetheless.  Not surprising, since fear is one of my character defects. My fear? That my fourth step won't have been "good enough," that my sponsor will somehow think I didn't work it hard enough. Hmmm... There's another character defect rearing its ugly head: people-pleasing.

So glad I'm coming up on the sixth step, where I become "entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

And since I have to leave in an hour, and I still haven't gotten ready or had breakfast, I'd better scoot. I'm revealing another character defect here: procrastination. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What It Was Like, What Happened and What It's Like Now

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

::Hi, Charlie!::

Tonight I have the privilege of speaking at an OA-HOW meeting up in Minnesota. I guess it's a really small meeting, and so every week they ask a guest to phone in and participate in the meeting via speakerphone. 

And I've been thinking it would give me the perfect opportunity to post my story here... It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and I want to add my voice to the many others who are saying that recovery is possible! I am living proof... So grateful to all of you who are walking this road of recovery with me.

So here's what I'm planning to share tonight:

My name is ______, and I’m a compulsive overeater and OA-HOW sponsor.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experience, strength and hope with you tonight. I’ve been praying that I will be of service, and that God will use my words however he sees fit.

I have been a compulsive overeater for as long as I can remember. I was born into a family of overeaters. Some of my earliest memories around food involve birthdays and special family times. My family loved to eat. Every Wednesday night we would stop at McDonald’s on the way to church, and it was something I looked forward to all week.

Every Thanksgiving, our family drove from our home in Indiana to Kentucky to visit family. I look back and it seems like those visits were all about the food. Lemon meringue pie, the table full of food, desserts, pop, cookies, candy. And all of us cousins could eat whenever we wanted to for the entire weekend.

Good times in my life were always associated with food. What were we going to eat? Could we get pizza? Family fun nights always revolved around my dad making popcorn. We were never very active as a family. We would never do sporting activities, for instance. We spent quality time together eating and sitting and talking. Watching slides, for instance, or movies.

My dad and mom are compulsive overeaters who had rituals around food. Dad with his cheese and crackers every night at the table. Mom with the candy bars hidden in her underwear drawer. And even when I was a very young boy, my parents were already struggling with their own obesity.

I’m not sure why we all felt constantly deprived, but I think we did somehow. We were forever dividing up the food on the table to make sure we all got equal portions, even though there really was plenty for all. For example, if there were dinner rolls, we counted them and announced how many each of us could have. I thought all families did this. It was my future wife that first pointed out to me how odd this behavior was.

I know my parents did the best they could in raising my sister and brother and me. As we grew up, in fact, we were all convinced that we were the greatest family on the planet! There was a lot of love and affection in the house. We laughed together a lot. But I can see now, a lot of that was to cover up deep insecurities and anxieties. I think perhaps as a child, I could sense these things, but I could never have explained it. We were happy on the surface, but there was a lot of trouble brewing underneath. And I think food was one of the major ways we all dealt with it.

I was aware of being overweight – even felt fat – as a middle school and high school student, although I look back and see pictures of myself and can’t believe how thin I was. I started dieting in high school, but was never very serious about it. I made myself start drinking Diet Coke instead of regular, for instance, but I would drink it with pizza and candy bars. I might occasionally try to go without some kind of food for a time.

I would come home after school and make an entire box of macaroni and cheese for myself. When my parents would go out and leave me in charge of my younger siblings, we would always have frozen pizza and popcorn, along with sweets and other things. Holidays were always all about the food. My family loved each other by cooking and baking for each other.

In college, my eating began to take a turn for the worse. I had access to a cafeteria and a snack bar, and I could make my own choices, which never included healthy foods. I gained a lot of weight and began the cycle of trying to lose, gaining it back as soon as I would lose it.

I got married in 1993. I remember promising my wife that I would never get fat. I didn’t want to end up like my parents, but I soon began to gain weight. I worked as a traveling rep for a college for a while, and it was all about the food… driving through the McDonald’s in the morning, figuring out where and when I could eat lunch and dinner. Even the social aspect, which I loved, centered around food. Where should we eat? What are we getting? I ate massive amounts of food, and I was not very active. Soon I weighed around 220 pounds. At 5’9-1/2”, that was too heavy, and I was unhappy.

I remember talking to a doctor one time about weight loss. This was at least 15 years ago now. I was hoping maybe there was some radical thing he could do for me, maybe put me on a liquid diet or something. I remember him saying that I was not heavy enough for medical intervention of any kind, and that for people like me, overweight but not yet severely obese, it is a really hard road, and there’s not a lot of hope. He basically said “Good luck with that.”

My “history of compulsive eating” could fill a book, so here are some highlights:
  •  All the times I tried to "start over" tomorrow, or Sunday, or Monday, or the first of the month, or on my birthday, or on such-and-such a holiday, or on New Year's Day.
  • All the times I took out cash so my wife wouldn't know I was going to McDonald's or other drive-thrus on my way to or from work.
  •  All the times I ate fast food right before I got home, trying to cram it all in, and then hid the bag under the seat, went in, and ate dinner with my family. I could barely eat because I was so miserable. But that never stopped me. I did it again and again.
  • Staying up late to eat after everyone else is asleep. Eating 2-3 bowls of cereal, sometimes with sugar dumped on top of it. Eating until I felt like I would burst. Eating while a voice in my head kept saying, "Just stop, dammit!"
  • The insanity of having to eat another kind of food in order to make up for the food I just ate. Binge on ice cream, now I need something salty. Now something sweet again.
  • Fast food has been probably my #1 problem. I remember one specific time I started at McDonald's (my all-time drug of choice), got a big meal there, and then went right across the street to Burger King because I wanted a chicken sandwich with cheese and onion rings. I already had the Diet Coke from McDonald's (always a diet), so I got a shake at BK. I had a three-hour trip ahead of me, I reasoned. I could eat it all. And I did, but I was miserable.
  • At restaurants I often made sure my kids' plates were clean. By eating their food myself. Sometimes I even hung back as everyone was leaving to make sure I could grab a last fry or half a cheeseburger.

I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds over the years. I've tried Weight Watchers, the cabbage soup diet, the Atkins diet, the Master Cleanse, a personal trainer who made me a very specific food plan, fasting, and compulsive calorie-counting.

About 8 years ago now, I did the calorie-counting-along-with-exercise route and I lost a lot of weight and felt great about myself. Then I gained it all back. I was miserable.

I found OA in November of 2006. I was working another 12-step program at the time, and I realized that my compulsive behavior in that area of my life reminded me a lot of my compulsivity around food. I remember sitting on my couch, reading the “15 Questions” on the OA website. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that I had finally found the answer. I was a compulsive overeater. I knew it in my heart of hearts, and I had to surrender and get to a meeting.

Was I cured? Far from it. I still had a long journey to go… You see, my biggest mistake was not to fully embrace everything OA had to offer me. I went to meetings here and there, and I chose a food plan, but that’s it. I thought it was working for me, because I started to lose a lot of weight right away. I ended up doing what I called the “HOW plan,” even though I had no idea what OA-HOW was all about. I basically used a modified Greysheet diet as my food plan and hung on for dear life. I did lose over 60 pounds in seven months. What I didn’t do was get a sponsor or work the steps. In other words, I was on another diet with a nice support group that I occasionally visited.

And seven months into it, in a Baskin-Robbins in Redwood City, California, I thought to myself, “Surely I can have just one milkshake. I’ve been so good.” And so I did. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking that I didn’t look any different. “See, that wasn’t so bad!” And that was the beginning of four years of terrible relapse.

Up and down and up and down, abstinent and binging, fasting and giving up. It was all the more terrible because I had had a taste of what recovery could be like. And my weight fluctuated from a low of 191 to a high of 240 with all kinds of ups and downs in between.

In 1998, my family and I began a very intense season of our lives. I had a series of job changes that really shook us up. First we moved in with my in-laws in LA for six weeks, then I took a temporary job in Seattle for three months. Next we moved to Houston, where I took a job that I thought was going to be perfect. It wasn’t the right fit, and after nine months, we ended up back in LA with my in-laws. Finally, after a long summer spent wondering if I would ever find work again, I got a job in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved the family here in the summer of 2009. Five moves in 18 months were challenging to us on many levels, but they were really hard on my compulsive overeating. Although I found OA meetings in all of the cities I lived in, I could never find any long-term abstinence.

In Tulsa, I started attending regular OA meetings again. I committed myself to abstinence, and I even got a sponsor. But there was no structure, no path for me to follow. I couldn’t define abstinence, and I didn’t work the steps. I remember one day feeling particularly hopeless. I had re-defined my abstinence once again: three meals a day… It didn’t matter what those meals consisted of. I could even binge three times a day. But no eating in between meals.

I think I reached my bottom when I realized I couldn’t even stick to that plan of eating. I realized I was completely powerless over food and compulsive overeating. My life had become unmanageable. I was 232 pounds, and I was so unhappy.

And then the miracles began to happen. A blogger friend of mine reached out to me through email and really encouraged and challenged me to get and stay abstinent. Then I got a call from a woman from my meeting, just saying she missed me and inviting me back. That Saturday I went to the meeting, and this woman came to the door to let me in. As I sat through the meeting I realized that she had what I wanted… She was at a normal weight, but more than that, she was calm, peaceful, wise. I wanted that kind of recovery. (It wasn’t until later that I discovered she has lost over 200 pounds!) After the meeting, I approached her nervously, hoping to ask her to sponsor me. Before I could ask, she offered. So we sat for an hour while she explained OA-HOW to me. She explained that she could only pass on what she herself had been given, and that I would be expected to work the program like she works it.

How could I, a husband and father of four with a fast-paced, full-time job ever do all these things she said I had to do… every day?! But in a way it felt like a lifeline. The only way out. I was terrified and relieved all at the same time.

That Tuesday, August 10, I started calling my sponsor and committing my food. I got abstinent that day, and 199 days later, here I am.

As of my last weigh-in on the 19th, I weighed 171 pounds. I have lost 61 pounds from my most recent high of 232 and 69 pounds from my all-time high of 240. For the first time in my adult life, I am a “normal” weight and BMI. But this time there’s something different. I know I’m not “cured.” I am still a compulsive overeater who is being given a daily reprieve from my disease by working this program.

And it’s really important for me to say that I know this program is not all about weight loss. Yes, my weight loss is an obvious and somewhat dramatic result of my recovery, but the spiritual and emotional recovery have been amazing too. I feel like I’m really experiencing the 9th step promises in my life already…

The Big Book says: "If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."

Notice that says nothing about weight. And everything about peace of mind. I think it’s so cool that the first thing that drew me to my sponsor was the serenity that she radiated, not her 200-pound weight loss. And, as she reminds me almost daily, this program is all about conscious contact with my Higher Power.

AND IF THERE'S TIME... I'll share some stories about life in recovery and how things are really good right now!