Denial


Dave: I’m a food addict — powerless over the dual-addiction of overeating and underexercising — and my problem is Dave!
Reader: Hi, Dave and welcome back!

Yes, I have “un-lurked” after a few years and writing again in this space known as OveractiveFork! It is my blog, right?  🙂

<soap box mode = “ON”>
With the death of my mother in January 2009 I got away from working on this blog and got into working on a blog related to problems in the nursing home industry. I believe that pathetic nursing home care contributed to my mother’s death. Resentful? Yes. I’m also hopeful that as I carry the message of nursing home reform and work with others (sounds kind of 12 Step, huh?) involved in the fight that nursing home care can improve and that corporate greed will not have the last word. The battle to reform the nursing home industry is far from being over. My recovery from codependency and food addiction has taught me that all of these “outside issues” can be faced in a health way that doesn’t have to threaten my recovery.
<soap box mode = “OFF”>

So yeah, I’m still working a program of recovery for what I identify as my “double-sided addiction” of overeating and underexercising. I’m making progress — one day and one pound at a time — which is how we addicts recover, isn’t it?

As I’ve experienced recovery, and the weight loss that goes with it, I’ve gone through some changes involving my spirituality and sexuality. More about those changes in future blog entries…except to quote a male friend in Overeaters Anonymous who shared that he noticed a “connection” between his appetite for sex and his appetite for food. He created a couple of “art objects” to illustrate this realtionship. One item he came up with was a patchwork quit consisting of condom packages AND condiment packages. The name for his masterpiece was, “Some Days I Just Don’t Know What To Put On My Hot Dog!”  🙂 When I think of hot dogs of course I see two sexual references — one has to do with the MEAT and the other has to do with the BUN that goes with it! <blush>

I’ll be redesigning OveractiveFork over the next few weeks, adding some new pages and deleting at least one. You’ll also notice a new feature with each blog entry I call “Chew On This”, in which I share my thought on recovery reading that I’ve recently “consumed.” Wow. You mean we can take in knowledge and inspiration like we can food? What a concept!

CHEW ON THIS…

— It is said that “The newcomer is the most important person at any (12 Step) meeting.

— 12 Step meetings/groups exist in order to “Carry the Message” to the “still-suffering addict”, regardless of how long the one who is suffering has been around 12 Step fellowships (oldtimers, newcomers and everyone in-between can experience stuggles and pain. I want to be here for them…in giving to them of my experience, strength and hope, I’m renewed in my commitment to “keep coming back, one day at a time”.  That sounds great, but when it comes down to it, what is the “message” being carried by/presented to the still-suffering addict? If all they do not find hope and mostly find excuses and negativity they wont find a reason to keep coming back and the group/meeting will eventually go out of existence.

— “We carry the message, not the addict.” True. It isn’t my job to work their program and they have a Higher Power who is NOT me. I share my experience, strength and hope and then I LET IT GO! I do not nag or preach at my fellow addicts. Healthy, loving sharing is NOT the same as judging, preaching or nagging.

 

Occasionally I receive comments from readers of OveractiveFork that suggest I really have an “anger problem” based on the content of some of my posts.  Really…a food addict with “anger issues”?  How could that be? During the time I’ve spent in active addiction I’ve done my best to swallow my anger and faked being a “nice guy” (“Nice” = No Boundaries = People Pleaser = Doormat To Be Walked On). After all, doesn’t EVERYbody just love (not to mention) like anger-free people?  And surely in my active addiction I’ve been as hungry for love as I have been for Onion Rings!

So YES, in recovery, I darn well DO have anger. In recovery I experience a whole set of feelings that were numbed out during active addiction. So yes, I feel anger today.

I say GOOD for me having anger. Sometimes anger is a VERY APPROPRIATE emotion to have. I happen to believe that ALL people with any degree of SANE recovery will feel anger from time to time. How dare you (or me) expect me to be anything less than fully human? Yes, being angry IS part of the human experience!

Just for today my recovery allows me to have enough clarity so that I no longer confuse anger with other issues and emotions…

  • Anger is not the same thing as resentment. Feeling anger is therefore NOT the same thing as “re-feeling” it.
  • Anger is not always accompanied by hatred for the object of one’s anger.
  • I can feel BOTH anger AND love at the SAME time for the object of my anger.

Even Jesus Christ was known to get angry. Even the BIble says, “Be angry but sin not…” (Ephesians 4:26)…which, it seems to me, infers that it IS possible to be angry and NOT sin.  The same passage of Scripture also adds, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”, which tells me that healthy anger does not last forever.

Anger is not a bad thing, despite what one co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote about it in one sentence of the thousands of sentences he wrote in that fellowship’s literature. I’ have much respect for the wisdom found in the writing of Bill W., but he is not God and his opinion (speaking for myself as a Christian) is not a higher authority than Sacred Scripture.

Just for today, I refuse to be shamed for my anger. Just for today, I refused to allow other addicts shame me into silence about what I’m feeling angry about. Just for today, I respect my right to feel and constructively express my anger.

I don’t to speak on behalf of other addicts, but I believe that if I don’t “face my stuff, I’m going to stuff my face”.  So facing and expressing and  working on my anger is a whole lot healthier than “stuffing it down” with excess food, let alone a whole lot wiser than trying to “numb” my anger though avoiding doing physical movement.

It takes courage for me to face and feel my anger. It takes discipline to use the 12 Steps to work through my anger (working  through it sure beats “overeating over it”!) so I don’t remain stuck in it.

As of this past Sunday (January 3, 2010), I’m overjoyed to report that I reached a major milestone in terms of my physical recovery from my “double-sided addiction” of food addiction and exercise avoidance.  I’m now maintaining more than a 100 pound weight loss — 101 pounds to be exact!!!

I didn’t loose this amount of weight all alone — I did it with the help of God’s grace and the support of many other recovering addicts (food addicts and otherwise) and other sources as well (including Weight Watchers). I’ve even been able to find help from what I call “both kinds of food addicts”: the ones in recovery and the ones still acting out with their addiction.  The addicts who are in recovery teach me what to DO and how to THINK in order to be successful, while addicts practicing their addictive behaviors who me how NOT to act and think if I want to remain in recovery, one day at a time.

I have LOTS more weight that I want to “release” (weight that is “released” doesn’t come back, while weight that is “lost” is always found). The next amount of pounds that I will lose will be lost the same way the first 101 pounds were lost: just ONE pound at a time.  I will state again what I’ve written elsewhere and shared with other addicts over the years: the “rate” of my weight loss is NONE of my business or any other human being’s business EXCEPT for health care professionals familiar with my physical health.  Above all, the “rate” of my weight loss is actually God’s business.

Dave: I‘m an addict and my problem is Dave!  My drugs of choice are food addiction and exercise avoidance. I abuse my body with food in order to numb painful emotions (especially fear and rage) and avoid exercise because I lack the discipline to take good care of my body and because I’ve elevated lazyness to an artform. I’m grateful to be experiencing the gift of recovery from both sides of my addiction today — just for today — one day at a time!

Reader Responds: Hi Dave and welcome!!!

spilledicecreamconeAs an addict who has a long history of abusing my body with food, for today I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done some crazy stuff when it comes to acting out with my drugs of choice — especially food.  My insane behaviors with food include, but are not limited to…

— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the floor and then eating it.
— Picking up food that I’ve dropped on the sidewalk or even parking lot and then eating it.
— Eating food that is still half-frozen.
— Eating food that is partially stale.
— Eating food so fast that I don’t even hardly taste what I’m  eating.
— Eating food (which includes drinking beverages) so fast that I nearly choke on it.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me over-stuffed and short of breath.
— Eating so much food that it leaves me so lethargic that you would think I was on dope.
— Circa 1984: At one meal eating 19 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken, along with all sorts of sides (e.g., mashed potatoes and gravy, slaw, biscuits, baked beans, etc.) while INSISTING on drinking ONLY Diet Coke! My justification was that “real food addicts would have ate 20 pieces of friend chicken, while I _only_ ate 19 pieces!

Other than these things, my behavior with food over the years has been reasonable sane.  HA!!! 😀

So I was on my way to shop at my neighborhood Walgreen’s last night and I noticed a gentleman that I assumed to be a Nicotine Addict toss his cigarette (which he didn’t extinguish) on the SIDEWALK in front of the store, only to emerge from said store a few minutes later and proceed to PICK UP AND PLACE IN HIS MOUTH his still-burning cigarette!  Honest!!!

Before I could cope a totally judgmental attitude toward this smoking stranger, I remembered some of the INSANE things I’d done with food (see my Short List above) and realized that I was in NO position to judge the man who did the SAME behavior with a lit cigarette that I had done with food…even when I’m NOT overeating I have been known to place food in my mouth that has landed on the floor, a sidewalk or parking lot. “There but for the grace of God go I”, eh?

Why be so open about my checkered history with food?  Because I learned a long time ago that I/we addicts are only as sick as our worst secrets. Also, when I share my sickest secrets I am much LESS likely to repeat them! To get them “out in the open” also reduces the weight of my guilt and shame that these sick secrets have caused me.  In recovery I am afforded many opportunities to come out of secrecy and into the light of honesty.

I’m an addict — excess food intake and avoidance of physical exercise at all costs are my drugs of choice — and my problem is Dave!

I’ve released another 6.4 pounds within the past few weeks (YEAH!!!) and yet my commitment “to do the next right thing” to take care of myself is less than wholehearted.  “Why” is NOT important (REASON: We addicts must ACT our way into right thinking, rather than attempting to think our way into right acting = Action changes thinking long before screwed up addictive thinking will positively change actions).

I will acknowledge that I’m still (as I have the right to be) dealing with the death of my mother who passed away less than five months ago.  Some days my grief is not much of a burden to bear, while other days (like Easter was and I’m sure Mother’s Day will be) are too difficult for words.

No sooner than I felt like I was getting a reasonably decent handle on coping with my mom’s death, then my closest female friend passed away on April 16 — just four months and 16 days after my mom died!  My friend was only 54 years young.  I’m 51 years young.

All of this grief is HARD to deal with! And yet, all of my overeating and exercise avoiding wont bring my mother or Anna back from the dead. Duh! Acting out with my double-sided addiction might even hasten the day of my death. Duh!

When I say that my “commitment” to my recovery ain’t what it should be (yes, I typed the dreaded “should” word), this means that some days I follow my food plan MOST of the day (say up until 7:00pm), but then stop writing down my food intake and exercise effort for the rest of the day.  I wouldn’t be shocked that my food intake is greater than my food plan calls for on these “half-ass days” and my exercise effort isn’t what it could be. Ya’ think? 🙂 <blush>

So here’s what I’m doing today and for the next seven days (eight days total): I’m going to write on this journal EACH day for these eight consecutive days. My hope is that all this writing will help me renew my focus and my effort to eat sanely and exercise moderately, ODAAT. And yet, getting back on track is NOT all about what I’m doing for me. Ultimately I believe it is about seeking God’s help to do what I can not do for myself.

I believe that God does for us addicts what we can not do for ourselves.  Therefore it only makes sense for me to seek God more intensely to help me get my "recovery batteries charged up" and get me back on track.

I believe that God does for us addicts what we can not do for ourselves. Therefore it only makes sense for me to seek God more intensely to help me get my "recovery batteries charged up" and get me back on track.

Many church’s hold “revivals” to renew “the spiritual batteries” of their members. So as an addict I wouldn’t be surprised that (from time to time) I/we would benefit from a revival-of-sorts to re-charge my/our “recovery batteries”.

So I hereby declare that the revival is on!!! May we all get CHARGED UP, re-focused and re-committed to working our program of recovery each day, ODAAT!

I have a gratitude to share: Today I am especially grateful for a renewed awareness that it is NOT food that causes me to eat insanely.  After all, food is an INantimate object!  Instead the insanity of my addiction resides INside of me. This is where I need God’s help (inside). One of the best ways for me to experince His help in overcoming the insanity of my addiction is through working the 12 Steps that are at the core of my recovery program.  I work my Steps one Step and one day at a time. And writing is a terrific tool to help me work them.

In order to honestly follow the Weight Watchers POINTS food plan, I read lots of nutritional information in order to calculate the Point value of what I eat and drink.  A Point is determined by the calorie, dietary fiber and total fat content contained in a particular serving.  These values are usually easily found on either the label of the food items I buy at the grocery store, or in the nutrition guides provided by many restaurants.

It makes me a little anxious when a restaurant – especially one that is part of a national chain – fails to keep nutrition guides on hand for customers.  Its one thing for a restaurant to run out of guides to give to it’s customers from time to time, but it is another thing when they either don’t have at least one copy on the premises that they can “loan” to customers concerned about nutrition, let alone refuse to keep them on the premises at all.

skylinechili-logoYesterday I ate lunch with two friends at a Skyline Chili restaurant here in Louisville.  On a couple of pervious occasions when I’ve dined at Skyline, my request to see a nutrition guide was met with a refusal to provide one followed by an assurance that “You can find the guide on the Skyline Chili website.”

I finally got around to downloading and printing the Skyline nutrition guide after lunch yesterday (www.skylinechili.com), only to discover that what I thought was a “healthy” item that I chose for my lunch was in fact OVERloaded with calories, fat and sodium!  The Southwest Chicken Wrap (NO dressing included) contains 670 calories, 30 grams of fat and 6 grams of dietary fiber.  This translates into a whopping 15 Points!  The sodium amount? A whopping 2,040 milligrams, which is nearly ALL of the amount of sodium a person consuming 2,000 calories per day should eat for the WHOLE day!  So just because a menu item contains the word “Chicken” does NOT necessarily mean it is sound nutritional choice!  The Chili Cheese Fries at Skyline Chili I would expect to be oozing with calories, fat and sodium.  But surely NOT one of their chicken items!

If a restaurant doesn’t want to make it easy for it’s customers to access it’s nutrition guide, it leads me to believe that they are serving food that they are NOT particularly proud of.  Then again, I’d be ashamed too if my food was high in calorie, loaded with fat and oozing with sodium!  Such is the case of much of the food served by Skyline Chili.

Skyline Chili is hardly the only fast food restauarnt service nutritionally-challenged food!  Hard to believe I’m sure (HA!!!), but McDonald”s sells it share of crappy food as well.

bigntastyhamburger1

When it comes to “delicious-but-nutritionally-crappy” fast food, have you heard of the Big N’ Tasty hamburger at McDonald’s?  The fast food giant considers this sandwich  competition to Burger King’s Whooper hamburger.  The Big N’ Tasty is a “Whopper” alright, weighing in with 460 calories, 24 grams of total fat and only 3 grams of dietary fiber.  The sodium content is also fairly high: 720 milligrams – which is 30% of the daily recommended amount of sodium a person should have if they are consuming 2,000 calories per day.

The Points value for Big N’ Tasty hamburger: 11.  A 12” Veggie Delite Submarine Sandwich from Subway, complete with two slices of cheese, lots of fresh vegetables, one ribbon of lite mayonnaise and two ribbons of Sweet Onion Sauce (or another fat-free condiment) is also worth 11 points.  If I have a choice between burger on a round bun or a foot-long submarine sandwich, if I have any sanity I’ll choose the submarine sandwich anytime!  It is much more filling and a lot lower in total fat and sodium than the burger.

The biggest problem I have with the Big N’ Tasty hamburger is the five tons of MAYONNAISE they load on the sandwich (which is why I think McDonald’s should re-name it “The Mayonnaisebuger”)!  A fellow Weight Watchers member pointed out that the mayonnaise content of the sandwich alone probably accounts for at least 25 percent of the sandwich’s calories (and the Point value).  But does McDonald’s provide nutrition information on the value of the same sandwich withOUT the mayonnaise?  Of course not.  So figuring the Points value of a mayo-free Big N’ Tasty hamburger would be rather subjective since I don’t have the nutrition values for this healthier version of the sandwich.  I’m sure the volume of mayonnaise dumped onto the sandwich will vary from burger to burger.

My point to all of this rambling?  I’m finding that for myself restaurant foods (especially those sold by fast food restaurants) often lack substantial nutritional value and are usually larded up with total fat (even though they may boast of being “trans-fat-free”) and contain a level of sodium that verges on being dangerous (remember that excess sodium contributes to high blood pressure).

I’m embarrassed to admit that my ability to “estimate” the Point value of the foods I eat (when I am too lazy to read the nutrition information) is pretty pathetic.  Examples: for nearly two years I’ve estimated the Points value of the Big N’ Tasty hamburger to be 7 (NOT 11) and if you would have asked me what I thought the Point value was for that Southwest Chicken Wrap (hold the dressing) that I had for lunch yesterday at Skyline Chili. I  would have guessed it to be no more than 8 – 10 (as opposed to 15 Points).

When it comes to achieving long-term recovery from an addiction, RESENTMENT is a very important issue. From what I’ve experienced in my own life, read in recovery literature and heard from other addicts, ALL addicts (including myself) MUST face/release our resentments in order to be able to “stay stopped” from acting out with our drug(s) of choice. To clarify, while we may not have to face/release resentment(s) in order to become sober, we definitely must face/relase our resentments in order to stay sober, one day at a time.

The dictionary definition of resentment notes that it “is the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.”

Many years ago I learned from a recovering alcoholic that the Latin meaning for this word implies that we actually choose to “re-feel” our injured feelings, thoughts and perceptions in order to experience the feeling of resentment. So to feel recentment means that we have a choice — three choices actually: we can deny our resentment or we can admit we have resentment and then (once admited or faced) we can chose to take action in order to release our resentment. To my understanding denial, admission and release all involve choices.

The “Big Book” (Alcoholics Anonymous) points out that “…resentment is the number one offender” for alcoholics and, I would assume, for all types of us addicts.  It also states that in order to stay sober (e.g., stay in active recovery) that we must be freed from our resentments.

To this background about my understanding of the meaning of the word “resentment” I’ll now focus on answering the specific question that was posed by a reader of this blog, which was…

I bring up the topic of resentment because of a comment/question I received from a reader of this blog. This person’s words should be understood in the context of my blog entry dated November 15, 2008 (Did Science Finally Catch Up With 12 Step Recovery? AND…How Much Urine Does My Bladder Hold?). The comment/question I received read,

“I do feel like you seem to have a LOT of resentments towards some people in recovery. Does writing about them in this blog help you get over them?”

As to the content of the specific journal entry in question, my answer is: absolutely not.

Thinking back to the definitions of resentment I shared above, an Overeaters Anonymous member stating that HER “bladder works list a still” and therefore “it converts urine into alcohol” has NOTHING whatsoever to do with me. It is a statement referring to another OA member’s reality. Therefore I could not have been “injured” or “insluted” by her comment (remembering that resentment is about what has “injured” or “insulted” us).

While I did back in 1990 (and still now in 2008) find the OA member’s comment odd, illogical and humorous, it never injured or insluted me. I’ve NEVER overate over that member’s words — although I might have accidentally spat out food while laughing uncontrollably when considering the preposterous nature of her words (If I did, would that make me guilty of “unintentional bulimia”? Probably not.

In any case, I journaled about the “Still” comment because I do find it  offensive when any OA member (as in the case of the woman who made the “Still” comment) inserts into the context of an OA meeting (or other OA-sponsored event) comments of a highly controversial nature. Why does THAT bother me? The answer can be found in the 12 Traditions.

Tradition 10 reads, “Overeaters Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the O.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”  Further, the Big Book states that “No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside controversial issues…”  And it seems only logical that what applies to AA (the grand daddy of all 12 Step, 12 Tradition fellowships) should also apply to OA.

In my opinion, anger is an appropriate response to Tradition violations. At the same time I will acknowledge that the late Bill W., co-founder of the AA fellowship, wrote on many occasions that it was important for alcoholics to avoid anger at all costs.

In 36 years of coninuious sobriety, I find it very difficult to believe that Bill W. never once felt anger. To never once feel anger throughout a 36 year period is not being human. Given all of the unkind things that were rumored about Bill W. and fellow co-founder Dr. Bob during the early days of the AA fellowship, I know that I would have felt anger if those things had been said about me!

As a Christian I also take into consideration the words of Saint Paul where he writes that it is OK to be angry — so long as we don’t allow our anger to cause us to sin (Ephesians 4:26 & 27: “Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the devil any opportunity [to work].). As a Christian I have a right and duty to place the teaching of Scripture above Bill W.’s opinion. Nothing against Bill –But as a Christian I place the Bible as a higher authority than the words of another addict.

Rather than to pretend that I don’t feel anger, what I find to be a more reasonable approach to dealing with anger (so anger doesn’t threaten my recovery journey), is to 1) Feel anger. 2) If possible, do something LOVING with my anger (e.g., pray, work for change, etc.) and/or 3) Confront what I feel needs confronted. In the context of the Serentiy Prayer (which is not taken from Scripture), I am pointed toward the truth that PRAYER is absolutely neceessary to know when to “let go” of anger about things outside of myself.

But enough about anger. Resentment is the primary focus of this journal entry.

it is no secret that the Overeaters Anonymous fellowship has lost thousands of members over the past decade for any number of reasons, including the introduction of “controversial outside issues”. Among the most controversial of such issues that has divided this wonderful fellowship is the discussion of theories regarding nutrition. Believing that one’s body is capable of “converting sugar and flour into alcohol” is (at best) “controversial”, is it not?

Another point: Since when does any addict (myself or others) NOT have a right to openly discusss whatever is bugging us (regarless of whether or not such things cause us resentments)? When did the toxic behavior of other addicts (that take place within the context of fellowship meetings and other fellowship-sponsored events) become something that I have to “keep secrets” about? In my recovery from dysfunctional family issues I’ve learned that keeping secrets is UNhealthy.

As to the reader’s direct question, “Does writing about them in this blog help you get over them?”, my answer is not really.  While writing IS a key tool to help release resentments (along with prayer), the writing I’m doing on OveractiveFork is not intended to be a substitute for working the 12 Steps. We need look no father than the pages of the AA Big Book to discover, in the context of working Step 4, a five column format for working through one’s resentments.

Beyond writing about resentments when working Step 4 (as instructed by the Big Book), I’ve found it very important to work Steps 5 – 9 to help me get to the point of releasing my resnetments. Then after and in the process of) working Steps 4 – 9, I can’t emphasize strongly strongly enough the importance of PRAYING about our resentments — and if need be, praying about then just ONE resentment at a time.

We PRAY to find release from the RESENTMENT we feel for those people, places and situations that have injured and insulted us -- One Resentment At A Time!

We PRAY to find release from the RESENTMENT we feel for those people, places and situations that have injured and insulted us -- One Resentment At A Time!

Why is prayer important to releasing resentment? Because I believe that prayer helps me to connect with God and that God can do for me what I can not do for myself. If you can release your resentments apart from the grace of God, good for you! I can’t. I need His help!

How do we pray in order to become free of our resentments? Here’s what is suggested from the same AA Big Book I’ve referred to many times in this journal entry… 

“If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or thing that you resent, you will be free.  If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free.  Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free.  Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway.  Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”

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