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My Abstinence Kits

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When I first came to OA forty years ago, my idea of a plan of eating was a diet. OA members suggested I have three moderate meals daily with nothing in between, and of course, avoid foods with refined sugar. I was ecstatic at my first meeting when I saw the different color coded plans lying on the table. Each had suggested foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I chose one of the low-carb plans.

After, I went to the grocery store and bought foods listed on the plan. I ate single portions of the proteins, vegetables, carbohydrates, dairy, fats, and fruit on my plan. Within three months, I had lost all my excess weight, and I maintained my abstinent weight for four years.

I never let go of my diet mentality, though. I talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk—no way was I giving up control. I told my sponsor I would work Steps One and Four, but I had no need for Steps Two and Three. She told me the program didn’t work that way. I thought I had to do some people pleasing if I wanted to be a part of this group, so I called the group my Higher Power. I picked up the Tools and used them when they were convenient. Not surprisingly, I relapsed. I didn’t want to deal with my life problems, and I overate. I picked up my plan of eating again and lost weight, but I couldn’t white knuckle it. I yo-yoed between abstaining and overeating for years.

In 1995, I hit bottom. In January, a friend committed suicide. My husband and I lost some of our contract work. I was overeating and in a constant food fog. I was at my top weight of 185 pounds (84 kg), and my husband was deeply depressed and physically deteriorating. Then, things got worse. The dog died. At the end of September, my 300-pound (136-kg) husband died from this disease. My world was falling apart. I got scared. I started taking my program seriously, lost weight, and became abstinent.

Fear is a good motivator, but it is fleeting. Two years later, I was still spiritually in kindergarten, and I was looking for others to fix my loneliness and finances. My way was not working. I was desperate.

I knew different OA members who had gotten professional food plans. In February 1998, I met with a nutritionist for the first time. She listened to my food plan and told me I was “carbed out” before I even started the day, and she upped my vegetables and water. I was not happy, but I didn’t want to be hungry, and if I didn’t eat all my vegetables and drink my water, I wouldn’t feel full.

Although I was emotionally hungry at times, I was not physically hungry. I had plenty of healthy food to eat and the meals were spaced every few hours, so I never had to wait long before eating again. In fact, the nutritionist added some food between breakfast and lunch and between dinner and bedtime.

Even though I had a plan, I was not immune. My disease was doing pushups. Some foods I thought I could handle I found I could not handle. I no longer could do caffeine, sugar-free desserts, and combination foods. I went through a case of diet soda in days. I ate sugar-free, fat-free ice cream constantly until the manufacturer discontinued the product. I started doing a combination of food take-outs from a local restaurant more frequently as my food cravings increased. One night after coming home from the restaurant, I finally had the courage to throw the problematic food in the trash.

The differences between my nutritionist’s plan and my old plan are planning and portion control. My food is now weighed and measured. I have abstinence kits in my car, my husband’s car, and at home. The kits consist of measuring cups and spoons and a scale. I also have other scales, batteries, phone numbers, and non-perishable foods in the trunk, plus contacts in my phone and in a small notebook so I can make a call in emergencies.

The planning goes further. I eat out a lot, so I look up menus online. I call caterers and make special requests. I write down my food plan daily and check it before I eat a meal because when I am tired, I can go on autopilot: I’ll think I have enough of a food, and I don’t. I’ll get my days mixed up and commit the wrong food. I am not perfect. I make mistakes.

I am high maintenance. Committing to being abstinent takes time and effort. I spend time getting food, preparing food, and telling people what I am going to eat. Then before I eat my food, I measure it so there is no guesswork.

What distinguishes my food plan from a diet is my willingness to pick up the Tools. I cannot work this program in isolation. I need to talk to my Higher Power and others daily. I am glad I am not in the food 24/7, and I am glad you are walking the recovery road with me.

— Nancy P., Richmond, Virginia USA

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