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.
Twenty Ways to Share Recovery
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.
Lifeline Revisited: Check out some older articles from Lifeline.