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Reintroduction

After spending some time introducing myself to a new acquaintance yesterday I realized it had been some time since I had written in my online recovery journal, and it could use some reintroduction. So allow me to reintroduce myself.

silhouette progressMy name is TL, and I am recovering from compulsive overeating. I have been freed from a body weight of 320 pounds and now maintain a healthy 185. I lost 150 pounds in fourteen months initially, and was told by my doctor I had lost too much and needed to put on a little weight. I had been hypertensive; now I am free of my blood pressure medicine and have bouts of low blood pressure, which I’ve been told is normal while my body adjusts. I struggled with severe gastro-esophageal reflux disease; but now my eating habits and God’s providence have kept that in check. I had nearly constant joint pain; now I have begun a running exercise regimen – something I never thought I would do, let alone enjoy. My family had pretty much disowned me, and my brother had actually forbade me from seeing his children; now I am the one the family comes to for encouragement, advice, and support. Even my grown kids, who had fled the house to get away from me have either moved back in and enjoy relationship with me, or seek me out at every available opportunity. My wife has even enjoyed some of the benefits of recovery, though it is hardest at home. She has gone from daily considering why she ever vowed to spend her life with me to a grateful and (mostly) happy co-union of marriage.

I met my first sponsor my first week of abstinence, when I knew nothing more about abstinence than, “We practice abstinence by refraining from eating between meals and from all individual binge foods.” That’s how simple it was for me in the beginning and how simple it can be for you too. Abstinence is key. Our plans of eating and action just keep us as far away from those forbidden fruits as possible given our willingness. One piece of advice that I got when I first started is to record everything I eat. I do that and publish it online to stay accountable: here with LiveStrong’s MyPlate application. There are several others that work just as well.

“The insanity of alcohol returns and we drink again. And with us, to drink is to die.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 66)

I like to imagine the things on my abstinence list (cakes, candies, cookies, sweets, ice cream, nachos, eating directly from the container, eating between meals) as a molten lava pit. Abstinence is simply a list of what and how we will not eat.  As I form my plan of eating, I march a wide path around the mouth of that volcano. If I say, as some have unsuccessfully tried, that my PoE will be merely to stay abstinent, then I have blazed a path on the fragile lip of the narrow edge of the mouth of that volcano. One slip and it’s game over – a tumble into relapse which, for me, is death. Because I do not wish to die, I develop a plan of eating that keeps my path far from the mouth of that volcano. If I am not allowed cake, then I do not go around thinking, “As long as it’s not cake, it’s okay.” I research healthy eating and plan my choices based on that research. If nutritionists, cardiologists, dieticians, and cancer researchers all agree that salmon, sweet potatoes, raw almonds, Romaine lettuce, blueberries, bananas, unprocessed whole grains, and other superfoods are the best fuel for a human body, then I take that as a notice from my Higher Power that is what I’m supposed to eat. Then I add the proper portions according to my calorie goals, spread them out over the proper time table, and I have a plan of eating. A plan of eating is not just a food plan. A food plan is a grocery list that says what we will eat. A plan of eating has amounts and times; it tells how much and when we will eat. The great news is that when I plan to eat according to this super-healthy plan and slip a little, say because I am out of broccoli and have to substitute green beans, I don’t fall directly into the molten lava of Candyland, forced to give up my service positions, start over with a white chip of surrender and do it all over again. I just pray to my Provider, “Lord, You have given me all I have, and I am grateful for this fuel You have provided. Please make it enough to last until Our next meal together. Thank You for abstinence, renewal, and abundant life!”

It takes a little work to make this happen. I have to spend some time chopping vegetables and boiling beans. I pre-package things so I can eat them on the run. I always carry a spare meal of canned goods with me in case I get stuck away from healthy options, and I replenish that meal quickly once I eat it, so that I am not without an option for the next day. I also carry a partial bag of raw almonds and a measuring cup that serve as a substitute or augment a meal that doesn’t meet standards when eating out. I have to plan my meals, and that takes work. This action is something I consider investment in my health. This action plan works with my plan of eating as tools to build for me the abstinence I choose. I can’t build a structure without tools, but the tools aren’t the structure.

For more about my plan, check this out.

I celebrate progress. No one can lose a hundred pounds. No one has the power to say to even one pound, “Get off me!” We can, however, put down a fork. We can choose to wait until mealtime to eat, and we can eat that meal God would have us eat rather than what we feel like eating. If we continue to do that, “we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”* That’s the power of “keep coming back.”

I hope you find the joy of recovery as you seek to gain your freedom from food obsession.

God bless!

 

* Reference to Galatians 6:9

I write three blogs, two anonymously. In them I journal some of my deepest thoughts, and most stirring insights, as well as some ramblings that probably help no one but me as I sort through the emotional soup that stirs in my head. Most of the time, I am content to know that I have poured myself onto a page and released it with the Enter key. Other times, I wonder if my close friends or family members will see what I wrote, understand it, relate to it, or see any evidence that God was in it. On earlier occasions when I experienced the real sensation of God speaking through my keyboard, I often rushed to share the experience with my wife, and I would beg to know, “Did you read what I wrote today?” I am ashamed to admit that it took me a lot longer than it should have for me to learn this was unhealthy for me, and came across as critical of her. To me, it was a sharing of an intimacy, but it threatened to inflate my ego. To her, it was an obligation, one which she could never fulfill fast enough or with enough enthusiasm to suit me. My queries were a lose-lose proposal every time, so I stopped asking. Sooner or later I stopped caring whether anyone else read what I wrote or not. It took a lot of work and energy to transcribe my spiritual struggles onto a page, and even more to muster up the willingness to broadcast it publicly, but I was content knowing two things: I was strengthened by the exercise, and God will do what He wants with the seeds I sow.

Bible IlluminedThis week my Bible study small group was encouraged to candidly expose their devotional habits, and I had to confess I had fallen behind on my Scripture readings even so as to be unprepared for our weekly study. As I mulled over the significance of my confession, I was stirred to recall that God has painstakingly transcribed His very heart onto the pages of the Bible. He has inspired men over centuries to pen His Word, and rallied all manner of spiritual forces and political circumstances to preserve, translate and duplicate it at the cost of many lives. He has orchestrated history to ensure that the Bible is the number one best-seller in all-time and is readily available to most cultures today. Yet He asks, with perhaps a broken heart, “Did you read what I wrote today?”

Holy Father, I thank You for loving me enough to write to me about it. I celebrate the ease with which I may read Your Word and get a glimpse of Your heart. Make mine more like Yours, and keep it from pride. Deliver me from self-seeking, self-pity, and selfish fear. You gave me my life and patiently bought it back when I took it up; now I offer it back to You to do with it as You wish. You are a good and holy Father, and Your love for me is complete. I am content to love You and be loved by You. Your will be done, in Christ’s name I pray. Amen!

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[Or that you, a man of God,] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

Groundhog Again?

groundhogIn the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character is cursed, or blessed depending on your perspective, with living the same day over and over again until he gets it “right” (according to Hollywood). When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but feel a little like life as I lived it yesterday was starting all over again. I didn’t feel washed by the morning sunrise or baptized by a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t particularly refreshed with pleasant slumber or rekindled in my desire to live life right. It just felt like another raking over the same coals, a rattling of the same cage, one more tally mark scratched on the wall of my existence. Since the previous attempt at a 24-hour period did not prove particularly successful, the prospect of repeating it was distasteful.

As I began to do my devotions, however, I recognized today for the opportunity it represents rather than the obstacle. Instead of one more day to endure, I was given one more chance to get one right. Sure, I was already off to a bad start, and will undoubtedly be dissatisfied when it comes time for my daily review tonight, but I have something like fifteen hours before that time comes. Surely I can do something between now and then to begin to turn this funk around. I may not get it perfect, but there is little doubt I can do better today than I did yesterday, and I will reach for progress wherever I can get it.

Dear Father, today, I thank You for this new day, an example that your mercies are new every morning. Rescue me from the self-centered anxieties that make me fear one of my yesterdays happening again today.

A Never-Ending Story

Making amends is far more than making an apology; it is living in such a way as to rebuild what has been broken. This means that in order to heal, I have to stop harming. Since I have not yet attained perfection, however, I am likely to harm again. I do still occupy a faulty human body after all.

Living amends is a lot like doing the laundry. I wish sometimes that it would finally be done once and for all, but inevitably I find that the clothes I’m wearing on wash day need washing too. Making amends for the selfish will-manipulation that plagues my life and threatens my relationships is a never-ending process. I can’t just wish it over and stop trying. No one wants me at their helm and I am no one’s rudder.

I cannot hold open my hands to receive God’s provision for me if I refuse to extract my grabbing claws out of the backs of my fellows.

Dear Father, today, make me grateful for all You have given me, so I am not so inclined to rob from others their will, their joy, or their serenity.

Fitness – Not so much

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of attaining my goal weight. I have been in various states of maintenance ever since, hovering at this weight, trying not to obsess over it, sometimes going weeks or even more than a month without stepping on a scale. Such has been the case since April 2nd, when I arrived home from an overseas trip still at my goal weight. I guess I got a little relaxed with my measuring and weighing since then, maybe even a little cocky, but the scale revealed five pounds of creep had clawed its way onto my carcass. I like to think that, as much as I have been exercising, this weight might be muscle and therefore a good thing, but I have noticed my belt feeling a little tighter too, so I know this is not really the case. At any rate, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share all the details, even the negative ones.

On that note, my spiritual fitness has taken a downturn with the onset of my status as a full-time student. I swear this workload must be for young kids, because the homework is killing me! In addition to that, I am still juggling regular adult life. I have a daily exercise program (except for Sundays) that includes a running meet on Tuesday, I have a Bible study on Wednesday, choir practice on Thursdays, two OA meetings a week (down from five), church on Sunday, an online Chemistry class, and an Economics class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday. Next week we will add an English Composition II class that also meets Tuesday and Thursday. On top of that, I am the one in the house who does laundry, grocery shopping, dishes, and all my own cooking. I’m tired just recalling this. If there is any wonder why I haven’t written regularly, there’s the explanation. I try to read some of the material that used to start my every day, including Food for Thought, Our Daily Bread, a New Testament in a Year entry, an occasional entry from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, and I just started reading He Walks Among Us, a new devotional book I got, which was written by the director of World Vision and his wife, Rich and Reneé Stearns. With beautiful photography of their mission work overseas, this book reminds me of so much of the misery and poverty I witnessed in Uganda, and inspires me to keep moving along the path I have chosen toward missionary work.

In the past few weeks, I have lost four friends who died. That has taken an emotional toll. My earthly marriage has suffered from neglect as well as my Heavenly one. Two isolated masses existing within the same house does not have the same luster as one marriage enriching a home does. I believe I have alienated my sponsorees with my inattention. My other family relationships have suffered too. My sister and her family recently visited my parents’ home, and I went over to spend some time while they were in town. There, my mother got a little motherly and pushed food at me just one too many times, and I reacted in a manner indicating I was not in fit spiritual condition. I hurt the already suffering and fled… no, stormed out of the house to safety, only to return when the dining… no, feasting… no, bingeing was over. I will have to reevaluate whether it is safe to eat there. My siblings and I call it “the gingerbread house” for good reason. There is an old woman in that house who seems intent on fattening us all up with goodies. Still, spiritual fitness would make me more immune to her attempts and able to participate in family gatherings, whether they are around food or not. The corrective action to be taken is in my own condition, no one else’s.

Dear Father, today, keep me close to Your side. I need Your intervention. Come between me and the insignificant worries, but keep me diligent to do Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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