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.