Monday, June 23, 2008


My sponsor has sentenced me to hard labor as I struggle to get off the sugar train.

I have to do a meeting a day (in our cyber age, one can "do" a meeting rather than "go to" a meeting because they're online or on the telephone as well as in church basements) for 30 days.

I have to call one other compulsive eater each day.

I have to read one page of Alcoholics Anonymous each day.

I have to email my sponsor what I'm going to eat each day.

I have to email her a daily inventory each night.

And I have to start over in my step work, which has always been one of my weak points in the Rooms.

The first step of the twelve steps for compulsive eating and food addiction, based on AA's twelve steps, is "We admitted we were powerless over food -- and that our lives had become unmanageable."

The usual approach to working on this pretty grim step is to do a food history. I've done that -- I've published it, for God's sake. She suggested I move on the second step, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," but I observed that the second part of the Step One, "our lives had become unmanageable," is often overlooked.

Taken with the point of Step Two -- the restoration of sanity -- that phrase is particularly important. These Steps are not so much about food as they are about the mental and spiritual balance I lose every time I lapse.

This has to sound cliche, but as I write these statements I understand the direction they can take me in better than I have before.

I want to talk about the last couple of weeks and the weeks coming up.

Daisy and I boarded at two Italian greyhounds' house for ten nights. The first weekend, I was also "boarding" another dog -- that is, hanging out with him as much as possible, tucking him in at night, getting him out first thing in the morning. That weekend I also had another set of IGs to go in and feed, clean up after and love.

I literally needed to be at least three places at once all weekend long. Following that weekend, I agreed to several nights of 9 p.m. walks. I was back-and-forth between the Bat Cave and the IGs. My yogurt was in one apartment, my salad makings in another, nightgown there, clean underwear here. It didn't take long for me to start eating between meals, eating Bad Stuff, and then eating Really Bad Stuff. I had no internet connection at the IGs and couldn't always make the times for online meetings. My bowels cramped from stress; I was exhausted. I didn't get to any live meetings for a week either. I'm now six meeting short of my 30 in 30 days. (In 12 Step parlance, we call such a marathon a "30 in 30" or "60 in 60" or, God help me, a "90 in 90".)

This is the first day I woke up in my own bed since June 15th.

On Thursday, three mornings from now, I start staying at Mad Mally's house -- he's a big crazy black Lab & he has two cats, one of whom I'll need to inject saline into each day. Daisy and I will stay there until July 3rd, when I leave very very early to visit my parents in Arizona for a week.

Yum: a week with my parents in Arizona in July!

Lately, Step One could be reversed -- "My life is unmanageable and I'm using food to get some power". Of course this power is mostly illusionary, although it did quell some of my rebelliousness about being away from home, living in chaos and resentment and self-induced boredom. I can't quite say that eating was unproductive. Rather it was one of what someone recently called "defective habits," a phrase I like a lot.

My life is unmanageable in an infinite number of ways. Play with a dog and I get puncture wounds and a hug sore bruise on my right thumb. Change a light bulb and cut my big toe on the step ladder (talk about ironies). Spend 16 hours a day at another apartment and mine turns into one big dust bunny.

Worse, by sitting in front of TV with pop corn, I didn't pay as much attention, qualitatively, as I could have to the dogs. By debating ice cream as an option all day, my attention was yet further divided.

I wanted OUT of the prison of obligations, even when I wasn't actually in it. Granted, it's hard to work on a novel when one only has an hour at a time to do it, but I played a few too many computer games when I was home and not enough note-taking or cleaning or other tasks that could be done in a short space of time. I'm one of the people who gets to watch TV because it's the Weather Channel or nothing at home, but I was deep into Bridezilla and, oh-my-God, Tori and Dean Inn Love. I wasn't watching the news or something topical that requires time to get the gist of it. I was sucked into what can be digested as fast as cotton candy.

And my reading went unread. Phone calls were not made. Letters were not written. I used food and junk TV to escape not only my resentment, but the alternative ways of spending my time. I chose unmanageability over sanity and usefulness.

My life feels particularly unmanageable in the areas of my career (no word from my editor, no decision made about rounding up letters of recommendation at an online site, my usual reluctance to work on my book), finances (I'm trying to get taxes and my credit debt under control; I want to get medical insurance), my home (winter clothes still waiting for the arrival of storage bags, desks waiting for me to figure out how to organize, a bathroom gray with grit -- although I did one layer of cleaning my oven this morning ;)), stress (it simply comes AT me; I feel like Tippi Hedron in The Birds) -- and my desperation to escape reality.

I need to thin further about how food increases this unmanageable life of mine. I'll keep you posted if you want to read more...


Anonymous said...

I always want to

A lot of this resonates with me. I killed 6 clean days with junk food and junk tv yesterday, and now back to day one.

Anonymous said...

me too. i always want to read more.

Vickie said...

youngest is taking care of ONE dog for TWO days - and I am shocked at how much work it is. she is enjoying it - but lots of time/trouble.

yes, I always want to read more too.


Anne M. said...

Your sponsor is one smart lady (I was going to say smart cookie but really, that just goes somewhere we don't want to go). Going back to the beginning and doing those simple-sounding things will help get you grounded again. Though I know actually doing them is hard.

Yes, I want to hear about this. You do not struggle in isolation; there is a lot of support out here in the blogosphere.

Big hugs, my friend.

Anonymous said...

What you write always leaves me wanting more....
Please post more often - you are so talented - I check every day to see if you have had time to post more...

A fan

Marian said...

I think Step 1 is hard to get until you have a stretch of abstinence behind you and can look back. Before I got into program, I managed to lose a lot of weight on my own by putting down the food. I really did get it - after a LOT of experimentation - that I was powerless over sugar. But it was only after I got into program that I could see during that weight loss I was FAR from abstinent/sober! I picked up cigarettes, alcohol, sugarless gum, online dating (yes, it's addictive) - really, you name it. But when you put down EVERYTHING - that's when you really see how batshit crazy you are!!

Bea said...

"Good Grief Charlie Brown." The schedule you described would have me chewing on the legs of furniture. No kidding, I would be ready for the men in white coats. Cut yourself some slack. Eat as healthy as is possible and plan on doing better when you are back at home. Gad what a miserable two weeks!

Helen said...

I think it's kind of like an's hard to get a grip when your whole world is unstable. But the shaking will (hopefully) stop and in those few seconds before the aftershocks begin, you can grab on and hold on tight. I hope you can do that in these few days before the next round of shaking. I know it is HARD. But I feel your determination and you WILL do it. Yes, you will. :-)

Anonymous said...


It sounds like you are having a hard time getting abstinent. It also sounds like some of the food you are eating on your food plan could be triggering you, like Grapenuts and caffeinated coffee. I have found a lot of peace with food in Food Addicts Anonymous, on a food plan free of sugar, flour and wheat and volume, in addition to all sweeteners (Splenda, etc). The food plan is so balanced and abundant that it has almost never required white-knuckling. Wanted to share this not in the spirit of promotion but to extend the help that is so generously extended to me.

Food Addict in NY

Cindy said...

I love hearing about how anybody works the steps. I did online meetings for while when I first started blogging. It took me a while to see the relationship between food and being unmanagable. But you hit it when you talked about focus. When I am compulsive about food, I am usually avoiding something else. Something that I need to deal with. So not only have I not dealt with whatever it is, I have added the fallout of the eating episode to the mix. And I feel even more unmanagable. It has a snowball effect. That book Lynn has me reading helped me understand my complusive behavior. It's a step 4-7 thing for me right now. Identifying what I've been doing so I can give it up. Surrender. Always new levels of surrender. Same with step one, Surrender. Sounds like you are coming upon a new level of surrender.

Nory Roth said...

I can identify with your feelings of being out of control. I also love to read whatever you post!

Lynn hit it on the head -- GAD! What a schedule you've had! I'd be eating everything in sight, too!

I just found a new program that records just about everything to do with diet and nutrition, and keeps you accountable. It can be found at There's a free download for 15 days, so I'm just checking it out myself. Might help?

Anonymous said...

OMG YES, write more

you (as well as your readers who commented above) are brilliant

Vickie said...

'But when you put down EVERYTHING - that's when you really see how batshit crazy you are!!'


Lori G. said...

I agree with you; it's hard to maintain some schedule with food when you are scattered to the four winds. I adore your sponsor. :-)

I thought of you last night watching, "Two Weeks' Notice." I kept obsessing that they had filmed one of the final scenes at the Promenade or in your neighborhood. I was thinking about you and hoping you were okay.

(PS I watch too much "Tori and Dean" -- I don't know why either but I think I like Tori.)

You're giving me inspiration to start all over again too. In fact I'm going to the inventory site. Meet you there.

Laura N said...

Frances, I can't tell you how much I needed to read this post tonight. "My life is unmanageable and I'm using food to get some power"--this hit me smack in the stomach. I can't thank you enough for your words. You have articulated what I didn't even know I was feeling.

I hope you can see some peace, somewhere on the near horizon.