Resigned From the Debating Society

Hi everyone.  My name is [Anonymous] and I am a food addict and compulsive overeater.  I weigh and measure three meals a day from the GreySheet.  I don't eat between meals no matter what and abstinence is the most important thing in my life today.

Food has always been very important to me.  One of my childhood memories was of saying, "No, thank you," to xxx from one of my friends' mother because I thought she would be impressed by my manners and would certainly offer them again.  When she didn't I was devastated!  I went home and told my mother the story expecting an outpouring of sympathy but she didn't seem concerned at all.  It was incidents like that that made me realize that I felt differently about food than anybody I knew.  I also stole food at home all the time and could never figure out how my mother always knew it was me.  I realized only last year that it was simply because nobody else behaved that way in our house.  I thought everybody was doing the same thing!  It didn't seem to matter how much trouble I knew I would get in, I couldn't stop myself from stealing food.  We only had exactly enough for each of the four daughters and my parents each week and when I ate two xxx one day, it meant somebody else wouldn't get one.  My mother occasionally got boxes of xxx from my father's friends.  She would hide them in a closet and eat one a week.  I couldn't understand how she could do that.  Anyway, I couldn't resist stealing them.  They haunted me.  I knew she would kill me when she eventually found out but I always rationalized as I did it, that I could effectively disguise the missing xxx!  I was always so ashamed when I was confronted with my stealing and the accusation that I was so selfish because I didn't care how my behavior affected anybody else.

When I was about 7 years old, I stole xxx from a little boy's lunch at school.  I put it in my schoolbag and when the teacher searched the classroom for it, I was exposed.  I completely denied any knowledge of how it got in my bag.  This was typical - I always refused to admit I was at fault, no matter what the evidence!  I don't remember if she, or the kids, said or did anything.  It was enough to be humiliated in front of all the children.  A different incident that comes to mind was when we were visiting my cousins who were really thin.  I was about 10 or 12, I suppose.  We were eating dinner and I was on third helpings and my sisters were on their seconds while my cousins were still picking at their food and whining that they didn't want to finish their dinner.  My aunt pointed to us and especially to me and said that they should eat like we did.  I was so proud to be good at something (and yet I knew that eating a lot wasn't something a girl should be proud of).  I remember going to other children's homes for birthday parties.  All I wanted to do was find the books and hide in a corner, reading everything available.  I couldn't wait for the meal but I didn't want to interact with anybody so I was never comfortable at the table.  I just wanted to eat as much as I could without attracting too much attention.  If I could have taken the food back to the corner with the books, I would have been thrilled!  The other thing I did when forced to be at somebody else's home was organize their toys and books.  I didn't know how to play or interact.  I just wanted to have everything put away nice and neat, so I could feel in control.  Then I would sit back, eat, and read.

I wasn't fat as a child, but when I hit puberty I became obsessed with boys and how attractive I was to them.  I wasn't really overweight but I was certainly in the upper range of normal.  I started to hate my body and to try to reduce my food intake with absolutely no success.  I read everything on diets and exercise in girls and women's magazines.  It was the main topic of conversation among all of the girls I hung out with.  I thought it was entirely normal to hate your body, to want to lose weight, to not be able to stop eating the high calorie foods, and to think that if you were thin you would be attractive to boys, and then you would have everything and be happy ever after.  A friend of mine who was very successful in attracting boys and who was quite slim said to me one day that I was fine from the waist up but not from the waist down.  This fed my obsession with losing weight.  This was the only cruel comment I have ever experienced regarding my weight.  I continued to overeat throughout my teens despite waking up EVERY SINGLE morning vowing to control my eating and eat moderately or starve or follow some diet I had read about in the magazines.  I gained weight gradually and became increasingly desperate.  I remember scrubbing my body raw with a bath brush trying to erase the fat.  I used to fantasize about chopping off my thighs and bottom.  If I had known about throwing up or laxatives, I am sure I would have used them.  I guess I am lucky I didn't.  Even though everybody talked about their weight and diets, I knew I was particularly food-focused.  If I was eating with other people, I would watch everything they ate in case they would leave anything.  Then I would agonize about whether I dared ask if I could have it.  I lied about not eating all day or being hungry when in reality I don't think I had ever experienced an empty stomach in my life!  When I lived with roommates in graduate school, I was particularly ashamed when they talked about their disappearing food.  I was rarely confronted about it, but I knew that they were addressing me indirectly.  And I knew that they were talking about me and my behavior when I wasn't there.  It didn't matter - I couldn't stop.

I always thought I overate because food had been so tightly controlled in my house when I grew up, because my father ate luxury meals prepared separately that cost as much per meal as the food for all five of the rest of us, or because my mother was so attractive and had such good control over her eating.  When I was in relapse and attending regular OA and going to therapy, I bought back into this thinking.  If I could just figure out the psychological reason why I ate, then I would magically stop.

I immigrated to the USA from Ireland in 1984, moved in with my boyfriend in 1985, and started to gain weight rapidly because he cooked three big meals a day while I had been used to just eating all day and never having discrete meals.  Now I had both!  I would be sick from eating all day but didn't want to offend him by refusing his fancy meals so I would force myself to eat.  I am 5 foot 5 inches and had arrived here weighing 140 lbs.  By 1989, when we moved to Texas, I weighed 172.  I stopped weighing then but I don't think I stopped gaining.  I joined Sex Addicts Anonymous in 1990 and ended the relationship.  To fill up my evenings I started exercising.  Before long I was exercising 4-5 hours a day and lost 40 lbs.  I was exercising out of terror because my eating was still out of control and I was terrified of gaining the weight back.  After 18 months in SAA and 6 months of sobriety in that program, I started to hear women talking about OA (which they had been doing all along but I was in too much of a fog to notice) and I realized I needed to address another addiction.

My therapist told me not to go to regular OA but to go to "Back to Basics" meetings.  This was when I first heard of "food addiction" and a sensitivity to sugar.  I had never particularly noticed that any type of food was more interesting or problematic to me before but it made sense.  I accepted that I had a sugar addiction and needed to eliminate sugar.  No one taught me about all the guises sugar came in, though, so I am sure I was eating a lot of disguised sugar.  Unfortunately for my disease, Back to Basics OA used the Dignity of Choice food plans.  There were seven food plans, the carbohydrate-free, the basic four, teenagers, vegetarian, men, and others I forget.  Everybody acknowledged the sugar addiction but only some acknowledged a carbohydrate/grain addiction.  I couldn't imagine giving up grains, especially as I was a vegan, so I could never admit the carbohydrate/grain addiction and I never got more than 6 months of abstinence.  I was always white knuckling it - now I know it was because I was weighing and measuring grains three times a day and setting myself up.  I also switched food plans regularly and finally found a sponsor who allowed me to invent my own!  In those meetings only people with 90 days of abstinence could raise their hand.  If there was time, the leader might call on brand new people, but rarely on people counting days.  There was long-term abstinence in those rooms.

When I moved to Kalamazoo in 1992, I relapsed by bingeing on xxx growing on the trees outside my apartment (I never could resist free food!) and on cheap xxx.  Oh yeah, we didn't weigh and measure without exception in B to B, we were supposed to do moderate meals in restaurants or other people's homes, etc.  So I started eating out about 4-5 times a week - at all you-can-eat-xxx places.  And my moderate meals were "everything I can eat before I feel sick and leave the restaurant."  I started inviting people I didn't even like to lunch with me to legitimize my eating.  All of this on a "starvation" student's budget!  After about 6 months, I started to gain back, the weight I had lost in Houston and became desperate.  Mind you, I was chairing OA Intergroup, starting meetings, leading meetings, and calling OA people in Texas and Michigan every day.  But only when I was at the end of my rope and was ready to walk out of my last OA meeting and eat till I died, did my HP put my GS sponsor in the room in front of me!

I heard this gorgeous, vibrant woman say "I weigh and measure thee meals a day off the GreySheet without exception. I write them down and commit them to my sponsor.  I don't eat between my meals no matter what.  Abstinence is the most important thing in my life.  And, by the grace of my HP and this program, I've been abstinent two years."  I knew immediately it was what I needed.  I was willing to admit a grain addiction if that's what it took.  I started weighing and measuring that afternoon and resigned from the debating society about whether or not I am a grain/carbohydrate addict, whether the food plan is healthy, or logical, or even fair to poor, deprived vegan, me!  I have one year, one month, and three weeks of abstinence today.  I have discovered who I am, what I believe in, and what I can really do with my life between meals thanks to the boundaries of GS.  I have learned to stand up for myself, to plan to take care of myself, and then to be free to be of service to other people and other things.  I am back in school and I am having a completely different experience doing this doctorate than I did with either of my other graduate and certainly my undergraduate degrees.  I can focus, think, concentrate, and study like never before.  I take responsibility for my part of the student-teacher contract and ask for what I need from the teacher/school.  Before I tried to get by with the minimum effort and so I didn't care expose my lack of work or my ignorance.  I do GS no matter what - driving straight through to Texas, camping in the woods for a month, flying to the Virgin Islands, etc.  I do whatever it takes to strengthen my abstinence - New York roundups, Ann Arbor and Chicago retreats, long distance sponsorship, starting meetings, driving to meetings across the state.  I go to AA meetings even though when I first started going I didn't consider myself an alcoholic (although I do now) because my sponsor told me to go there instead of regular OA.  I love contact with other GS people.  We have clarity and honesty like no other group.  So I am grateful for the opportunity to tell my story again.

Willingness To Surrender
Finding A Real Definition of Abstinence
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