For over three years I have enjoyed the blessings of abstinence and recovery from compulsive overeating. How do I get through holidays and events abstinently? The answer is clear: no matter what the season, event or circumstance, abstinence continues to be the most important thing in my life without exception. "Whatever it takes," as we say in the rooms. We learn to follow spiritual principles and to live life on life's terms.
Societal pressure abounds with holiday celebrations. But for me, celebration is about maintaining solid and vigilant means of staying the course with my recovery. I don't waver from the way I live when holiday time is here. I've learned to replace comfort food with other comforts: relaxing with a warm bath; cuddling under my electric blanket with a good book; spending time with my sponsees; working with the various levels of program service; praying and meditating; spending time with my friends, family, hobbies, and music ministry; and expressing myself as a budding writer.
The habit of staying close to these truths and living out the Steps has helped me maintain my footing and stability. In my addiction, I always found reasons to celebrate with food. Now I celebrate with abstinence! This makes holiday celebrations a completely different experience. I can be available for others as well as take care of myself. I no longer live with the insane focus, pain and guilt of compulsive overeating. I can give thanks and celebrate this freedom daily, not just during the holidays.
Because I've forgiven others and myself, I have a deeper appreciation of God's amazing grace and love. I find ways to give that love, appreciation and understanding to others.
The gift of giving is tied in with service, and it keeps on giving year round. Nothing is more celebratory to me than seeing someone's face light up or getting an email message saying someone finally feels hope. It's not my doing, because my Higher Power is working through me in the lives of others, but I can be a messenger in recovery and help bring hope to those who feel hopeless.
I find joy and fulfillment and get back more than I give. My focus and lifestyle put me on a different playing field of a higher purpose for living.
Celebrating with abstinence rocks!
This article appeared in Lifeline, November 2010, p. 14, Copyright Overeaters Anonymous Inc.
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I am a slow learner, which has been a shock to me.
In school I was one of the first to learn to read, to grasp a new concept and to finish a test. In my professional life, I found it easy to learn new ideas and face new challenges. Yet I have been in the rooms for almost two years and am beginning to think I know nothing.
I've attended meetings, bought literature, got a sponsor, worked the Steps and done service, all the time searching for the elusive food plan everyone talked about. I had been in program nearly a year when I picked up Dignity of Choice and found it contained several food plans. How many times had I read it and never seen what it contained?
Everyone has his or her own process. Some find the beginnings of physical recovery in a short time. Others, like me, find physical recovery elusive. After all, I came here because of my eating problem. Am I not supposed to be focused on that issue and seeing some results by now? The longer I stay, the more the answer appears to be no. I must deal with the inner turmoil before physical recovery will be possible. I have not been gracious about this discovery.
Patience is one of the many things I'm beginning to learn. I've had little patience in my life, skimming across the surface of things looking for the "right answer" and then rushing off to the next thing. Patience hasn't been necessary. But as I work the Steps I have discovered that grasping and feeling concepts like willingness, gratitude and humility are necessary before I'll be allowed to move on. No longer will skimming be sufficient; I must learn to live. I had no idea I wasn't living until I began to do it. I didn't realize I was eating my weight in anger, fear, judgement, confusion and loneliness.
I want recovery to come in an instant so I can be off to other things, but it comes in its own time. It will occupy me on some level, one day at a time, for the remainder of my life. What a huge lesson this has been. Some days I am comfortable and even joyful with that thought; some days not so much.
I have been in these rooms for nearly two years, and I'm amazed at the dramatic changes in myself. As I've changed on the inside, my eating had changed. As I've changed on the inside, my eating had changed. I am more fully aware of what I do. I am grateful to be working this program, and I am willing to wait to see what tomorrow brings.
I don't see changes in the mirror yet, but that will come if I keep coming back.
This article appeared in LIfeline, August 2009, p. 10, Copyright Overeaters Anonymous Inc.
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Before OA: 237 pounds (108 kg) of miserable me is sitting in my dirty, empty apartment. I don't have the time or the desire to clean or decorate my living space. I have a day off work, and it's a regular binge day. My stomach is stuffed from eating a breakfast of leftover binge food. I sit in front of the TV watching mindless shows to keep from acknowledging the guilt I feel over the junk I have just eaten. I feel tired because I didn't put nutritious food in my body to give myself energy. I feel lonely because I have trapped myself in an unhealthy, unhappy relationship with an emotionally unavailable man. He doesn't even want to spend time with me today. The TV is my best friend.
After OA: 165 pounds (75 kg) of peaceful me is writing this Lifeline article in my clean, beautiful apartment. I take pleasure in a home full of delightful art and pleasant reminders of my travels and adventures. I hire a maid to keep my apartment clean while I work and go to school. My priorities have straightened. I have a day off from school, and I offered the day to my Higher Power this morning in my Step-Eleven meditation time. My stomach is full of a warm, nutritious breakfast that I ate mindfully while sitting at the breakfast table with my loving husband. The day is full of self-care actions - studying and having pedicure and acupuncture appointments.
However, these tasks don't define me. They simply enrich my life now that I have the energy to do them. I feel ready to explore my day because I have healthy food in my body. I feel loved and supported by my Higher Power, husband, friends and OA Fellowship.
My before and after story is about before and after I connected with my Higher Power. OA allowed me to grasp a foothold on the spiritual path. Before program I attempted to meditate and commune with the divine, but I was too numbed out with food to feel my Higher Power's presence.
For those of you who are still suffering, please know there is hope. If I can recover from compulsive overeating, you can too. Wishing you peace today!
This article appeared in Lifeline, January 2009, p. 5. Copyright Overeaters Anonymous Inc.
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.