It was the first year we had the family over for the holidays. With our house situated near a hospital and a fire station, we were accustomed to the occasional wail of sirens. But the sound of emergency vehicles racing by with increased frequency on this holiday was especially unsettling. What was the reason? Accidents? House fires?
The next day, I read in the newspaper that the emergency ward was busy tending to people who had decided to celebrate the holidays by taking a break from following doctors' orders "just this once." Heart patients, who didn't want the side effects of their prescribed medications, didn't take them "just for one day"; diabetics ate too much sugar and made themselves dangerously ill; and alcoholics ended up sick or violent from out of control, celebratory drinking.
When I think I "deserve" to overeat during the holidays, I know I am in denial about the insidious nature of this disease. Sugar is my cocaine, my alcohol and, ultimately, my poison. I fool myself if I believe I can magically turn the switch on and off at will. The disease never takes a holiday. My body reacts the same way to food as it did yesterday, as it will tomorrow and 365 days a year.
Do I really want to deprive myself of a sane and happy holiday? I don't think so. Not his year.
This article appeared in Lifeline, November 2009, p. 18. Copyright Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.
It has followed me every place I've ever worked: the lure of unattended food! Particularly hard are Monday mornings. I walk into the office kitchen and find half-eaten birthday cake, seasonal candy or food from a weekend social function left by well-meaning coworkers. All it needs over it is a sign that says, "Eat me!" Any unattended food, be it cold, stale, broken or half-eaten, I will eat in no time.
Unattended food has always been one of my biggest temptations. I can easily justify eating it: it's left over; some coworker was kind enough to share it with others; it will spoil if it's not eaten today.
The other scenario is a coworker passing my office, saying "Come on; they're having a birthday cake for John in the conference room!" Or "Come on; there's leftover food in the kitchen!" If I don't join them, they bring it to me! "Sorry you couldn't stop by, I brought you some food."
Over the years, I've gotten better at dealing with the siren call of office ending machines. At least a few more steps are required to get it: I have to decide what to buy, remove coins from my pocket, insert the coins in the machine and make a selection. What's worked wonders for me over the years is carrying my 24-hour OA chip and my anniversary chip in with my loose change. That way, whenever I reach for change, I see the chips in my hand. In that moment, I have the opportunity to contemplate my next action. I can put the coins in the machine or put them back in my pocket. Sometimes sanity prevails and the coins go back in my pocket.
I'm writing this the week before Halloween. In the kitchen in my office is an orange plastic pumpkin filled with individually wrapped candy. Fortunately, it emptied quickly the first day. To my horror, I found the next morning that gremlins had replenished the candy overnight. This has gone on every day. After Halloween, we will have several more days of a full pumpkin, thanks to parents bringing their children's candy to share with their coworkers. The next onslaught will be Christmas food.
So for today, I move the pumpkin to a higher shelf in the kitchen, where others can access it but I don't have to look inside. The temptation of this unattended food is just too strong. If going to my office, closing the door and reading a daily meditation is not enough, I take a walk outside and ask my Higher Power for strength - not just for today, but for right now.
Edited and reprinted from Novation newsletter, Northern Virginia Outreach Intergroup, November 2000. This article later appeared in Lifeline, November 2002, p. 14, Copyright Overeaters Anonymous Inc.
rI came to OA to lose weight. I didn't know it, but I also came to lose the emotional pain that drove my being overweight.
I tried to smile and kid about my weight, but it was eating me up inside. I ate to escape painful feelings. In exchange, I received a new set of painful feelings and health problems.
I tried every diet and every food fad. I thought I'd be better if I were thin. I failed in every way and felt miserable and hopeless. Eventually, my pain and failure were more overwhelming than my reasons for not trying OA.
I thought I didn't have to buy the mumbo-jumbo about Higher Powers and God. Maybe the program would help me lose weight; that's what I wanted. I knew I could ignore all the religious claptrap. I thought to myself, "God, I've got nowhere else to go" (Did I say God?)
I came and lost weight, but I found that if I only lost weight and gained nothing, then OA would be for me just a successful diet club. As with the diet clubs, success would invariably be followed by failure-at least for me.
The OA program is not about losing weight, and it is not a diet club. The program is tough to maintain, but it is the way we achieve serenity and peace. These are the goals of the program, not losing weight.
Now I deal better with all the things that drove me to food. I don't hold onto resentments. I don't wallow in guilt. I don't stay angry. I move on from my mistakes. I forgive those who hurt me.
I have lost weight and kept it within or close to my target range. But my real achievement and feeling of success comes not from what I lost, but from what I gained - a far greater peace than I have ever know.
-Edited and reprinted from Road to Recover newsletter Westchester United Intergroup, April 2001. This story was later reprinted in LifeLine, October 2002, p. 2., Copyright Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.
I'm an anorexic, bulimic and compulsive overeater with 13 years of abstinence. I've worked the Steps a number of times and recently talked to my sponsor about working them again. We decided I would write about each Step and submit the writings to Lifeline. Here are my thoughts about Step One.
When I came into OA as an obese 22-year old, life was just as hellish as it had been when I was an anorexic, bulimic and underweight teen. I was obsessed with food, weight and eating. I was terrified that my only options were to be obese and miserable or to be thin and miserable. I had no idea how to get out of this mess. Yet, I struggled a lot with Step One for the first couple of weeks I was abstinent. Because I'd been anorexic and bulimic, I kept thinking that somehow I wasn't powerless over food like everyone else (gotta love the terminal uniqueness). But finally it sank in that if an alcoholic is powerless over alcohol, then a person with an eating disorder is powerless over food. For the first time I could see that no matter how many times I had tried to control my food, eating and weight, it had always beaten me. Why not give up the fight and try something different - abstinence, the OA program and working the Steps.
Today I know in my gut that I am powerless over food and nothing will change to allow me to eat like a normal person. That means if I'm not eating one of my three meals or two snacks a day, then I'm not eating, no matter what. No matter what, I don't starve; vomit; take laxatives, diuretics or diet pills; chew food and spit it out; or exercise more than a sane amount. (I go over this with my sponsor, nutritionist or another OA member.) Abstinence means I can live in the world and not be trapped in the chaos of my disease. I can have a life instead of the living death of my eating disorder.
I've gone through many difficulties in recovery: I've been laid off, lost important relationships, buried three grandparents and lost my father after a prolonged illness. Recently I found out that I have brain tumor (benign, thank God) and I am currently unable to work. Because of Higher Power, this program and my fellow OA members, I have not had to pick up through any of this.
However, that doesn't mean I'm not still powerless over food - I absolutely am. Step One is the foundation of my program, because if I'm not powerless, I can figure it all out. I don't need God, this program or my fellow OA members, and I'm back to where I started - alone in the hell of my addiction.
What a blessing it is that by admitting defeat, I can have a real life and enjoy the rewards of this program. I can be happy, joyous and free, no matter what my external circumstances. Who knew?
This story first appeared in Lifeline, November 2008, p. 7. Copyright Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.
1. Give to others what you have so freely been given.
2. Encourage someone.
3. Invite someone to coffee or lunch and share one-on-one.
4. Volunteer to carry the key and be responsible for locking up.
5. Offer to mail Lifeline order forms so your group can have back issues.
6. Hug someone.
7. Seek out and sit with someone who looks lonely at a meeting.
8. Talk to a person who's alone.
9. Make nametags for your group.
10. Welcome new reps at the next Intergroup meeting.
11. Make sure new reps have a copy of the bylaws and other information.
12. Introduce new reps to old reps.
13. Coordinate a group adoption program sending letters and tapes to new or struggling groups.
14. Contact a new group and ask if the members have any questions.
15. Help work on the newsletter. Start one if your group doesn't have one.
16. Make a telephone list for newcomers.
17. Encourage people with recovery to give service.
18. Encourage people with recovery to share at your meeting.
19. Recommend speakers for new and struggling groups.
20. Drive a carload of people to a new meeting to share experience, strength and hope.
This story first appeared in OASIS, the monthly meeting in print for OA loners, June 2000. It was reprinted in LIfelIne, February 2000, p. 21. Copyright Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.
While change is a part of life, some changes are more unexpected and more jarring than others. After a period of abstinence, I came to expect that good things would happen to me. It was a major attitude change., and it altered my perspective.
But sometimes, just when things get into a nice rhythm, something comes up that demands my full attention or I have an unpleasant encounter with someone, and I find myself falling back in to old patterns of ingratitude or resentment. As with the food, I must be conscious of this habit.
I've realized lately how much I rely on order in my life. Putting boundaries around my food opened new horizons in other areas, and I began to invest more of my energies into maintaining and developing structure wherever I could.
What I didn't take into account it that life is flexible and ever changing, and the more structure I project into it, the less predictably it behaves. I live in a world with people in recovery, and each of us is as likely to be be in transition as the other.
Many of my problems arise when I expect people to behave in a certain way, and they don't cooperate. The next thing I know, I'm upset. Often I feel I have information that could help them. I believe I know why they are the way they are. This does not help the situation.
This attitude is behind many of my relationship issues, and it has to go. So I've begun asking people about it, and I've learned that I'm not the only one with this "gift" (surprise). I started asking God (and others) for help, I write about it, and I meditate on how I can let go of this need to be in control. The answers are coming . . . slowly.
A long time ago, someone told me that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. If I focus on how I can make the most of this day without hurting myself or anyone else, I will be living within the contract I made with my Higher Power when He granted me the choice of whether or not I ate compulsively that day.
I can ask questions of others rather than assume information not in evidence.
I can be patient when under stress and give God the time He needs to present me with answers.
I can stay rested and committed to working the tools each day to keep me focused.
I can do service, but I will do it without expectation, as a function of gratitude.
I will share my journey, so I avoid the tendency to isolate or fall into old habits of keeping secrets or minimizing my feelings. I will work my program.
Changes will come again, and I hope to see them as opportunities to move away from characteristics that limit my usefulness.
- N.R., Ipswich, Massachusetts USA
This story first appeared in Lifeline, September 2002, p. 5, copyright Overeaters Anonymous, Inc.