Tag Archive: eating disorder


Forgive Again!

This morning I visited an AA meeting before my regular OA meeting. While sitting among them listening to their Step Eight shares, the following occurred to me:

I, like many Twelve-Steppers before me, resist listing harms done in Step Eight because I am fully aware of the Step Nine amends to follow. One of the basic spiritual concepts linked with Step Eight is forgiveness, and many people mingle forgiveness with amends because they believe an apology is necessary in order to forgive. I often say that the hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do. I can tell that I’m getting the two confused when I repeat an apology or fail to repeat forgiveness. I don’t want to be the guy who starts every day telling his wife he is sorry for cheating on her in 1985. That guy is ruining two lives. I also know there is something amiss when I ask God to forgive that sorry, no-good, son of a trouble-maker! I cannot leave all the forgiving to God.

The hardest ones to forgive are those who know not what they do.

When I think of amends, I think of a tailor repairing a garment. I don’t know much about how sewing machines work, but I do know there is a spool at the top and a bobbin underneath. If the thread only comes from the top and never the bottom, as soon as the fabric is lifted, the thread pulls right out. So it is when forgiveness only comes from Heaven. When it is not met with forgiveness from someone of us down here underneath, it has no chance to bind to the fabric and all the blessed progress just comes unfurled.

There is a white board on my bedroom wall, and on it I have written a forgiveness prayer that goes like this:

“I love and forgive _____ in the Name of Jesus, and I call my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors into alignment with God’s will.”

Below that prayer is a running list of my resentments, each one an answer to my fill-in-the-blank prayer. The list has changed some since I first took a Fourth Step, but it is my way of continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when I’m wrong. The thing is, I have to list those people, groups, and institutions regularly, or my carnal self will begin to slip back into judgment, I will hold those parties in contempt, often trying to punish or correct them, and maybe even despising them with bitterness that poisons only one soul — mine. While praying this list, sometimes I think, “I don’t even think about that person anymore,” and they retire off my list. Other days, I storm into my room and emblazon a new name on my list, and I start again, calling God’s will into my life and aligning with it my intentions for a loving attitude.

I confess I suck at this forgiveness routine. That’s one of the many reasons my own name appears at the top of my forgiveness list. I despise the me that failed at being kind and generous today almost as much as the 6 year-old me who never stopped crying because he was convinced nobody loved him. I want to tell that school kid to suck it up and get a grip, and I want to tell the grown man in the mirror how ashamed of him I am for failing at grace so quickly after committing to mission living in his morning devotion.

Still, the stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below, so I’ll bob and weave my part while God supplies the good stuff from above. As today’s AA meeting closed with the Lord’s Prayer, I heard “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” a little differently. God and I are stitching a tapestry, making something new of many tattered shreds. It’s His masterpiece; I’m just submitting to His work.

The stitches of forgiveness are made with a spool from above and a bobbin below.

 

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5, NIV

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:15, NIV

 

 

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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

nativity blueI remember, as a child, being well cognizant of the facts concerning Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birthday, a commemoration of the greatest gift ever given humanity, the Lamb of God, who would be the salvation of man from sin.  Still, I considered those things “the boring part” of Christmas that I had to endure between the fluffy, sparkly, magical sweetness of Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty.  I had the bread of life, but preferred cake! 

Grown-ups take for granted the things that matter and even despise them in preference for our idols too.  We make ourselves comfortable while others go without.  There is a real temptation to indulge our fancies and cravings just because the occasion, we think, gives us license.  Today is a day to remember the gift of deliverance.  Why commemorate deliverance be reentering the prison of our addiction?  Why indulge a flesh that is destined for destruction?  This year, may Christmas be a day of the liberation of recovery, another twenty-four hours of one-breath-at-a-time living, looking for God’s will for us and the power to carry it out, rather than an opportunity to chuck it all and start again on New Year’s Day.

God’s will for us has never been gluttony, idolatry, selfishness, vain conceit, greed, immorality, drunkenness.  One day at a time starts whenever we say so, and “bottom” is the place where we finally decide to stop digging the grave we’re in and start climbing out.  May this Christmas be one of upward progress!

I can think of only one thing worse than dying for something, and that is watching one of my children die for that something.  God did both for you and me.  Jesus Christ was God, and at the same time He was God’s child.  God gave both Himself and His son … for you!  If you are worth the Creator dying for and offering His son for, then you are worth whatever it takes to thrive through this holiday and every day afterward.

Dear Father, today, I thank You for the amazing gift of Your Son, whose sacrifice You declared from the beginning.  I recognize that You have formed every life in Your image and that our selfishness warps that image.  Help me live today as a reflection of the original image, sustained by Your providence rather than the empty fluff which my flesh craves.  Help my friends who read this do the same.  God spread Your peace that comes through freedom from sin.  I know I cannot serve two masters.  Help me always choose You rather than selfishness.  Help me choose the Bread of Life rather than cake.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, NKJV)

 

“Deserve” is a Dirty Word

reward dog trainingI heard a dirty word the other day during a newcomer’s share and it reminded me of how warped my mind was before recovery, and how it can tend to warp itself again whenever this word creeps into my thoughts.  The word: “deserve”.  The diseases of addiction and compulsive eating use this term to perpetuate our despair and as ammunition for our self-loathing assault on ourselves.  When our feelings tell us we deserve a reward, our thoughts turn to our substance.  When our despair tells us we don’t deserve to live healthy, fully, or live life at all, we again turn to our substance.  Deserve is the poison of the mind.  It keeps us teetering between binges of overindulgent celebration and self-destructive sprees.

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous mentions this mental game of frustrated perfectionism:

“Compulsive overeaters are often people of extremes. We overreacted to slight provocations while ignoring the real issues in our lives. We were obsessively busy, then we were ‘wiped out’ and unable to act. We were wildly excited then deeply depressed. We saw the whole world in black and white. If we couldn’t have it all, we didn’t want any; if we couldn’t be the best, we didn’t want to play the game.” (12&12 of OA, p.12)

Our addictive substance – in my case, food – is not a reward or punishment.  In fact, even if I am eating according to a “food plan” but do so because I feel I deserve some food as either reward or punishment, I am eating compulsively.

 

Vocabulary time!

A “food plan,” which is not an official tool of OA recovery, is a shopping list, while a “plan of eating” (POE) is a description of specific ingredients, amounts, and times planned for consumption.  Eating outside the POE does not necessarily constitute breaking abstinence, as long as it is set far enough away from the terms of abstinence to keep slips from qualifying.  For instance, if I plan to eat asparagus but at my planned lunchtime I discover that someone else ate my asparagus so I have to resort to broccoli, I have not broken my abstinence; but if my POE is so vague as, “I will not eat fudge,” and I slip, then I have slipped right into a muddy pit of despair called fudge.

“Compulsive eating” is eating what your feelings tell you to eat rather than what your body needs.  For instance, we all know that eating vegetables, some nuts and fruits with plenty of water is good for us, but when we want treat and eat treat, we are eating compulsively whether we have listed that specific treat on our abstinence list or not.  It sounds like this: “I don’t feel like that tonight.  Let’s have this.”  That’s eating what you are compelled to eat.  Social settings are another venue of compulsion.  How about this old favorite: “I couldn’t say no to Mom’s specialty.  She worked so hard on it.”  Compelled by circumstance is still compelled, even if the palette has nothing to do with it.  “We’re all having some.  Why don’t you have a bite?  One taste never hurt anybody!”  Peer pressure is also compulsion, and one taste has flung thousands of compulsive eaters into relapse, so that lie is lethal.

Okay, I feel like I’ve been behind a podium, but I’m my favorite speaker and I almost always need to hear what I have to say, so I make no apologies, but I will stop now, right after this one last thing.

Recovery itself is the reward, and deserve has nothing to do with it.   Renewed relationship with our Creator, the reality of recovery, comes as an unmerited gift from the Creator to the creation.  It is what He has been hoping we would choose since before He said, “Let there be light.”  We can have it because He loves us, not because we are pure or acceptable.  And He is not waiting to squash us for our failures.  We are the ones who keep doing that.  The 12&12 of OA says, “Perseverance brings us the reward of continuing, permanent recovery” (p. 105).

Dear Father, today, help me trust what You say about me rather than what my warped mind says.

Songs of Deliverance

Psalm 32:7 (NKJV)

You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

songs of deliveranceGod, my Refuge and Savior, has surrounded me with “songs of deliverance,” and He will do it again when I join with the chorus of the redeemed.  I sang some new songs of deliverance the other day when I received the results of my physical examination.  I’ll sing a new one tonight, after He allowed me to dispense sweets to several carnival booths at a festival outreach project at my local church without stealing away to eat them.  I’ll sing my songs of deliverance because He was faithful to deliver me.  He has delivered me from Satan’s bondage, from selfish bondage, and he will deliver me from the bondage of this Earthly body of flesh.  My part is to sing His songs of deliverance.

One way God surrounds us with songs of deliverance comes when we surround ourselves with the sounds of the delivered here on Earth.  When I group with others who have come out of their respective bondage and celebrate it openly, I get to hear their songs and share mine with them. The word of our testimony is one of the three things that save us from the accuser according to Revelation 12:11, (the others being the blood of the Lamb and our preference to die rather than serve selfishness).  The word of our testimony, our song of deliverance, doesn’t have to be melodious to bring God glory.  Every time we share what God has done for us, God is glorified, whether our audience listens, cares, responds, or not.

Great and gracious Father, today I thank You for Your loving kindness and Your diligence to pursue me when I ran so far and fast from Your embrace.  I praise You for unwrapping me from the tangled mess I had gotten myself into with food addiction and compulsive self-service.  The magnitude of my difficulties just shows all that much more how magnificent You are to have saved me from them.  Today, dear Father, I sing of Your deliverance.  Multiply my song here among those who would hear my verse and add theirs.  All glory to God!