Desperate As Only The Dying Could Be

Abstinent in GSA since 25 March 2006, a meal at a time, a day at a time.

I would steal food as a child and eat it in secret. Not normal behaviour for a 5 year old. I felt ashamed and hated myself for behaving like this, and couldn't understand why I couldn't stop doing these "crazy, shameful" things with food. This behaviour followed me into my teens, twenties and early thirties. I didn't know it at the time, but I started to use alcohol to try and numb the pain of the shame I felt for the way I ate. Clearly there was something wrong. The shame and self-loathing I felt because of this was horrible. I knew there was something wrong with my relationship to food but I didn't know what it was. I had no idea that I was being driven by the phenomenon of craving and that this craving for the foods we don't eat on GreySheet was as a result of an allergic reaction my body has to these substances – mainly sugars, grains and starches. I did not know that this was why I could never sustain control over the amounts or quantities I ate of these foods. As I got older, I would try and control the amounts of these foods I ate. My iron-strong will and "fierce determination" would work for periods of time and my life would bumble along appearing normal and in control. Then after a period of this fierce control I would reward myself for good behaviour. Guess what the reward was? Yip, you guessed it – the foods we don't eat on the GreySheet. "I'll just have one. It can't do any harm." The vicious cycle would begin again. The cravings returned, the wanting more, the self loathing for having more, the restraint, the control, the "going on yet another diet," followed by a period of control, followed by a reward, followed by a binge.

This cycle became a living hell for me. I was constantly thinking about "giving up" x, y and z forever. It was going to be on Monday or tomorrow. I was constantly going on the wagon in preparation for a binge. I didn’t know this at the time. At the time I believed that the next diet I went on was going to be the diet to beat all diets. I was going to lose all my weight and then go back to eating normally again, this time being careful not to eat those foods that would cause the weight to come back on. Having got sober in AA and experienced the magic of the 12 steps to keep me sober, I fell into the rooms of regular OA hoping for the same miracle with food. Here I was told to decide what abstinence meant to me and it was suggested I avoid refined white sugars and starches. I was given a number of suggestions, all different, some conflicting. I was frightened and confused. The volume in my head was turned down for a while, but I had no physical recovery in OA and soon the insanity returned. I was still eating the foods I was allergic to without realising it. My idea of abstinence in OA was avoiding the foods that I thought caused my weight gain, the refined white sugars and starches and to try a variety of crazy combinations of healthy eating – from just fruit to three meals with the "brown stuff" a day, convinced that these were healthy "whole" meals that were good for me - to just one kind of brown stuff and one protein etc etc. Without realising it my addiction was choosing unrefined grains, starches and sugars, which was having same effect in my body as the white stuff.. Insane. The obsession was back. The weight inevitably crept back on, the self-loathing returned, the manic trips to the gym returned, the quest for control again. In the end the binges got closer together, my iron-strong will and self-control only lasted for a few weeks, then a few days, then by the end not even a few hours. I couldn't stop bingeing, starving, dieting. I thought God had turned His back on me. Why did He help me put the alcohol down but was keeping me in the food (not realising that I had to stop eating my drug of choice before He could help me)? I couldn’t get off the sofa, I didn't want to go out and be seen in my hideous condition. I stopped answering the phone. The noise in my head was so loud, I thought I was losing my mind. Bloated, miserable, baffled, confused and in a lot of pain - desperate for the madness to stop, I cried out for help.

Not long after this cry for help I was at my first GSA meeting, desperate "as only the dying could be for a life preserver." I was willing to go to any lengths to get abstinent. I was done with the debating society, done trying to work it out for myself. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. I just wanted you to tell me what to do. Thank you God. GSA defined abstinence clearly and simply. You told me to get a sponsor. You explained to me that we have three weighed and measured meals a day, written down, planned and committed to a sponsor. You clearly told me we don't eat between meals, no matter what and without exception. You clearly told me what we eat and how much of it we eat. None of it contained the food I’m allergic to which took care of the phenomenon of craving. You clearly told me how often we eat. You said that we stay abstinent by picking up the phone before we pick up the food. You told me we weigh and measure in all circumstances, at parties and restaurants etc. You told me that if I was in doubt about whether a certain food was abstinent or not, to leave it out and to call another GSer. You told me to get to 90 meetings in 90 days to begin with, to make three outreach calls to other Greysheeters per day and to pray for an abstinent day.

I did what you told me to do on this first day and continue to practice these principles. I haven't had to take a compulsive bite since my first meeting, 1,365 days ago today. My life is completely different to the one I was living before GSA. I've been restored. Today, I will go to any lengths to protect my abstinence. And I love my new GreySheet body. Thank you God.

Step 0: Put Down The Food

Hello Greysheet Family!  Regards from New York City and many happy abstinent days to everyone for 1996.  I would like to qualify as I reached my 90 days yesterday, December 28th, 1995.  It was a pleasure to speak to the community at the West Park Presbyterian church which was honored by the presence of one of our "GreyNet" community from Texas who spoke very highly of the benefits of our email system.

I was a compulsive overeater from the start.  I stole money from my father's pants pockets when I was five years old and convinced my mother to let me "sit on the stoop" which I promptly left for the corner store where I asked the store keeper to give me as much (fill in the sugar-laden blank) as three quarters would buy me.  On the way home I was apprehended by my mother and sister and promptly dropped my newly bought stuff all over the street.  My mother died that year of Hepatitis B.  She was a raging alcoholic and a compulsive overeater.  I remember stealing a bag of (fill in the familiar blank) out of the kitchen cabinet right after she died.  I was six.

I moved overseas with my father and his new wife who was physically abusive to me.  I remember I was not allowed to eat with them, but I was made to do their dishes.  I remember eating the remains of their food, which was a lot better than mine.  I stole food out of the kitchen, out of drawers where sugar-laden things were hidden, and from any store where I could get away with it.  I was ten and at the end of that year, in La Paz, Bolivia, my father died.  After this I was sent to live with my stepmother's parents in Germany where I was sexually abused by her father.  Eventually I was sent back to the States where I lived with my aunt and her seven kids.  Needless to say, I didn't fit in and I wasn't happy.

I stole money from any place I could find it, including the housekeeper's pocket book, and I would go down to the local store and I would buy enough stuff to make me ill and eat it all on the way home.  I was sent to an all girls' Catholic boarding school where I got into a lot of trouble doing drugs.  I eventually went to a liberal school in Woodstock, Vermont where I finished high school.

I returned to New York and discovered speed.  I got very thin and never ate and ended up passing out in the shower almost breaking my neck/skull in the process.  I stopped doing speed and started eating.  I married very badly to someone I didn't even like so that I wouldn't have to worry all the time about the rent and food money.  My daughter was born two years later and after her birth, I weighed 280 pounds.  I was miserable and then some.  I realized I might have a problem with food, but I couldn't deal with it at that point in time.  I had to blame my (now) ex-husband for everything and got divorced before it even dawned on me that I was an out-and-out, down-and-dirty food/sugar addict.

In 1985 I joined the "regular" OA rooms in Rocky Point, New York.  For one whole year I remained abstinent.  Unfortunately, I did not work the Steps.  I also lost my sponsor when regular OA went "food plan-less."  I promptly went out and gained right back the 100 pounds I had lost.  In 1990 I had an awakening.  I was miserable, no diet worked and I wanted out from life.  I had the most amazing gift of being able to go in-hospital in California at the Bradshaw Center where I did major therapy/anger work and got to deal with me.  I am extremely grateful to both the regular rooms and the therapists with whom I had the honor of working.  I know my life was saved at that time because of them.  When I came back to New York, I tried to find a therapist like the ones I had worked with in California and found a man who said, "Sure, I can help you, but you have to put down the food first.  Why don't you check out GreySheet?" I said, "Sure." (Translation: "I'll go to the meeting for you, but I'm going to eat what I want to eat.")

Well, sure enough, I didn't surrender.  I didn't do the work.  I put down the food, but my head wasn't there.  I got 90 days and had a party (so to speak) and went out for a year.

(Backing up slightly, I met a wonderful man in abstinence and married him not in abstinence.)  He supports me 100%+.  I gained back 65 pounds that year that I went out, but after trying EVERY diet YET AGAIN, I realized that I was a goner.  This time my surrender was absolute.  I crawled into a Greysheet meeting and said, "I'm back.  I'm staying."

Today my abstinence comes first.  It comes before my job (where I have been very honest and open about what I do so that I can go to the two noon meetings here at St. Thomas Church.)  It comes before my marriage (otherwise, I wouldn't have one, thank you), and it comes before the rest of my life.  I have gone from a size 22 to a size 16 in my 90 days.  (I know it's not about that, but it counts!)  My relationships just keep getting better and better.  My life just keeps getting better.  I turned 40 on the 19th of December and I joyfully blew out the candles on that carbohydrate thing.  What could have been on of the most depressing days of my life got to be one of the happiest.

I have to share how much I love my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.  When I was eating, I turned my back on Him.  When I surrendered, I turned towards Him and asked him to lift my compulsion to overeat, which was done IMMEDIATELY.  I have to say that, for me, this miracle has to be what turned me on to Him in the regular rooms, and I have never forgotten it.

I might be a secretary in a French bank, but for today, my job is to stay abstinent and help other overeaters to achieve abstinence one day at a time!  Thank you, all of you who do what I do.  Your courage and your commitment mean everything.  Without you, I could not do this.  So, thank you for being there and for letting me share my story.


Without Exception, At All Times

Hi everyone,

My name is [Anonymous], and I weigh and measure 3 meals a day off the grey sheet, call it in to my sponsor, don't eat in-between no matter what, and abstinence is the most important thing in the world to me.  I do this without exception, and have been since July 17, 1995, in Cambridge, MA, where I first got abstinent.

I wish I could say it's been easy.  It hasn't.  But my life has improved, changed, and grown dramatically in every possible way.  I'm so grateful for the gift of abstinence, for the desire to remain abstinent, for the people I've met who really 'get' my disease and what it takes to recover one meal at a time.

I've had several sponsors in this program.  Several of them relapsed.  When I came into grey sheet 9+ years ago, I was desperate, I wanted to die, but I wanted to live more, I guess.  I had been abstinent with the gs food plan for 4 months in 1987, lost 40 pounds in regular OA, but had a taste of what it meant to live without sugar, to call my food in, and to weigh my food.  They just didn't do it without exception.  They didn't do it in restaurants, or when they went out to eat at people's parties or homes or weddings...I lost the weight, did it as a diet, and left as soon as I started to look thin again.

I tried to find an easier softer way.  Eight years later, EIGHT YEARS of trying to define abstinence that includes carbs, that lets me have my 'dignity' (which meant not having to bring my scale out in public), and I'm here to say, none of it worked.  AT ALL.  I gained all the weight back, and by this time, I was hopeless about finding a solution.

In my other program, I did the steps out of the book.  That helped me get closer to the truth, closer to my HP, and what did I see?  That I'm a compulsive overeater, that I wanted to die.

So, at that point, I was ready to surrender, and when I did, all kinds of miracles happened.  I got a sponsor at my first GS meeting in Cambridge, went to meetings every day, was gifted with willingness, and took all the suggestions, every one.

I have weighed and measured at weddings, on first dinner dates, at a business interview breakfast, traveling in Europe, as well as through job losses, the death of my mother, break-ups, moving to another part of the country, buying a house, being without a job for a few weeks, and all I can say is, it's doable, no matter what.  One meal at a time, I can stay abstinent.

I am so grateful for the grey sheet, for the community, for the people who listened to me cry at meetings over everything, because my feelings came up with a vengeance when I put down the food.  Of course they would!!

I see my scale as the sign of my disease, but also as the sign of my healing.  When I take it out, I admit to myself and everyone else, I'm not perfect, I need to do this very strange thing at my mealtime, no matter who I am sitting with, because without it, I am doomed to the hell of compulsive eating, to hating my body, to feeling guilty no matter what I put in my mouth, to endless obsession.  With the scale, I know what is enough; I know I've eaten enough when the meal is finished, and that I am fine, no matter how I feel.

I choose foods that I love because I can't do this program feeling deprived and as if I am dieting.  Diets end.  Abstinence never has to.  I have too much to lose now--and it's not the weight anymore, it's good things, good people, life in between my meals--my contact with HP, my real connections with people and myself...

I don't want to lose any of these gifts of abstinence, and all I have to do to keep them is weigh and measure my food and stay in the middle of this miraculous safety net of the GS community.

I wish you all the blessings of abstinence...nmw,

Willingness To Surrender

Hi my name is [Anonymous] and I have this disease of Compulsive Overeating who gratefully weighs 3 meals off the Cambridge Greysheet and I am proud to say I belong to GSA!

My eating history is probably not a lot different from yours.  I ate and I ate and I ate!  I lied for food!  I stole for food!  I compromised my morals and values for food!  I lost a job to food!  I was willing to compromise my health by stretching my body beyond its normal limits!  I was a slave to food and I can go back into that mode if I take my abstinence away!

My first greysheet meeting was in 1990, I went to that one meeting and wasn't ready and I wasn't desperate enough (quite belligerent in my disease) as I look back.

I re-entered the rooms in 1991 and I was enticed by someone (back door style) who seemed to eat like I did but I was not desperate enough still!  I did start to weigh and measure but I kept taking my will back and doing very diseased things!  I weighed foods that we do not eat on the greysheet, I subtracted proteins from other meals and tacked it onto my dinner meals!  My surrender was not quite complete!  I did lose a lot of weight during this period of insanity and I started to get panicked!  At that time the fear got so bad I wanted my obese body back I didn't know what to do with myself!  I was feeling feelings that this disease wouldn't allow me to feel!  I was a mess!  I continued to weigh and measure but not Camb. GS style!

I finally had the willingness to surrender in 1994 THANK YOU GOD!

So my journey has been unbelievable!  I just celebrated my 11th year of GS b/b abstinence through the grace of god and this fellowship and with sponsors!  I have been through many things in my abstinence and haven't found it necessary to pick up!  The 12 steps have been pivotal in my abstinence and has helped me to climb up to my God of my understanding!  I learned that my disease kept me in deep denial of who I really was.  I had great things about me and things I really needed to change!  My pride and ego got in the way most of my life!  I have learned a lot along the way!  I have the ability to wait, because I can wait in between my meals (4-6 hrs apart), I don't have to continue to allow quick fixes to dominate my life!  I can feel an uncomfortable feeling and not stuff it down with the food, BEAR THE DISCOMFORT TILL THE COMFORT COMES or the other way around to feel joy!  I have learned that this is about spiritual progress and not spiritual perfection!  I have learned as I continue to weigh and measure my food ONE DAY AT A TIME that I will continue to get and want to be closer to a God of my understanding!

I can have boundaries, the GS teaches me that it is 4.0  8.0  16.0 so it enables me to have boundaries or the courage to have boundaries with others!  I have learned it is easier to carry a lunch bag than it is to carry around 100 lbs extra weight!  I have learned I don't have to explain my program to others and that I only have to know really why I need to do this!  This program has given me a sense of responsibility because I need to be in charge of my own food not to have others weigh it for me!  I need to do my own work!  I learned I do this in crises.  I do this when I am in the hospital or when I am out of the hospital.  This has taught me to be prepared for life, I need to be prepared if my batteries go out or have scales where I frequent the most!  Constant backups are a must!  These are only some of the examples that I have learned.
I have weighed and measured during the most painful times in my life, the most joyous times in my life and just when life is life!  It is a privilege to have this gift and I continue one day at a time to preserve it!

Thank you for asking me to post and thank you for reading my story and being with me on my journey!
Western MA

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.

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 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!


Safety At The Far Shore

My name is [Anonymous] and I am a CO.  I will be happy to qualify since I have a couple of minutes of free time before my nose goes back to the grindstone here in Extension Horticulture.  I have 131 days of abstinence on GreySheet by the grace of God.  My sponsor, who found GreySheet in New York, brought GreySheet to College Station, Texas.  She had been my oldest sponsor here in College Station OA when I first came in 1981.  She has definitely been an angelic being in my life, and I am grateful for the activity of God in her life as well as mine.

She was also instrumental in leading me to AA, where I should have gone in the first place (I knew I had a bad drinking problem, so I joined OA!)  Anyway, I entered the fellowship of AA on March 25, 1981, and have stayed sober, by the grace of God, since that time.  I got abstinence, that I was able to stay on a few months later, and managed to stay abstinent for the next 5-6 years.  My sponsor moved away, I got a divorce and moved, and when this all happened, I decided to eat "normally" again.  When I took back the food, I told myself that I would NEVER let this wonderful stuff go again.  I knew that I had been insane to let it go, and I would keep this lovely delicious food all my days.  About 5 years of hell later, I tried to get back to OA.  Another 3 years of misery in the pits passed before I crawled onto my knees and asked God to please, please, please take away my craving for food that made me crazy and fat (about 200 lbs. on a 5'3" frame).  A couple of days later, (God acted swiftly!), I heard that my old sponsor was moving back to College Station.  I cried out to God that this was NOT the solution I wanted.  I bitched and moaned and ranted and raved, but when she did come, I approached her about started a GreySheet meeting, and I have been abstinent since July 27,1995.

It has been the single most miraculous thing that has ever happened to me, since I have had an eating disorder since I was about 15 years old.  It began when I suddenly couldn't eat.  I stopped eating one summer, and gradually was able to take food back when school started.  When I finally was able to eat again, I started a binge and starve program that I continued for decades.  I never got too fat, but I was crazy and food was a huge problem always.  Since I have been on GreySheet, for the first time in my life, I don't have an unholy craving for food.  It is miraculous.

Some of us just can't handle carbohydrates it seems.  I was very slow to accept that, but the last 3 years I ate, I began to recognize that carbohydrates had SOMETHING to do with my bingeing.  I wasn't about to give them up, but I knew carbohydrates did bad things to me.  They seem to set me up and foster a craving that cannot be denied.  I am grateful to God for my abstinence on GreySheet, and I am very grateful to all of you who carry the message to those of us who are very low-bottom food addicts who must resort to sterner measures than food addicts who can take a more moderate approach to abstinence.  The longer I am in 12-step programs, the more I believe that they are most effective for addicts who CRAWL in the door.  If I had had ANY OTHER OPTION besides GreySheet, I would have taken it.  Now that I have been abstinent on GreySheet, I would not eat any other way.  There is more freedom, within our boundaries, than I have felt during countless years of trying millions of diets.  I feel like I have reached the far shore and safety after almost drowning in a sea of food.  God is Good.


Made A Decision

Hello Community, I'm [Anonymous], a CO, abstinent and grateful.  I w&m 3 meals a day from the Cambridge Greysheet, write them down, commit them to my sponsor, don't eat between meals, do eat every meal, and I've done this daily for 6 years today, June 20th, 2002.  And I'm writing this post with tears of gratitude, humility and disbelief running down my cheeks.

When I began this trek 6 years ago I was at a place of total despair regarding my weight and food in my life.  I'd dieted for over 25 years - dieted my way to 268 pounds, a stay in the hospital on the verge of a stroke from high blood pressure, and a pretty miserable existence.  I wanted things to be different, I'd bargained with God, I had truly tried to eat sanely.  But I got worse and worse over the years until I was totally hopeless.  I remember thinking, "I might live 30 more years.  Damn."

But I guess God had different plans for my life.  He gently introduced me to GS - actually twice, but I didn't listen the first time.  The second time must have been right.  I listened, I attended my first GS meeting, and they told me I could leave abstinent.  I didn't have to wait until Monday, or after vacation, or until Hell froze over.  I could start then.  I also heard there was a physical part to my disease - it was more than food being out of perspective in my life, but that I might be sensitive to refined carbohydrates.  Geez, what a thought.  I immediately knew those grain products were my drug of choice.  That's where I always turned when I couldn't stand my diet any longer.  I also heard there was only one bite I didn't have to take - the first one.  I didn't have to worry about eating it all.  That still helps me today.  I also heard HOPE.  Hope that there was a solution - one I could live with for life.  Sure, it's one day at a time.  But, it was that HOPE for real change that spoke to me.  I saw people whose lives were different.  And that's what I wanted.

So, I stayed.  I listened.  I embraced the program as it's written with no modifications.  Not my way.  And I left that meeting abstinent.

I'm often asked today how I have the will power or discipline to do what I do.  I offer one biggie in hope that it might help someone out there.  I MADE ONE DECISION.  I decided to be abstinent and work this program.  I do not revisit that decision for weddings, vacations, holidays, Thursday...  I decided ONE time to do life the GS way, and I don't ponder other options.  I just don't.  And I believe that's made the biggest difference in my being able to do this day in and day out.  And, to support that decision, I attend meetings, read literature, make daily contact with my sponsor, pray for help and for thanksgiving, work the steps, and am rigorously honest about my food.  God does for me today what I could never do by myself.

How is life different today?  First, I'm truly not sure I'd be alive today.  My weight was continually climbing; blood pressure had become an issue.  Who knows?  But I can compare today with 6 years ago and the 25 years prior.  And I'll take today!  In the past 6 years I've traveled lots (including 2 weeks in Europe - it certainly can be done.)  Fitting into the airplane seat has been no problem (I mention that in light of the current news regarding extra charges.)  Thank You God that's not me today and my prayer goes out to those suffering as I do remember that physical uncomfortableness and the humiliation of taking up more than my fair share of space.  Yesterday I went shopping and bought two new sassy outfits - size 6P - just for the sheer joy of buying them!  A treat for me!  Shopping used to be pure Hell.  The only criteria for me used to be, "Does it go around me" - certainly never a thought about how I looked.  And I have taken on a summer project of building a deck on my house - all by myself!  Thank God I have a body that can do such a thing today.  I revel in playing with my 17 month old grandson - down on my hands and knees, crawling, chasing, giggling, loving - could I do this at 268#?  No way.  And I won't have the mental anguish as he grows up of wondering if he's embarrassed to be seen with his Grandma.  I always worried about that with my children.

These are a few of the outer gifts of abstinence.  They're real, but they're not what give my life its quality and depth today.  In addition to the physical recovery, the above gifts, today I'm recovering emotionally and spiritually as well.  I met a loving God in program and was led back to church.  This has become one of my greatest blessings and I will continue this loving relationship for a lifetime and beyond.  Thank you AA/OA/GS.  And today I practice the principles of the program to the best of my ability in my daily challenges.  Today when frustrations and obstacles present themselves, I process them rather than react to them.  I look for my part, if changes need to be made by me, or if acceptance is required.  I ask for help - a listening ear.  I pray.  And I make decisions that are thought out wisely.  Sometimes I'm called to be assertive, sometimes forgiving, sometimes accepting and trusting...  This is how I think now!  What a gift.  I seek balance in my life!  I'm experiencing the promises on a regular basis.

To all of you who do what I do:  Thank You!  It's only because I'm not alone that this works for me.  You're all miracles.  Now it's on to an abstinent day, a day filled with living between 3 w&m meals.  I'm so blessed.


Abstinent Despite the Turbulence

Fellow GreySheeters: I've been putting this off, and without even the excuse someone else has of being sick of her own story.  It's not as if I get a chance to qualify very often.  Anyway, without further ado, here it is.  My name is [Anonymous] and I'm a food addict and compulsive overeater.  (Hi.)  I weigh and measure three meals off the GreySheet without exception, write them down, turn them over to my sponsor, don't eat between meals no matter what.  Abstinence is the most important thing in my life, and a day at a time I work to put my program first.  (Deep Breath)

There are a lot of you out there in cyberspace who haven't heard my story, so I'll start at the beginning.  I'm pretty sure I was a food addict in the womb.  Compulsive eating and other addictions run in my family.  My father is dangerously obese; my mother's mother is now in a wheelchair because of a stroke brought on by obesity; my not-so-little brother, who was always the skinny kid when we were growing up, now checks in at 300 lbs.  And is larger every time I see him.  I don't come from high numbers myself, but as someone once said in a meeting, you don't have to go all the way to the dump to know where the garbage truck is headed.  I'm told that when I was a baby I loved the starch paste which is fed to infants shortly before weaning.  I believe it.  My mother had a no-sweets rule when I was very young, but there was plenty of starch around.  I remember both being encouraged to eat and threatened with being fat.  There was "can you eat as much steak as Daddy?" at the dinner table - yet I also remember sitting down to dinner at the age of, oh, five or six, and lifting my thighs off the bench because if I let them rest on it they looked too fat.  So I started thinking of myself as fat when I was very young.  I knew that my grandmother was fat, because my mother said so - and I loved this grandmother because she would bake sugar-items and send them to us.  Since becoming abstinent I've gone back and looked at photos of myself as a child.  I was a cute kid, and not at all fat.  I didn't start to be overweight until adolescence caught me.  But I was lethargic and not very athletic and had a lot of shame about my body.  Gym classes at school were mortifying.  I believe now that the reason I lacked speed and energy was that my body was depressed by the carbohydrates.  I tried to work as hard and run as fast as everyone else, but it never seemed to happen.

My relationship with food has been obsessive as far back as I can remember.  I remember visiting a friend's house when I was about 5, and staring and staring at a glass jar full of sugar-items.  I don't remember whether I managed to steal one or not, but I couldn't think of anything else.  When I was a bit older I went on vacation with some friends of the family, and found myself shocked when I discovered that their daughter never sneaked food.  My 'aunt' overheard me and told me off, and I was so ashamed.  A year or so after that, I burned my hair on a kettle climbing onto a cupboard to get at something my mother had put away.  My parents got divorced when I was 9, and both of them started keeping sugary foods around.  My father's weight went up dramatically; I was too busy getting what I could of the food to pay much attention.  More climbing into cupboards and lying through my teeth when Dad heard me from the other room.  I remember eating the tops off an entire box full of round things, because that was the part I liked best, and trying to deny it later.  I remember getting nearly hysterical when I thought my brother had eaten one of my food items.  With my mother working, there was also a lot more opportunity to eat at her house.  I'd come home from school and put the toaster on, and drink endless quantities of hot drinks which were half sugar, and bake things from mixes.  A lot of our meals, such as they were, were basically starch with starch added, courtesy of Stouffer's.  I hated vegetables, except for corn, and potatoes when they'd been deep-fried one way or another.  At 15 I moved in with my father.  When I came home from school I had a second lunch and then dinner with Dad when he came home.  He ate so much that it didn't seem to me that I was overeating, but I was always about 10 or 20 pounds overweight.  My mother harassed me about that pretty continually, but I never managed to stay on a diet more than about 10 minutes.  Bribes were no more successful than threats.  It's not as if I didn't want to lose weight, but it felt like a totally futile effort.  I started describing myself as ‘voluptuous.'

After I learned to drive I was responsible for the grocery shopping - total freedom to buy my favorite binge foods!  That's probably why I didn't immediately put on the Freshman 15 when I got to college.  I was eating on the food plan and not buying extra food.  On the other hand, six glasses of sugar cola at dinner, plus meals which were mostly starch, plus dessert, isn't exactly the way to get thinner.  I got larger, slowly.  I spend part of my sophomore year studying in Rome.  Italy is the ideal place to binge.  Overeating is encouraged.  "Mangia! Mangia!" the cooks used to say to us.  And right around the corner there was a "pasticceria."  Not to mention the tubes of foil-wrapped Baci.  Most people thought the stuff too rich to eat much of.  Not me.  I could get through several at once.  "Too rich" was not even a concept.  Guess what?  I put on weight while in Europe.  And I kept it on when I got back, even added to it.  And then I spent a miserable 5 weeks with my parents (they live in the same town) over Christmas break, and by the end of the vacation I couldn't fit into the trousers I'd worn on the way home.  My mother had duly come over and told me that I was fat and no one would love me and no men would want me.  (Thanks, Mom.)  I determined to do something about it, and it was at this point that I realized I had no idea of what a normal healthy amount of food was.  I didn't know how much my body needed.  I decided to eliminate the desserts and stop drinking sugar soda.  I couldn't absolutely stay away from sugar, but I did manage to lose some weight.  And once that happened I went right back to eating the way I had before, as if I was somehow cured.  I started going to ACoA meetings at about this time.  Afterwards some of us would go over to a local café, where they had decadently rich food items.  I always got one, and tucked it rapidly away despite jokes about ‘boy you can sure stuff a lot of feelings with that.'  At one meeting a woman spoke about food getting out of control and added that there was nothing more shaming than having to go to an OA meeting.  This, of course, only reinforced my denial.  I went to Germany in the summer of 1988, picked up an intestinal virus, and couldn't eat for a week.  I lost several pounds.  Naturally I didn't keep it off, and even I wasn't quite crazy enough to adopt that as a regular weight-loss strategy.  (Breathe)  (You can't tell from where you are, but I took a break to cook and eat dinner, and am now very full of lovely abstinent food.)

So there I was at university, about to graduate.  I spent another week not eating when I was rejected by someone I'd been passionately in love with for years.  My jeans were hanging on me.  It felt wonderful.  But I moved into a vegetarian household for the summer after I graduated.  There might not be any meat to be found, but there was an abundance of starch.  I took to baking.  I took to baking even more when I got to graduate school.  The first year in graduate school has been unfavorably compared to boot camp.  It's not unlike being hazed while pledging a fraternity, from what I hear.  Anyway, I was a codependent people-pleaser and I couldn't make anyone happy.  So what did I do?  I ate.  I argued with my housemates about the ethics of sugar before noon.  I baked often - sometimes the stuff even made it to the oven.  I learned to cook ever more elaborate and decadent desserts.  I was a binge-snob, disdaining the prepackaged stuff.  As time went on I got emotionally worse - not surprising with the food interfering with any attempts to do any codependency recovery or therapy.  It got to the point where I went to therapy, cried all the way home, skipped class, and ate instead.  I was unable to ask for help.  I would sit in bed tearing long gashes in my arms with my fingernails (the marks lasted several months) because I was so full of self-hatred and desperation, then go down stairs and stuff my face until I could sleep.  I normally avoided scales, but when I went for my GYN exam the doctor weighed me, and I was horrified at my weight.  I felt panicked about it - and I went home and ate.  It wasn't long after that that I ended up in a treatment center in Arizona for a month, mostly because I couldn't stop thinking about killing myself.

I was also totally unable to function.  I was very frightened when I was lucid, which wasn't often.  Well, after about 2 weeks my final assessment and treatment plan arrived, and there it was in black and white:  I was a compulsive overeater and needed to go to OA meetings.  I went on one hell of an emotional binge about that.  I was so ashamed.  All those years of ‘no one will love you if you're fat.'  Anything I'd ever heard about addiction not being a moral issue went right out the window.  I didn't want to let go of my feeling of superiority that I wasn't an alcoholic.  I went through remarkable mental gymnastics to convince myself that I was only a potential food addict.  I looked at a graph they handed out in one session and said, "Well, I haven't done that, or that, or that..."  I probably had, actually.  My denial was very powerful.  I did manage, by the time I got out of treatment, to accept that I was going to need OA and that it was nothing to be ashamed of.  If something went wrong, the thing to do was get help.  And for the first time in my life I was "sorry" not to be an alcoholic.  Putting the plug in the jug is a clearly defined act.  It's possible to go entirely without alcohol.  But it's not possible to go entirely without food.  They'd had us off sugar in treatment and I decided to keep that part up as a beginning.  On the plane home I craved the nasty dessert item, and had to pull out my journal and write and write and write in order not to eat it.  I believed that eating was a sort of side-effect of my emotions, that if I just got recovered enough around my codependency issues I wouldn't want to eat compulsively.  If I hadn't found the GreySheet, I'd still be waiting to be spiritual enough.

I flew to Athens via Rome.  I had only four days in Rome, but managed to visit my old eating haunts.  "Well, I'll just pick 'one' item and have that."  But it wasn't like that, of course.  I had to have them all.  I managed to stay away from sugar for a few weeks in Greece, but not for long.  My father visited and insisted we try the local frozen carbohydrate.  I kept making exceptions, often feeling terrible guilt about it.  And the stuff I thought of as okay was mostly flour-based!  I knew I was in trouble when I got back to the States at the end of the summer, but I wasn't quite willing enough to go to a meeting.  I did ring the Alano club and ask whether they had an OA meeting, and they said there was one at 10 AM on Saturdays.  But I found other things to do with my Saturday mornings.  When it got to the point where I'd promised myself I'd go, then went somewhere else but promised myself I wouldn't eat there, then ate while I was there, I realized that this had to stop.  So I went the next Saturday, after a last drunk during which I ate carbohydrates with carbohydrates added and felt virtuous for not ordering dessert.

I walked into a room whose occupants were mostly normal-sized and saw yellow signs all over which said things like "Weigh and Measure" on them.  That seemed just too much, and things got even scarier when people started talking about no grains and sugars.  I spent much of the meeting trying to think of ways around things.  But when they asked whether anyone was available to sponsor and a woman raised her hand, I went up and asked her.  Then I saw the GreySheet for the first time, and she said, "Why don't you start with your next meal?"  I had a terrible time committing that food.  I looked at the list and thought, "There's nothing on here I eat."  I finally came up with something, and then had to go to the grocery store, and also had to go buy a scale.  I was living with four male colleagues and thought I'd fall through the floor with shame when I told them.  On the way home from the meeting, I cried as if I'd lost all joy in my life, while trying to think of things I could still do even when I wasn't eating grains and sugars.  I felt deprived and resentful at first, but I also knew that my choices were recovery or death, and I wanted what those people in that room had.  I vowed to give it an honest go for 90 days or until I reached my goal weight, whichever came first.  My sponsor warned me that this was much more one day at a time than AA.  I hated calling her - I had so much shame around my eating that it was an agony to tell her what I was going to eat.  And I didn't quite get it that it had to be exactly 4 oz. or 2 TB or whatever.  I put too much lettuce in the salad and couldn't finish it.  My housemates didn't tease me or see me as a mutant, the way I did, but they ate binge-food all the time without gaining weight.  It was the wrong environment.  I went through terrible withdrawal.  Moodwise it was like being pre-menstrual for 3 weeks.  Physically, I had diarrhea and headaches.  It was wretched and awful, but it convinced me that I really was an addict, physically, biologically an addict.

After about a month I moved into an apartment of my own and bought a car so I could go to meetings.  I'd been very reluctant to go at first, but as another GreySheeter once said, "Go until you want to go."   Soon I wanted to go, wanted to talk to my sponsor.  I was losing weight and feeling healthier.  I'd started exercising and was able to keep doing it on a regular basis.  I'd never been able to do that before.  And even while I was still detoxing I found that I had more energy, needed less sleep, and could think more quickly and clearly.  I came to realize that weighing and measuring was no different from getting kidney dialysis or taking insulin - it was a treatment for a life-threatening illness, and a blessedly easy one.  I learned to cook all over again, because I knew that if I didn't like my food I'd never be able to stick with this.  My taste buds changed - I suddenly developed a passionate liking for squash, which I'd always hated.  It's amazing how things taste when you haven't saturated yourself with sugar.  (I admit I still have a sweet tooth and use quite a lot of saccharine.)  Five years later I'm a GreySheet gourmet and a lot of you now have copies of my cookbook.  It took about 6 months for me to reach my goal weight.  Long before that I woke up one morning and realized that I didn't hate myself for being fat.  The habit of abuse makes me feel I deserve to be abused; the habit of taking care of myself, absolutely without exception, gives me self-esteem, self-respect.  I started to feel like I was enough for the first time in my life.  They say we're only as old as our abstinence, and it was truly like being reborn.  I gained a kind of wondering innocence and lost most of my cynicism.  I started wearing pink instead of black.  I gave away the clothes which were too big for me and replaced my wardrobe.  I wore above-the-knee skirts just because I could, and bought a lot of sleeveless things to show off my muscle definition.  I was happy all the time.  I would walk down the street singing "Amazing Grace."  I found I was starting to attract, and be attracted to, people who were much healthier and more wholesome than most of those I'd spent time with when in the food.  I did a bit of dating, cautiously, no longer just plonking myself into the lap of a man I was attracted to.  One guy I particularly liked ended up with someone else.  I was very upset, but I didn't eat.  I called a friend to talk, and I went to a meeting the next morning and got reminded that abstinence was life and death, and giving up a man wasn't nearly as hard as giving up the food.  I had feelings, and got over them.

When I'd been abstinent about a year and a half and life was going swimmingly for the reliable person I'd become, I fell ill with what was later (much later) diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction, known in the UK as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  It's sort of like having mono forever, but worse.  (I don't think people with mono have brain damage.)  I was physically very weak and couldn't think clearly.  I'd been extremely healthy since getting abstinent and I felt betrayed by the GreySheet at first.   But it was only the GreySheet that got me through.  Those three meals were the only structure in days where I sat and stared at the walls and nights when I woke sweating every hour.  GreySheet people telephoned me, visited me, drove me to meetings where I sat like a zombie, even bought groceries for me when I was too sick to go out.  (I was feverish and my reflexes were shot so it was dangerous to drive.)  I was watching my graduate career evaporate, not knowing despite a battery of tests what was wrong with me, but I didn't eat.  My health improved substantially, though I am still very ill.  I've done a lot of traveling and eventually moved to the UK, where things are very different.  For one thing, there are only about 10 abstinent people in the whole country.  The nearest meeting is in London and I can rarely go.  Telephone calls are quite expensive, ridiculously so.  I haven't been well enough to start a meeting the way I planned to.  (My going-away party from Ann Arbor was wonderful, and I was sent out fully equipped to start a meeting and to sponsor.)  I do have sponsees, but not as many, and I've never met them.  When I went back to the States for a couple of months last summer I felt a bit embarrassed to face the GS community because I hadn't gone out and done anything.  I do often feel like I'm not doing enough.  But I'm still weighing and measuring no matter what.  Despite an often-desperate shortage of money, I get my GS groceries.  I weigh and measure my food even on days when I don't have the strength to take a bath or get dressed.  I've traveled to Ireland, Wales, Holland, and Italy, as well as back and forth to the States, and been abstinent.  The turbulence of my personal life is very nearly the stuff of fiction, but I don't eat over it.  My food is beautiful and I rejoice in it.  And the bottom line is that if I weigh and measure three meals, it's a successful day.  Thanks for listening - I've gone on much longer than I would have if I were speaking.  It was about time I claimed my seat.  DENMW.


Over A Quarter Century In Cambridge

Dear GS friends,

[Anonymous] here, abstinent as WE define it in Cambridge Massachusetts, and thrilled to have weighed and measure my food off the Cambridge GreySheet for the last 27 years and 7.5 months, back-to-back.

Thank you for asking me to reflect upon the blessings of abstinence and the incredible fringe benefits of long-term abstinence. First among these, for me, are my loss of illusions about returning to the food, the lack of longing to be "normal" (read, return to my crazy days, as that would be the only choice for me), my contentment with meals, and the "trickle down" effect of contentment with my significant other (a kind, brilliant, funny man), our beautiful new home, my furry friends Wolfie and Foxie, a really classy health club that has the nicest indoor pool I have ever swum in, my snazzy new computer, a wonderful, feisty, tell-it-like-it-is sponsor with over a quarter of a century of back-to-back GS abstinence, a wonderful circle of GS friends, the recent return of my dearest GS friend to the program after a decade long relapse, another small circle of wonderful "normie" friends and the list goes on.

I work ALL of the tools of the program, but it begins and ends with meetings, as far as I am concerned. I am a member of two local GS groups and two local AA groups. (I am also an active, participating member of AA, hardly ever miss at least my two AA meetings a week, sometimes more, and no one is giving me any gold stars for diplomacy and charm there either, but I do claim my seat and work the program seriously and diligently).

Acceptance of life's difficulties has come very slowly to me, but I have always felt that if I had "gotten well too soon" I would have been out the door and back to bulimia and obesity post haste. Not that I consider myself to be well now. Just weller than I was. (All sentence fragments and coined words allowed by special retired-English-teacher license).

I got abstinent and sober at the same time, on July 24, 1977. I also had a horrendous Valium/Librium habit at that time, and was doing a few other things that I no longer broadcast. I have survived quite a few no-matter-whats in my time: dessert thrown in my face by a student somewhere around June of 1985.  I didn't eat it. Two ruptured discs in my back--no surgery, just rest, ice and therapy. I did not take even aspirin for the first 9 or so years of my abstinence. I was afraid I would eat compulsively if I took pills, so I refused all painkillers at the time and I lived through it.  Hip replacement eight years ago. That was a doozy!!  Yes.  I did change my mind about the painkillers (at least short term) when that came around!  The devastating breakup of 5 major love affairs, each of which looked like it was going to send me straight to the nut house for a few months.  The fourth was the most gut-wrenching/faith-destroying experience thus far in my life, but I didn't eat over it and I set the limits I needed to set, with the help of my sponsor and a handful of old timers who saved my life.

One of the key elements of CAMBRIDGE Grey Sheet is that we take care of the food first and steps other than the first three AFTER a solid foundation of back-to-back abstinence has been well established. I didn't listen to that advice as a newcomer, as I thought it was based upon a notion that I did not yet have enough self-awareness or clarity, as a newcomer, to work the steps.  Since I thought I already knew everything, I saw no reason to delay plunging right in. In retrospect, I realize that a lot of the anger, fear, doubt, dishonesty and chaos I experienced for my entire life before I got abstinent as we define it dissipated simply by attending tons of meetings, having a sponsor, doing rudimentary service like setting up chairs and showing up for business meetings, and NOT EATING NO MATTER WHAT. Just doing that turned me from a whiner into a rejoicer, a doer instead of an observer, and eliminated an enormous quantity of garbage I through, erroneously, to be loathsomely integral to my character.

After I had been abstinent a few years, I was much more able to use my close study of the Twelve and Twelve and the Little Red Book for attaining and maintaining personal growth conducive to sustained abstinence instead of using my study to beat myself. That's why, here in Cambridge, sponsors are likely to tell their sponsees to concentrate on the first three steps and not worry about the rest until they have at least a year and preferably a few years of back to back abstinence.

I do Cambridge Grey Sheet no matter what, and that has made all the difference.


Black + White Food Plan = GreySheet

My name is [Anonymous], and I am a compulsive overeater.  I weigh and measure three meals a day from the Cambridge Grey Sheet, write them down, commit them to my sponsor or another qualified person.  I don't eat in between no matter what.  Abstinence is the most important thing.

Compulsive eating runs in my family, and I believe I was born with the predisposition toward food addiction.  I also saw compulsive behaviors around the food.  My mother weighed about 83 pounds and was considered a finicky eater while my grandfather, whose weight reached over 300 pounds, ate large quantities.  Whether by nature or by nurture I have the disease of compulsive overeating.

Nearly as far back as I can remember I wanted more sugar.  I never wanted one bite or one item.  When I was in first or second grade I traded the items on my school lunch plate for the sugar dessert on the plates of my classmates.  I traded food until I had about four desserts.  In another incident I was playing with my cousin and my cousin's friend. The friend's mother gave each of us one X.  After finishing the X I wanted another.  The other two children had continued playing; however, I was preoccupied with how I could get more sugar.  I said to the friend, "Don't you want to ask your mom for another one?" That was the thing about being a child addict--I had to manipulate others in order to get my fix, and I lived with the fear of not getting enough.  Many years later I would have to buy a bag of something sweet and eat it in my car on the way to dinner parties so that I could be certain I'd get enough.  I could never be sure that I would be served enough at the dinner party to quell my insatiable appetite.

In grade school I looked forward to lunch, and I remember events by what foods I ate.  I also enjoyed hoarding food, trying to make the Halloween sugar last until the Christmas sugar and the Christmas sugar last until the Easter sugar.  I wanted to have a stash.  I remember exactly what I liked to eat at the kiosk at the public pool.  I loved going to the fair, especially the excitement of the different things I wanted to eat.  I know what sugar I chose when we went to the pharmacy after doctor visits, and I remember the sugar drink I always got after a trip to the dentist.  I tried to save sugar even if it melted because I wanted to eat in isolation.

My food was not monitored during my pre-teen and adolescent years.  The cupboards were mine from which to dine, and I did.  I was often home alone in the afternoon, and I snacked and snacked and snacked.  My binge eating seemed to kick in even more when I was about twelve years old.  This was around the time my mother re-married, and I suppose I may have eaten to stuff the myriad of feelings.  After school I'd ride my bike with a friend; then we would overeat together -- Paula, my first binge buddy.  It was with Paula that I got into trouble with someone for whom we babysat.  We ate something the women wanted to serve to others.  I also began eating things meant for multiple servings.  I would cook breakfast items meant for a family, and I'd tell myself I would eat only two.  Then I'd think three wouldn't be so bad, then four, and what would Mom and step-dad think if they saw only 2 remaining.  So, I ate another.  I would eat entres meant to serve an entire family.

Throughout this time I tried many diets.  I believe I tried to diet beginning at age eight.  Though not obese in the very early years I felt fat; eventually I was chubby and told not tuck in my shirt nor wear horizontal stripes.  I always felt odd, different, and heavier than others.  I tried counting calories, carbohydrates, and fat grams.  I did Weight Watchers, Diet Center, and Dexatrim.  I tried fasting, Slimfast, and cutting down, and eating these things called aids.  I did lose weight as a child and as an adult, but I could never keep it off.  It all led to frustration and shame.  The shame in my heart and the distortion in my mind about my body size was excruciating.

As a little girl there were times I was proud of my eating.  I loved my large grandfather, and I remember laying on the couch beside him and saying with a smile, "Papaw, we're the fattest people in the world!"  By the time I was eleven I didn't even want to tuck my shirt in at cheerleader tryouts. 

I was also very religious.  I considered being fat to be a moral issue.  I thought I must be bad and weak willed and a sinner or else I'd have more control over my food intake.  I prayed for forgiveness about what I ate and was ashamed to be overweight at church.  I heard there were seven deadly sins, and one was gluttony.  I figured I was a pretty big sinner if I continually indulged in gluttony.

In high school I finally lost thirty pounds, a great deal of weight on my 4'11" frame.  I got my photo in the newspaper in an ad for Diet Center; therefore, I felt the whole town was watching as I quickly gained back the weight.  At age seventeen I was wearing a girdle and desperately trying to suck in my shame.  Having gotten down to a size six earlier in the year my Spring prom dress was a size 13 or 15.

College continued the yo-yoing.  It was a roller coaster with lots of eating large amounts, ordering out, using my parents' credit card to buy food.  I was a Drama major, and I suffered greatly under the critical eye of the costumer.  I kept getting bigger and had difficulty finding clothes to fit my out of proportion body.  My weight became a sight gag in plays.  In a dinner theatre comedy an obese young man and I were directed to get stuck in a doorway.  I handled it good naturedly, but inside I was dying.  I lived in constant fear of people's words.  Throughout my life there were occasional barbs hurled at me both intentional and unintentional, and all of them stung like a thousand wasps.  My first semester in college I had a roommate, and it was awful trying to sneak food at night under my covers so that my roommate wouldn't see me breaking a diet.

I went to graduate school and got an M.F.A. in Acting.  Throughout grad school my weight was an issue.  Appearance is fair game in professional actor training programs, and I was told if I didn't lose weight I'd be "playing teddy bears" all my life.  My movement teacher implied I could be kicked out if I didn't lose weight and asked that I report my weight on a weekly basis.  My solution was binging and purging with laxatives or eating all week and then fasting for a day or more before weigh day.  When blood came out in my stool I was referred to the outpatient eating disorders program at a local hospital.  I felt self conscious when someone looked me up and down -- I was about forty or fifty pounds overweight, and I was sure an anorexic/bulemic was judging me.  Though I received therapy I also received information that was not true for me.  I was told to eat whatever I wanted in moderation.  This failed miserably.

Eventually I gave up on all diets.  I tried to just be happy being fat.  But the food had me.  By the time I was in my thirties I was sixty pounds overweight and was hungry all the time.  I could not quit eating.  My mother had a health scare with heart problems.  I knew I was in line for such health issues, and I used this and the fact that a friend had lost weight to once again try dieting.  I went gung ho exercising and counting fat grams.  I was eating diet food and still ingesting sugars, grains, and starches.  Eventually I began to binge on diet foods.

At some point I had been introduced to OA.  I identified with eating alcoholically but I judged the organization to be cult-like, and I dismissed the Big Book as sexist and old fashioned.  In short, I was not yet ready to hear the message.  When I began binging again I decided to go back to OA; I had lost weight on my own but knew I could not keep it off without intervention.

In OA I learned about the disease concept.  I re-read literature with new eyes and became open minded to what others shared.  I kept asking for a food plan, but no one would give me one.  They suggested I ask my Higher Power what I should eat.  (Had I been able to successfully do so I would have succeeded all those years ago as a pre-teen trying to pray my weight off.) I needed a black and white food plan, not an ethereal idea.  It was also suggested that I listen to my body.  I was't successful in this area either.  I now know that my body is broken, that the full button does not work and that if I listen to my body only, it will say, "more food!".  A therapist, who was also in OA, helped me define a food plan of 3 meals a day, nothing in between, and no sugar.  Since there were no amounts given, I tried my best to muddle through, often undereating .  The diet mentality was strong in my mind, and the distorted body image continued; anorexic thinking began to dominate.  Friends grew concerned,; acquaintances pulled me aside questioning my skinny body, and my family worried.  It became difficult to find clothing small enough to fit me.  I joked that the good thing about me was that people could buy clothes for me from a size 2 to a size 20, and I would eventually be able to wear them.  I was holding on for dear life, white knuckling and terrorized by the food.  I knew the dam would burst.  When it did burst, the first place I went to was the health food store.  I told myself lies like, "this isn"t really sugar" even though it was among substances I now avoid on the Cambridge Grey Sheet.

Then came the literal hell of binging, purging with laxatives, fasting, and dieting.  Now came compulsive eating as I had never know.  I would diet or fast during the week.  Friday came and along with it the hideous, ritualistic eating.  If I thought of a food, I was compulsed to eat it.  I ate until I could not lay flat.  I ate until my heart pounded in my chest, until I was feverish, until I had to walk bent over, until I sat by the toilet afraid of vomiting from the mass quantities I had consumed.  I would awake to the same thing all over again.  I would drive around going from one food haunt to the next never buying too much at one place --what would the clerk think? I had to get rid of the wrappers quickly and in trash cans outside my home; I did not want to face what I had done.  I wanted no evidence after the binge was over.  I took sick pleasure in being in a normal size body.  I felt some weird superiority that I had a secret no one knew about.  I'd buy fast acting suppository laxatives, as I wanted to be rid of the food quickly.  I went to work hung over from the food.  I had smells coming from every orifice.  My face sagged and my body was bloated.  I felt so sick.  I was in absolute misery, and I knew I soon would be unable to hold down a job.  I didn't know what was to become of me. 

It was in this battered and broken state that I came to Grey Sheet.  In GS I saw cleared eyed, thin, calm women.  I was attracted by their serenity, togetherness, and by their message.  I had been in OA meetings with a couple of the Greysheeters and had been captivated by one of them saying that abstinence and God were the most important things in her life and that she did not eat in between her meals no matter what.  Another of the Greysheeters seemed to have a love affair with her food.  She said, "I love my food" and seemed unashamed of that fact.  This was so different from my moralistic approach to food.  In GS I heard the phrase, "positive pitches on Greysheet abstinence".  This was new for me because many of the OAs were as I was -- not abstinent.  I had attended GS meetings a few times before I hit my bottom.  My initial response was that GS was too rigid and agreed with a friend that GSrs were the food Nazis.  My next reaction was one of admiration.  I looked up to the GS community but thought the food plan was beyond my ability to grasp.  I didn't see how I could ever be GS abstinent like these noble people.  I couldn't imagine how I could be GS abstinent when I couldn't even be abstinent defining my own food plan in regular OA.  Thankfully, my fears were comforted by the sponsor I got; I really had no choice but to try the GS because I was at the end of my rope, the jumping off point.  I couldn't live with or without the food.  I am so grateful that even in my fear and diseased state my sponsor coaxed me into turning over my food the first night and spoke to me about one day at a time.

Thank God for the willingness to weigh and measure my food one day at a time.  Though I was raw and fearful I did feel hope with Greysheet.  The disease wanted to hang onto me and told me I'd just do GS until I lost some weight; however, I soon clung to GS for the lifeline that it is.  I remember thinking that some how, though I could not pinpoint why, I felt different and better about the food on Greysheet.  I don't think I even registered the idea of my allergy to sugars, grains, and starches.  I just knew the Greysheet was working, and I clung to it as a drowning man clings to a life preserver.  I was helped each step of the way by the GS community which taught me how to make scrumptious, delicious meals.  I found that the Greysheet was bountiful and not restrictive in the way I had once considered it.  I asked a Higher Power for help each day, and I was given everything I needed to stay abstinent.

I have been blessed to weigh and measure a day at a time for 6 1/2 years.  I now have more serenity around the food than ever.  I no longer have to undergo the mental anguish of what is or is not abstinent.  I don't have to figure out how much or what my food plan should be.  The Greysheet spells it out in black and white, and I have a sponsor to help me.  This is such a relief!  The Greysheet gives me boundaries and gives me just the right amount of choices so that I stay safe.  Also, for the most part my guilt about being a compulsive eater has been removed.  I have a fatal illness, not a moral issue, and Greysheet is my medicine.  I've learned that I have food allergies.  Just as certain medications to which I am allergic have the capacity to kill me, so can sugars, grains and carbohydrates.  Just one bite sets off a craving for more of the same.  I don't obsess about my body size and clothing size nearly as much as I did when I was in the food.  The longer I stay abstinent the more I trust GS and my sponsor to keep me in a normal sized body.  What a miracle to have clothes that actually wear out instead of me outgrowing them!  The steadiness of being about the same size year after year is a new experience for me, and I enjoy the many benefits of going through life without an overweight or underweight body.  I don't have that nagging voice at the back of my mind saying "I should be dieting" or "what am I going to do about my weight." I experience guilt free eating, and I have a car that one day at a time has never been binged in.  In the past several years I haven't had to experience those horrible days of binging, purging, and dieting.  Not having to diet is phenomenal!  I love it!  The freedom I experience from not having to diet -- it's a God-given gift.  None of these gifts would be possible without the help of the Greysheet community, my sponsor, and my Higher Power.  I hope I never have to go back to the food hell of former years.  With one hand in yours (my GS community) and the other hand in Higher Power's, I hope to continue this yummy taste of heaven here on earth.


On The GS Beam

Hi all,

[Anonymous] here from nyc a&g on the GS & I DENMW.  I am so peaceful today.  GS clarity & selfcare are kicked into high gear just for today.  I'm so enjoying my new abstinent tool of a mobile phone.  Just got it this weekend & get lots of free hours.  So guess what?  Now I attend the 9pm telephone mtgs as well as the weekend ones & can make outreach calls long distance & if someone is in my network I get perks all the time.  Adding this to my regular nyc meetings & it makes me feel like I'm in a GS cocoon-safe, warm & snug.

My sponsor told me that her cell phone is a vital abstinent tool & I agree.  Since I'm also recovering from social, sexual, & emotional anorexia, I'm out more than before & I need to be able to make those emergency food calls to fellow GSers with 90+ days of b2b GS abstinence before I make any decisions about my food.  I feel so free today in spite of the discipline of the GSA food plan.  There is truly freedom in discipline for this recovering co.  So once again, I'm grateful to be abstinent, sober, & solvent & one day at a time in recovery.

One day at a time it's now 8 years & 9 months of b2b miraculous GS abstinence.  GS recovery is such a blessing & I don't know what took me so long to get it but everything happens in God's good, pleasing, & perfect time.  I feel so good to knowing that there are still possibilities for fun, service, love & challenges in my life as long as I remain on the GS beam.


Former Nun Finds A Way of Life

My Story of Coming to GreySheet Abstinence


I was born into a good German Catholic family, the oldest of five children. I learned many good values from my family: the value of hard work and responsibility, the usefulness of organization, the value of education, the importance of my faith, and a positive attitude toward life. But I also learned many of my character defects and compulsive behaviors. From my most loving, hard-working, 6'3" father, I learned to LOVE food and to overeat. From my tiny, 5'1" mother, I learned the mental obsession with food and diet, the idea that if I work hard enough, I can make anything happen, that I should be in control, and that I should not make mistakes, or messes, or noise. I learned those subconscious messages that haunted me all my life: "Just push yourself away from table!" "Just eat moderately!" "Look at that fat person! You would think she would have more self-respect!" "It is such a shame that someone would let themselves go to pot that way!" "Every time I see a fat person, I say a prayer for them." My mother controlled everyone's eating in the family. Thanks to her vigilance, I was not an obese child; one could say that I was "plump". I learned to sneak food at home, to lift the top from the "X" jar ever so quietly, to eat from jars of spread while making sandwiches for my younger brothers and sister, and to clean my plate! Whenever I got to eat away from home, I ate as much as I could. My grandmother was a wonderful "South Texas" cook: lots of fried foods, with lots of sauces. She loved for me to eat her cooking. When I went to Girl Scout Camp, I always gained weight during the two weeks. I loved the "institutional" cooking, and the boxes of "X" left over from that year's Girl Scout "X" sale.

The Convent

As was common in the 1950's, the nuns who taught in my high school came "recruiting" during my freshman year. I told my parents I wanted to go to the convent and they gave their consent. It was considered an honor to have a nun in the family. I entered the convent at the age of 14. Now as I look back on it, I see that my motivation was not so pure as only to want to serve God. I also wanted to get away from what I perceived as constant childcare and house cleaning. I wanted to get away from my mother's strict control. Of course, I went to a place where I was just as strictly controlled, but NOT by my mother! in my convent uniform with my little mother The order I entered had originated in Alsace Loraine, on the border of France and Germany. They were still dressing and eating as if they needed to keep warm, in Texas! We ate breakfast, dinner, lunch, and supper. We sat at tables of eight people. Our food was served in serving dishes that we passed around the table. We could not leave the table until all the serving dishes were empty! I was surprised to find that some people said they could not eat another bite! I said, "Just pass the dishes to me and I will finish them!" I never knew of a time that I could not eat another bite. Naturally, I gained weight in the convent.

At my highest weight of 183 pounds well hidden (I thought) by yards and yards of black, wool serge I also lost weight by my own will power while I was in the convent. The first time was when I was to receive the habit, to become a "bride of Christ". I did not want to wear a big, fat wedding gown. So I just quit eating so much. I refused to finish the serving dishes. I lost 50 pounds and was slim in my wedding gown. And I gained those pounds again. The next time I lost weight by counting calories. I was teaching at a boarding school at the time and asked the cook to order me cottage cheese from the truck that brought the milk because I knew it was low in calories. I ate so much cottage cheese that year that I am surprised that I still like it today! I lost 60 pounds and when I returned to the college in the summer, no one recognized me! It was such a wonderful feeling to get all that praise! And again, the year before I left the convent, I lost 50 pounds by counting calories. You see that I was a successful dieter by sheer will power. This kept me fighting this battle for many more years!

Married Life
I left the convent at the end of May in 1969, met my husband at U.T. in June of 1969, began dating him in September of 1969, and married him in December of 1969! What an exciting time! I was so high on all my new experiences, on having my first paying job, on driving my own first car, and on dating and falling in love for the first time that I did not have any trouble keeping the weight off. It was the year of the mini-skirt and tight bell-bottom pants and I wore them as short and as tight as I could! I did not want anyone to look at me and think I had been a nun! summer of 1979 in size 20 jeans After we got married, though, I started gaining weight again. The only recipes that I knew were the ones I had learned in the convent that usually fed 10 to 14 people. So I would make a casserole that I thought was good, and my husband would eat a small (probably normal) portion. I got my feelings hurt! He didn't like my cooking! So I would eat the rest!

I joined Weight Watchers in 1971. In those days, it was a lot like GreySheet! I did well with WW, and worked for them until 1977. Weight Watchers helped me get through two pregnancies without excessive weight gain. When we made our Marriage Encounter Weekend in 1977, I learned that I needed to put my relationship with my God and with my husband first in my life! And what was keeping me from doing this? Weight Watchers! WW made me think of food all the time, I thought, and so I dropped out of Weight Watchers! I gained weight so fast that the good people in the Marriage Encounter groups were congratulating me on my (non-existent) pregnancy!

Desperation Leads to Step 1
I tried counting calories again. I lost weight and gained it back immediately. I tried to "eat moderately" by imitating what my husband put on his plate. I always felt deprived by that amount, so I'd try to persuade him to eat more! Of course, the weight that looks good on a 5'11" man did not look good on me! I tried putting bran in all my food so it would come out fast without sticking to me! This did not work either. (I had never heard of bulimia). I tried reading the Bible before every meal, but I was not inspired to eat less. At every retreat I made, I prayed and prayed to be made thin! Sometimes I spent the whole weekend retreat praying for this one intention. I got a "bite-counter". This little machine sat on the table in front of me. When I took a bite, I pushed the button, and a little red light began blinking. When it stopped blinking, I could take another bite and push the button again. This was supposed to slow down my eating so I could hear my appestat. I remember exactly the meal I was eating, when I thought I heard my appestat. And I said to my appestat, "Shut up!" And I got some more food! I believe my appestat is genetically impaired! Once, my husband and I decided we needed to eat a healthier diet. We went through all the cabinets and the refrigerator throwing out foods that contained sugar! Our little girls loved this game. "It has sugar! Ugh! Throw it out!" They stood on the counters grabbing the foods and throwing them in a garbage bag. Of course, I then turned to health food that was high in carbohydrates! Whole wheat, all-natural carbohydrates! Sweetened with natural substances, not sugar! qual3_3.jpg These were the years of my most desperate memories. I stood in front of the refrigerator eating the leftovers out of the serving dishes. I ate what my children had left on their plates, cleaning up the kitchen. I ate out of cartons, bags and boxes. I again fixed large casserole recipes, and ate most of it myself. I bought "family size" TV dinners and ate most of them myself. On one of our vacations, I remember eating so much crunchy food that the roof of my mouth was raw, but I couldn't stop. In my job as a teacher, I left my students unsupervised in the classroom so I could go into the teachers' lounge to get whatever "X" was there. It didn't matter what it was or how long it had been there. As long as there was food there, it called to me. Sometimes, I went back to get the last of it just so it would be gone and I couldn't hear its voice. Even if the kindergarten children with their little grubby hands had made it, I had to eat it. One year, I had been videotaped teaching a group of children (after one of my diets). The next year, the children wanted to see themselves in the videotape. When it was shown (I had gained about 40 pounds in the year that had passed), one of the children looked at me, then looked at the videotape, then looked at me, and said, "You used to be taller!" I wanted to eat at "all you can eat" restaurants so I could eat "my money's worth". My husband once said, "How many of these 'last meals' are we going to have?" I don't know how many we had, but I remember my favorite restaurant for the "last meal"! And I remember that he never ate "our money's worth"! At church potluck suppers and at parties, I was not satisfied until I had tasted every dish that was there. I went back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and more. I offered to help "clean up" so I could have even more.

I thought about food constantly. If I was on a diet, I thought of the food I could not eat. I gritted my teeth, clenched my fists, and said, "I WILL NOT have it!" Or I thought of the food I WOULD have on the diet, mentally planning my meal according to the diet, then changing it again and again in my mind. I took great pleasure in this kind of mental planning. Then I would gradually get off the diet. I would rationalize that this food had milk in it, so I could have it. This casserole is just these two "legal" foods mixed together with a little sauce. What could that matter? As I gradually moved away from the diet, I ate fewer and fewer salads and vegetables, and more and more carbohydrates. It didn't matter that I had a very successful life. I had a loving husband, two beautiful little girls, an active role in my church, and a career in teaching that I loved. I hated myself. I told myself I was stupid, that the smallest child could regulate what she eats, and I can't. I avoided mirrors and plate glass windows. I refused to buy clothes that were any larger. I wore the same stretchy sundresses all year, with long sleeve blouses under them in the winter. I had one "dressy" outfit, a brown skirt with leaves on it with elastic in the waist that just kept stretching and stretching. I wore my size 20 jeans unsnapped with large shirts to cover my bulging out of them. When I was forced to buy a dress because of a special occasion, I cried when I came home from the store. None of the dresses could make me look thin! I finally had to choose one, but I hated it. I refused to wear shorts when I worked at Girl Scout Day Camp--I sweated through those two weeks in a Texas summer in those size 20 jeans, my thighs rubbing together as I trudged up the dusty trails in the blazing sun!

Finally, I Reach Step 1
Marriage Encounter had taught us to communicate our feelings. I tried to tell my husband how desperate I felt. I said to him, "You'll just have to accept that you have a fat wife!" He had never rejected me and he never said a hurtful word about my fat. I said plenty about it. I didn't want to have sex because I felt so fat and ugly. I tried to accept myself fat. I said, "I'll just go to Lady Yarings and buy some decent looking fat clothes!" I was 40 years old. I was, in the words of a novelist, "Forty, fat, and flatulent!" I was finally ready to take Step 1 and admit that I was powerless over food. In April, 1981, my husband and I helped to give a Marriage Encounter Weekend. During the course of the weekend, we wrote letters and shared with one another. In answer to the question, "How do I think people see me and what are my deepest feelings about this?" I wrote,

I feel that people see me as overweight and many wonder why I'm not trying to lose--why I don't go back to Weight Watchers or find a diet to suit me and get the ugly weight off. I feel they wonder what good I think the walking is going to do if I don't also try to lose weight by eating less. I think they say it's too bad--I could look so much better and they pity me. I'm afraid the girls are ashamed of me and scared of looking like me some day. I think my husband accepts me and loves me and wants me to lose it only if I want to--he's willing for me to be fat if that's what I want. He won't reject me, though he fears for my health and he pushes back any wishes he might have for a slender wife. My deepest feelings right now are about my weight. I have lots of fears about it. I fear becoming fatter. I fear lack of control. I fear over-control. I fear being taken over totally by concern for food and diet. I wish I never had to think about it. I wish I could lose weight effortlessly and never have to think about it again. I know I'm on the right track by walking. I know I should eat slowly. I know I should stop when I am satisfied. I know I should eat only when hungry. I know I should avoid junk and refined food. I feel helpless to do any of this except the walking. I feel the need to pray and turn it completely over to the Lord. I beg of You, Lord, to decrease my desire for food, to regulate my appetite. I want to find "the last diet" so to speak, which is a way of life. I don't want any temporary measures. I don't want to lose and then gain it again. I am in Your hands--I cannot seem to help myself! Please, help me, Lord!

On May 29th, 1981, I walked across the street to my neighbor's house where my little girl was playing. She had a friend there--a very slender, attractive woman. Of course, I had to bring up the subject of overweight. I said, "You have never had a problem with weight, have you?" She said, "Have you ever heard of Overeaters Anonymous?" I had not. She proceeded to explain the GreySheet to me. I had my first day of GreySheet Abstinence on May 30, 1981. By God's grace I have been abstinent since that day! It took me 5 months to lose 40 pounds. My youngest daughter at that time weighed 40 pounds. picture of me and daughter in my size 20 jeans

What was the turning point in my recovery?
There were many turning points and there will be many more. The first came when food brought me to my knees and I said, "I can't do this (dieting) any more. I will just buy some fat clothes and give up this fight." The second came when I realized that I had more to learn than how to follow the GreySheet. I heard someone say in a meeting, "I am trying to give up control." I could not understand this. I thought I was supposed to be in control of my life and almost everyone else's! The slogans, "Let go and let God," and "One day at a time" had a lot to teach me. The Serenity Prayer showed me a new way of life - a life in which I was not in charge!

Another turning point was when our teenagers rebelled and I felt my world fall apart. Again, I was brought to my knees, finding that I was powerless not only over food, but over other people as well. When my husband's 95 year old grandmother came to stay in a nursing home near us, I experienced another turning point. It became so clear to me that I was not going to be able to live forever. That sounds silly. Everyone knows this. But I had not made it a part of my life. I was working and living at such a fast pace. I was not appreciating the beautiful, simple things in life. I began to slow down, to pray more and to work less. I decided to retire from working full time. Life is too short! I realized more and more the health benefits of abstinence. I came into GreySheet to be thin. I stay abstinent because it gives me so much more. In March of 1999, I broke my right femur attempting to ski. This was a turning point in changing my self sufficiency.

I am a person who found it difficult to ask for help. I was the helper. I was the one who took all the responsibility. I was the one that others asked to help them. When I came home from the hospital, my sponsor and one of my sponsees met me at the airport and stayed with me until my husband could drive home. Someone from my church or from my GreySheet group came to see me, brought me food, or called me every day. GreySheet members drove me to and from meetings twice a week. Life brings turning points. When I find that, again, I am powerless, another turning point has begun.


An Epiphany

To My People,

"Epiphany" - Webster's dictionary, 1. [religious holiday celebrated on] January 6; 2. "an appearance or a manifestation, especially of a divine being." My epiphany was January 6, 1980 and the "divine being" I saw was myself--a clear food-free self. Abstinence is the Windex on my windshield of life. Thanks to it, I see clearly and can drive myself places that I want to go. Today is my 23rd anniversary.

What's in a number? Grace, footwork, and mainly, more options and more experiences so that I don't feel like anyone can take my abstinence away from me. It's so important and sacred to me, but I want to write a bit about what it means. How did I get here? I do exactly what I did on Day One--I w & m 3 meals a day off the greysheet, nothing in between, call them in to sponsor, go to meetings, follow extra credit spiritual practices. Abstinence is the most important thing in my life.

Two nights ago, I dreamed I was qualifying and was sobbing with gratitude about what food meant for me today: "Pleasure and nutrition! Pleasure and nutrition! Imagine! For someone like me! Free at least! Free at last!!"

Food no longer means: a huge instatiable craving, a 50 lb. yo-yo for 20 years, shame, failure, diets, starving, hangovers, rewards, self consciousness in groups, foggy thinking at work, a love-subsitute, a career-substitute, confusion, hell, lack of a center, lack or priorities that I could stick to, and being out of focus physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I don't live like that today. I have everything I need, and most of it is inside stuff.

I W & M'd the meals, yes, but it's a WE program and I want everyone in my home meetings in Cambridge, on the greynet, on the phone meetings, and anyone else who also does this odd and amazingly "worth it" spiritual discipline to pat themselves on the back.

After 23 years, I can say that nothing else matters (as much). It is the one thing I am proudest of in my life. I took it easy and when I was ready, HP threw various experiences my way and I didn't eat. Plenty of people get by on denial about their eating, but my first g.s, meeting ruined my denial with truth. If I can get it, anyone can. Anyone who does the drill will reap the rewards. It's not a program of shame or comparison or aerie fairie intellectualized spirituality. It's about action, attitude, honesty, and having food restored as a pleasure and nutrition!!!

Why me? Many many have stepped off the elevator, either on the bottom ("I can't do it; it's too hard and I'm too hopeless!") or the top ("I'm better now. I can handle it. I can always get back on.") The first excuse is reverse egotism (worse than everyone else) and the latter is the scariest one, and one I have heard recently. Too many people have tried to come back and testified that it's easier to STAY abstinent than to get it again. I believe them. Why gamble, I say?

I get much more than I put in, in terms of sanity, clarity, and joy. I am amazed and grateful to still be here.


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