GreySheeters Anonymous

Open Letter To Greynet About 'Cambridge' In The GS Name

[I'm posting this to the GreyNet because a very nice individual I know expressed to me personally her unhappiness about our using Cambridge in our name.  She perceived it as confusing and elitist.  This is the answer I sent her, and I hope it helps.] I'm really sorry you have bad feelings about the name "Cambridge" attached to Grey Sheet.  It surprises me, because I experience it so differently.  As they say "that's what makes horse races." I hate to think that you are feeling disenfranchised or offended.  I remember you as a lovely person.  I can see from your letter that you are caring deeply about the sick and suffering newcomer.  I believe the most caring thing I can do for the newcomer is to give a clear message of recovery, no sugar coating.  Sometimes people coming in from regular OA can be so indoctrinated with this "unconditional love" talk, which can sometimes tend to be more like "unlimited enabling." I know people new to the community are confused by the name "Cambridge" - but newcomers ALWAYS have a lot to learn, and experience a lot of discomfort till they catch up with the "jargon" and special uses of terms.  It's true in AA, true in all the 12-step fellowships. Myself, I gratefully look to the people with long term abstinence, because I know these are the people who can share with me "what works" in the long run.  I've been seriously involved with OA for 25 years, although my first OA meeting was 29 years ago (in NYC).  [Sober 28 years as of 2/24/01, binge-free 19 years, and GS B/B 11.9 years abstinent.]

Aside from the GS community that has roots in Cambridge (but now has sizable offshoots in Chicago, Ann Arbor, NYC, Tel Aviv, LA, and several other areas), I don't know of any GROUP of people with a significant percentage of old-timers who have years of abstinence in the 20's and high teens. When I found the GS community in NYC, we just called it GS -- as did the GS people in Cambridge!  But as time goes by, and OA-ers are rediscovering the need for food plans, there's a veritable GS revival going on.  But now lots of the "GS's" have added xxx, yyy, and who knows what. We could perhaps say "our community uses the 1972 edition of the GS with certain changes in philosophy and form - i.e. we don't stop committing our food after 30 days, we never stop W&M'g it, we don't eat 'diet' foods, it's a way of life, a day at a time -- and only the portions change, NOT the foods we eat when we get to maintenance.  AND most of us make a some sort of statement of what we do with our food and of our commitment to GS abstinence (by our definition) at the beginning of our shares which we usually call "the mantra", to put up front who we are and what we do." "And our groups read the Group Purpose statement, written for use in the early Cambridge meetings started by George and Sally D and a handful of others who said 'What we need is AA for the food!' - We put a primary value on ABSTINENCE -- the first and most fundamental piece of recovery, the practice of Step One, which we believe must precede working the other 11 steps -- ABSTINENCE as the focal point of recovery from compulsive overeating.  ALL these things and many others distinguish us from HOW and from OA." We could say all that -- but what's wrong with just using "Cambridge" as the shorthand way to say all that?  After all, we DO owe our highly successful approach to the small group that got started around 1975 -1978 in Cambridge.  Several of those people have moved to other states (and countries), and started groups based on the same principles -- it's from their approach that we get our strength -- not from the HOW people, or the handful of regular OA-ers who may indeed have beautiful abstinence.... but they haven't been able to formulate a message that enables significant numbers of other people to latch onto long-term abstinence. If people want what we have, truly, wisdom suggests that they do as we do.  Newcomers in AA who make it surely need to humbly learn from the old-timers.  How could it possibly be any different here? Our listowner doesn't really make decisions on her own.  She regularly consults with several other long-term abstinent people before taking a stand.  Putting these questions up to the general membership -- many of whom don't have a clue about how to get abstinent, would be like inviting regular OA in to run our business meetings. Have you checked out [another "GreySheet" online group]?  When I looked into it for a few weeks a while back, their Moderator was literally on day one every few days.  Yet she insisted on "love and tolerance" for whatever version of GS anybody wanted to be on.  People were looking for sponsors and guidance, and there really wasn't any there.  I much prefer the elder-guided way the GreyNet is handled. In AA, in NYC, often the Chairperson or Secretary reads a statement at the beginning of the meeting, asking those who have had a drink or a mood changing drug to refrain from sharing in the meeting, encouraging them to approach members at the break or after the meeting.  It's not really necessary in OA to ask people in the food to refrain from speaking or sharing at all -- but certainly for recovery to prevail, I believe we need serious guidance from the long-term abstinent members. I am eager to hear from you what you think about these ideas.  Maybe you know something I don't know. Best wishes and love, Anonymous in NYC - I do GS no matter what. 
(January 17, 2001)