Finding A Real Definition of Abstinence
I'll tell you a little about myself.
I'm originally from Chicago - was born there and grew up in the suburbs - Arlington Heights, as a matter of fact. I went to nursing school at Augustana Hospital, which was near Lincoln Park Zoo. Now there are condominiums there. It's kind of sad, but that neighborhood was my haunt many years ago. This was the famed "Old Town" area in Chicago, in its heyday with the folk music and the hippies. I graduated from nursing school in 1963. That makes me 59 years old, something I find hard to believe myself. Anyway, I'm still a nurse, retired at the present time. I was an occupational health nurse working in a metal manufacturing plant. I am married to a retired printing press mechanic. We lived in a townhouse in Streamwood, a western suburb of Chicago, until last October when we moved to the northeast corner of Tennessee.
This is my second marriage. I have no children; My husband has three married children. We've been married for 12 years. I have a twin sister who lived in Denver and moved to Tennessee when we did. Also, we have a cat named Greysee. She's all grey, hence the name. We have another one named Millie Vanillie. I have collections: Russian nesting dolls, snowmen, Fiesta Ware dishes, kaleidoscopes, and lighthouses. I collect other things too, but I don't want to dwell on it too much...my husband says one more collection, and he's out of here! So, that's kinda what my life has been like. I am truly blessed.
Enough about me - just a little intro - now about GreySheet and me.
I have been in GreySheet since September 1990. I knew it was the answer for me after that first meeting. I could certainly identify with the compulsive overeater. I had no spiritual life, so that was the first recovery I experienced. My emotional health was not in any crisis... I'm a pretty stable, realistic person, so, changes in emotional growth have happened, but those changes are not so apparent as the spiritual and the physical. In Regular OA I struggled with abstinence for over three years - convinced that sugars did not really affect me - only the obvious ones that are pretty much solid sugar. For the most part I cut those out but paid little attention to labels on bottles of things. I also limited white flour by using "healthy grains." My weight would fluctuate between 150 and 165. I was never grossly obese; my all-time top weight was 182 pounds when I was in high school. My adult low was 118#...preparing for that first wedding! But I could see the progressive nature of this disease as it became harder and harder for me to lose weight on any kind of diet and "white-knuckle it" one day at a time.
In Regular OA I would write out my food everyday according to a food plan I worked out with a nutritionist (with some of my own adjustments.) I had a sponsor but failed to make use of her. Sometimes I called in my food but most of the time I did not commit the food, and most days ended with some change on what I had originally written down. It was clear that I had not let go of the control of the food. It was becoming harder and harder for me to obtain physical recovery. But, for those three years, I kept coming back - most weeks I went to three meetings. I knew where the answer was... that it was in OA ... that there were no other plans out there for me. All the weight loss plans had already been published a thousand times in various monthly women's magazines! I prayed every morning for the gift of abstinence from my Higher Power and the willingness to use the tool of abstinence.
October 1993 my prayers were answered when a member of my regular OA meeting brought in a copy of a food plan called GreySheet, which I had heard of before and was always curious about. I knew that it was the original plan when OA was first organized many years ago. (From my readings, it seemed like there was a lot more recovery then too.) At OA meetings I had been attending, I was beginning to tire of so many people who seemed to be living in the problem instead of the solution, including me. There were very few people who were abstinent and even fewer who were willing to be sponsors. Of course, there was also little weight loss! I was looking for a group who took a really serious approach to abstinence. I knew for a long time that I needed a really strong, no nonsense person for a sponsor - sort of a policeman, perhaps. I made a couple of calls looking for one of these meetings - going to any lengths, I found one in Chicago, which was a 35 mile drive for me, but I thought it was worth a look-see!
I went to that first meeting. There were about eight people there. Five of them had been abstinent for more than two years. One had been abstinent for 4 months, one for 3 weeks, and there was another newcomer that night. The only ones who were not sponsors were the ones with three weeks or less attendance at that meeting. I asked for help that night, got my food plan and a sponsor, and have been abstinent ever since. The compulsion was removed right then and there - there has been no white knuckling since. It certainly is the answer for me, one day at a time. I have been truly blessed. I realize, of course, that it does not work this way for everyone. Some people take a little longer to be free of the obsession with food.
The GreySheet is a list of foods that are abstinent - foods that basically eliminate the physical cravings. It's the first time I was exposed to a real definition of abstinence. If the food is not on the list, it is not abstinent for me. There are no starches or sugars - starches and sugars are what caused the cravings and the physical bondage to compulsive behavior around food. We read all labels- sugar has to be number 5 or further on down the list for us to be able to use any product. There are three weighed and measured meals a day with nothing in between except diet pop, black coffee, or tea. This is without exception. There was a community of people in this group who cared, who were concerned if I was not at a meeting, who were working very serious programs, and best of all, because that's what we all originally came for, there were people who had great weight losses and are maintaining those losses, one day at a time. I reached my goal weight of 125# in March 1994. I'm still a baby, but one day at a time, I know this is the only answer for me. I will always be a baby in this program - every day is a new day.
The rest of my program consists of early morning prayer, reading and meditation, listening to tapes, and having sponsees. I write to other GreySheeters across the country and have done several concentrated step studies. I also do service where I can. I am on the Greynet. I meet weekly with another GreySheeter in my area and attend other 12 step meetings. There are no GS meetings in northeast Tennessee so far. I attend retreats and AA conferences. I have added Al-Anon to my program.
I have a wonderful husband who supports what I am doing and I am very grateful to my Higher Power for the gift of abstinence I was finally ready to receiveand willing to accept. Acceptance of this gift meant for me that I had to be willing to take the action to do what I had to do on a daily basis - the first thing being to let go of the food and the weight and let my sponsor take care of that while I worked on changing other things in my life with the Twelve Steps of AA.
I'll close with something neat that I read once. It was about whiners and complainers, what someone's grandmother taught her. The grandmother said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, then change the way you think about it. It starts with the thinking."
I was lukewarm in the OA program for over three years - lukewarm is a comfortable temperature - we do not like things too cold or too hot, but sometimes being comfortable is not what we need. It kept me vacillating between what I needed to do for recovery and what I wanted to do or didn't want to do. I had to give up my back and forth ways and commit to recovery. Here's another quote from somewhere: "We decide by the extent of our commitment just how valuable, enjoyable, or depressing an experience can be." We have choices today, if we want them.
The three years I spent in OA before GreySheet were time well spent; apparently I was not ready for the GreySheet but taped to my wall was a constant reminder for me to contemplate. It was, "If you keep on doing what you always do, you'll keep on getting what you always get." The question is, is that what you want? Is it enough? Is it recovery from compulsive eating?
I hope this helps newcomers to know a little more about my experience. I hope it serves as hope for those struggling who don't know much about GreySheet, and it serves to remind me how important this program is for me. A little inconvenient at times, yes, but it's what I need for recovery from compulsive overeating - everything else failed. To some it may seem rigid, but what it really is, is defined, finally! I finally know I have a disease, and I finally know that for me, and many others, there is a solution.
So, I'm abstinent today because I weigh and measure three meals a day off the GreySheet - I write them down - I call them in to a sponsor, and I don't eat in between meals No Matter What. Abstinence is the Number One priority in my life - I put my abstinence and my program first. I am grateful to be living in the solution instead of the problem. It will be 9 years in October that I will celebrate abstinence from compulsive eating. It's only because of the GreySheet way of life. I tried most other things and I did not succeed. In these years, I have heard wonderful stories of recovery from GreySheeters that hit a very low bottom and very high numbers. I do not fall into that category - I can only say that I was blessed with being able to work this food plan and program without being in an extremely desperate situation - do or die, so to speak. But I could see my disease progressively getting worse, even though I only had 50# to lose. I was blessed earlier in my disease. My Higher Power showed me where to go and what to do. I am very grateful. One day at a time, I continue to ask for this blessing and the courage and strength to do the footwork. Without action and commitment on my part, my Higher Power, who gave me this gift, may also take it away. I don't want that to happen, so I do what I'm told and copy what is working for others. By the grace of God, I will celebrate 9 years of abstinence on October 20, 2002. I have the life I want and the clarity and serenity to make changes in my life.
DENMW, One Day at a Time. Start now. You can do it!