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.


Sam said...

I am so impressed that you have done that for so long!! That is commitment!

I am fairly new to OA, but for what it's worth, here is my opinion...

My meditation teacher used to say meditation is like reading a book. Each time you meditate, it's like turning a page. It may feel like nothing is happening and that it's insignificant. But day by day, page by page, you start to see it stack up. And before you know it, you are a changed person. So one week in Meditation group there was a woman who shared her experience during our meditation. She has been doing this for 5 years. She had been away for two weeks and said that she felt like she was back at day one. Page one. She said it felt awkward and silly, and embarrassing. I had a thought I shared with her after it was all over. Maybe she is at page one, but... maybe it's a different book.

I would say the same thing to you. Maybe your higher power is guiding you to a different book - a different path. Maybe you've grown all that you can with this plan, and for your own growth, it's time to take those training wheels off.

I am a people pleaser too, so I totally get it! I guess the biggest thing to remember is that while part of the journey is service and fellowship, the larger part as I understand it is understanding and acting on the will of your HP. If you truly feel this is what you are being prompted to do, do it! If your sponsor and sponsee truly care about you, then they will understand why you are doing this and support you. Personally I think it's kind of exciting. Like a new adventure. You've conquered the first one, bring on the next!

What ever you decided, just remember, to thine own self be true!

Anonymous_OA said...

Dear Mad Overeater... I am glad to hear you have made so much progress, and am not at all surprised to hear you saying the same thoughts I have had myself. I want to share with you some of the things I have heard, and learned.

There are a lot of ways to work the OA program. They fall under 2 main groups (OA, OA-HOW), and within each of these are a TON of different methods. Some people even have different sponsors (one for stepwork, one for food, one for ???).

OA-HOW is a framework... and much like any framework, the implementation can change, the details can be altered. Some people (including a friend of mine in program) cannot sponsor at all, because it "makes them crazy". So they make themselves readily available for outreach calls. I make 1 meeting per week, though I still recommend 3/week to others.

There are members who eat 3 meals a day, and 6 meals a day. Those who eat bread, and have one beer per day... those who consumer no carbs outside of their fruit and vegetables.

I would suggest: "Don't leave the (HOW) program because of the (what you think are the) mandates of your current sponsor. Talk to them about it. Perhaps their plan requires them to sponsor people a specific way. If so, then find someone who has what you want, and ask them to be your sponsor (maybe someone who enjoys an occasional drink, and can relax at a restaurant)."

I think shifting from "Strict HOW with Greysheet" to "Normal OA" could be too much of a change in short-term. Make small changes, and adjust accordingly. See whether you can adjust. Maybe you can, or maybe you start to feel the insanity coming back, and crank up the strictness again.

Just be sure that the decisions you are making are based on the will of your higher power... and not on you wanting to have some of the ever-freeing and ever-harmful "self-will run rampant".

That's my experience, strength, and hope, for today. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Hey Charlie,

I'm in OA and have been for 7 years. I've also been in other fellowships for as long. In OA the definition of abstinence is: the action of refraining from compulsive eating and compulsive food behaviors while working towards or maintaining a healthy body weight.
There's nothing in that definition about the specific way that one works their programme, weighs their food, what they eat, drink, call, commit etc.
Sounds to me like the rules and structure around OA HOW aren't working for you at the moment.
When I question my food plan (WAM all meals but when I go out to eat), my step work, my commitment to call etc I have to look at what's going on for me. Am I resisting the long term discipline that OA (and any other 12 step programme) demands? Am I going through the terrible twos and want to rebel? Is my COE setting me up for a fall?
The truth for me is I take suggestions. They aren't hard and fast rules they flex with my life and where I am. Some suggestion I check out with others. Some I just try as doing it my way hasn't worked in the past.
Perhaps this is just growing pains?
Any sponsor will help you to the best of their ability if they don't have experience with someone wanting to flex their food plan then perhaps they are not the right sponsor for you.

As an aside - alcohol in some people reacts within the body like sugar... if sugar is an issue for you... may want to continue avoiding alcohol.


Alcohol and Blood Sugar
Although alcohol may cause a slight rise in blood sugar levels when initially ingested--the overall effect of alcohol is to cause a drop in blood sugar. The more you drink the more the blood sugar drops. Eating before, during or after drinking can help to alleviate this blood sugar drop somewhat. Drinks with lots of carbs like beer or mixed drinks with sugary mixers can lead to blood sugar spikes preceding the blood sugar drop.

Because of alcohol's effect on blood sugar people with diabetes are recommended to have no more than one or two standard drinks per day and to avoid drinks high in carbs. Untreated diabetes can lead to severe consequences including blindness, amputation of limbs affected by gangrene and even death--so diabetics are recommended to be especially cautious about their alcohol intake.

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