You Are Not Alone

“You are not alone any more!” Overeaters Anonymous, Third Edition, p. 4

I’ve just attended an OA workshop focused on unity in our diversity. As I’ve let the experience take root in me, I’ve found myself feeling deep gratitude for our fellowship. This journey that I’m on is one that has no end point. As I continue each day to walk on to where I am heading, I am comforted knowing my friends are walking alongside me.

Life lately has been messy for me, and my tendencies to isolate, control and overcommit have been activated! The good news is that I’ve had friends walking alongside me, gently encouraging and reminding me that I am not alone. Some reminders have been simply a smile or a hug. Some have been reminders of the resources of our rich literature. Others have been reminders of our tools and the beautiful relief found in working the Twelve Steps. Each time, I’ve felt connected – connected to my Higher Power, connected to the dear souls traveling alongside me. What promises we have been given!

“I put my hand in yours, and together we can do what we could never do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness, no longer must we each depend upon our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams.” OA Promise

Honesty is the Key

“ Honesty is a key factor in our recovery compulsive eating and so we will want to develop this trait.”  –Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA p.51

Honesty has to be present in order to recover.  This was hard for me.  I had lied to myself for many years.  I have denied the truth about my eating behaviors.  When I came into the program I learned how dishonest I was.  I learned there is no recovery when there is continuing deception.  Since I learned I was dishonest, I had to learn how to be honest.  How did I learn this?  Through action.

In step one, I had to be honest with my food and food behavior in order to admit I was powerless over my addiction.  Honesty can be scary and vulnerable.  When being honest we are often admitting flaws.  But if we continue to hide and run away, those flaws will become larger.  As you learn more about the program and you get a sponsor your walls start coming down.  You will learn your sponsor is a safe person to open up too.

Every time I can be honest with myself and others.  I am one step closer to getting rid of my character defeat of dishonesty.  Honesty is a disciple.  It is built from daily habits.   Honesty opens the door to recovery and the light of your Higher Power can pour in.

Keep Coming Back and Back and Back and…

“Keep coming back!”

I started my OA journey almost a year ago.   I was familiar with AA’s 12 Steps from another program and dove head first into OA’s Steps 1-2-3.  I knew the benefits of a conscious contact with a higher power and the wisdom of the serenity prayer.  I quickly identified a plan of eating as well as established my abstinence.   Other than finding myself more emotional without my ‘self-soothing-food-behaviors’, I had a great six month run.  I found myself 40 pounds lighter, more energetic/enthused, working through OA’s Step 6 and becoming more aware of my eating behaviors.

Then, I hit a snag.  ‘That low time of year’ (November through mid-January) came around.  I decided to ‘give myself a break’.  ‘Take it easy’ and lick my wounds as I face the holidays.  I told myself ‘be gentle with yourself as you note the anniversaries of your Dad’s birthday and death.  ‘Care for yourself’ by not being too judgmental or too hard on yourself.  I started having slips with my abstinence, missing meetings, not doing my daily reading, and denying that my program was faltering.  I kept making excuses, and minimizing what was happening all in the name of ‘being gentle with myself’.  I took ‘easy does it’ to a compulsive extreme!

It was only after I started faltering in my other program of recovery, that I hit a bottom low enough to get my attention.  Luckily, I had maintained at least one OA meeting each week and stayed in touch with my vibrant fellowship.  My sponsors from both programs supported me throughout with love and patience as I did a little more ‘primary research’ as I searched to ‘right my ship of recovery’.

As I realized MY low, I started working program basics again.  This included admitting ‘I’m having a hard time’, visiting with my sponsor, reading more, rebooting my food tracking, rebooting my abstinence and most of all …….. re-establishing a stronger relationship with my high power.

Today, I find myself soaring after a weekend retreat where we talked about recovery as seasons and cycles.  The exact words I needed were found there.  OH HOW I LOVE MY HIGHER POWER.  His love is all around me.  As I complete this cycle in my journey, I’m eternally grateful for the OA Fellowship and our closing chant of……  Keep Coming Back.

Don’t Let Your Pride Kill You

“Keep coming back.”

For me this slogan is a gentler, subtler way of saying, “Don’t let your pride kill you.” My pride and ego tell me that if I go off my food plan, or if I binge, then I should stop going to meetings because I’m too ashamed. My ego likes to convince me that all the other people in OA have this down, and they will judge me if I admit my issues with food are still flaring up. Well- that is a LIE my disease tells me, and if I believe it, it could be a death sentence. Like the Big Book says, “Remember that we deal with alcohol, cunning, baffling, powerful. Without help, it is too much for us.” Well, that is how my compulsive eating is cunning, baffling, and powerful: it makes me believe that compulsive eating is something that I should be ashamed of, and I might as well just roll over and let that shame do me in. Well, not today. Today I know that the line in the serenity prayer that asks HP for the courage to change the things I can means that I am asking HP for the courage to first be honest with my sponsor about my food, and then begin to practice gratitude and hope. As long as I am above ground, there is hope. This program works if I work it. Relief from the bondage of binge eating is a gracious gift from HP. There is so much love and acceptance in the rooms of OA. My friends in meetings are supportive, kind and loving. They care about me. They want me to be happy, joyous and free. There is no judgement except for the b.s. lies my disease manufactures to keep me separated from my friends. Before OA I thought that I was separate and terminal- but I know otherwise now. My HP never gives up on me. My friends never give up on me. My sponsor is teaching me how to have a healthy relationship with food one day at a time. I am grateful, and I know I have a spiritual home in OA. I hope that if you are reading this, and if you are scared, that you will come to a meeting anyway. You will be welcomed, and we will be so glad to see you and share our adventures in recovery with you. Keep coming back. ❤

Life’s Terms

“Living life on life’s terms…”

I want the world to stop while I’m working the 12 steps. I want to be able to just focus on them and nothing else. Throughout life when I have been going through difficult things I have just wanted the world to stop, so I could check out of my life. My internal monologue wondered, “can’t the world just stop, don’t they know…. my Dad died…. I was abused…. I need a break…. I’m going through the 12 steps…” Part of my disease is that I want the world to revolve around me. I am learning in Overeaters Anonymous that the world keeps turning even when bad things happen. There is never going to be the perfect time to lose weight, work the steps or get my life on track. I have to work on these things every day, while also participating in the rest of my life. It’s hard and it’s not always fun, but day by day I am trying to work the steps while still dealing with messy relationships, work, grocery shopping, my cat and everything else that comes along with living. I don’t do any of this perfectly, but I try my best not to slip into feeling sorry for myself. Some tools that have helped me are: reaching out to program friends, calling my sponsor, writing and doing my step work.

Reaching out to program friends, helps me remember I’m not alone in this. Program friends understand me like no one else can. They know the pain of trying to control this disease through will power alone.. They give me strength when I want to give in. Calling my sponsor reminds me that I have disease. She points out the conniving ways my disease tricks my brain. My sponsor is my daily dose of reality. I have spent so long in the disease of compulsive eating, that I’m not always able to recognize the many lies it tells me. Writing helps me see my life in a way living it never can. I have recently finished my 4th Step and I have learned so much about myself in the process. Writing is helping me to learn that I am not a bad person just because I’ve done bad things, like the literature says, “we are not failures just because we sometimes fail.” I am learning through my writing and step work to accept myself as a fallible human being. To others this is a given, but for me, the idea that I don’t have to be perfect all the time is freedom. It will take time to change my thought patterns, just as it took time to learn them. I am here for the long haul and grateful for all the gifts this program continues to give me.

Prayer & Meditation

“Prayer is talking to our Higher Power and meditation is listening to Him/Her.”

I’ve heard it said that prayer is talking to our Higher Power and meditation is listening to Him/Her.  I learned to practice prayer my first time through OA back in the early 80’s.  I wasn’t very good at meditation then.

The first time I remember meditating was at a retreat at Ferncliff my second time back in OA.  I was walking the labyrinth near the little forest chapel.  When you walk a labyrinth you are supposed to meditate on a question.  I don’t remember what the question was, but all of a sudden I, clearly in my mind I heard the words “God is in control.”  At the time it was the answer I needed to whatever my problem was.

Since that time there have been other occurrences of words coming through that served me in a time of need. “If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us… If our God is with us, then what could stand against?” are words that have come to mind when I have felt that I am facing difficult circumstances.

The message I keep hearing now is “The more I trust You, the more I grow”.    These words reassure me that as I keep working the program, my recovery and my serenity will grow ever stronger.

Right Action

“I can’t think my way into right action, I must act my way into right thinking.”

One of my favorite things I heard many years ago in OA goes something like this:  ‘I can’t think my way into right action, I must act my way into right thinking’.  This simple statement of action changed my whole world in OA.  Somehow I missed the point that unless I took action in the program nothing would change.  You see, my thinking sounds so good when I’m thinking it and it could be thinking that is way off base.

Speaking of thinking.  If my best thinking got me to OA, what makes me think that my thinking can solve the food problem?  When I finally surrendered my thinking and took the suggestions of my sponsor and this program, the whole world of OA opened up to me.  I took the actions prescribed in the AA Big Book and the OA Literature.  I took the actions suggested from my sponsor even when I didn’t believe her suggestions would work.  Note: by the way her suggestions always worked.  So again, I don’t even have to believe I just have to act and then I am shown the miracles of this program and Then I believe.  This always sounded like a backward process to me.  Once again my good thinking did not work.  Only with action do I get to experience this wonderful new life and the freedom from the bondage of food.  Gives me chills to just recount what the OA program has given me.

May you all stay around long enough to experience this wonderful life that OA can give you!  You simply can’t imagine what it will be like until you experience it yourself.