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?


Anonymous said...

Hi Charlie,

I've only been to OA-HOW once, and I didn't really feel moved to change from regular OA. I've been enjoying your blog, and wow, you are definitely an OA success!

My abstinence is 3 meals a day plus 2 snacks, all according to my Dr.'s recommendations and those of the nutritionist. I don't call in my food any longer, unless I'm having problems. I have to have structure or I am easily confused because after 24 years in OA, I still don't know what "normal" is.

That is food abstinence, but there is a lot more to abstinence than food, as you know.

Have a wonderful, abstinent day!


Abby said...

Hi Charlie!

You're doing great. I think you're approaching this shift from HOW to regular OA in a thoughtful way that will be successful for you.

I've never been to a HOW meeting. I've read about it and know it isn't for me, although I think there's a lot of value in it and I would do well to adopt some HOW practices.

My plan of eating is 3 meals a day with nothing in between, and staying away from my trigger foods. I don't call in my food, and I don't measure amounts. However, I stay away from second helpings, unless I've planned ahead of time that, say, two bowls of soup is going to be my meal. I do find that it helps me to plan each morning what I am going to eat for each meal, and write it down. If I decide to change it for some reason, I cross it out and write down the change. If I'm going to be eating in a restaurant, I do some research and thinking ahead of time about what I'm going to order.

Have a great day, and thanks for letting me share.


G. Rabanon said...

Hey Charlie :)

So, you know what my POE is. You know that it's very loosely defined. That sort of works for me, though I think I might actually need to talk to my sponsor about tightening it up a bit.

So this is of course a complicated issue, and one best worked out with a sponsor. As you know. And as you know, my friendly non-coercive recommendation is to stick with what you have until you have a new sponsor with whom to sort out this question. But, of course, ultimately, it's gonna come down to you.

Knowing you, I don't think it would be a great idea for you to stop measuring just yet. Even if it's not as meticulous as it has been, my experience has been that eyeballing amounts is a good way to trick myself, fool myself, lie to myself, about how much I'm eating. You have to really think long and hard about how much you can rely on your own uncalibrated eyeball to measure your portions. It might be something you can come to gradually... but I would be nervous about going suddenly from weighing and measuring to just "Well, that looks reasonable, right?" Cause how well can addicts determine for themselves what is reasonable?

*hugs* Regardless, I know you'll work it out, and you'll work it out well, one way or another.


Anonymous said...


I was in HOW for 19 months, then "regular" for over 2 years and am now back in HOW. That said, I was food abstinent for close to 2 years when returning. (Abstinence from negative thinking and co-dependency is another story!)

In reg OA I did not commit my food, but continued weighing/measuring and following my prescribed plan. I did not w&m when I went out to eat though and instead committed to what I would order. (At some point I stopped committing my meals out and that was a BIG mistake.)

There is obviously something pulling you away from HOW. Some members might tell you that it's "your addict talking." That's what people told me, but I know that's not true. It helped me to remember that I would be welcome and welcome back to any OA or OA/HOW meeting anywhere, anytime.

Best of luck to you on your journey!


Nancy A-D said...

Hi Charlie,
just happened on your blog, cool. I am a 25 year member of OA and maintaining a loss of over 100lbs for more than a couple of decades. I have wandered in and out of HOW and evolved my abstinence many times. I think the most important thing i have learned is to be present and prayerful with every meal, every change. Sometimes i needed high structure and sometimes i had the mental, emotional and life stability to eat a little differently. The tough thing is that you never quite know when that is. As the big book says we will, i have done some "absurd" things while developing my intuitive ability to eat well. I still work with a plan as the basic unit, if i make a plan that isn't good I 1. don't want to tell others or eat in front of my sponsor, 2. Have that woohoo feeling of "getting away" with something 3. Feel like I've had a fix instead of a meal. At this point in my life i am going through a year of great stress and understand it isn't a time to rely on my intuitive sense or good judgement. So I am back to light and tight, asking god for guidance with every choice. And it doesn't always mean i am making perfect ones, but i plan and share out loud with as many people as possible the stuff that is feeling just a little slimy like i am too attached to it or feel secretive about it. Good Luck sweetie