BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE NMW: I went to Prague for a conference and we ate in restaurants all week. Luckily, my roommate was Czech, and with her help and the little mini-dictionary I had with me, I checked ingredients and got by, weighing and measuring in front of diplomats, NGO heads, and senators. But one time, we were out for an early dinner before a ballet at a famous theater. When the cooked veggies came, I measured and saw that there weren't enough, so I plopped some of my extras onto the plate. I ate a little, then got the bright idea to ask the waiter (more like sign to him) to heat it up. When he brought it back, gone were the extra veggies I had added; there appeared to be more meat on the plate than I remembered, and my messy pile had been rearranged to look ornamental. I was sure that he had just thrown out whatever was left and brought me a new order. I spent several tearful minutes talking to him, his manager, and the chef, stepping semi-discretely away from the main table. I begged him to admit that he threw out my food and demanded he return it to me (I saw him put it in foil to heat up, so I was sure it was still all together in some trash can). Ten minutes of shouting and crying later, I was getting nowhere. They kept insisting, in broken English, that they never threw out my food. I couldn't call anyone from my cell phone because it was out of battery; my calling card and list of European GSers were back at the hotel (we had just arrived a few hours before and I was jet-lagged and foggy), I was making a scene and my group members were tapping their watches because it was time to go. There was no time to go anywhere else to look for extra food. I had no idea how much I had left on the thrown-out plate, so I couldn't weigh out whatever I had left. I swallowed my doubts, ate what was on my plate, and told my sponsor later. Since I did it with a good heart, she didn't send me back to Day One, but I learned from that never to let my food leave my sight if I can't explain myself perfectly to the person I entrust with it, no matter how unpleasant it may be to eat cold meat and veggies.
IN-THE-MIDDLE- OF-NOWHERE NMW: When I signed up for a spring break service trip to Muchucuxcah, Mexico, they told me we'd be working in an impoverished Mayan village and Western amenities might be lacking. "How bad could it be?" I thought, "I'll find a way to stay abstinent." Turns out these people didn't have refrigerators, the closest supermarkets were in cities two hours to the north and south. I was told most of the people spoke only Mayan (they have started learning Spanish, which I know, only recently, to cope with the changing trade market). Phones, both mobile and regular, would not be a luxury I could expect. My leaders told us to pack light, but this was life or death. I knew my parents would have laughed their heads off at my desire to lug a suitcase full of all the cans, veggies, scales, and cups I would need. So I reached out to GSers near and far and made a two-page list of proteins, veggies, and fruits that would stay edible for a week. Two days before I left, I wheeled a large duffel bag to the bus station and hiked uphill to the nearest supermarket. I packed [and this writer said that she will reply to anyone asking me for her email address with the actual foods] and some 70 single-serving sizes of the vegetable substitute into Ziploc baggies (to flex for both cooked and raw in the worst case scenario) and an oil that is bacteriostatic, i.e., doesn't degrade or spoil. "What if I get sick and can't eat anything?" I asked my sponsor and she told me what I could bring for the worst-case scenario. And of course I took anti-diarrhea meds, Pepto-Bismol pills, and heavy-duty bug spray (combing the aisles for abstinent ones) ... the chances of getting good medical care were slim. As it turned out, I got quite lucky. Each student on the trip was assigned to a host family. Mine quickly got to know my needs; by the second day, they were making me an extra bowl of undressed salad. I schlepped my cans and packets each time and measured it all at the table. All the people were tolerant and accepting, and I was grateful to focus on getting to know them instead of explaining my weird habits. While others on the trip were dropping like flies from cuisine-related illnesses, I happily ate my canned goods and stayed healthy all week, shoveling, decorating, dancing, and relaxing. We even had a refrigerator in the main hut, so I could preserve my leftovers. But on the last day, my "healthier than thou" attitude got a reality check. The families, who had been cooking us vegetarian food all week for kashrut reasons, made a big farewell barbecue. They made me special plain grilled protein (truly free-range, the kind that runs around all over their fields) and grilled some vegetables that you could crack open and smell the sweet pulp for miles. I feasted, stayed out too late dancing and saying goodbye to everyone, and then spent all night packing instead of sleeping. In the morning, the guards found me passed out with no clue how I had gotten across the room. I thought I had fainted and had a concussion, but I seemed okay and we had to get on a plane. I somehow stuffed the rest of my belongings into my suitcase (including all the leftover raws) and made it into the van and plane. The whole flight, I held my stomach and ran between the bathroom and my seat, trying but failing to throw up. I used up all my emergency "GS foods for illness" (after resenting having to spend money on them because "I never get sick"), and when I landed, it was straight to the hospital. They pumped me with IVs and had me sleep all day, but at least I could finally phone my sponsor (!!) and stay abstinent. A lesson in preparedness and humility all around! TRUSTED-ANOTHER- GSER NMW: A friend of mine wavers between Cambridge GS and weighing and measuring with exception in OA. We were both GS abstinent this summer, but by the time she invited me to visit her a few months ago, she was back in OA. But she said she knew my needs and would take me out to a yummy GS lunch. I was ready for lunch at 1, but the buses ran late, so I called and asked her to wait for me. I got to her by 3, but she had to run a bunch of errands first, so I arrived at the restaurant ready to eat a horse at 4. She explained to the waitress what I needed, but it took many protests and not-okay plates being brought out before I started my long-awaited meal at 5. It wasn't so much the hunger that made this so hard as my anger at my friend and at myself for trusting another GSer so much that I didn't think to bring backup. I had been out to dozens of U.S. restaurants abstinently before and was always able to request steamed veggies, large salads, and basic proteins, but here in Israel, the meals are almost always served "the way they are" and people look at you like you have two heads if you ask for something as simple as putting the dressing on the side. So here, when I looked at a menu item with a lot of salad and a little cooked vegetable and asked the waitress to bring me the salad and a large pile of that same cooked vegetable on a different plate, she had to first get "special permission," then acted like it was a huge favor "just this once" to do it. Now, I always bring full backup everywhere; even if it sits heavy in my bag all night unused, at least I have the assurance that I will stay abstinent no matter what happens around me. RECENT-I-HATE- TECHOLOGY NMW: In almost two years of abstinence in CT, I used maybe two scales and was incredibly lucky that they were all long lasting. But a week after I got to Israel, two of my mechanical scales fell apart (including one really cute, small one that was a going-away present from a very dear GS friend; I never even got to use it!) and my digital scale got all wet one day and stopped working. Thankfully, my Israeli sponsor knew a GSer who sold discounted scales locally and got me a replacement. Two months later, that one broke, but the GSer she bought it from picked me up, drove me on his motorcycle (another first for me; only in abstinence!) to the repair shop, and when it turned out that it had been a counterfeit scale (of all things!) and they couldn't fix it, he apologized and bought me a replacement. A month later, I took my fancy replacement scale out in my backpack (against the advice of the repairman, I didn't put it in its box with Styrofoam support), and opened up my bag minutes before dinner to find that the pretty glass plate on top of the scale had popped off. I grabbed my remaining mechanical scale and it broke right there in my hands. I panicked for a few minutes, then called up a GSer who lives in my neighborhood (this busy lady just happened to be home and live 10 minutes away!). Even though she is not currently abstinent, she graciously invited me to come and borrow her extra scale, so, hungry and resentful as heck that I had to wait another half hour for food, I picked it up. But wait, that's not all . I used that scale for three days (a challenge, because it only weighs in grams and I'm not used to the exorbitantly high conversion rate people use here). My sponsor said to get my old one fixed stat, so as soon as I got a free moment, I schlepped to the repair place. "We'll get you a replacement in a week," he said ("What, you have none in stock?!" I almost cried). This was right after lunchtime, when I had noticed that the borrowed scale was wobbling. When I went to check it again, I almost cried in frustration when I saw how I could put food on it and the read-out would show one number, then slowly start ascending, gram by gram, without me adding a crumb. Dinner was coming and I had three broken scales in my possession, but not a single good one. I went to two or three stores GSers told me might have a good one. One just happened to have run out of stock that day; another only had ones that were ridiculously expensive. Thank HP for my sponsor, who calmed my panicked self down and told me I could eat cupped meals until I could find a scale. Now, I have had bad experiences with overflowing my cups and was scared to go back there, but at least this would keep me abstinent. But on a whim, thank HP, I thought to go to one last hardware store before they closed and they just happened to have an affordable, lovely, digital scale that measures in ounces! I bought it just in time to join my friends for dinner at a restaurant and had a delicious abstinent meal that night. ASSORTED NMWs: I have W & M'd out camping in pitch dark by bonfire (thank God for candles), had half my pre-weighed, pre-dressed raws stolen by someone's hungry puppy out in a park (walked home and reweighed), and eaten out on a date with a normie (called in advance to request an a la carte meal, then took that last 0.3 ounces of cooked veggies from his plate with his blessing). I have W&M'd on Shabbat in strictly religious households, where electricity is forbidden (I explained that I had to do it to save my life, and sometimes had to schlep to their homes ahead of Shabbat and pre-weigh all my food). I have dealt with countless nosy relatives, fellow compulsive eaters asking me a zillion questions and making fun of what I do, staring waitresses, and even screaming GSers from other lines who kept telling me my line "does things wrong" (does "keep your eyes on your own plate" mean nothing anymore?) and stayed abstinent. I had a sponsor who taught me that, when eating in public, you put your head down, say the Serenity Prayer, and don't put your head back up or talk to anyone until all your food is in order. I still do that today, and I'm working on perfecting a graceful way to say. "I don't talk about my food *with anyone but my sponsor* or *while I'm eating*" in a polite way. When you pack your commitment first, there's a way!