Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Year in OA and Hoarding Stuff

Two topics on my mind tonight...

A Year in Overeaters Anonymous

I've been going to OA for a year now, though it seems like lots less than that. I've never been to a meeting that didn't help me, contribute to my newly developing sense of inner harmony and peace of mind, make me feel accepted. Like they say, "Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous; welcome home." Always somebody says something that clarifies an attitude, an action, or a reaction for me. My gratitude for each person in my small group is immense.

My abstinence program regarding certain foods (cake, candy, chocolate, cookies, pie, ice cream and pastries) is solid. 194 days of perfect abstinence on that score! No regrets. No misgivings. Rarely tempted. Not feeling deprived. Happy to not eat any of it, ever! This was a 360 degree change from 60 years of binging on chocolate and the rest of them every chance I could get (not an exaggeration).

My abstinence program regarding my meal plan is not going so well. In fact, not going well at all. In the past few months, I've observed a steady increase in both portion size and snacking. I think the way to get back on track is to work the OA steps. I'm hung up on the 4th step. Maybe I need to return to the first 3 and then approach step 4 in a refreshed state of mind. My spiritual recovery is stagnate. I'll try to write more about that in my next post.

So, looking at the year as a whole, I see a much thinner, much happier me, who is now needing to take new pathways into the program.

Hoarding Stuff

I'm currently reading a very interesting book called, Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. Bringing a clinical psychology background to their ten-year study of compulsive hoarding, the authors present case histories and their personal impressions about this problem that may affect more people than we realize. While we all keep stuff we don't need or use, the authors say it's only a problem if it makes us miserable, if it "causes substantial distress or interference in every-day living."

The book is a good read, well-written, sensitive, courageous. I saw it in a bookstore and paid full retail because I couldn't wait to get it through Amazon. Why? Because I hoard stuff, stuff I don't need or use or want. Always it bothers me. Always I wish I could give or throw it away. Do I have stacks reaching the ceiling? Only in my closets. Do I have a warehouse full of stuff? No. Have I filed bankruptcy because I overspend my income? No. Has my husband threatened divorce because of my clutter? No; at least not yet.

But (and this is a BIG BUT), what I do have bothers me A LOT). I'm looking for a little help from this book. The authors say that fixing the problem takes "heroic effort." Three ideas regarding a fix are helping me already:

1. I am practicing a total shift in my decision-making process in reaction to the sight of a desired possession. Rather than narrow and focus my attention on the thing, I expand my attention to consider how this object "fits into the fabric" of my life. Expand rather than narrow my attention... that's an important key I think.

2. This one again involves the desire to acquire new stuff. Each time an opportunity to acquire stuff comes along, I ask myself "When will I use it? Do I have anything like it already?" and "Do I have a place to put it?"

3. Already the above have made a difference in my level of new acquisitions. However, disposing of the stuff I already have is an entirely different and much more difficult matter. I find that like more serious hoarders, I attach great value to my stuff. I think of it as potential, exciting and worthwhile, things I can use to make my art, things that I can do or learn from someday. To my eyes, my stuff also has sentimental meaning. Like many hoarders, I seem to derive a sense of self from my stuff, my collections, my supplies, and my piles of inspiration. Gaining a better understanding of this from the book may help me to let some of it go, to find potential and value in myself rather than my stuff.

Each chapter begins with a quote. Here's one I like a lot by William James:
It is clear that between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine the line is difficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as we feel and act about ourselves.

* * * * *
Gratitude for today: longer days, my special surrogate-granddaughter, my husband, red roses


  1. Happy 1 year OA Anniversary and congratulations of all you have achieved during the year.

    I've followed your progress from the first WordsPaint and feel like I have walked beside you. It has been a rocky road, there have been obsticles to overcome and pitfalls along the way.

    I've admired your fortitude in continuing and the way you have dealt with the difficult parts. You have made great progress and should be proud of yourself.

    Ok, on with the journey, let's go :-)

  2. Hi Robin.
    You certainly have come a long way in your path to a healthy body and happier mind. Congratulations. Seriously. Absolutely.

    I would think that the spiritual part of the program would be hard right now. Knowing the steps in grieving, you will probably be able to deal with the spiritual aspects when you are better able to deal with your mother's passing.

    I look forward to more posts about hoarding. I saw myself in #3. Even to the point of keeping old clothes and denim items thinking I will use the fabric somehow. O, we don't have piles of things, but my husband can't part with even a little item from the kids past. I think I'll look for the book and see what it says about that.

    Have a great day, Robin. You are in a much better place than you were just a couple of weeks ago.
    xx, Carol

  3. Coincidentally I noted just yesterday how close your counter was coming to 200! Kudos to you on your year of recovery. The notion that there is an emotional aspect to hoarding is interesting to me in the opposite - since I hate clutter.

  4. Happy Anniversary Robin! What a great accomplishment reached with such perseverance. You did really well and have stayed true to yourself. I admire how you try to examine everything you encounter, take it seriously and turn it around as long as necessary, so it becomes really part of you.

    Like your phrase "the fabric of my life". Just about 2 weeks ago I learned a little about spacetime, from a documentary on TV... That's like a life-fabric too. Food for thought!

    Keep on going Robin. You are doing marvelous and with your OA-family you will keep on going.

  5. I just want to say "hey sweetie!"..good to have you back. I know you've been through some stuff lately but glad to see you back posting. I haven't gone to OA in a few weeks ..I'm feeling overwhelemed at working the steps and how to do step 4. Soundly bouncing betweeen steps 1, 2 , 3 on any particular day. First time I'ive blogged this.

    back to you...the hoardin thing is interesting and something we can blog about more. been there done that and still working on it.


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