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...)