Toxic Shame


Some people criticize others out of loving concern. These are not the people who bother me. No, it is the people who are “professional critics” and thus seem almost incapable of saying anything nice or loving to others that really mess with my serenity. It this bunch that seem to enjoy nothing more than attacking and judging others.

Over the past 24 hours (from the time I’m writing this entry) I’ve dealt with one very critical person via e-mail. He asked for a business-related favor and I set a boundary: I said no. If that point forward he has threaten to harm the business I own and to damage my reputation. Yes, those kind of threats mess with my serenity!

When dealing with “professional critics” like the guy I just described, I remember a quote I heard for the first time many years ago. It was part of a 12 Step presentation on the problem of resentment. Resentment is an issue that I would like to deal with in detail in other entries. The bottom line about being resentful against hateful critical comments is I really don’t have to let the person or their comments threaten my recovery from addiction. I have a choice! Here’s a quote that strengthens my commitment to not allow myself to be shaken by critics: “Criticism is the unconscious tribute that mediocrity and stupidity pay to greatness. So when you get criticized don’t get mad, just take
a bow!” The source of this gem is the late Bishop Fulton Sheen.

Just for today I really CAN CHOOSE to “take a bow” when I’m criticized, instead of using food to stuff down the pain/anger/resentment caused by hate-filled words. I also recently realized that most “professional critics” are little more than bullies. They use words instead of fists to harm others. I have no respect for these or any kind of bully.

CHEW ON THIS…

Giving into our double-sided addiction of over-eating and under-exercising does NOT accomplish anything worthwhile. It certainly does NOT harm those who attempt to harm us. JUST FOR TODAY I wont allow others steal my serenity, threaten my recovery or cause me to want to harm myself.

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I came sooooo close to OVEReating last night! Thanks to God’s marvelous grace I was able to remain faithful to following my food plan — as written — during and beyond the “crisis” (e.g., the period of over 30 minutes when I wanted BADLY to eat more out of obsession than actual physical hunger).

The “crisis” involved my mental obsession to eat a medium size Ice Cream Cone dipped in Chocolate that I wanted to purchase at the Dairy Queen located around the block from the laundromat I was using. Because I ollow Weight Watchers POINTS Food Plan, NO food is “off limits”.So the three questions I pondered that helped to convince me to NOT eat the DQ treat were…

  • Do I have enough POINTS remaining for this day to “cover the cost” of the DQ item?

Since I didn’t know the POINTS value of the item I was obsessing about, I figured that (based on what I had already ate yesterday) I probably did NOT have enough remaining POINTS to cover the amount needed.

  • Was the likely amount of POINTS a “good investment” for a food item that has almost NO nutritional value?

Of course not! In general DQ food (both hot and cold) is pretty low in nutritional value and such is the case with the item I was craving last night.

  • For the number of POINTS I had remaining to consume yesterday, didn’t any other food appeal to me that wouldn’t cause me to spend more POINTS than I had?

YES!!!  It came to me what I could eat (a food I really liked, but wasn’t nuts-o about like I was the DQ item)…a Baked Potato topped with some 7/16 oz. of a fat-free sauce I had with me in my minivan was what I choose. The nutritional value of a potato is pretty impressive: they are a great source for Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Iron and Niacin, Thiamin and Folate! So yes, potatoes have carbohydrates, but what’s wrong with that? We ALL (even us diabetics) NEED carbohydrates to live. The DQ cone I was lusting after had lots of carbs, but NO significant nutritional value.

I  thank God for the ability to STOP AND THINK BEFORE I eat insanely. I was able to THINK SANELY last night, instead of acting out. I know that it was God’s grace that gave me the ability to both think and act sanely!

Carbohydrate phoics will disagree with my choice of eating a baked potato. My comment: Who cares! It’s a choice my food plan allows me to make AND I ended up STAYING on my food plan just fine yesterday.

Apart from the foods involved in last night’s “crisis”, the more significant issue for me is HOW EMOTIONAL I GET WHEN IT COMES TO  FOOD!

  • The mere though of consuming DQ treats gets me aroused to the point of making me feel (sorry, I don’t know any word to describe the power of the obsession for some foods) what I call “horny”!
  • Thinking about NOT eating some foods (like DQ foods) can cause me to feel deep sadness (almost like it becomes a grief issue).
  • The guilt and shame I’ve known over the years associated with OVEReating has (past tense, thankfully) been very intense at times.

“Earth people” (= non-addicts) surely don’t experience this broad range of INTENSE emotions when it comes to food that we addicts experience! To the “earth people” food is JUST food. To we addicts who’s drug of choice is food, you would think food was our lover and best friend!  It isn’t?  😀

In any case,  Once again I want to thank God for the grace to eat sanely — despite the “intense crisis” I faced (and survived) last night. Here’s a video clip that expresses my gratitude for God’s grace that “carry’s me” when my own strength is weak (or even non-existent). As Alcoholics Anonymous literature reminds us, “God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”

When I use the phrase (as in the subject line of this message) “Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis”, I am NOT (repeat: NOT) — in any way, shape or form — talking about members of the Nazi organization, skinheads or other racist groups. Understood?

Instead the phrase in the subject line of this post refers to food addicts for whom ONLY ONE food plan exists (which is ALWAYS the one they are following — how convenient!) that the rest of us food addicts MUST be following if we are “really serious” about our recovery.  These nut jobs are not above shaming, shunning and degrading anyone who would dare to disagree with them. If they were not so extreme in their tactics and insane in their beliefs I doubt I would feel the level of anger I do about them.  I also realize that FEAR of these people also tiggers my anger toward them. I mostly fear the physical, emotional and spiritual damage they do to newcomers to 12 Step recovery.

These “craziest-of-the-crazies” food addicts can be found within the meetings of Overeaters Anonymous and many other so-called 12 Step fellowships. At least in the case of OA, they do NOT represent the official (let alone the best) thinking of that fellowship. These extremists are (at the most) a “cult” within OA, far removed from the mainstream of OA thought and practice.

Many of these carb-phobic folks identify themselves as being part of the “H.O.W. Movement”, which is an outrageous abuse  of the 12 Step acronym “H.O.W.”, which stands for the three foundations of authentic recovery: Honesty, Openmindedness and Willingness. The inference the control freaks are making is that ONLY THEY are “honest, openminded and willing” and rest of us are just deluding ourselves because we don’t follow their sicko food plan. Talk about elitist nonsense!

Other than the issues identified above, why do these Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis upset me so much? Probably because they prey on the vulnerability of newcomers to OA and other 12 Step fellowships. Newcomers desperate to find answers and hope to overcome their addiction.

They also make me angry because I’ve found out their food plan(s) (it comes in various versions, but virtually all can be traced back to the original Gray Sheet Food Plan that came from an OA member around 1962) is UNhealthy and can even be harmful to one’s physical health if followed for any significant period of time. Their food plan is RIGID and NOT scientifically or medically sound for most individuals. It is based on, at best, superstition. Remember that superstition is “an irrational belief or practice resulting from ignorance”!

Thankfully I’m following a food plan today that has been designed by health care professionals (not irrational addicts determined to control my food intake, who can’t keep their own food intake under control) based on my unique medical history and health concerns. At the same time, I don’t demand any other addict follow my food plan. I know their is a God and it is not me! Thankfully I’m part of Weight Watchers, as imperfect as that organization is, they at least strive to be on top of the latest medical research when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

The idea that a fellow food addict would attempt to dictate to another adherance to a particular food plan is just plain NUTS! I would trust another food addict to tell me how much and what (and what not) to eat as I would trust a pyromaniac to work as a firefighter! Food addicts in control of other food addicts food intake is dangerous, scary and even has the potential of being deadly!

So yes, I’m going to speak out against the dangerous insanity of Carbohydrate-Phobic Food Nazis! I’m going to proclaim “freedom to those held captive” by the superstition of cabrohydrate phobia and to indiviudals who have been emotinoally and spiritually abused by the people who promote one or another version of the dangerous Gray Sheet Food Plan (regardless of the name it goes by in a particular fellowship or 12 Step group).

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.

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.

Several years ago, I shared at a 12 Step meeting that I “never cope well” with rejection…to which a fellow member honestly responded to my lament with a question, “Who does deal well with rejection?”  Duh!  I wouldn’t be feeling my feelings if I didn’t feel pain immediately after (and for a long time to follow) being rejected by some other person.

So rejection will likely always hurt. This is an undeniable and unavoidable fact of life. Thanks to what I’ve learned over the years through my recovery efforts, HOW I (yes, me) choose to deal with the pain of rejection is where I have found that I have (to some degree) freedom to make the best of a painful situation.

What I’ve learned about coping with rejection from fellow addicts and others over the years includes…

— As an addict, when my commitment to my recovery is weak, then I tend to “handle” rejection by rejecting myself.  My self-rejection is acted out in many ways, including acting out with my drugs of choice and doing a poor job of self-care (self-care includes simple things like bathing, wearing clean clothes, shaving, keeping my apartment and vehicle tidy, etc.).
— Overeating (or acting out with other self-destructive addictions) can NOT (for any signifcant period of time) relieve me of the pain of rejection.
— “The only thing you get for sitting on the (Self-)Pity Pot is a ring around your butt!”
— Writing helps release the pain.
— I can forgive myself for making mistakes that may have contributed to another person’s rejection — and then learn from them so I don’t repeat them.
— Loving someone doesn’t mean I must give them the power to destroy my self-esteem.
— Loving someone doesn’t mean I must give them the power to reduce the level of  my self-esteem.
— I’m powerless over others,  so if other people want to stay stuck in their resentment against me, that is their choice and (after I make amends, if I believe amends is appropriate) then I just need to move on.
— I can choose to focus on the many people who love and accept me and IGNORE the relatively few people who have rejected me.
— I have a RIGHT to ME!!!  So if I must pretend to be someone I’m not in order to prevent being rejected by them, then I’m better off WITHOUT that person in my life.

The bottom line about rejection is that I recover from it’s devistation (as well as recover from other issues in my life that cause me pain) the same way I experience recovery from my self-destructive addictive behaviors: (no more than) One Day At A Time!  And if need be, Just Five Minutes At A Time!

As an addict, I struggle to overcome self-centeredness in all of it’s forms. One area where my self-centeredness manifests itself is in the area of fear. Two of my biggest fears are that others will  reject me and will shame me in a toxic manner by unloading mountains of harsh criticism on me.

Because of these fear issues — and for other possibly good reasons — I’ve avoided posting to OveractiveFork specific details about my food intake and exercise effort.  I’m not ashamed of what I eat and how much I exercise most days, but I fear that those addicts who demonize carbohydrates and exercise bulimics for whom NO amount of exercise is ever “good enough” would surely overwhelm me with criticism if they only knew what I was eating and much (or how little — depending on one’s perspective) that I exercise. So I ask: Why put myself through the potential of being sent abusive e-mail messages from fellow addicts who 1) are NOT my sponsor and 2) are NOT any sort of health care professional? Answer: I don’t need to put myself through such harsh judgementalness that the posting of food intake and exercise data would surely generate.

The other reason I wont post such personal information on OveractiveFork is because I would never want the specifics of my food and exercise plans to be followed by the readers of this blog.  I’m NOT a dietician or exercise physiologist so I would hope that I NEVER prescribe food or exercise plans for fellow addicts.  And I would not want any addict reading my blog to follow my plans becuase they were too lazy, fearful or arrogant to seek out the advice on such matters that I believe should ONLY come from a health care professional.

I do write down what I eat and how much I exercise on a regular basis.  But that information will be shared ONLY with professionals who are in a position to offer me sound advice and appropriate feedback when such information is shared with them.  I may also choose to share this information privately with fellow addicts, but NOT in order to obtain feedback and/or advice that should only come from a professional.

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